Monday, December 03, 2007

The Wall at Mile 11

I woke 10 minutes before my alarm this morning. It was set for 3:30am. I had plans to meet with 4 other crazy people at 4:15 this morning. Those four other crazy people and I have been training for almost five months now for today. Today we will run 13.1 miles together. Today is the Marathon of the Palm Beaches.

Five months ago, with prompting from my neighbor, I went on a run with 5 other ladies. It was a short run, about 2.5 miles, I think, but at the time we were all huffin and puffin and looking forward to the end. I had just met Deborah, and had just recently moved in next door to Nicole. This was the first time I met Jill. We laughed and ran, ran and laughed and talked about our lofty goals for the Marathon. We made big plans for the night before, talking about dinner, getting a hotel, and then basking by some pool the day of the race. It sounded great, but in my gut I knew it was a long shot for me.

I am not an athlete. Maybe I should say I was not an athlete. I have never participated in a sport that I excelled at. Within the scope of competition, I crumble with the pressure of winning. So I found at a young age that my dislike for competition had a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t win. I couldn’t win. I just wasn’t made for sports. So I pursued a life of ‘sports encourager.” Translation: Cheerleader. Tee ball was the only sport that I was actually registered for. My parents learned early that spending money to have me play a sport was pretty much wasted. Being deathly afraid of the ball made it tough to enjoy any sport offered to me. Flying projectiles that could ultimately end my life did not excite me. What did was chatter. I loved the ‘hey batter’ and I loved screaming cheers from the dugout. Almost every year that I played tee ball I earned the coach’s award. This award was given to the most pathetic player on the team. That was me.

So I’m not an athlete…that’s ok. I fully embrace my uncoordination and inability to catch, throw, or slide. After realizing my talents were not in this arena, I chose performance. This was perfect for me. No competition, no nerves, just smiling and dancing. That worked much better for me. Aside from the occasional costume breakdown there were no flying projectiles in dance. So that’s what I did. I cheered and danced. For my whole life.

My best friend Kirsten is a runner. She is one of those fleet feet who just runs and runs and runs…and she’s good. I tried running with her a few times in high school. Ugh. That was terrible. Though I didn’t like competition in some ways, I was a slave to it in others. So even running with her sent me into compete mode. If I wasn’t as fast as her, I was discouraged. If I’m not good right now, I’m done.

So yeah, I was excited talking about this race that I wasn’t going to run and all of the exciting stuff we were going to do together.

The training was great. I realized quickly that there was more than one benefit to preparing for the race. I got to leave my house by myself and go spend an hour or two with girls. Great girls. Girls who loved me. Girls who loved God. Wow. What a gift.
So we would meet. Sometimes once a week, sometimes twice. Sometimes none. We’d love to do our beach run. That was the group favorite. We learned about protein shakes and Glutamine. We drank lots of water and ate gummies together. We huffed and puffed together and had some of the best conversations ever. We shared each others’ burdens and lifted each other up in prayer.

The entire month of October was crazy for me, so my training time was extremely limited. I took a 5 week break from training. This was not intentional, but necessary and I’d told myself that I pretty much eliminated any chances for running in December.

Then I got a call from Jill asking me to run with her and Lauren and Miss Mary, Deborah’s mom. She told me they were doing eight that Sunday and I just didn’t think it was possible. We ran ten that day. Ten. Ten miles. Me. Ten miles. How awesome. And the best part of that whole day was my girls. The endless conversations that invited the Holy Spirit to share a pair of New Balances were amazing.

I was back on for the race, and determined that I would pursue the training program with the ladies and do whatever they did. I registered for the race. I bought new shoes. I made time to run. I had a few conversations with my knees, ankles and shins and told them to behave. They did. I was injury free at the start of the race yesterday. It was all good.

What a blessing to be pursuing this goal with people that I could trust. People that accepted me, embraced me, encouraged me and pushed me. And that was what I needed at mile 11.

As a group, we never split in training. We always stayed together. Our motto: Leave No Mommy Behind.” So at race time, when adrenaline is up and bladders are strangely active, stopping to go pee caused a little issue. Jill first, then Deb, then me. What a painful process that catching up is. Painful and exhausting, but once I saw those white tank tops with the words “POWERED BY PRAYER” (which many runners appreciated as well) I was instantly comforted and thankful to be back with my buddies.

So much of my life operates exactly that way. When I have stopped running and stopped pressing on and pursuing my life with Christ, and I am stopped on the side of the road watching all others pass me by. I am alone and wandering, and wondering when I will make the decision to jump back in with the stream of believers to run this race that is before me.

He never intended for us to be alone in this. I never would have imagined for a second that running alone in this Half Marathon would be better than being with my friends. At mile 11, if Deborah hadn’t said, “let’s stop complaining and pray”, I would have been moaning and groaning the entire time. But her exhortation comforted me and challenged me to just keep running. And in the silence of mile 12, when we were pushing as hard as we could, we just kept hearing Jill. She just kept saying with this giant smile on her face “We did it!” “W E D I D I T!” “Can you believe WE DID IT?” It was incredible.

And we did. We kept running, and we crossed the finish line. Together. All together, we crossed the finish line with smiles and screams and hugs. It was amazing. We did it. We did it all together. We left no Mommy behind and we
pressed on for 13.1 miles.

So will I do it again? Will I try to run this far again? Running a marathon is kinda like having a baby. If people ask you within 24 hours if you will ever have another baby, you say, “Are you kidding me?” But wait a few months and that answer might be different. Same for me…wait a few months and ask me then. My answer may be different. ;) Then ask Alex if he’s prepared as well.

So we are done now. Our only goal was to finish and we did just that. At a pace of 10:55 and time of 2:23:00 (Deborah actually beat us all at 2:29:59 by a shoe), we finished the race together and we can all say:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7


Anonymous said...

You have brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. I appreciate you taking the time to write this. I needed to read that this morning. I am blessed to have you as a friend and I am so glad we stayed together and finished the this race. With God's great love, Jill

Kate said...

This post makes me want to run! I know what you mean about never being an athlete! I used to wear my blue jean skirt to t-ball practice!! I'm glad you were able to finish and I'm even more glad that you've found some great friends to pray with. Love ya!!