I ran my first 1/2 marathon on Sunday.
It was a long cherished dream, but one I never really believed I would accomplish.
Running the 1/2 was more than just a fitness goal for me.
It was going to be the fulfillment of 4 years of emotional healing.
It was a way to prove to myself that I was strong and beautiful, that I was worthy, and that I could do hard things.
It was a pretty big deal for me.
5 days before the race, I threw my back out.
It was sudden and intense.
When it happened, I just fell to the ground unable to stand.
I was frustrated, but certain I’d still run my race.
2 Chiropractic visits, and plenty of ice, foam rolling, and stretching found me able to walk again, relatively pain free, but not feeling at my best.
It was not how I wanted to run my first race, and I was disappointed.
But I vowed to do my best, and give it my all.
And I promised myself I’d enjoy it all–no matter what!
Race day arrived.
I was excited and nervous, and really, really happy.
When we arrived at the starting line, I was blown away by the crowds.
There were thousands of people there.
15,000 runners for the 1/2 alone.
The energy was incredible.
I felt like I was on top of the world.
I saw friends, we took pictures, stood in the massive line for the porta potties, held our noses and laughed.
It was all part of the experience, and I was loving it.
The first wave of the race started and we watched the fastest runners head out.
Then it was our turn.
Our plan wasn’t to run the fastest, but to take it easy on my back, enjoy the race, and most of all to finish!
The first 6 miles were great.
The air was cool, we kept a good pace, I loved running in new places, and I couldn’t keep the smile from my face.
Then I felt a twinge in my knee, then a shooting pain, and suddenly I couldn’t run anymore.
“Susan, I have to walk,” I almost cried.
My knee was totally locked up.
I took advil, ate some pretzels, had water, and tried not to panic.
I didn’t know if I could finish.
I couldn’t run.
I could hardly walk.
The disappointment that washed over me was so great I thought I was going to throw up.
This was not how it was supposed to be.
As I fought for self control, I kept limping, and even tried running, keeping my leg stiff and not bending my knee.
I couldn’t run 7 more miles like that.
So we walked a mile.
That’s when we saw our friends, holding signs and cheering us on.
You can’t imagine the encouragement it was to me.
To know someone is on your side, that they believe in you, is a priceless gift.
It buoyed my spirits and fueled my determination.
My friend Jen said she’d run with us.
So I ran.
It was more of a limping, stiff, hobble, but I was moving.
That’s when I saw Aaron and the kids.
They were all shouting and waving, and I was hard pressed to keep the tears back when saw them.
I ran up to kiss Aaron and whispered, “my knee is killing me. Pray for me!”
That probably wasn’t the best thing to say to a husband who was already worried I’d hurt myself.
But he just kissed me back, and smiled.
The kids gave me hugs and high fives.
“Be careful!” Aaron called to me as I took off.
We kept going.
Susan was great.
I couldn’t have made it without her.
She encouraged me as we made it to every mile marker.
She ran at a snail’s pace with me, and didn’t care a bit about making good time.
She was running the race for me.
If you are a runner, you know what a sacrifice that is.
There was pain the whole time.
At times I had to walk for a bit to give my knee a break.
But I ran as much as I could.
Even when the other knee hurt because I was compensating so much.
Maybe it was foolish to run through that pain.
Maybe it was foolish to keep going when I could have just said, “this isn’t the race. I’ll try again.”
Maybe it was.
But it didn’t really matter.
Because I had to keep going for me.
And as we ran, I still couldn’t keep the smile off my face.
Disappointment, pain, and frustration were all there, but there was still so much to enjoy.
I loved the signs, the people cheering us from the sidelines, the offers of sushi, donut holes, watermelon, and frozen grapes.
I took in the beautiful sky.
I rejoiced over the perfect weather.
I was grateful for every passing mile.
At mile 12 we saw my family again, and our friends with thier signs and cheers.
I needed it for that last mile.
That one felt really long.
I knew I could finish.
But I don’t know if any mile ever felt longer.
As we rounded the bend to the finish line, there were big crowds to cheer us on.
I wiped tears from my eyes, but I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.
I crossed the finish line with my arms in the air.
I may have been screaming too.
But I can’t really remember.
All I know is that I was really, really happy.
I did it.
It didn’t go the way I planned.
But I rode the wave that I was given, and I made the best of it.
As I have reflected on the race, and what it all meant to me, I have come away with some valuable lessons.
In many ways, that race was a metaphor for my life.
I’ve had to ride some pretty rough waves these past few years..
Things have not gone according to plan.
I have said more than once, “this is not how it was supposed to be.”
There are things I wish could have been different.
But I never gave up.
That wasn’t by my own strength.
I have clung to God when every once of my own strength was gone and I didn’t know if I could carry on another minute.
The same verse I said to myself as I ran the 1/2 marathon, I have said as I have run through those hard, hard days in life:
“but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will fly up on wings like eagles;
they will run and not be tired;
they will walk and not be weary.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Life doesn’t go according to plan.
Things happened that mess up your plans.
Sometimes that’s because of your own choices or foolish mistakes, and sometimes that’s because of other people’s choices or foolish mistakes.
And sometimes there seems to be no explanation at all.
All we can do in response is give up, or keep going.
I’ve found it’s better to keep going.
Sometimes it is minute by minute–just breathing seems like all we can do.
But with the help of God, loved ones, beautiful sunsets, and good talks, sweating it out, running it out, and choosing joy in the midst of heartache and hurting, we keep going.
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
I ran my first 1/2 marathon.
It was nothing like I expected it to be, but so much more.
I’m so grateful.