But most importantly… why I’m telling you
I have something to admit. This is way harder than I thought it was going to be. My mind is brimming with a million ideas just waiting to be threaded together into a passionate, heartfelt story. But, alas, I can’t even finish this sentence without questioning each word I’m writing. That’s life though, right? It doesn’t weave itself together as we imagine it should in our minds. It’s filled with hundreds of hills and valleys that seemingly make us who we are. It’s a lot like… running a marathon.
The night before my first half marathon was spent as I suspect most runners spend the night before a race. A big pasta dinner (sans a glass of red wine, which I so desperately wanted), shopping for race day essentials, and a good night’s rest. My nerves were through the roof. I didn’t think too much of that though, because I spent the evening with one of my good friends, Lena. She was running the race with me too and has run countless half marathons. Her nerves were going bonkers, as well. From what I hear, no matter how many races you run the pre-race jitters never really go away (I’ll confirm this after my next half).
So, it was a typical evening, but before we delve into race day let me digress for a quick minute. If you know me well then I’m sure the above title didn’t come as much of a surprise. And, if you don’t know me well, I’m going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret. I cry. A lot. When something is happy, sad, joyful, beautiful, or when I’m feeling angry, tired, nostalgic. Heck, even a boring Tuesday could make me cry, I’m sure. I wouldn’t call myself overly emotional. I just have overactive tear ducts. So, the fact that I cried before, during, and after my first half marathon is probably not shocking. But don’t let this little character flaw belittle the impactful meaning behind this race, and let me tell you why.
When I woke up the next morning something occurred to me. “This day, Maria, marks the end of a long, tumultuous chapter in your life. You did it.” This day I would cross the finish line that I had been envisioning in my mind for the past two years. I pushed forward. I didn’t look back. And now I was able to run the greatest run of my life, which emulated all that I had overcome.
When I made the connection that morning between my journey in recovery and running this race, you guessed it, I cried. I wasn’t sad, though. I was grateful. Beyond grateful. It was such a feeling of gratefulness that I didn’t know how to express it besides crying. This feeling lasted throughout my entire race. I stopped crying, though, during the hustle and bustle of getting to the race, but not even a mile into it I looked up and I was surrounded by the beautiful city of Charlotte. The city that helped me create a brand new life. The city where I met my best friends who I now consider family. The city that I call home. So, I started crying. While I was running…
But, these tears didn’t last long. Mainly because I couldn’t breathe. I ran at a steady pace throughout the majority of the race and repeated my mantra. And as life has it’s hills and valleys, half marathons do, as well. I vividly remember hitting mile 11. We came to a point where we could turn right and head back into Uptown Charlotte, or we could take a left and run away from the city. Away from the finish line. In my naivety, I was gleeful thinking that we were so close! One little right turn and I’d be well on my way to that finish line.
We turned left.
My legs were on fire. My mind was running out of things to think about. And, honestly, I just wanted to throw myself on the ground and quit.
I didn’t. I pushed forward, but my mantra had changed it’s tune, “I hate this. I hate running. Why would I ever cry grateful tears over running? That’s stupid. This is stupid. I’m never running again.”
That, my friends, was a major hill. But, before I knew it, I looked up and there was the finish line, and the tears started pouring. I had done it. I did it. I ran my first ever half marathon. I embraced Lena and we both cried. She had been there throughout all of my training and now here we were. We’d finished.
It seems like such a little thing if you’re looking at it from the outside. “Woohoo you ran a half marathon. So have millions of people across the world.” And those naysayers are correct. It is a little thing in comparison to what others have accomplished in this world. But, for me, it was so much more. That race emulated everything that I had overcome. And I ran that race with the utmost pride, because while no one else knew what I was thinking when I was running or what I’ve overcome, I did. And I am so grateful to God to have had the opportunity to run in that race.
I recently read a quote, “There isn’t a person you wouldn’t love if you could read their story.” I’m not sure who said this, but it’s so very true. No one really knows what I’ve been through, just as I don’t know what any of you have been through, but if we start treating everyone as if we did know then how beautiful would this world be? I can only imagine. But why not start living our lives this way now? Let’s take this step forward and I can guarantee we won’t regret it.