There are a thousand things I’d like to tell you about this race, my first marathon. I could tell you what I did right, what I did wrong, the high points and the low. I will write a real race report, but, for now my heart is saying that I should tell you a story, so that’s what I’m going to do.
There was once a girl who believed she couldn’t. She was the last girl picked for kick ball, the one who broke her ankle playing her first organized sport, the one who sat on the sidelines while other people did things. She tried running a few times, mostly when she was single and bored and needed something to fill the hours in between working shifts at the book store and the restaurant. She loved how running made her feel, but she wasn’t ever very good at sports, so she set it aside, figuring that she might as well not even try.
The girl met a boy and they started a family, too early according to most. They struggled with money, with balancing college classes and work and babies. They tried to make ends meet, to be good parents, to keep growing. All that trying made the girl tired, sad and lonely, especially when working opposite shifts was the only way to keep the house afloat. She gained weight, she ate to feel better, she stayed sad. She visited a doctor who told her that her blood pressure and weight were too high, that it was time to make some changes. She joined a weight loss group and heard about women who lost more weight when they ran. She decided to give it a try.
She ran. For 30 seconds. For 30 seconds more. She ran for a mile, two, then three. She raced (not quickly) and got her first free t-shirt. She signed up for longer races. She got injured. She signed up for longer races and ran them. She tried to finish a marathon and failed. She kept running. And her life got better. She felt more alive after she ran. Everything seemed brighter. She laughed more. She started to lose the quiet rage that had boiled in her veins for so long. She started to feel calm more often. She started to ask for help when she needed it. She changed.
She started to think that the world was wider than she had imagined, that it was time to see more and do more. She looked forward to the summer after a long, difficult year of work. And then, when the phone rang, she ignored it. The second time it rang, she got irritated and ignored it again. The third time it rang, she knew something was wrong. Her dad died. And so did part of her. She held his hand for one last time. She got angry again. She got sad again.
She started to write again. She decided to do what she loved, even if that meant she wasn’t doing what she went to college to study. She decided to run more, to open herself up to her fears and to face them. She took risks by making her goals public. She found a new community of runners and writers and felt welcomed. She trained for a longer race, with friends, with family and alone. And then, nearly a year after losing her dad, she stood at the starting line and believed she couldn’t. She stood there, still feeling like the last kid picked for kickball, and worried that she wouldn’t make it. That her body would betray her. That her mind would crumble.
She ran with a friend, a generous friend who offered to be there with her the whole way. It was hot. The sun beat down from behind the clouds and the humidity started to climb. She started to worry that this race wasn’t meant to be. But she ran, walked, ran more. She drank, stood in front of cold water being sprayed from hoses and fire hydrants. She got to mile 15, 18, 22. She saw people around her fall apart from the exhaustion. But she started to believe that she could do it. That she could finish. And then her body took over for her mind and she ran more. She crossed the finish line to the announcer saying “You are a marathoner. You nailed it kid.” It was like he knew what she needed to hear. She’s a marathoner now. She is ready to face the wide world, to take risks, to live. To believe she can.