May 22, 2011

Finishing Strong

All last week, everytime I started writing my post-race blog in my head, it went something like this:

It's official.  I do not LIKE to run.  I met my goal.  I ran the race. 
And if I never run again, that's ok by me.

But that was pre-race randering...and completely worthless.  So for the official record:

Running is AWE-SOME!!!  Woot-Woot!!! *DaNcE oF JoY!!!*

OK, that may be a slight exaggeration. And I am getting ahead of myself, so reverse that and take a step or two backwards with me through memory lane before I let you know how it really went.

Thursday night (other wise known as '5K Eve'):  I can't sleep a wink.  In fact, I'm so full of tension and anxiety I'm just about bouncing off of the walls.  I"m truly debating my sanity in all of this and knowing that the weatherman is predicting THUNDERSTORMS for the whole weekend is not helping at all.  Seriously, running...3 my advanced the rain.  Foolishness and mayhem.

Friday 3:30 PM:  We have arrived at the Fargo Dome and weave our way through the sea of people to get our bib #'s and time chips.  Isaac's very excited about the bag and T-shirt they hand us.  Cool - free stuff.  Can we go home now?

5:30 PM: Husband, Keith, and our friend, Jordan, appear to hang on to our stuff, take pictures and cheer us on.  We gather together with Isaac's friend, Alex, and his mom, Amy, along with Jordan's girlfriend, Emily, and her roommate, Maggie.  All of us are running the 5K and Amy is the only veteran runner among us.  We look to her for wisdom and inspiration but she's busy contemplating the Half Marathon she's running the next day (told you she was a real runner.) I chow down one more protein bar and half an energy drink - I give the other half to Isaac (like he needed it - ha!) because I'm afraid if I drink the whole thing I'll be searching for a porta-potty half way through the race.  Uff-da...let's not go there.

6:00 PM:  Time to line up!  Isaac, Alex, Amy, Emily, Maggie and I head towards the start line - along with the other 5600 + people.  It has been raining on and off all afternoon but for the moment it seems to have abated.  By now my anxiety has completely dissolved and I am just ready to get running.  The energy of the crowd is fueling everyone's adrenaline levels and we're all wondering if they'll really make us wait until 6:30 to get this party started!

6:20 PM:  It has now started to rain.  Seriously?!?

6:28 PM:  They are making everyone take several steps backwards.  I want to shout, "Wrong way!  Wrong way!  We need to go towards the 'START' line people!" *sigh*

6:32:28 PM:  It has taken the crowd in front of me almost 2 1/2 minutes to cross the START line before it is my turn.  I push 'play' on my iPod and Il Divo's "Nella Fantasia" reminds me to keep a steady pace and breathe slow.  I am only a few strides into my run and I am fighting tears  exhilaration?  thankfulness?  I'm not sure but I am definitely ready to run the race that Isaac and I have trained for the last 2 1/2 months.

Adele starts crooning "Rolling In the Deep" and I pick up the pace.

Sometime later...:   Still waiting to see that glorious 'Mile 1' sign but so far I am enjoying the thrill of the run, the flow of the people around me and even the weather (it stopped raining.  Woot-woot!)  My mind is even wandering a bit:

Oooh, cu-ute running shoes. Wonder where she got those?

I wonder how many birds are in those trees?  Are we sure those are rain drops?

Pink jacket!  Wonder if it comes with matching running pants?

Spandex.  Bad idea.  Moving on...

I will not be discouraged that I was just passed up by a 5 year old.

Hey, if Keith doesn't have to work tomorrow I wonder if we'll get the deck done?


At this point, I have passed a few people, been passed by a few more and have found I am matching pace with a guy who looks to be about 75.  Seriously not going to let that get to me.  And best news of all, I see the sign telling me I am 1/3 of the way there and I am still feeling good.

Up until this point our route has been a straight shot but now we start weaving a  twisted path.  I like all the turns in the road as it helps me to set short mental goals:  I tell myself, "I'll slow down and take a break at the next corner ahead."  But the next corner arrives and I push that thought aside, telling myself, "Maybe, the next one."

Mile 2:  Mile 2 snuck up on me and I cannot believe I am 2/3 of the way there already!  I ignore the lady that just passed me...pushing a stroller that looks like it was designed by NASA.  Instead, I think back to a year ago when Isaac announced to me that next year he wanted to run the 5K and I was going to run it with him.  Which would've been an acceptable proposition, except that at this time last year, my lower back caused me so much pain I couldn't even ride my bike 6 blocks to the park.  I rejoice and thank God from the depths of my being for using my son to spur me on to take charge of my health and finally get the physical therapy I needed to get my life back on track physically.  More tears...

Just as I am lamenting how thirsty I am, we swing around another corner to find people handing out water bottles to the runners.  I grab a bottle without stopping, shout "Thank you!" and pray I don't trip trying to drink and run at the same time.  I am only able to get a mouthful down without threatening to spill most of it but it is just enough to refresh me and help me to pick up my pace a little.

"Hero" by Superchick kicks in on my playlist.
Heroes are made when you make a choice

You could be a hero - heroes do what's right

You could be a hero - you might save a life
You could be a hero- you could join the fight
For what's right, for what's right, for what's right
My eyes start watering as I realized those lines summarize part of what this journey has been all about - being an 'hero' to my kids.  Not as in 'Super Mom' who is the best, smartest, prettiest, coolest and can do ANYTHING.  But I do want to be an example to them: I want to be an example to them of what it is to make good choices - even when they are hard choices, to be disciplined, to set a goal, to run the race set before you without quitting.  I have failed at this often but my heart soars as I know that very soon I am about to triumph in an very (for me) epic way.

I pass someone holding a sign that reads "Run Like the Wind", which has been my semi-official motto during this whole journey and I smile - big.

I can sense that I am almost to the end and my girl, Natasha B, steps up to the mic just in time to encourage me to finish strong:

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance

So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

This song has been my "life anthem" for the last couple of years.  When the flickering shadows of the big '4-0' started growing closer and closer a couple of years ago, I had so many regrets of things I had never done.  But God reminded me over and over that '40' is just a number and that he works outside the rules of time - there are still a whole lot of pages left in my book to be written and I just needed to trust him and not quit.

I chose not to quit.

I could not think of a more perfect song to end finish this race at. As I sang out loud (and probably off key) the lines "Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten," I turned the final corner of my 2 1/2 month/year long/41+ years and 3.1 mile trek and spotted the word I had been waiting to see: "Finish".  And this time, the tears flowed freely.

I had done it.  I had just run 3.1 miles without stopping. Today I felt the 'rain on my skin' - literally - and it felt good. I felt good. And other than the birth of my three precious children, it was probably the most breathtaking moment of my life.

Some final thoughts:

  • I know to some 3.1 miles may not seem like much, especially in comparison to those that run 13 or 26.  But that is their journey - not mine.  And I am so OK with that.  Because this journey took me exactly where God wanted me to go and I know that even though I crossed one Finish line on Saturday, my race is far from over.  There is always another bend in the road, another goal to reach, another process to work through...and God has promised me that he is faithful to complete the work that he started in me (Phil 1:6.)
  • The sound of cowbells makes me giggle.
  • My final time was 34:26 and I am so proud of that!  Even prouder, Isaac's time was 22:15!  And he placed 97 out of 5617 runners.  Seriously!!  Told you he could run like the wind. (He said he could have run faster but he had to go to the bathroom.  What did I tell you...)
  • Finally, it wasn't until I got home that I flipped over my precious medal and saw what it said on the other side:

It doesn't get any better than that.

Blessings.  Stay warm. Stay safe.  Stay close to God.

And run like the wind!

(Sorry for the "PDA" stuff at the end of the video. 
Just close your eyes and listen to the song - that's the good part anyway.)

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