My friend Melissa and I would jog occasionally early in the morning. Although she had several marathons under her belt and loved running fast, she never complained about going at my pace. She would always comment on the clarity of mind that running gave her. She was a missionary for the church of running, and she was patiently working to convert me. She finally convinced me to register with her for the 2012 New York Marathon Lottery. She was going to hold my hand through the training process, and if we didn’t get picked for the lottery she was going to help me with the fundraising process to run for a charity. I snapped this picture of my shoes on a cold, snowy January in Connecticut and started to plan when my official training for the November race would begin. I was going to need 16 weeks to prepare and we would start in earnest July 1st.
Things didn’t really go according to plan. We didn’t get picked for the lottery. Melissa and her family moved in June to Wilmington, NC. And on July 1st, instead of starting my training I was house hunting in Dallas, TX. Moving is a whirlwind. It’s a transition in every aspect of your life — schools, work, friends, church, community, and comfort. I was fully occupied in getting through the transition and my marathon plans felt long gone.
I called Melissa in late September, we hadn’t been in touch all summer with both of our moves. I asked what she was up to and she replied that in just 3 weeks she was going to be doing the PPD Beach to Battleship Half Ironman. I heard all about her hours a day training. Swimming, biking, running, learning to change flat tires on a bike, and more. She was alive with intensity and passion and so excited. Her husband was also participating in the race as part of a team and she spoke of how this common goal was uniting them as a couple and family. I was so in awe of her at that moment. She was energized and I was . . . not exactly energized.
We got off the phone, and I determined to do something that very moment. I looked up couch to half marathon training schedules — 10 weeks long. I looked up half marathon races and found that if I started training the very next day, the Dallas half marathon was exactly 10 weeks away. I registered myself and registered my husband (and then called and told him). I printed out training schedules and went after this goal with fierce determination. Finding time for both of us to run with 5 children (ages 2, 6, 8, 10 & 12) was challenging. Sports schedules and music lessons conspired against us, but week after week we figured out a way to make it happen.
As our longer Saturday runs began, Trent and I would track each other on find my iPhone and deliver water and energy packets every 3-4 miles. For both of us to do a 10 mile run was a 5 hour committment — first to be the runner and then to be runner’s support team. Neither of us had run further than a 5K before we did this and these first long runs were very challenging. I’d never before been so excited to see our minivan and know that inside was my husband, with a cold energy drink and a go-go squeeze waiting for me just ahead. We were brought together as a couple as we worked hard to reach these daily and weekly goals.
Before the race, I talked to Melissa again and asked her for advice. She knew Trent and I would both be running and she said, “fight the urge to stay together. Be free to run your own race. Running is just as much a mental game as it is a physical game and if you feel you are being pushed or pulled by the other it can really mess with you. You’ve worked so hard; Set out to do your best. At the end, you will know the race represents your highest effort.”
Race Sunday arrived and we chatted nervously waiting for the start. We had left the kids at home with my sister who was taking them to church. This day was just for us. It was the pinnacle of our training. Once the race started, we quickly lost sight of each other. I ran my best. Trent ran his best. As I crossed the finish line and started walking through the gates I was overwhelmed with the deepest respect and love for every competitor out there. Each finisher was hugging and crying with somebody. We all had a new profound respect for everyone there knowing the time and hard work every person had put in to be at this place. Trent and I quickly found each other. It was an emotional reunion. We had each run our best, and we were so proud of eachother. We grabbed some food, enjoyed the festivities, and finally made our way back to the car. Trent turned to me and said, “this is one of the most spiritual and emotional days I have ever had.” I agreed. There was such a feeling of unity, camaraderie, respect, and love that I too had never before experienced. It was for us, one of our best days.
Transitions can leave you feeling uprooted and directionless. Goals can provide direction and strategy. Pick a race. The distance and the speed are not important. Work on it little by little. Cross your own personal finish line and feel empowered to do more and be more.