Never in a million years would I have given myself this title. I was a dancer. A writer. NOT a runner.
Then I became a single mom working two jobs and trying to keep it together. My best friend at the time, Zac, suggested that I run to stay in shape and give myself some alone time. I honestly laughed in his face. Me, run?!? No way!
Getting the Mail
In the mail that day, I got a postcard invitation to join the Leukemia and Lymphoma’s Team in Training. They run to bring awareness for these childhood cancers, and to raise money for research for cures. When I was eight, I lost a friend (Shawn) to Leukemia, and lost another friend (Michael) when I was 20. I believed it was a sign, so I went to the meeting a week later.
At the end of the meeting, I wrote a check for $100 as a deposit on my space. I wasn’t sure how I was going to raise money. I didn’t know the first thing about buying running shoes. With a lot of uncertainty, I called my friend and told him I was going to start running.
Training was brutal! It was manageable only because Saturdays the whole team met up for longer runs. Three miles slowly added up to eighteen, then twenty. Muscles screamed. Hips and feet hurt. Breathing was a challenge, especially up big hills. But, there were my teammates and coaches to talk to. Others who had stories of why they were there. We talked and shared, and the burden was lighter.
Running is 10% physical and 90% emotional
Michael was my best friend and confidant my junior year of high school. One night at a leadership conference we were at, he confessed that he wanted to run until all the hurt and pain that was inside was gone. Then he wanted to come home and have room to be filled up with the good. He passed away at the age of 21. He wasn’t able to run for himself anymore, so I ran in his memory. Mile after mile each week, I thought of him. I thought of how hard things were for me at the moment. I ran to show my girls that there are different ways to be strong.
It hurt. Physically, I lost a few toenails. Muscles I didn’t use for dancing were being moved. Ice baths were introduced to more than just my feet. It hurt emotionally. Remembering and working through life. It hurt financially. I didn’t quite meet my obligation, so I pulled money from a savings account. I picked up extra shifts when the girls were with their dad.
Then came the first full marathon. I remember realizing the strange grunting noise I was hearing was me everytime I picked up my legs. I remember mile 22 when I realized that I was empty of everything — I had been digging down to keep going because there was nobody else that would do it for me. Crossing that finish line was incredible! Not because there were firefighters dressed in tuxedos and handing out Tiffany and Co. necklaces (Thanks, Nike Women’s Marathon). Not because I got to eat bagels and fruit for free. Because I got to call Zac and tell him I had crossed. He told me how proud he was. I sat in the clothing pick up area and bawled, feeling worn out, and strong, and empty and full all at the same time.
I ran two more full marathons and three half marathons after that. I became a mentor for Team in Training. Running consumed my life, and I changed my work schedules so I could be there every Saturday morning to run. Cancer didn’t take a break, so I didn’t take a break.
I let go of feeling like a victim. Coming home from the first marathon, my ex-husband and his new wife tried to manipulate me into getting things they wanted by holding information about the girls over my head. “If you give us what we want, we will tell you when and where B’s medical procedure is going to be. And we won’t tell you what procedure she is going to have either.” I drove away upset. Then, I realized that I was a marathoner! I do hard things even when they hurt! I had to break it down into manageable pieces. So, I did.
It was with great pride that I got to call him back in an hour to let him know the procedure had been canceled. I’m pretty sure it shocked him. This was someone new he was dealing with.
The girls and I started dreaming. We put a new goal up on the wall, and made a plan of how we were going to work towards it together. They got to come with me when I ran my second marathon, and the jumped the line to run me in on my third.
We became a team. The days that it hurt too bad, they encouraged me to do what I could. When I was running in the rain or the snow, I thought of them. They became my reason for doing what I was doing. They started to run with me, and we finished a few 5k’s together while they were in grade school.
Needing a Why
All this happened because I found a why. My first marathon was in honor of Shawn and Michael. My second was for my kids. My third was because I was addicted to the finish line and all that was involved in getting there.
Without the why, I had no reason to run. I watched people I mentored who dropped out because they didn’t have a good enough why. People who had a solid why made it to the trainings. They made the fundraising goals. We crossed finished lines together. Why is more important than how in all situations.