This isn’t really about completing a half-marathon. I mean it is, but it isn’t. It’s not about a health scare, or several. It’s not about the weight I carried or the Diabetes diagnosis. It’s not about needing to sit down after walking 1/2 mile and hearing both the worry and frustration in my spouse’s voice. It’s not even about a pack-a-day habit it took me two decades to give up, or achieving a physical feat I once thought impossible.
It’s taken me until my 13.1 to realize it isn’t about all that. It’s not about running away from myself: my woes, my health, my habits or my choices. For 18 months, I’ve run in one fairly significant circle right back to myself. Along the way, what I’ve truly found is it’s not about running away. It isn’t even about running. Instead, it’s about finding the courage to stay in the present moment.
About 3 years ago I remember saying to my greatest of mentors, “It’s not my life that needs to change. It’s beautiful, it fits, and it’s mine. What needs to change is how I live in it.” I was right then, yet it still took me a lot of foot strikes, shallow breaths, sweat and playlists to really get it.
I spent 18 months running, starting with Couch-to-5k. I have followed training plans, supplemented with “cross” training, read up on running in my free time, developed networks of cyber-friends in running forums, rearranged schedules to make the time to get to this point. I have struggled, cursed myself and doubted myself and my motives. I thought I needed to prove something. When race day arrived, here’s what mattered:
The love behind my wife’s gentle worry, ongoing encouragement, and behind-the-scenes race day surprise planning.
My running inspiration, Aunt Nanci, and her gentle reminders to have fun, feel the excitement and not forget the cause the race supports; as she runs with me, step for step as I got my sea-legs those first several miles.
My Aunt Donna, meeting us periodically throughout the course to cheer, offer an extra water stop, take pictures, and urge us forward.
Seeing the surprise of a lifetime at the finish, my family, dear friends, and aunt, with signs and cheers to motivate me across the finish; topped off by my daughter, chasing me across the finish and leaping into my arms; and my son, developing his own training calendar so he can run a race with me this summer.
Being so distracted by the warmest welcome at the finish that I completely forgot to check my time, or pause my Garmin (Oh my gosh, what “real” runner forgets to pause their watch?)
I completely forgot to celebrate a majestic finish and the accomplishment of a lifetime when I realized, surrounded by my family and friends, that my complete, accomplished and beautiful life is right here. I am surrounded by joy, love and support. In one very long race, I was able to sink into all that surrounds me more than I focused on the sun (One cloud, anyone? Anywhere? Shade?) the heat (after the most frigid season you bring us 80, today?) the length (okay, I was a little distracted by the length, especially once I hit mile 10. Those last three, WHEW!), or my time (Goals, what goals? You mean to end upright and smiling? Check.)
As we all left the race, got cleaned up, and spent the afternoon at a beautiful park with our take out picnic, I really started feeling the sense of accomplishment that I thought was tied up in my first 13.1. Surrounded by those I cherish, knowing they were the very ones who helped get me here, I knew I had it all. I’m not running away from a sordid past, or towards an illusive future. I just run to be the best me, as I live deeply connected to those who bless my present.