Day 26: Run, walk, limp or crawl to the finish line…

Four more days until I cross the finish line of this 30 day blog challenge! I know you can’t see it, but I just did the dance of joy. It’s exciting when you get to a point of being so close to finishing a goal or something you’ve worked hard on. Pretty sure that’s how I became addicted to running and completed a full marathon and three half marathons in one year.

I lied. Truth be told I have never been addicted to running. I don’t even like it. At all. Still don’t. But that feeling and the rush of crossing the finish line is what is addicting, and in 2007 I begrudgingly caught the running bug. After being relocated in California for the third time for a job and a promotion, I had to start all over again as the new girl in a new city. I was struggling. Pretty sure my friends were tired of my complaining, as evidenced when one of them got sick of it and asked me if I had thought about joining a running club and training for a marathon. Funny girl. I had never run more than 2 miles in my entire life, so the possibility of running 26.2 miles was far beyond comprehension.

She’s a good friend and quite convincing. Before I knew it I had signed up to join a running team and was going to make the attempt to train for a full marathon through Team in Training–an organization that fundraises for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by training people to run or walk long distance events. Twenty-six point two miles…yeah, I’d call that long distance.

She thought it would be fun to challenge me to train out here in California while she trained back in Colorado, and then pick a race to run together. Not only would it be a healthy and stress-relieving activity, but it would also link me to a group of other active individuals with similar passions while being a part of a bigger picture and promoting a great cause. Sounded like a good plan. One problem, I hated running and had never run more than two miles in my entire life!  It’s not that I wasn’t athletic or pathetically out of shape, I just hated running. I admire people who do it, but I personally found it excruciatingly painful and boring. Apparently this meant nothing to my dear friend in Colorado because she signed me up to go to an information meeting at my local library that following Saturday, and sent me the address and meeting time. I got the hint.

Unsure of exactly what I was committing myself to, I took the challenge. When I told my family that I was going to run a 26.2 mile marathon and fundraise over $3,500 in five months to benefit blood cancers, they practically laughed in my face and patted me on the head. It’s not so much that they were unsupportive as much as they knew how much I hated running, let alone running 26.2 miles. But this organization and program was designed to help people just like me to do exactly that, begin a goal with no experience from ground zero. The coaches and mentors gave advice from what kind of shoes and athletic wear to buy to what to eat.  They even organized us into pace groups and gave us tailored training schedules so we would be with other people of the same skill levels. And to my surprise, there were people as slow and even slower than I was and having just as much fun. We met twice a week for training workouts that built up our endurance in slow and manageable increments, as well as gave us tools and tips for successful fundraising to meet our financial goals while at the same time hitting our fitness goals. Want to talk about commitment? Four months of 6:30am practice runs every Saturday. That’s commitment.

When I joined the running team I didn’t know anyone who had ever completed a full marathon, and now I was surrounded by people who were training to do just that! Each week after our Saturday workouts I would call my family back in Colorado and tell them how many miles I ran that morning and what it was like. They’re skepticism eventually turned into cheerleading as I entered into  the fitness level of being able to run double digits. The day that I ran ten miles I thought to myself, “It really looks like I might go through with this!” Although I don’t think anyone really believed me until I actually crossed the finish line and had the picture to prove it.

On January 7, 2007 my Colorado friend and I met in Orlando, Florida and crossed the finish line at the Disney World Marathon with our arms in the air, sweat in our eyes, and smiles on our faces. We were joined at the finish line by her husband, a friend who flew in to support us, and another of my Colorado friends who trained through Team and Training and ran the Disney  ½ marathon the day before. A first for all of us. I caught the race bug and ended up running four more races that year.

Crossing that finish line after 26.2 miles shifted something in me. Through that experience I learned several things: 1)  that it is possible to set big, hairy, audacious goals; 2) that I need the help of others to achieve them and I can’t do it all on my own;  3) that there is planning and preparation involved in order to achieve success and the desired results; 4) and that there will be obstacles to push through and many,  many temptations to quit. And most of all, that the effort is worth it. Running a 26.2 mile marathon is not normal. Less than .02% of the world’s population ever attempts to do it. But I found a group of amazing people who encouraged, motivated, and trained with me to achieve a goal I thought was unachievable. And in meeting my fundraising goal to benefit those with blood cancers I was actually able to help others in the process! Some of my dearest friendships in California came out of this experience. And several other friends have since trained and completed their first marathons as well. They looked at me and figured if I can do it—the very slow anti-runner—then anyone can do it. This one event set me on fire and gave me the momentum to cross off more than twelve items on my 30×30 list over the next two years.

Realizing it's actually going to happen--26.2 or bust baby!
Realizing it’s actually going to happen–26.2 or bust baby!

It’s okay to set goals that seem impossible. In fact, I dare you. And the best feeling is when  you reach the point where you’re almost there. Ok, the best feeling is actually crossing the finish line, but there is a magic moment and a tipping point when you realize how hard you’ve worked and that you are almost there and are going to make it. Don’t quit. And if you have, re-start. You may be just around the corner from the finish line. Crossing the finish line is worth all the sweat, tears, pain, and effort…it is.

Run towards your finish line even if you can’t see it yet. Don’t let it elude you. It’s there. Go get it.

Yep, we started in the dark.
Yep, we started in the dark. The short one, she’s the culprit–I blame her.
The beginning of the 26.2 mile journey...
The beginning of the 26.2 mile journey…
The hardest I've ever worked for a kiss!
The hardest I’ve ever worked for a kiss!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

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