Run with Me: 26.2

I’ve never run a marathon. I started running in college, primarily for weight control. I’d go off to college, gain weight, come home for the summer, run through my neighborhood, then off to college, repeating the cycle.

At college, dorm life and weather defeated my attempts to run in any routine—the word ‘treadmill’ only brought to mind a frantic hamster. As a social connection, I often chose a mac ‘n’ cheese cafeteria meal over a sweaty run. I also didn’t have the money or knowledge to start with the proper tool—shoes. You can’t run without comfortable, cushioned shoes. Just don’t do it.

After graduating, I was able to set my schedule, invest in shoes, and educate myself on method. A daily run became as essential as breakfast in my hectic schedule. I soon set a personal goal of running a marathon by age 50. I started small; working up to half-marathons.

I wouldn’t trade my running experiences for a pre-race carbo-load mac ‘n’ cheese dinner with Frank Shorter. I’ve wept, I’ve forgiven, I’ve quit, I’ve stumbled; I’ve sang, I’ve remembered, I’ve gloried, I’ve dreamed. My first official race—five miles—I crossed the finish line last.

For that race, I choose to remember running through snowflakes softening my path. To their credit, other runners, race sponsors and friends responded: “but you finished!” which ran through my thoughts repeatedly until I adopted that supportive thinking pattern for any race.

Memories swirl like confetti of the camaraderie of running in a crowd; cooling off in lawn sprinklers; and fans throwing hi-fives along the routes. I remember running through lantern-lit streets on New Year’s Eve, hearing cheers and whistles and horns, oh my! I remember listening to the whispers of a pine forest as I memorized Psalm 91. I remember touching the Yard of Bricks and the pylon on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Twice.

In one hilly, humid race, I remember medics encircling a runner on a downhill slope; learning later that he had a heart attack. The following year, same race, same downhill path, same runner: watching him run past me; pushing my legs faster, stronger.

Somewhere between ache and pain, I gave up my goal of running a marathon. I’ve decided, for now, my physical body doesn’t need the added stress. I know I wouldn’t just run a marathon; I’d run several marathons to train for the race day marathon. I still dream of crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, or running along the Big Sur coast, but considering my experiences, I’m content with my choice.

Join me in this memorial to the human spirit that creates the yearning for slipping on my shoes despite the moment’s mudslide. May it inspire another step in your journey.

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