In June, la Señorita and I set out to train for a half-marathon. She’d trained with a friend, but she’d never had the chance to compete in a race. I’d thought about training, but never had the individual motivation or courage to tackle the feat. As recreational runners, we were in relatively similar physical condition with the same goal: finish.
There were ups and downs along the path of training. Sometimes there was little to no motivation. At other times, we ruined Friday nights and Saturday mornings to run ridiculous lengths. Swollen ankles and sore knees plagued our bodies. Great conversations that filled me with joy. A friend, closer than before. Eating everything that I wanted and fitting into my seventh grade wardrobe.
In training, la Señorita and I had been running slightly better than ten minute miles. That was our goal: ten minute miles. TOTALLY ATTAINABLE. Except that my month of dealing with the hacky crap really caught up with me in the preceding days.
I was a little antsy about running all weekend, even though I wasn’t about to tell anyone. A girl has to keep up her woman of steel image in these parts. The ants in my pants tickled and scratched me all night long and didn’t let me sleep very well. When Sunday morning dawned (err, pre-dawned), I crawled out of bed cranky. I definitely didn’t get enough sleep that night. My lungs were filled with the familiar hacky crap, but I told myself, “WHO CARES. PRETEND IT ISN’T THERE.” Before the sun even thought about rolling out of its eastern pile of warm pillows and blankets, I was warmed up and ready to run farther than I’d ever ran before.
La Señorita and I were obviously excited about getting out there and giving it our best shot. The gun went off and we started the crowded scuttle towards the starting line. Once we got past the first mile, we were able to hit our target pace and keep it steady. Our cheerleaders met us several places along the way. They didn’t look too tired from getting up at the butt crack of dawn.
Then, mile seven came. The air got humid. My lungs got restricted. I could barely breathe. I had to beg la Señorita to slow down. I felt terrible, she was so excited to be passing people. I was excited to put on foot in front of the next. I kept a slow pace with her and complained most of the time. Somewhere between mile eleven and twelve, I started to really lose it. I lost track of time and how far we had gone. If la Señorita hadn’t been there, I might have fallen into the woods to be left for the vultures’ Sunday morning brunch. But she didn’t leave me. In fact, she ran behind me to keep me from stopping. That’s what teams are for: support.
I honestly only remember wanting to cry the last two miles. Keep in mind, only one week previous to this experience, I ran twelve miles without much ado. I remember bearing around the corner into the finish line. I remember running as fast as I could (not fast) and falling into someone’s arms. I remember being taken into the first aid tent and being placed on a cot. I remember being iced up and thinking, “For crying out loud, I am in better shape than this!”
The next hour was very traumatic and I felt very vulnerable. I’ll spare you the gory details, but let it suffice to say that there were IV threats and lots of black puke bags. My emotional state was just about as unstable as my physical state. First of all, I had worked hard so that something like this WOULDN’T happen. Secondly, 3932 strangers were meandering around me. Thirdly, eight good friends were doing the sympathetic half-smile thing while telling me they’re “so proud of me.” I just wanted to hobble into my bed and cry for an hour out of embarrassment.
Nothing like being vulnerable. Nothing like losing your gatorade at the first aid tent. Or at the I-HOP (Thank God Lucy’s Mama was there to explain to other ladies’ room clients that I wasn’t bulimic). Or in front of the ten-year old neighbor boy on a lawn close to home (I just couldn’t make it!).
Somewhere in the midst of my various embarrassing moments, I realized WHY I needed to have this. I am a steely girl. I am an introvert. I am task oriented. I approach my abundant emotions very logically. I needed to experience vulnerability. Loss of control. Loss of self-sufficiency. And that I did. Getting put on an antibiotic three days before an accomplishment of a lifetime was not anything I could predict, control, or stop. It happened and it clued me into that blaring plank in my eye and it showed me how wonderful it is to admit you need help.
I needed encouragement. I needed room-temperature Sprite. I needed to lie prostrate on the floor. I was in need and my needs were provided for. I didn’t have anything to do with the results of the race, la Señorita pushed me to nearly meet our goal on the hardest run of my life. I didn’t have anything to do with finally being able to process food, Roommate nursed me all day long. I didn’t have anything to do with coming to grips with not meeting the ten minute mile goal, that peace was given to me by grace.
I don’t have anything to do with a lot of wonderful things in my life. This race was just a micro-manifestation of a few things I needed to realize so to appreciate those on the larger scale.