I am not a runner, by any means. I am not fit. I am not strong. I am not the poster child for the local gym. Sometime earlier this year my lovely sister-in-law and I decided to do some races. The first up was the Shamrock Run in Portland, but I was too sick with that esophagus closing thing. Not a good idea to run when you can’t eat or drink. I was disappointed. Then came surgery. I started exercising in June, but it hurt my surgery site so I backed off a little. Somewhere along the way we registered for the Eugene Women’s Half Marathon. I started running. I didn’t ever like it, but I liked when it was over. Then I ran a 5K in Stayton. I felt pretty good after that. In fact, I thought I could run more of those. A few weeks after that I had some sort of hip injury that has hurt me on and off for the remainder of the summer. The farthest I was ever able to run was 4.17 miles. The next time I tried running I had to stop at 1.88. My hip muscle was hurting too bad for me to even push through to mile 2. So, I started my slow walk home only to twist my ankle. I hobbled home, feeling defeated. The last time I tried running I stopped as soon as I felt any sort of pain. It was only about a half of a block and my hip hurt the entire next day. It hurt for a day or two afterward even after walking a leisurely 2 miles. I was beginning to feel like a big fat failure.

The weekend of the race I was camping at Festival of Tents in Brownsville. It’s only about 30 minutes from Eugene. I was in a lot of pain just from walking around the site and dancing during worship service. I was limping and sitting as often as I could. Many, many people advised me to not even attempt the half marathon. I was so close to just not going. However, I knew that if I didn’t I would always wonder what I was missing. I woke early Sunday morning to find that there was very little pain in my hip so I decided to go. I was nervous. I was scared. I knew I would not be able to run all of those 13.1 miles. I kind of think that only crazy people choose to run that far.

I get there. Park. Find the long line of to the bathroom. Then I stand by while I watch about 1100 people pass by. I never found the pacer I wanted to run with, but it doesn’t matter because I wouldn’t have been able to stay with her anyway. I didn’t start at the very end because I didn’t want to be very last. I wasn’t very last, but there were only about 20 people behind me. I kept pace with a woman and her trainer for the first 4-5 miles. She would walk 30 seconds then jog 30 seconds. I wish I would’ve followed her plan. Maybe I would’ve gotten done earlier and made a friend.

(I don’t know why, but it hurts to write about all this. It was such an emotional/spiritual/mental/physical struggle.)

I lost the lady and her trainer at around mile 5. I started to cry a little. Not a sob. No energy for sobbing. I couldn’t catch up with them. My body was giving out on me. I knew I was going to have to walk sooner or later. I felt like I couldn’t control my leg muscles. I was afraid of twisting an ankle…or two. I started walking for awhile. It felt awkward to walk after jogging for miles. It’s like when you’re roller skating then take them off to walk. Roller skating? Anyone remember that? Hmm, well anyway, I walked. At mile 6 I felt like I wanted to die. Apparently I had good form when running because a couple of the volunteers commented on it. That’s something, right? Right before mile 8 I told the Lord He better move the saints to pray because I’m done. I can’t do it. Right after that my good friend General called. (Yes, I had my phone with me.) He encouraged me. I can’t remember what I said, but I remember making him laugh. I hung up with him only to find my phone ringing and it was Leslie on the line. Ahhh, my Coalition of Sweet Black Boys (CoSBB) was pulling through for me. We chatted while I hobbled along. Mile 10 comes. I’m feeling a little better until a 70 year old woman passed me like it was nothing. She was walking. She looked like she was leisurely walking while I struggled to get one foot in front of the other. My feet are killing me, my hips are cramping, my back is aching. Every time I’d start to run both calves would feel like they were going to cramp along with various other muscles in my legs. I realized at this point that my sister-in-law wouldn’t be at the finish line waiting for me if I didn’t get there in time because she was coordinating a wedding that day. I would be truly alone. My husband would not be there at the finish line. I wanted my husband to be there. I grieved a friendship buried in pain.  I cried. I cried because I felt like I was alone and a 70 year old passed me. I cried because I was in so much pain. Mostly, I cried because I wouldn’t have a bunch of family and friends cheering me on. I cried for about 5 seconds…again, because there just wasn’t any extra energy. Mile 11: I gritted my teeth and said, “I am not alone. I am strong. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I’ve just moved this body for 11 miles, what’s 2 more? I can do this and I will NOT be last.” I jogged. Awkwardly at first, then getting into my groove. Ah yes, my groove that isn’t any faster than a walk, I’m sure. Rachel calls me to see where I am. I huff and puff, “In the last half mile.” She waits for me. I turn the corner to see the finish line and there she is with her iPhone ready to take my picture. I see her husband, Ryan, and somehow that is almost as good as having his brother, my husband there. My nephews and niece are there cheering me on. I cross the finish line and here my name announced. I made it. I finished it. I really did it. 13.1 miles and I did NOT quit.

I did bootcamp once at a gym in Mac. I told my leader, Olivia, that I wanted to quit. I was last and I couldn’t run. She turned to me and said, “You’re not a quitter.” Then she jogged ahead. I thought, “Whatever. Yes I am.” Guess what? She was right.