I walked to the starting line in semi darkness along with thousands of other runners, pouring into the streets of Philadelphia from their hotels. It was 6:00 am, Sunday November 20, 2011.
I had run hundreds of miles in preparation for that day. I ran in rain, I ran in heat waves, I ran with friends and I ran alone. I had learned a lot about my body and its limits, both the real and the self-imposed and during my training period, I had learned the difference between the two.
I was not in ideal shape for this run. With a cold and a pulled hamstring, I accepted the fact before the race even began, that I may have to walk off the course.
Except I didn’t walk off the course, and several hours later, after the doubt and the bargaining and the surrender to fate had all taken place, I crossed the finish line, a first time marathon runner.
Little did I know that day, that my training for the race would be less about preparing for the marathon itself, but would prepare me for the year that would take place afterward, a year, shall we say, of unprecedented change.
Is change comfortable? No. Is my life the least bit easy? Absolutely not. But I am poised to face life on life’s terms, possibly better than I could have before that race.
Because once you run a marathon, you can do just about anything.
1) You can learn how to take care of the yard, and work a leaf blower.
2) You can learn how to fix vacuum cleaners and unclog sinks and toilets on your own.
3) You can learn how to ask for help - sometimes, from people you barely know, because when you are the only adult in the house with three kids, you learn that you cannot be everywhere that you need to be at the same time.
4) You learn that people are kind and that they want to help.
5) You learn to let them help and not feel like you have to keep on your “man pants” all the flipping time.
6) You learn that tough decisions initially cause pain, and you go with those decisions anyway, because after running 26.2 miles, you realize that pain happens, but it’s just temporary.
7) You learn to hustle three part time jobs around the schedule of your kids so that you can be there for them when they get off the bus while keeping food on your table.
8) You learn to say “yes,” and understand when saying “yes” is necessary.
9) You learn to say “no” and understand when saying “no” is necessary.
10) You learn to become a little less intimidated by the things that don’t matter.
11) You learn to fully understand the difference between what actually does and does not matter.
12) You learn that there is no such thing as impossible.
13) You learn to trust yourself and your abilities.
14) You begin to understand that you are strong beyond your wildest dreams and that no matter what, you and your children will be OK.
Would I be handling my present day life as well as I am without that marathon under my belt? It’s hard to say. One thing I know for certain is that the marathon gave me tangible proof of my own strength and endurance.
And here’s the most important thing.
15) If I’m strong, you’re strong, and if I can endure and triumph over the difficult, then so can you. Because we are all more alike than we care to admit.
Whatever the obstacle is, you can overcome it.
Whatever the goal is, you can achieve it.
I have your back on this one, sister.
Just like you’ve had mine.