I can’t run. But I ran anyway.
You’ve listened to me prattle on about this for a while now, I know. About how I felt ripped off when I ignored a prodding from God about the SheLoves Half Marathon. About how I decided to be fearless this year, to learn how to say “yes” to everything that I’ve always thought I was too weak, too fat, too silly, too tired, too embarrassed, too self-conscious, too “me” to do. About how I decided that this year, I won’t be on the sidelines, no, this year, awkward gait and extra forty pounds be damned, I will be running. I decided to run, not just for me, but for our girls at Mercy Ministries. I wanted to run because I believe in miracles and somehow, it made sense in my heart, I don’t know why.
I decided to run because this year, I wasn’t content to organize and plan, I wanted to sweat, to hurt, to be physically present, to hold each one of our brave and strong Mercy girls – residents, graduates, hopefuls, supporters – in my heart and pump my blood faster, push my body harder, do something I was so afraid I to do because I was so afraid of failing again.
It was awful.
I hate running. Like, hate hate hate hate hate it. If my sister had a loonie for every time I showed up at the track, grumpy and tired, with a plan to manipulate her into somehow agreeing to go get a glass of wine and an appy at Earl’s instead (“Come on! They won’t care if we’re in track clothes! It’s Monday night in Abbotsford! We’re mothers! They expect that sort of thing!”), she would be a wealthy woman. And for the record, she resisted me each and every time. (Except once. And that time, oh, we had fun. Totally worth it. But sshhh…don’t tell our husbands.)
Yes. Running. I don’t like it. I don’t understand you people that do like to run. But we ran and we ran – although my version of running likely requires the use of ironic air quotes around the word to properly convey the complete awkward visual of me “running” – but you get the idea. We ran in the rain and the snow and the sleet and the winter dark and the wind even though I gave her fits with my bad attitude and Angry Eyes, my protestations about wind and cold and foggy glasses. I registered for the run. I set up my little sponsorship page on the website. Thanks to all of you and a few others, we even raised more than $1500 for Mercy Ministries!
And as Race Day loomed, I looked for a reason to quit. I bargained with myself. I hadn’t actually managed to run 5K yet. I couldn’t do it on a flat surface, let alone a hilly park. Every walker would finish that race before me. It was ridiculous. I was ridiculous. This was ridiculous. Come on! It’s not like it matters. No one needs me to run a race. It’s a 5K, not a marathon, certainly not world peace, it doesn’t matter, I can quit, right?
But no. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. I still don’t know why it felt like such a big deal, why it felt like a watershed moment for me, but it did. I felt like I was bumping up against every lie I’ve ever believed about myself.
We showed up on race day. I have no clue about these things, and I severely overdressed in heavy black yoga pants plus two t-shirts. I helped pack sack lunches from 7AM onward, and I didn’t drink any water. My friend, Sarah, showed up as a surprise to cheer me on – she runs half marathons once a year “just to keep in shape” – and I burst into tears at the sight of her, clearly I was slightly hysterical. I had a knot in my stomach and I tried to distract myself from my certain defeat by laughing too loud, flitting around, acting so fine.
We gathered at the start line. I’ve never run a race in my life, I was so nervous. And then the horn went off and we ran.
We ran. We ran.
I was running.
It was a gorgeous day in the park. We ran in the shadows of mountains, past derelict red barns, fields of wildflowers, arched by the spring blue sky of a perfect BC day. My sister encouraged me every step of the way, I had never ran in our training as much as I ran on that old path through the park, two minutes of straight running felt like an eternity. We were almost entirely alone – the last of the runners, but just ahead of the walkers. But I ran. We walked when we needed to walk. I was boiling hot. But I ran. Mercy graduates stood on the path with big signs, with cups of water, and I wanted to cry at the sight of them, I wanted to hold them and say, thank you for letting me do this, thank you for teaching me just a bit about courage and guts and miracles. My sister and I talked about other stuff, anything to take my mind off the fact that I was making my body do something I had never made it do before. Around the 4KM mark, I was hit with a bad headache – an “I-haven’t-drank-anything-but-coffee-in-12-hours-and-I’m-sweltering-in-heavy-black-clothes-on-a-hot-sunny-day-what-the-hell-were-you-thinking-woman” kind of headache. One of my little physical quirks is that I get sick to my stomach when I have a headache and this was no exception, I was miserable. My sister had her second wind, I could tell she wanted to run, but she stayed with me, she matched her pace to my shuffle, she did not leave me.
We walked and hobbled through the fourth kilometre, I swore profusely as we wound our way up the final incline, she hooked her elbow around mine, half-dragged me up the dusty hillside path. We hit the final 100 metres and an impossibly cheery race attendant kept encouraging us to “spring to the finish” and I nearly kicked her in the shins. I was dripping wet, hot, miserable, sore, tired and my head hurt.
But we rounded the final bend, and I saw a finish line. And I swear to you, my heart leaped up into my throat, and I couldn’t see for the tears in my eyes. My sister turned to me , she was already running, her eyes full of tears for me, she held out her hand, I grabbed on, and we ran, we ran, we ran those last 100 M across my first finish line. I cried and cried like I had just finished a marathon, instead of a measly 5K run. I didn’t even check my time, I bet it was close to 55 minutes, no joke, I was just relieved I’d beaten the walkers. I had a drink of water and promptly went over to to the bushes and threw up everywhere. No one laughed at me, they celebrated for me. My mother had pushed my niece in a stroller that entire path with her friend, they made it over the line, we laughed and hugged all over again. I laid in the grass and moaned with misery. Every one hugged and danced like we’d completed the Tour de France, they were all so happy for me, I made me realise, most of us, we want to cheer each other on, we really do.
I still hate running. But I love finishing.
I hate the process of growing and changing and doing something new and hard. But I love this moment, sitting on my back deck, listening to the birds sing and the creek run by my house, hardly able to feel my legs, feet aching, but feeling so satisfied, so real, so human, this knowing that I was so scared of this, so sure I couldn’t do it, and now, it’s done. It’s done.
It was amazing.