Before I Knew It, I Was Running

Eight years ago, on a Sunday morning at the end of January, I pulled my behind out of bed, even before the sun had the inclination to rise, slipped on a bright yellow t-shirt, stepped into my old blue & white New Balance sneakers and made my way to the starting line for the 8th Annual ING Miami Marathon & Half Marathon. 

The staging area was lined with more people than I EVER wanted to see at one time, let alone at that ungodly hour of the morning. The foolish confidence that led to me agree to participate months before was long gone. Now, as I watched the professional runner types bouncing around in their aerodynamic-looking sneakers and fancy-looking snack/water/phone pouches, there was this inner dialogue taking place that attempted to keep my body from going into shock at the realization that I was about to run (or mostly stroll) for 13 full miles. 

I made myself talk to my group (all of whom more prepared for this than me), smiling and nodding between my “What happens if___” questions, hoping they did not see the fear bubbling in my gut. 

Before I knew it, I was running. For the first 10 minutes (or maybe 5), I gave it my best, pushing myself to the limit. Although scared, feeling the give of MacArthur Causeway as hundreds and hundreds AND hundreds of people descended upon it gave me a boost for the takeoff. It was all down hill from there. 

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Maybe about two hours into this foot tour through Miami I saw a tall, slender, much older (like easily in his 70s) gentleman go scooting by in a steady, unstoppable stride. He was a man on a mission. I watched him for a moment, wishing I could match his pace, but I just did not have it in me. 

I wanted to stop altogether, but could not. I did pause here and there, hoping something in my body would kick in and say, “Alright, we got this! Let’s bang it out with a steady jog.” Again, no such luck. I walked, mostly slow, determined to finish. 

And after 4 hours, 7 minutes and 24 seconds, I dragged my behind across the finish line. I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained, wanting nothing more than to take a shower and lay across my bed while praying my feet wouldn’t fall off. But first things first... I had to grab my participation medal. 

In spite of the pain, I felt this amazing sense of accomplishment as I walked back to my hotel room, proud that I never gave up…even when I wanted to. And on top of it all, I learned several truly valuable life lessons that day: 

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Shift happens. There are days when the things we believed were immovable will shift, feeling like they are going to give beneath our feet, sending us into a free fall that will be impossible to survive. We can keep moving or become paralyzed by the fear tied to those unexpected shifts. There is strength in flexibility.

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No matter how tired you feel, keep going. When we are chasing our goals, following the path designed for us, there will certainly be moments when we feel tired and even weary. It is in those moments where we MUST dig deep, remembering that everything we need for the journey ahead is within us, patiently waiting for us to tap into it.

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Do not allow yourself to become distracted by a need for speed. It is quite possible that we will see people with (seemingly) similar goals pass us along the way. Do not be distracted (or discouraged). We can never know just how long another has been training for the race. Our job is to stay focused on our individual path and trust that we will get to the finish line exactly when we are meant to get there. 

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Take time to stop and smell the roses. It’s easy to complain about the length of our journey or the many woes that come up along the way. We have to remember that we only get one shot at this moment in this day and when we embrace that fact instead of rushing through the process, the accomplishment of our goals is an even sweeter victory.