The day of the race was quite emotional.
When I decided to be part of TobyMac’s team I knew I was doing it for Tucker.
I also ran for heart health. Saturday was Matt’s cousin, Joe’s, birthday. Joe lived a short (but I’m told, quite full) life before collapsing during a pick-up basketball game. Although diagnosed with a heart problem, he continued to live his life. I also ran in memory of Joe. I also have some heart funkiness. I also ran in defiance – my heart will be strong.
It was also the 33rd anniversary of an accident that changed my family’s life. (Read Day #29 – Sibling Struggles).
Four pretty big reasons to run – so I was well-equipped with emotional fortitude.
What I wasn’t expecting? The hills on this course. The course was brutal. In fact, upon reading comments from other runners (of course, post-race) I read this, “The total lack of an elevation profile on the website is just plain wrong-the race is brutally, non-stop hilly. First-time marathoners beware, either train on hills or skip this event.”
Well, I was a first-timer and I didn’t skip it, I finished it.
There was so much unexpected during and after the race. I’m still trying to sort it all out, so if this post seems scattered…just know that’s where I still am.
During mile one I realized that in my excitement to get going, I forgot to stretch. How could I forget to do something so basic? It reminded me of Tucker…how he can get so overwhelmed by what’s going on around him that he forgets the ‘easy’ stuff…deodorant, matching socks, putting on shoes, eating, etc.
So, I stopped and stretched for about 10 minutes.
During mile two my capri’s started falling down. I realize that in my excitement I forgot to double knot. How could I forget to do something so basic? It reminded me of Tucker…how when his clothes don’t feel right he cannot function.
So, I stopped and fixed my pants.
Then – the hills began. I didn’t train on many hills. Here is the elevation graph. It reminded me of Tucker…how when he doesn’t know what’s coming he has all sorts of anxiety.
So, I decided I would just have to grin and bear it. With any hill…there is always the other side, right? Yikes…it didn’t feel like it on this course…
I was doing okay..then, I got tired, really, really tired at mile nine. I was really frustrated because my 10 mile traning run had gone SO well…how could I already be this tired?
Then, I saw this…
American soldiers. Carrying backpacks. I cannot imagine how much they weighed – but I knew their ‘load’ was greater than mine. I grew to thinking about the loads that we all carried – and how some people’s loads are greater than others (Read Day #2o9 – ἔκστασις, εως, ἡ). So, there I was – left thinking about the sacrifice of our soldiers and their families. The time, the emotion, and even the lives that they give. My life, all of a sudden, didn’t seem too difficult. I kept going…
At mile 10 I was passed by a blind runner. I was SO moved by the crowd that surrounded him to keep him safe and lead him to victory. In many ways, it reminded me of my faith. How in all trials and tribulations there has been a larger presence guiding me. When I have paid attention to that presence – my life nearly always feels like it’s heading in the right direction. When I sway from that path or think I can ‘see’ on my own…that is when I run into confusion, hurt, and stress. I kept going…
At mile 11 I passed two runners with prosthetic legs. I couldn’t help but think of their fortitude. The pain they had already bore…and here they are, running this race. I thought about my brother and how blessed we are to have him. Then I thought about Matt’s cousin, Joe, who lost his life early. Which made me think about the pain of losing a child…could there be anything worse? Then, I started to cry and I kept going…
I wanted to be done, I wanted to hold my children.
At mile 12.5 the announcer said, ‘If you are running the 1/2 marathon, you are almost done. If you are running a full, you are half-way there.” I couldn’t help think about the marathoners and how I COULD NOT imagine how much it would take to keep going. Honestly, I had a moment where I thought there was no way they could be in their ‘right mind.’ I was ‘only’ running a 1/2 and during the race I saw those bike rental spots. I contemplated renting a bike to finish….I really did. I thought about stopping at a local watering hole and just having my hubby pick me up. I thought about just sitting down and crying.
But, then I kept going…because my hubby sent me this message.
“We’re waiting for you under the 13 sign.”
Not much more could have made me get a last push. One of the other benefits of being on TobyMac’s team was that our families were able to ‘hang out’ in the Stadium Club at LP Field. Yes, that is where the Titans play – and my football loving Tucker was in HEAVEN. Free food, free drinks, AND a football stadium? He was in heaven…but there they were…waiting for me.
I saw them and the tears started streaming down my face. I was almost there – through the pain, through the mental ‘I can’s and I cant’s’ – through it all…I was almost there. I kissed my husband and he held my face and told me how proud he was, tears were rolling down his face now. The children held onto me.
Tucker let go and said, ‘Mom – get going…you’re almost there.’ I laughed, turned away, and then finished the last 1/10 mile.
Then, I sobbed. I sobbed for so many reasons…
I sobbed for the burden that our fellow humans bear, often alone.
I sobbed because for the first time in my life I had someone I love at my finish line.
I sobbed because the ‘fat’ girl in me did this thing. (See Day #219 – Tucker’s Sidekick: The Fat Theatre Chick)
I sobbed because I outsmarted and outtrained my heart.
I sobbed because I made it, I was surrounded and guided to my victory.
Later that night someone asked me my time. I don’t know and I honestly don’t care. I simply said, “I finished.’ It reminded me of Jesus’ death. Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30).
His death – brought us life.
Upon finishing this half-marathon I had a new understanding, new life.
A new understanding of struggle and battling.
A new understanding of sacrifice.
A new understanding of love.
I was exhausted the rest of the day (which is why I didn’t write) and in a bizarre twist, my flesh was willing – but my spirit was weak.
In the hours that followed I had a keen understanding of what it felt like to be Tucker in this world. I had trained amongst Iowa trails with trees and silence and an occassional passerby. I actually loved my training. It was peaceful and rarely painful.
I ran this race with 27,000 other people, with bands along the way, with people cheering, with new faces, with colors and smells – with everything that I hadn’t encountered in my ‘typical’ runs. I was emotionally and mentally drained because of all the stimuli. I struggled to focus. I struggled to make conversation. I struggled to make decisions. I struggled to walk without bumping into things. I was crying every hour, for no ‘real’ apparent reason. It was like my system was on complete sensory overload…and maybe that’s just what I needed. Maybe that was the real purpose of the race, to have a new understanding of what his life feels like…every day.
This was truly one life experience I will never forget – for so, so many reasons. For now though, I am proud to say, “I finished.”