It’s been a week since the race and I still struggle to answer, “How did you do?” This race is one I will never forget.
The morning started off with the usual excitement before a big race. The gun went off and we headed out almost cattle-like through the narrow street. I settled into my pace reminding myself not to head out too quickly and take in the beauty the surrounded me. I got to see the elites who by the time we hit our half way were already heading back. It is amazing to see the human body work like a machine. I saw friends chatting along the way, couples, tourists, locals, literally hundreds of people who were going to push themselves to accomplish a goal that morning.
As we hit the 5k mark I looked to the east and the sun was starting to peak up over the horizon. I missed my friends at this point; usually we always talk up until the 5k mark.
But when I looked down, there to my left on the road mixed between light and dark were three shadows extending from me. The silhouette of my frame stretched before me, next to me and behind me. In that one moment that verse came back to me. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I smiled. Was this my faith trying to remind me that in the race of life I had faith to fall back on?
I watched this three-pronged figure move with me and I thought to myself, what are the three things that we take with us in every day life that help move forward. What are the things that move us on when the darkness seems greater than the light around us? For me the answers became clear: faith, love and trust.
As we ran up the hill my focus shifted from the runners around me to this shadow that was now becoming a profound reflection of me. The light started to come up more and more the show started to get smaller until the shadows completely disappeared almost as if they crept back inside my pocket. I tucked those three facets inside me. I straightened my back. It was the 7k mark, I had no pain. I felt only strength.
I reached the top of the highway and a group of supporters were there. I waved and smiled. If you ever want to do something for a runner, head out to a race and scream and clap; it is like injecting their cells with energy. I kept on the track heading to the half way turn. I looked down at my watch, I was now an hour and five minutes into my race. “Not bad,” I thought. I was hoping come in closer to 1 hour at the turn but I was determined not to stress.
It was time now to pick up the pace a bit. Thud, thud, thud, my feet were striking well, my breathing was good and then I hit 12k and it happened. In a second I felt as if a hot iron rod had shot up my right knee searing it with a shooting pain.
“This could not be happening,” I thought. My last two training runs had been so strong! At 13k, the pain began to radiate up to my hip. At 13.5k I felt the pain in my left knee as well; at 14k all I could do was cry.
I got to the top of the hill, feeling as if my legs had been placed in meat grinders and just when I started thinking about what was possible and what was not, I saw Karen, my friend, waving and all kitted up to run this last leg with me. I held her hand and started to sob. In what breath I had in me, I whimpered about my pain. She looked at me my tear-stained face, said, ”WE GOT THIS.”
She held my hand and I clutched hers for the next 200 meters.
As we headed down the hill she paced ahead of me. I wanted to quit more than anything. I dug deep and pulled on my faith, and tried to trust the training.
I looked for the shadows but they were gone. The sun was up and it was brutally hot. Of course I wanted to give up but then I remembered a very special patient of ours to whom I had dedicated this race to and I pushed on.
Quitting was no longer an option. Not at this point anyway.
We had 5k more to go and that’s when we saw, Gillian the one friend who always asks me, ”Why do you do this?” I will never forget her smiling face as long as live. At the very moment when I felt like I could collapse, her presence put gave me an impetus. I had fuel again. “I just might finish this,” I thought.
Over the bridge we went, we had 2.5 km to go. Never in all my life had 2.5k felt so long. I tried to step up the pace but I expired at the 1k mark. Would anyone notice if I simply ducked out? Did I really need to finish?
At the traffic lights two of my running group members who had been at the top of the hill when I cried, had driven down to encourage me on. I squeezed Gayle’s hand. “YOU CAN DO THIS RACH,” she screamed. I could see the finish line but I still wasn’t sure. Then just like that another one of our special patient’s word came back to me from a few weeks ago’ “You run that race for you and for us who have struggles, represent the weak and broken… we will cheer you on in our hearts.”
The switch flicked. I had 200m to go.
I blinked my sweaty, tear-filled eyes. I assumed the position we had so many times in training. Feet locked and loaded like Usain Bolt, my arms came to my side like a sets of artillery and I gunned it down the stretch. I ran stronger than I ever had and there standing under the finish line I saw another face of love.
Screaming, crying and jumping up and down was another friend, Betty. I could hear nothing but her voice and I burst over the finish line and collapsed into her arms. We cried and held each other for what felt like an eternity. As we pulled away and I bent down to take my medal. There crushed between Betty and I was my eight-year-old daughter who draped the medal around my neck. She had seen me finish, at weakest and my strongest.
As I close off this year I want to leave you with the three gifts of this run: faith, love and trust. Faith for when the journey is not going how you expect it to, love of yourself and those around you, and trusting that when you activate your dreams, you will reap success.
My success for this run was no longer defined by the time I finished, but by the run itself. To show up whether it be for a race or for IVF or simply life is to be brave. To face your challenges day after day and plug in for the long haul of this journey, to notice the beauty of friendship and never lose your wonder of this beautiful world, to have these things around you define a life’s worth.
So to answer the question how was this run? It changed it me. I came out different than I went in and that for me is the success.
Here’s to 2017 being the year that you show up and make your dreams come true because showing up is success in and of itself.