I had never run a half marathon before. I had never run any kind of race before. I didn’t even consider myself a runner. But here I was about to run a 5k with my parents and then a half marathon later that day. The day of these runs also happened to be my husband’s 31st birthday. If you are reading this blog, and you know me, then you know how I am about birthdays. If you are reading this and you don’t know me, then thank you for reading, but also…my need to make people feel loved on their birthday is a big deal, so you can only imagine how important this birthday was to me. My husband, who didn’t love me, was turning 31; and my hopeful little heart saw this as an opportunity to show him how much his wife truly loved him. Challenge accepted.
I got up early and decorated our little hotel room in birthday décor. I laid out the wrapped gifts and cards I had brought along with me. I got dressed quietly and then left to meet my parents. Our 5k was super early. We were running through Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We were not going to miss a moment of the magic. We arrived early, took pictures, and lined up to run. And it was fun. My father ran ahead of us and took pictures of my mom and me running. We stopped for every character. We had a blast. It was freeing to let go and enjoy myself. I laughed. My body wasn’t tense anymore. For just a moment I was able to breathe. I didn’t feel like the world was crashing in around me. It’s still a feeling I can’t put words to-I was escaping my fear of my life.
After the joy of the 5k, my parents went back to their hotel room. I had arranged a birthday brunch for my husband. I don’t really know what I was trying to do. Pretend that everything was ok? Prove that I was wife of the year? Show him how thoughtful I was? A fancy brunch at Disney World, where I acted like we were a normal married couple and he remained ungrateful. That’s what it was. I felt my insides tightening up again. It became harder to breathe. I hung on his every word. Was this good enough? Was he happy with me? Was he proud? Was the conversation interesting? Was I pretty? Looking back, I’m disgusted with myself; but it was what it was…not much I can do about it now.
Brunch ended, and I felt like it was as much of a success as it could have been. He wanted to go back and nap before our run later that evening. We napped, he opened his gifts, we had a small meal, then it was time to get ready for our half marathon. My parents had bought special spectator tickets for our race. They got to go into EPCOT and enjoy The Food and Wine Festival while we ran, then they would meet us at the finish line. The park would stay open until 4am for the runners and those with the special spectator tickets. My parents don’t half-way do anything. They were in this thing for the long haul.
When my husband and I arrived at the starting line, I was nervous. It didn’t occur to me until right then, that maybe I couldn’t do this. I mean, I had trained, but I hadn’t done anything like this before. What if I didn’t have the stamina or I tripped or passed out? What if I didn’t finish? 13.1 miles felt like a lot. I knew I had over two hours of running ahead of me. What if I failed?
But I didn’t fail. I killed it. I two hours and seventeen minutes killed it. Ok, not the best time in the world, but not embarrassing either…especially for a first timer. Yes, it was hard. Yes, there were times when I wanted to stop. Yes, I doubted myself most of the way. But then I reached the point where I knew I was going to complete this thing. When I knew, no matter what, it was going to be ok. I was going to cross that finish line and someone was going to give me a medal and even Mickey Mouse himself would be there. And then I did it, and I cried, and my parents were there, and it was the biggest feeling of accomplishment I had had in a long time.
I was so proud of myself. I was so proud that my parents were proud. We jumped up and down and hugged each other and the celebration kept going into the wee hours of the morning. My father literally thinks I’m the best thing since sliced bread, he kept beaming with pride as he told complete strangers what I had just done. My mother fussed over me like I was a little girl again. She kept trying to feed and water me. I was hooked on this feeling. They call it a “runner’s high.” But it was so much more to me. It was being alive.
This moment was pivotal in my journey because I was reminded that I was capable. I could accomplish something huge on my own. This is the moment when I stopped questioning whether I could finish the race. I didn’t know how it was going to end, but I knew God was going to see me through to the finish line.
Hebrews 12: 1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”