Hmmm….would I be mad or happy if the race was cancelled due to the thunderstorm?
I remember thinking this the morning of the race, stomach in knots, nervous energy putting a pep in my step and making me giggle. I had never traveled for a race before and I had been anticipating it for months. I knew ultimately I would be disappointed if I wasn’t able to fulfill the goal of conquering the heat and hills of the Nashville Rock N’ Roll Half-Marathon.
Along with the amazing friends I travelled to Nashville with, there were 44,000 other runners that morning of all ages, shapes and sizes. You could see the nervousness in their faces too. The common goals that united us created a sense that we are all in this together.
I was feeling sorry for myself as I was running up a hill on mile two when I came upon a firefighter fully decked out in 30lbs of gear. He was running the full marathon. I thought to myself, if he can do that…if he can run this marathon with the same gear that he wears to enter burning buildings to save lives, I can certainly run these 13.1 miles.
There were many times during the race that I thought I couldn’t do it. Like the time in mile three when we passed by a rack of bikes to rent and I contemplated that if I had my credit card on me, I could just rent one of those bikes and ride to the finish line.
However, the blessing on the course were many, so much so that I had a smile on my face almost the entire race, filled with joy and gratitude because I can run and for all the blessings in my life. Again and again I was inspired by the people I saw around me.
- The man pushing a wheelchair so his physically impaired brother could experience a marathon.
- The woman holding a sign that said YOU are awesome!, wearing out her voice by saying over and over, “This sign is for you, and you, and you,” pointing to as many runners as she could.
- The couples running, encouraging and coaching each other along the way.
- The man with the amputated leg, running on a prosthetic up and down all of those hills.
- High fives over and over on the course from spectators cheering us on.
- The rain held off, and instead we had cool breezes and just moments of sprinkles.
The music lifted me. Around mile nine, right after I saw the man with a prosthetic leg running down a hill, I turned a corner and heard the most beautiful music. A band was playing a Christian song, on a stage in front of a church. Their beautiful voices could be heard for a mile, and the number of supporters holding signs and singing with all their hearts filled my own heart. My eyes filled with tears as I looked up to the clouds and expressed my thanks.
I passed the mile 12 marker and enjoyed a brief downhill stint before we turned the corner and saw the course go up and up and up. My body was aching, but I laughed at those last hills and thought, “Well, you are going to have to earn this finish. It is not going to be handed to you.”
The last band on the course was playing Stairway to Heaven as we rounded the corner to the stretch before the finish line. I appreciated the irony of that song with the runners around me. It was a beautiful way to finish a race full of apprehension, fear, pain, joy, gratitude, peace, and laughter.
This race was a great reminder to me that we get what we look for in life, don’t we? When I looked for nervousness, pain, and fear, that is what I saw and felt. When I looked for joy, gratitude, and laughter, that is what I saw and felt.
At one point in the race we ran by a store called Serendipity. I stopped briefly to take a picture. That morning I certainly experienced serendipity…I stumbled (literally at times) upon the fortunes of learning, laughing, and celebrating alongside incredible people.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
-Stairway to Heaven