Two weekends ago Oklahoma City hosted the Memorial Marathon.This event was created to honor those killed in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. The race has become a big deal for those in our state and throughout the running world. This year there were over 26,000 participants. It's hard to believe that merely 4 years ago I was one of them.
Something you should know about me, I'm not a runner. I've always been athletic, playing all kinds of different sports. But I always HATED running with a passion. Growing up with asthma the odds were stacked against me when it came to sustained running. Eventually my chest would tighten and breathing would become something of difficulty. I always worked though this when I played sports, but still, I dreaded the times in practice when it was time to run sprints.
Fast forward to May of 2010. I was 28 years old and rapidly headed towards my 30s. After many years of trying to get pregnant Joel and I decided to do IVF. We decided before we headed into a new phase of our life we would do one really fun thing and one really challenging thing that we wanted to overcome. I have no idea which one of us came up with this idea or what inspired us to do so. Looking back this was so not an "us" type of thing. I can only chalk it up to divine inspiration. More on that later.
For our "fun" thing we decided to take a trip to Puerto Rico in June. My husband is Puerto Rican and grew up spending many summers of his life there. He was always determined to introduce me to this enchanting island and I was excited to explore it. We would start the IVF process when we got back.
For our something challenging we decided to run a half-marathon. What in the world? Me, train and run 13.1 miles? I don't even know what possessed me to get on board but I did. I literally started training that November with no long-distance running experience whatsoever. I would get one mile under my belt, bump it up to another mile and then another mile. The way I phrased it makes it sound so easy. It was not. I would sometimes cry as I ran so frustrated by my inability to do it well or to even control my breathing for that matter. My husband, however, was a born runner. He glided and strided and barely broke a sweat. He'd tell me about how miles and miles had gone by without him even noticing. So not fair.
Our training continued to get harder. We typically trained separately but decided for our upcoming 8 mile run we would brave it together. It didn't take long for frustration to set in on my part. Joel would often go faster then me, then turn back around and look at me like "come on girl hurry up!" I don't blame him. I was much slower. But each time he did that my frustration started to grow. I finally yelled at him to "just go, leave me behind, save yourself" as if we were in the middle of a war-time battle and I was a fallen comrade. He didn't. He would never leave my side. I loved him for that.
A few weeks later April rolled around and it was time for the race. Two weeks prior I ended up with a stress fracture in my hip. I could barely walk, much less run. Yet I had trained for 5 months for the race, even if I had to crawl across the finish line, finish I would. About half-way through my pace was excruciatingly slow. In pictures you can see me holding my hip as a gimped along, trying my hardest to run. It wasn't pretty, but I finished the race. To date it's one of the accomplishments I'm most proud of for many reasons. The biggest reason being I conquered something I never thought I could do.
3 weeks later Joel was diagnosed with cancer. Turns out he ran the half-marathon with a 7 pound tumor encasing his kidney. I am still amazed when I think about it. We went straight from one of the hardest things we've ever had to conquer (the race) to definitely the most hardest thing we've ever tried to conquer (cancer).
I look back and I see the fingerprints of God over this entire event. There were so many things He taught me through every bit of the 5 months of training.
He taught me discipline on the days I didn't feel like training. He taught me to have faith and believe in myself and my abilities. He taught me perseverance when I thought I couldn't run another step. He taught me I'm capable of much if I only put my mind to it. He taught me He's placed everything within me that I need in order to conquer the impossible.
Every single one of those things were values I had to pull on through our battle with cancer and they are values I continue to pull on in my loss. I look back at the pain, the tears, and the sheer and utter misery the days of training entailed. I remember how bad it seemed as I was in the moment but how each and every step carried me closer to that finish line. It wasn't easy, but I refused to quit.
It may not have been fast. It may not have been pretty. But I ran the race set before me. No matter how the process to get there looked the end result was worth every blood, sweat and tear. The place where every moment I endured before was worth it when I crossed the line emblazed with the words "Finished".
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