Nine years ago I attended the Myrtle Beach Marathon to cheer for a student who was running for me. He ran to raise money for my cancer treatment and I was about a month out from my last chemo treatment. I traveled with the administrative assistant of our school and her daughter. I had no hair, no eyelashes, and no eyebrows. I wore a special Carolina Blue cap to bed at night because that was the only way to keep my head warm. We cheered for Stephen when he ran past our hotel. I had a lawn chair to sit in as I waited for him to come by. Then we drove to the finish line. I remember being unsure that I could make it from where we had to park to the area where the runners came in. We went slowly and when I got there I leaned hard on the barrier that formed the chute.
I was very emotional as I watched the runner finish the race. I could only imagine all the hard work that went into an accomplishment like that and I was moved by the looks on their faces as they crossed the line. I thought about the fact that it would be fun to do something like that and I thought that maybe someday, if I stayed cancer free, I might do a 5K. It was so exciting to be surrounded by the running community. Everyone was cheering for everyone else. I loved it.
Several times over the next few years I started to run. I’d get a few weeks in, I’d get shin splints, and I’d give up. Then I got a Fitbit. The magic those little numbers worked on me cannot really be explained. I started slowly. I walked first and gradually, little by little, added in some running. I signed up for a 5K and ran it with my daughter.
I promised my husband when I began running that I would never try to run a marathon. He’s read too many stories about people dying that way. I mean, we both teach history; we know what happened to Pheidippides. My limit was 13.1. When I found out that the Myrtle Beach Marathon includes a Half Marathon event, that became my goal. I wanted to go back and run down the chute I once leaned against.
I ran a half last May in my home town, just to see if I could do it. I was telling my son-in-law how much I wanted to run the half in Myrtle Beach and he said he’d train and run it with me. We registered. Once the money has been paid, I always feel more motivated. However, I found it much harder to train for this race than the one in May. I had three different really bad viruses between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. The cold weather made my weekend long runs hard to do sometimes, and the early sunset makes running after school difficult. I was really afraid I was not going to be able to do as well as I did last time and my goal was 2:30. That was almost 11 minutes less than my time in May. I realize now, that this was a little crazy. My last few training runs were tough and I was a little discouraged.
It was fun running away from home. Next time I will take the day before the race off so that I can arrive much earlier. I felt a little rushed as I laid out my clothes for the morning. I got up at 4:00, dressed, and went to the breakfast our hotel offered for runners. It was cold and dark as I caught the shuttle to the start line. It was fun talking to other runners. We huddled together for warmth and shared our stories. The running community is full of wonderful people. I met my son-in-law and we found our place at the start. We were freezing, but the sun came up, the National Anthem played, and we got going.
The first nine miles were pretty easy and lots of fun. The last four were challenging, but doable. My son-in-law is a great encourager! As we approached the turn to the finish I started to tear up. My leg muscles were tight and screaming, but all the memories flooded back and I marveled at how far God has brought me. We ran through the chute, I cried the whole way, and that last quarter mile or so was nothing but fun. I am so very thankful. I’m thankful for Stephen who started my dream, I’m thankful for so many who have encouraged me along the way. I’m thankful for health and strength, my Fitbit, and my awesome family. Oh, and we finished in 2:32:33. I’ve still got work to do, but I’ll take it! Now I just need to figure out what’s next!