Chicago, fittingly named the windy city, home of the deep deep pan pizza where cheese oozes like taffy, and the place to find jumbo hot dogs with jumbo jalapeno peppers and sliced tomatoes, is where my sisters and I participated in the Magellan Spring 10K benefiting the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute. The idea to sign up for this race began back in January as a motivator to get in shape and a good excuse for a sisters weekend.
For some reason when there was still snow on the ground, it sounded like an invigorating idea. But, as the snow melted and I returned from Belize with a sprained ankle, my ambitious goals were slightly (okay quite a bit!) intimidating. I wasn't feeling overly prepared and even less ready the night before the race when my sister, Deanna, read an excerpt from the book, "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" by Haruki Murakami. He is a fanatical runner and confessed that the three major downfalls to his first marathon were:
- Not enough training
- Not enough training
- Not enough training
My apprehension turned to angst, wondering if I was a complete fool for thinking I could run 6.2 miles, when the best moment of my training occured when I downloaded a Hal Higdon's 10K runner's guide and hung it on my fridge.
The trick, however, of buying a plane ticket, booking a hotel and picking up the registration packet the day before did help convince me that the run was actually going to happen and chances were I would run farther than I ever have in my life.
So, minutes before the run, before most Chicagoans were up, I told myself all you have to do finish…whatever that looks like.
The brisk air refreshed my nerves as I rocked back and forth on my legs to warm-up. Cynthia bought a coffee guaranteeing it would help us run faster–I stole a couple of sips downing it like a magic potion. Deanna handed me a piece of gum and I stuck it in my mouth as if taking a tranquilizer, anything to help.
Then we were off, along with 2500 other crazy, but self-motivated people. The waterfront of Lake Michigan gave my eyes plenty of distraction. I pictured myself on one of the sailboats, sunbathing and reading my sister's book about running. I told myself that failure is mostly in the mind, but so is success.
For the first mile or two I felt like Thomas the Tank Engine chugging, "I think I can! I think I can!" I tried to listen to my pep talks and ignore the sporadic breathing of my lungs pumping roughly in and out like the bellows on a pump church organ. My legs were lagging, heavy and in the way. I kept repeating to myself, just finish, just finish.
Cynthia was a stretch ahead, while Deanna and I took turns rotating positions. Most of the run went back and forth between feeling like I was in a groove and on the verge of asking my sister if we could please walk! Just when things were getting comfortable, (okay, that's an exaggeration…nothing about a 10K is comfortable) just when I realized we were at mile five (which translates to almost done) I looked at my sister's back and told myself, glue yourself to her. In the time that it took me to think up that handy, little, motivational command, I fell flat.
The tip of my shoe had caught an uneven piece of sidewalk. From the view behind, I'm certain my drop looked like a perfect break-dance move–down on both knees, then palms, followed by chin, lip and nose. Everything hurt. More than anything my pride was bruised.
"Are you okay?" Deanna asked, turning around to help me up. "Let's just walk."
I limped towards the water table in front of us and told my sister to grab a Dixie cup. I pulled my sunglasses down off the top of my head and put them on my sweaty face because I didn't want anyone to see me cry. The glasses fogged up, so I pushed them back like a headband and swallowed the emotion clumping up in my throat like wads of cotton. The only two options back were to walk or run, neither of which were very appealing to me at this point.
Then my blog saved me. I thought about coming home on Monday to write about the 10K and how I
would tell the end of my story. It doesn't make for a good tale to say, "I fell
down at mile five and gave up."
You can cry when you finish, I told myself as if making a deal with one of my kids to coerce them into something they really didn't want to do and my legs started running underneath me.
"You're gonna run?" my sister asked.
"It doesn't hurt too bad," I lied. Just finish, I whispered to myself remembering the book I had started reading at the hotel the night before called, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller. It has a tremendous theme about living a meaningful life and that one of the best ways to do this is to live out the stories in front of us. The author teaches that a story is about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.
This was me. I was a character, running. Or I looked like quite a character running (however, you want to read that). I wanted to get to the finish line. In order to get what I wanted I had to overcome the conflict of falling down. And if I really want to be honest, I had to overcome the conflict of quitting. I had to keep running.
Overcoming our conflict is the part that makes a better story.
So, with knees scraped and my sister right in front of me, I glued myself to her. And I did what I wanted to do. I just finished. Whatever that looked like, I crossed the finish line running.
My Best Friends and Running Partners and Pizza Eating Companions!