Saturday was my third Women's Half-Marathon. Three years ago, I was blogging through tears as I wrote about a woman who had gone down within sight of the finish line. Last year, a new runner friend, Stacey, and I finished this grueling half in 2:37 a PR for us both. Oh, I had hopes of smashing that time! However, I knew my training had not gone particularly well over the past summer... heat and humidity had taken its toll. Still, the organizers promised a flatter, faster course... a runner always hopes for that elusive PR!
The first three or four miles were great! My 3:1 interval was working for me. My pace was smooth, nice and easy. Mile five found a few of those familiar "friends" aka "hills of Nashville". My strategy of walking up and running down came to me... So that is just what I did. From out of no where, I slowly began to ran out of gas! Intervals changed to 2:30/1:30. I pulled out my gel to refuel. That lasted for a little while... then I ran for as long as I could and walked for longer. That is when I thought, "Do you want to finish? Yes or No? You have to decide!" My mind was fighting with my heart! This arguing, bargaining, deal-making went on and on.
As I was walking in the Belmont area, those two still going at it, I past my friend and former running coach and another coach with Fleet Feet's program. Their cheers caused my heart to take on new life... there for a minute I thought she would win! My mind began remembering my running mantra: "Goal of every race, finish standing!" Gray matter won! I decided at that moment I would walk the remaining 6-7 miles... and smile as I cross that finish line!
During my run, I had noticed all the red "Fleet Feet" training singlets walking/running by. I knew those were first-timers... Fleet Feet of Murfreesboro had a group of lovely ladies who had trained for their first half in those same shirts! This one particular young woman and I were leap-frogging each other. Once my strategy had changed to walking, I came upon this woman. If I said she seemed a little down, I would be understating her demeanor. her posture screamed, "Defeated!" So, I asked if she was okay. She replied that her knee was hurting. I told her I had decided to walk it the rest of the way in... she would be welcome to join me if she wanted.
So, we walked and talked and walked and talked. As we shared, I realized she might be experiencing the beginning of IT band troubles. I shared stories of runners who had injuries coming back stronger than ever. We shared slices of our lives: professional, personal, running and spiritual. I knew that my "soul" had been the winner... God planned for our paths to cross.
God intended for my pace to slow and for me to take it easy. He knew this way back during my miserable summer training, during the heat when I cancelled those early morning runs, air heavy, filled with moisture. I had no idea... my thoughts back then were, "You cannot run in this heat and humidity! Don't even try! Maybe tomorrow will be better." Some times the next day's conditions improved, sometimes they didn't. This is how my summer training went... inconsistent and slow. I know other runners who ran in the same conditions; His plan for them must have been different because there were many PRs for them! How blessed I am that my heart and mind had that discussion and my soul won... Blessed by a rookie runner half my age!
God has a simple and beautiful plan for each step we take. Whether it is at the pace we desire or not... He is in control. If I had stopped when the doubts began, I would not have finished the race. I would not have been inspired and encouraged by a young twenty-eight year old beginning runner who was walking through stabbing knee-pain.
There will be another 13.1 miles to run... 10ks and 5ks. There will be other runners who encourage and encouragers. I needed Stephanie and her experience, as much as she needed mine. Our stories are imprinted on each other. Whether we realize it or not, those miles we shared will be remembered and shared with others. I like to think that the path of my life's journey is in the shape of a heart!