Monday, September 12, 2011

My First Half-Marathon Reflections

Well, I did it. I completed my first half-marathon (although hubby keeps saying marathon, I love that man!) Anyway, while I was running I observed so many things along the way that made the experience so much more than a run. So here we go in no particular order:

1. When I started out I saw what appeared to be four brothers: 3 running and one in an adult stroller. The able-bodied brothers were taking turns pushing the brother in the stroller. I was moved almost to tears at the joy on the brother's face as he was "running" the race. But there was equal joy on the running brothers at being able to provide this kind of experience for their lame brother. This taught me that some of our journeys are not for us; they are for the people who may never go where we go or do what do. Remember to run your race for those who cannot run at all.

2. As we started the run it was pretty cool for a September morning at Virginia Beach and many people had on layers of clothing. Luckily for me I am naturally hot natured so the cool temperature was quite a boost for me! But as the miles went by, the sun began peering through the overcast sky and things heated up pretty quickly. At that point runners were shedding their layers, just peeling the clothing off and dropping them where they landed. This taught me that when you are focused on a goal you shed whatever is weighing you down and keep on moving. Don't let baggage keep you from being able to withstand the heat, release it and keep pressing on with your eyes on the prize.

3. The run was a part of the Rock-N-Roll series so there were live bands playing about every two miles. The course we ran took us through some neighborhoods and all along the way, strangers were out on their porches waving and cheering us on. I learned that the kindness of strangers is more motivating than the fuel of "haters". In recent years many people have preached about how you can be propelled to greater success when fueled by the haters in your life. On the run the cheers of strangers who had no idea that this was my first race overwhelmed me, they did not mind the noise of the bands or inconvenience of their streets being blocked for hours on a Sunday morning. I learned that there are people who want to see you succeed just because. The sense of community is not lost.

4. Before the run started the announcer made us aware of several high-profile people who were participating along with us. One was the mayor of Virginia Beach, another an Olympic hopeful, and even a few famous runners from Africa and Romania. However one thing that struck me was that they had to do the same thing that the rest of us novice runners had done that morning: show up! While the masses out there might never have their names called out by an announcer, we all have the distinct honor of saying that we showed up with our gear ready for the run. And even though those noteworthy people ran MUCH faster than I may ever run, I ran those same 13.1 miles on that day. I learned that even though our paths go different ways (and we go at different speeds) our success is ours to gain. God has a plan for each one of the billions of people on the earth and we should not be envious of anyone’s accomplishments; just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will cross the finish line of your own goals.

5. When the runners who were not as fast (that would be me) were closing in on mile 3, the very fast runners were running toward us and they were closing in on mile eleven! Now I have to say I had mixed feelings ranging from: "wow if they can do it I know I can too", all the way to "who am kidding, they are almost done and I am not even at the half-way point!" But as our two bookends of the run came eyeball to eyeball, the very fast runners were shouting words of encouragement to us not so fast runners and giving us thumbs up as well. It was quite astonishing to me and again I was pushed. I learned that no matter how much faster you are going than others toward your goal you always have time to encourage someone else. Remember to reach back and give someone a hand.

6. Finally, I must admit that I was running in a sea of Caucasian brothers and sisters. I felt a little out of place because I rocking out to Gospel and R&B on my iPod during most of the live Rock Band performances (the Rock music just wasn't gonna give me the lift to make it!) But in between the bands there were different groups of people cheering for the runners along the way. There were area high school cheerleaders, wacky groups of men with super hero costumes on, firefighters and many others. However one group stuck out most me: a group of African-American girls performing as a step team. They were so beautiful and they seemed to smile a little wider and move a little sharper when I came into their view. They had such a look of pride to see an African-American woman running and that pushed me to put some pep in my step as I moved past them. I learned that it’s okay to stand out in a crowd because there are times when you are called to be a beacon for others. You must stand out especially when you are standing up for something.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my run reflections. I have registered for a 15K (10 mile) run in December: dubbed the Hot Chocolate Run. I am so excited! I love chocolate and I am sure the cold weather will push me to increase my run time. Until next time....