I Am Powerful. I Am Strong.
I am powerful. I am strong. This was my mantra as I set out on my first attempt at a half marathon.
This is the story of how it almost never was and how I was strong and found the beauty in something that didn’t turn out how I imagined it would.
The months leading up to the run had proven to be busier than I would have liked and it was challenging to fit training in. So, when I woke up last Sunday morning to run, I had half decided that I was going to feign illness and not participate.
My goal had been to run the 21 km in its entirety. This was something that I had convinced my 40-something year-old self was necessary to prove that I was strong and had the stamina and discipline to do it. I was extremely ego-driven as I had images of my perfectly-fit self running across the finish line in great time – maybe even 2 hours!
However, I came to realize that the run was not about all of that, but rather about the beauty in letting go, meeting yourself where you are at and finding the beauty in the unexpected. It was also a reminder that being strong is defined in different ways and that everything happens just as it is supposed to.
Right before I began, I whispered to my friend that I wanted her to go ahead as I knew I needed to go at my own pace and didn’t want to hold anyone back. It was swelteringly hot and my body was already sore thinking about what was sure to be a tough two to three hours. She nodded in agreement and then we were off.
As I ran, I felt my legs yelling at me with judgments (I am tired, I am not in shape, who are you that you are even attempting to do this, you are not strong). The critic came screaming in and then my emotions came swirling. Tears welled up in my eyes and all of a sudden a lovely woman named Gail (Angel #1) came right on over to me as I ran (my slow pace). She introduced herself and asked me how I was doing. I explained with a quiver in my voice that I wasn’t sure and feeling a pang of guilt and regret for the training that hadn’t occurred and at first hoped she would leave me alone.
She didn’t go anywhere and actually encouraged and congratulated me for participating. She even said my pace was good. I felt as though she was an angel – in fact I told her so. She was at a similar pace as me and for the first 5 kilometers we kept each other going.
My strategy changed part way through the run. I knew I was able to run 10km as I had done it a couple of months prior. So I decided I would run 10 to 11 km and then walk the rest – nothing to smirk at and I could still brag that I had accomplished something most had not. Armed with this new-found stunted ego and redefined strength, I pressed on. However at the 5 km mark, I had to stop to go to the bathroom and at the 6km mark I started to feel awful. At the 7km mark, I decided to listen to my body and just start walking. Tears started welling up again but this time I told myself it was okay. I told myself that since I was there, I was going to meet myself where I was at and rather than judging myself, I was to be kind to myself.
With that change in attitude, I began to notice the beautiful scenery and the other incredible women who were running and walking around me. I felt thankful for the ability I had and the body that was working for me at that very moment.
The 7kms turned into 8 and then 9 and all of a sudden 16! I will not say that it was easy but I pushed through and kept at a slow to medium pace. Gail at this point was ahead of me and I could see her in the distance. Knowing this seemed to help as she was this lovely and positive light in the moments I was about to give up.
Just past the 16km mark, I started to feel sick and my legs began to feel numb. And then I honestly felt like I would have to stop.
Along came Stacy (Angel #2)…she came walking up beside me with her headphones on…she smiled and said hello and asked me how I was doing.
I was honest with her and poured my soul – expressing my age and how angry I was at myself because I didn’t feel as though I could finish. She expressed that she was feeling a bit of the same.
We both decided then that we would put away our headphones and just walk and talk. We talked about her partner who was facing end-stage cancer. We talked about our previous careers. We spoke of our daughters and other life things. And in those moments, I began to realize that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and not where my ego wanted me to be. That being strong meant listening and holding space for my second angel who was alongside me at that moment.
At the last kilometer mark, Stacy expressed that she likely wasn’t going to finish as she was simply too tired. I told her no judgments but that I thought she could do it. She even told me to go ahead so she wouldn’t slow me down. I told her I was good and we just kept on walking.
Just before the finish line, Stacy asked me to hold her hand across the finish line. We crossed the finish line together hands intertwined held high in the sky. I was proud, stinking hot and still breathing with huge smiles of relief and accomplishment. We finished in 3 hours and 30 minutes and my friends weren’t that far ahead of me.
I am forever changed and grateful for my two angels – Gail and Stacy who I met along the way!
I am powerful. I am strong. These two affirmations have a truly deeper meaning.
The above image includes Gail as we’re reunited at the end of the ‘run’ for the victory photos. An angel for life! If you are interested in doing a race, here’s a link to the race I was in – a great one to do especially if it’s your first one: