{longest run of my life}

If you’ve been around awhile, you have probably noticed that I usually post things related to family life. Mothering a child with Down syndrome has given me such a unique perspective which I love to share. Before I had Bernadette, I didn’t know much about this beautiful community and being thrown head first into the world of special needs has been the most challenging journey and the most rewarding.

I am going to take a little turn from my usual topic and share with you another one of my greatest passions, running. Exercise in general is a favorite pastime of mine, along with eating healthy. Ask any of my good friends and they will agree that if we have that in common, you can be sure we discuss the newest favorite foods and exercise routines we are into.

My running days starting off slowly, in high school actually. I joined the cross country team briefly, partly because the Coach asked me several times to do so needing more runners on the team. And also, because David was on the cross country team.

My days on the cross country team were short-lived. One of the training runs over the summer was at a local county park which consisted of trails and hills. Needless to say, I couldn’t hold my own after the Coach’s daughter ran with me for what felt like hours, in reality couldn’t have been more than a couple of miles. After puking in front of the whole team who had been back long before I came hobbling in, I threw in the towel and never looked back.

Until I moved to the Central Coast. I had always wanted to run on the beach. It sounded glamorous. Prior to moving there, our family summer vacations were spent on those foggy sandy beaches and the early morning sunrises brought surfers and runners. As I walked along the shell-filled shores, I vowed someday that would be me. Moving there in my early twenties felt like the most opportune time to start, so I did just that.

A couple of years prior to moving to the Central Coast, I started realizing I needed to make a few lifestyle changes. I wasn’t happy with how I felt and quickly recognized I had undressed food allergies. Slowly but surely, I took control over my health, starting with what I was putting into my body. Veggies and fruit became more plentiful in my overall diet along with exercise. Living on the Central Coast where the weather was nice year-round gave me ample opportunity to lace up those running shoes and get outdoors. It also helped that the company I worked for at the time offered their employees a discounted gym membership at one of the nicest fitness centers around.

My very first 5K was on those sandy shores a few short years later. I am always up for a little friendly competition and what started as a team building exercise to get the office members out and moving ending in the beginning of my love for racing. I should say, I am not the fastest runner by any means, but I enjoy seeing my overall improvement from race to race. It really is about my own personal progress.

Fast forward to present day. Running has continued to be a daily part of my routine. The benefits are endless and provide an outlet for me. I have participated in races anywhere from a 3k to several half marathons. The planned event keeps me focused and motivated in my training efforts and there is nothing quite like the thrill of the start of a race. Everyone lined up in the early morning, the energy is palpable. On your mark, get set. GO! The adrenaline rush surging through, pushing you to take off with the crowd of people, everyone set out to finish the course.

And then the finish line. Digging deep, you leave everything out on the pavement or trail, pushing your body even more than you thought was physically possible.

I had always considered the idea of running a marathon but decided it wasn’t for me years ago. The idea of running for 26.2 miles seemed impossible and I have been content running the distances I have been. Plus, I am a mom of three. How could I ever have the time to train?

Enter, the pandemic. Those early days when everything was unknown and so many of us thought our lives would resume back to usual after 2 weeks of staying home. Several months later and it feels like we haven’t made much forward progress. In haste, as the half marathon I had been training for was cancelled in March, I signed up for a local marathon, hopeful it would actually happen in person. A few months later, the race postponed, I questioned whether or not I should in fact train for it. My husband gently encouraged me to keep training and I knew he was right. This was a milestone in my running “career” and I knew I had to keep going. Shortly after my decision, the dreaded email came saying the race had no other choice but to go virtual.

Halfway into my training plan, I knew I couldn’t stop now. Most of my training consisted of early morning treadmill runs long before the girls were up. Friday mornings became my long run days and I saw the 3am hour more than I ever wanted to.

I kept at it and soon enough race day came. I geared up along with my husband and we set out for 26.2 miles. The first half felt great. Energized and a personal record for a half for me. I was thrilled I had decided to race after all.

And then, the second half. The first few miles in felt good, but I started getting in my head. Around miles 17-19 I was trying to figure out how I could possibly get out of running any further and mile 20 brought the tears.

I kept saying to David it was too hard to keep going. He replied with a simple, “no one said it would be easy.” Huh. Interesting. He continued on with a confirming “yes, this is hard!” But also, “you can do this! This is where your training comes in.”

Digging deep, I realized what a metaphor that was for this entire pandemic season for me. It is hard. No one said it would be easy to stay home, isolate and quarantine. And time after time I have allowed the hard to overtake me as I walk robotically through the day, nearly void of hope knowing tomorrow will be the same as today.

I kept going and somehow got a grip around mile 22, put my head down figuratively speaking, and kept going. I knew I had to finish. I knew all my training would take me through to that finish line the girls had ready and waiting for me to victoriously run through. I knew I wanted to show them that they too, can do the difficult things in life and make it through to the other side, tears, scars and all.

Mind over matter, we turned the corner onto our street. I could hear the girls cheering me on as I sped up with everything I had left and ran through the streamer the older girls held in their hands.

I did it. I ran a marathon. I overcame the pain, I pushed through the difficulty, and finished strong. And I thanked the Lord for how timely it felt.

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