Tuesday, June 17, 2014

they said I could

Tomorrow I get on two planes and fly into Minneapolis, where eventually I will make my way to Duluth to run my first marathon. They say a marathon is hundreds of miles, and the race is the last 26.2. This is something I understand well. Many know of my running journey, which began Nov. 10, 2012 when, at the end of my rope in life in general, I walked into a gym and on to a treadmill. I was a solid size 16 and growing. My heart was shrinking. It was a bad scene.

No one told me I couldn't. Some runners tell stories of naysayers who didn't believe in them. No one did that to me. Not even people who tend to be negative. I never went to a race determined to "show them." I went determined to show myself. Many races have been redemptive. The KC Half, in the city where it started, weeks after a great pain, was so redemptive I barely noticed the hills. Our local Spirit of Survival race was my story of survival just 5 days after one of the deepest pains of my life. There was a series of races that came at a difficult times this spring, and I ran hard in them, achieving both my half and 10K PR. And then a month ago I was home in my old neighborhood in AL and not only PRed but won an award in my age group. Running has been good to me. Running has shown me I can win. Running has made me love the body I used to hate and believe the mind that felt oppressed by too many crises could actually overcome. Running has been physical, emotional, and spiritual. That's the race I have been running to win.

Here on the eve of my departure to Minnesota I think of all these months and all the support. My friends, my cheering section-many of whom have written me over these months telling me I inspired them. Just by running. Go figure. And I believe they can do it too.

What Saturday brings I cannot say now, so I want to say what I can. The fact I am ready to show up at a start line of a major US marathon and am trained adequately to do so is not only my victory. Tonight I think of not only the myriad of awesome folks on Facebook who have cheered me on like some ultra runner over this time, but I think of three who own a part of this race.

When you are terribly overweight and cannot run a minute or use a weight machine and you walk into a gym, self conscious doesn't begin to describe the feelings of inadequacy you feel. Chad was the manager of the gym then. And every day, he talked to me, laughed with me, encouraged me. I think sometimes what it might have been like if he had been one of those snooty gym types who thinks they are all that. Chad's personality is a gift and he kept me excited to come back. And I knew if I didn't come in he would ask where I was. He helped me start, even when he didn't know it. It wasn't long before I was outdoors running and only at the gym a couple times a week for strength training. By then I was a runner again. But he helped me get there.

And so did Jan. You have seen me write about "my coach." She was the leader of a small group personal training class I did, and then I was one of her test subjects for her training for her wellness coach certification. Jan is a former marathoner and competitive cyclist. She also is a true fitness professional who spent many years working at KU Med Center. She's the real deal. And maybe that is part of why her encouragement and help was extra valuable. She was giving me expert advice and told me I could do it. All of it. Whatever my goals were, she was behind me. Last summer I lived briefly in Hottest Station, TX (aka College Station). The humidity after a frigid winter in KC was asphyxiating to my body--and mind. Jan and I were meeting weekly via Skype and she kept encouraging. She got me through my first half and cheered me on and advised me totally for many races to come. She continued to answer my questions and give me advice and strategies.

And that got me to OK where Cindy came in. She offered to go with me on my long runs. If you have not trained for a marathon, or at least read about training, there is a series of long runs which increase over weeks. Because I had run 6 half marathons, I jumped in the Hal Higdon Novice plan at about the halfway point. And then it went up. 16 miles, 18 miles, 20 miles, 12 miles, 8 miles, and now. I can't imagine 4 hours runs alone, planting water, carrying gels and my inhaler and more water, and even a banana. It can be done, but I am not sure I was in the frame of mind to do it. It was like having a built in cheerleader.

Sometimes I was sure she was lying to me:
Mile 15, Sue is dying. 
Cindy: You're doing great, Sue! Great job! You are almost done."
Sue: "Liar," breathing hard and clutching the small of my back.

But seriously, encouragement is a gift and she did it every mile of the way--66 miles worth--in a month's time.

When I show up at the start line Saturday, decked out in my hot pink, complete with tutu, I will not be standing alone. And beside those stars of this show are multiple people on social media who continue to cheer me on, who always believed I could.

Let's go to Duluth.

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