It’s 8:52pm on a Friday night in February. It is approximately 26 degrees with strong wind gusts making the temperature feel like it’s in the teens. Happy hour started at 6, and all of my friends are already drunk. Or so I imagine they are, for I am not with them. I’m out on the streets, sprinting through the last mile of my run. It’s the end of week two of half marathon training. As I push myself harder and harder, running faster and faster, I wonder if I am crazy. After all, who voluntarily signs up to run 13.1 miles? Actually, I didn’t exactly volunteer. I paid to be permitted to run it. Crazy, right? I must be nuts. It’s freezing, the wind is pushing me from side to side, making my run even harder than it should be and I realize I have severe FOMO for what I must be missing at happy hour. As I turn onto my block, I snap back to reality and imagine myself crossing the finish line of the half marathon, having just run 13.1 miles for the very first time. I begin to tear up a little at the thought of it, for I know those 13.1 miles mean more than anyone realizes.
I started running about 4 years ago, and even though running destroyed my feet, leading to 3 surgeries over the past year, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I always imagined being able to call myself a runner. I consistently craved a good, long run, endorphins rushing through my body. There was always one minor problem though, I couldn’t run for shit. One or two laps around the track in high school gym class and I wanted to die, but one day in college I decided to just run. I royally sucked the very first time, but with regularity and a good routine, the rest came relatively easy to me. Before I knew it I was regularly clocking in 20-25 miles per week. Running became like therapy for me. No matter what I was feeling, I ran. No matter what the weather, I got out there and just did it. Rain, snow, or bitter cold, no matter what, I always just ran. Running has seen me through some of the best times in my life, but also some of the worst. When my older brother suffered from a serious health problem my life turned upside down, but even still, I ran. My life was a hamster wheel of visits to see him in the hospital and rushing home to get in a run. I ran more than ever when he was really sick, for no matter how bad the day was, running was always a constant for me. I knew that getting out and pounding the pavement would clear my head and make me feel better. During those miles it was as if all was ok, even though deep down I knew that nothing was. Running has truly meant more to me than I can even begin to explain. It has taught me to believe in myself, even when I was so sure that I was a failure and that I would never amount to anything.
Graduating college and finding it difficult to land a job has had a tremendous affect both on how I view the world, but also how I view myself. Whenever I get down on myself I think of all the gains and progress I have made in my running over these last four years. I remember that girl who never believed in herself and her abilities. I think about the girl who never dreamed of being able to call herself a runner, never fathomed that she would be training to run a half marathon. I think of her and I realize that the single greatest lesson running has taught me is that I am capable of so much more than I realize. Lacing up my sneakers to train for my first 13.1 miles, is me taking control of my life. This is me reminding myself that I can do absolutely anything I set my mind to. In the last four years since I graduated I haven’t been proud of much in my life, and my heart often aches to feel a sense of success, a rush of accomplishment. But at the end of the day, what hurts the most is looking around at the ones I love, and feeling like I’ve disappointed them. I may not be able to control a lot of things in my life, but this one thing I can control. Running a half marathon is so much more than just covering 13.1 miles of road. Crossing the finish line on race day is something that no one can take away from me. Crossing that finish line means finding my strong and knowing that I’ve done this one thing all on my own. Clocking that mileage is the greatest reminder that I am capable of so much more than I realize.