So I figured it would only be fitting to write a blog about my recent running adventures on National Running Day. It's interesting because a few of my friends on facebook have been posting quotes all day about what running means to them and their journey into this sport. I always find these things inspiring and want to go get out and run right then. But it's funny because I took a day off from running today. I thought it might be a good rest day since I've run pretty hard the past two days. Oh yeah, the past two days, what I came here to write about. Well, I came here to write about one day in particular, so here goes:
Monday, May 31st, 2010- I decided to run the Cotton Row 10K in Huntsville, AL. It's a race that I used to always talk about running when I was in high school. I have to admit, running Cotton Row has always seemed like a daunting task. You see, there is this major hill around mile 3. And when I say major, I mean, so major that they have to grate the road so that cars won't slide down it while trying to go up. Yeah, pretty major. So finally, this year, I decided that with two Peachtree Road Races and a ton of miles from marathon training under my belt, I was finally ready for Cotton Row.
I knew there was a possibility that I would see people that I knew from the other time in my life when I ran. My 9th grade history teacher, Mrs. Burgreen told me that it was her favorite race, so I knew I had to look for her considering it had been about 5 years since I've seen her. Also, my best friend from middle school and high school Leslie was going to be running as well. Leslie and I have a special bond. You see, we were best friends and we share the same birthday. If I remember correctly, she is two hours older than me. And Les, if you are reading this, do not take these next few lines offensively, I am just trying to get to my point, it just might take a little while for me to get there, so hold tight....
Anyway, growing up it always seemed like Leslie was #1 and I was #2. We started running track together in 7th grade. I was not the fastest out there, but I wasn't the slowest. However, Leslie seemed to be amazing at middle/long distances. She was usually first, I was usually second. Even when we started running cross-country in 8th grade. On our JV team, Leslie was the #1 runner, I was #2. She was taller than me, skinnier than me, and got a boyfriend before I did. But what's funny is, I don't ever remember being too jealous of her. I was a little jealous because she only got braces, I got braces AND glasses, at the same time :) So fast forward to 10th grade. We enter that xc season with pretty much our entire varsity team gone, except for Leslie and I. I had worked really hard that summer, but had some foot pain. However I was determined to be the #2 runner, right there behind our #1 runner, Leslie. The start of the season had come and gone and I was still sidelined. I was itching to run, but more important things were on my mind, like Homecoming :) Our friend Rod and his friend Ben ended up asking us to Homecoming that year. It was going to be my first ever date. Of course, Rod asked Leslie (even though I had a huge crush on him and he knew it, he totally played us!) and his friend Ben asked me. I felt like I was just second best. That everyone wanted Leslie. No one wanted me. But Leslie and I were so excited to be going together with our dates who were friends too! Then the Wednesday before, Sept. 20th, I was admitted into the hospital. All I could think to ask was if I was going to be able to go on my date. "We will cross that bridge when it gets here" was pretty much the answer I got and I knew that I wouldn't get to go. I was more mad that Leslie was going to get to go on her date and not me than I was about being stuck in the hospital. Well, we all know the rest of the story here. On what was supposed to be the day of my first date, I was diagnosed with leukemia. To say that I was devastated was an understatement.
Running had been such a part of my life up until those 5 seconds that it took to tell me that I was not winning a battle with my body. However, it was running that had kept me going for as long as I did with the leukemia cells being produced in my bone marrow. I kept telling myself that it was ok. I would run again. I would help my team compete for a state championship one day and we would bring home the trophy. Well, once I found out that I was going to endure over 2 years of chemo, I knew that dream was dashed. Leslie was the first of my friends to come visit me in the hospital. She brought me a shirt from our race that Saturday and to this day, I still have and wear that shirt. Fast forward to our senior year. I was well enough to be back in school on a more regular basis, but that was about it. I knew that our girls' xc team was stacked. We had some great young talent and I knew they were amazing. They were amazing enough to bring home a state title. The school's first. Mrs. Hunt, Leslie's mom, was the xc coach. I met her at her car that Monday morning to see the trophy. I had never been so excited in my life. She let me carry it in to school just as if I had actually helped to win it. After I handed it back and headed off to class, I detoured to the bathroom and cried like a baby. I've never admitted that until just now because to be quite honest, it hurt like hell to know that another dream had just been dashed. Stupid cancer.
So, let's fast forward even more to this Monday. So I'm at Cotton Row and as I'm standing at the start line, I get this sense of calm. I don't know what it was and to be quite honest, I didn't realize how nervous I was. I took off with my friend Sarah and her brother Ben. I eventually broke away around mile 1 and got into my groove. I started looking at my Garmin to see what kind of pace I was running. I thought the thing was broken because it said I was running a 9:30 mile pace. Apparently, it was not broken. I got to the hill just above a 1-hour 10K pace. The hill got me though, but I was proud to say that I ran past so many people and didn't walk until half-way up. After that hill though, it was all downhill. I ended up with my fastest 10K by 6 minutes. 1:02:35 was the official time and it evened out to about 9:56 miles. I couldn't believe it. What was even more unbelievable was who I saw bounding towards me at the finish line. Yep, you got it, it was Leslie. How fitting, I thought. I finally get to complete one of my high school dreams and there she is. I have never been so excited to see her in my life. We stood and talked for a few minutes, hugged a lot, and she went on her way.
The whole point of this is, I have a lot of regrets and a lot of times I ask "what if?" but after running that race and realizing that cancer no longer controls me like it did in high school, I realize that I'm finally becoming the runner I was always supposed to be. I was never supposed to win a high school title, I was never supposed to break a 5:45 mile. I was always supposed to run my own race and not chase after being #1 because I was stuck at being #2. I was supposed to inspire people and raise money and awareness for blood cancers. And you know what's funny is, I didn't even realize it until Monday.
I'm never going to be the fastest or even come close to placing in the top 10 in my age division, however, I am becoming a stronger, faster, smarter runner. I ran 9:56 miles! I used to run 7 or less miles consistently and that was in practice. But you know what, after everything my body and mind have been through, to be able to conquer that hill and break that 10-minute mile barrier, I have to say, I won. I was finally #1 on that day. I am a runner.
I think this quote says it best:
"To give less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." Steve Prefontaine
Ramble on my Friends,