Until about February of this year, the only running I had done was when I was a little girl, but in years since, running was done completely by accident. You know, when a bee is chasing me, trying to catch the mailman before he passes...like that. If there ever was a time my kids saw this rare event, you might hear them say, "LOOK! Mom is actually running!!!" Let me make this clear upfront....I hate exercising and everything about it. I don't like my heart racing, even though I know it's good for me. (Can't I get the same cardio workout by watching a reeeeally scary movie?) I don't like the sweating and the having to wash my hair afterwards every single time. I don't like the sore muscles and let's face it...it's boring. So, for the most part, I didn't feel it necessary to put myself through all this. There was no motivation or purpose to it. Until.....
|Wendy sloshing through the mud during the Dirty Girl Mud Run|
This year has been a huge milestone for me. For the last couple of years, my body has been building up to full blown menopause. The hotflashes, night sweats, the crying every single day about nothing and the sleepless nights. I finally found a wonderful doctor who prescribed bio-identical (all-natural) hormone replacement therapy. The symptoms subsided and I felt better but noticed that this was the first of three pieces of evidence. The second was when my youngest child, my only daughter, went off to college leaving me an empty-nester. The third was a birthday. No, not my 50th...my 52nd. I don't know why this one hit me worse than the 50th. Maybe because everyone made turning 50 so fun. 52 isn't a milestone, so no one really makes a big deal. Which I really don't have a problem with, since I want to ignore the number anyway. But there it all was, evidence that I was getting "old"....er. I asked myself, "What could I do to feel young again?" I knew it would have to be something I had to work for....something completely out of my comfort zone...something I didn't think I could do. Hmmmmmm. Then I finally read some of Anna's Running Story blog. I laughed and wept and was completely pulled into the inspiring stories that were there. The next day, I went to work and told a friend about it and she suggested I start training for a 5K called The Dirty Girl Mud Run. It was a run for breast cancer and not only was it a 5K but an obstacle course, where the obstacles were in mud. She said her and I and her sisters and friends could all run together as a team. I didn't even think about it. I just knew I had to do it. So Team Tickle Me Pink was born and I started to train the next day. The day after my first run...barely a mile walking and running... I was so sore, I knew my body had turned on me. But I wasn't going to let that stop me. I ran three times that week, four times the next and five times almost every week until the race...until I could run 2 miles without stopping. I knew I wouldn't be able to run the whole 5K and might have to walk some of it, but didn't care. My goal was to do every single obstacle and to finish the race. I could hardly believe how excited I was....me....to RUN in a race....running....ME!! I didn't know this person. A person who didn't care about the sweat pouring down her back or the muscles that screamed at her the next day. Someone who is NOT a morning person, who didn't mind getting up an hour earlier in the morning to run, no less. But I was getting to know her and I LIKED her...ALOT. This wasn't the actions of an "old" woman. I had more energy, I was happier, able to handle a stressful job better and everything that everyone ever told me about running was absolutely true...the good AND the bad.
Two days before the race and I knew I was ready. On my way to work that morning, one of my dearest friends in the world called to tell me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She said the doctor's prognosis was good but that she had a fight in front of her. She had absolutely no doubt she could fight the good fight. After hanging up and through the tears I remembered that I was running for a cure for breast cancer. Now the run took on a new meaning for me. I wasn't just running to prove something to myself. I was running for her and any doubts of finishing were smashed. I WOULD FINISH.
The day of the race....I was a little nervous but so determined and excited. It started and I began to run..."this was going to be easy" I thought. I came to obstacle after obstacle....a mountain of hay bales, crawling under a cargo net in mud...a mud pit that we had to run through. I loved it. This was a piece of cake. I got to the first water station and they told us we had run 1/2 a mile. WHAT?! I thought it was at least a mile. I knew then I had a fight in front of me. The rest of the race was long, difficult, hot, muddy and I had to walk some of it. The obstacles started getting harder....climbing over a wall with a rope, jogging through tires when my legs felt like jello but I refused to stop. The last water station and they said we only had about 3/4 of a mile left but I looked ahead and saw a steep hill. Tears started down my cheeks as I felt I could not get up that hill that looked like a mountain to me and then I heard my team mates cheering me on....telling me I could do it and not to give up....in my head I heard my friend who would be fighting for her life, saying, "If I can do it...you can do it." So I started up the hill and felt the rush of knowing I was not going to stop. I made it to the top of the hill only to be met by the last obstacle....a 30-foot cargo net going straight up and over the other side. I didn't even consider stopping but with muscles so tired and tears streaming down my cheeks, I slowly and steadily climbed that net and descended the other side where my teamates were waiting to cross the finish line together. They said, "lets run the last bit." My head didn't think I had anything left for the finish line, but my heart knew better. Near exhaustion, we all jogged that last bit through the mud and crossed the finish line. It was euphoria!!! All these women, hugging each other, weeping openly, taking pictures, laughing, celebrating...it was something I will never forget for the rest of my life.
|Wendy is #365.|
The morning after the race, I woke up and thought, "Oh good. I don't have to get up and run this morning." I started to get out of bed and my body was so sore and bruised, it felt like it was an 80 year-old woman. How ironic. Something that made me feel so young at heart had left my body feeling like this. I moved around a bit, did some laundry, paid some bills and could feel my muscles loosening up....a fleeting thought came to me...."why not run, even though you don't have to train anymore?" I groaned, got dressed, put the running shoes on, grabbed my IPod and ran the saddest one mile run you've ever seen, nearly limping the whole way, wondering what the neighbors watching thought. "Is she okay? Why is running if she is injured?" I giggled as I ran and felt ....young.
And now as I glance over at my "wall of inspiration" filled with mementos of people in my life who have inspired, encouraged and loved me, I now see my muddy shoes and running number hanging there and I find myself inspired by...of all people....me.
Thank you Anna...for your stories. You are the "fountain of youth" and have made this "old" woman, young again.
I really love Wendy's story and I'm so so proud of her. What I like best about everything is that she got up and ran the next day too. The race wasn't the end, it was just the beginning. Running is a funny thing. It's so dang hard and it's exhausting, but the accomplishment of having run the distance or the race or that huge hill is what we're really after. And I don't care what anyone says, it is always inspiring to read a story like Wendy's and it's always inspiring to watch someone push past the point where they thought they couldn't go. Thanks, Wendy, for that fabulous story.
P.S: I need to get myself to Georgia and run this race with you next year! It sounds so fun.