The first time I ran thirteen miles was three weeks ago with my two running friends, the Rebeccas, I felt sick and sore. One of the Rebeccas ended her run at eight miles and the other was running twelve that week. So, at 9pm, I was running alone in the dark for about a mile on the Arlington Memorial Bridge. My guts churned as I turned around to join the remaining Rebecca for the rest of her run. I felt like I wouldn’t make it back the four miles to my car. While I finished, it was in the slowest time I had ever run and the worst pain I had put my calves through yet. I wondered how I could possibly finish my half marathon without crying or vomiting after such a demoralizing run.
This past Saturday, I ran 13.1 miles with a huge smile, the sun on my face, and the wind in my hair. When I crossed the finish line, my mom said it didn’t look like I had been running for just over two hours. My friends asked me if I was sore that night and I just grinned and shrugged my shoulders. It didn’t really matter if I was, I felt great.
Running along the C&O Canal with over 200 people was the opposite of running alone in the dark, praying not to get hit by cars, hoping I wasn’t going to throw up. The day was beautiful and the sun shone to greet every runner through the leaves of trees. I ran alongside veteran runners and first timers like myself. I thought of people I had lost and the changes I had made to my life to be in those pink sneakers.
I find running to be a joyous experience. It’s a celebration of what you can push yourself to and how you interact with the environment around you. When my breathing becomes labored, I remind myself that my heart has been my most dedicated companion, keeping me alive and never stopping for a moment after all these years. I remember the air I take in is a gift from the trees to my lungs. Running forces you to talk to yourself and encourage yourself to keep going forward. I know other runners do this too and that’s what keeps us all moving forward.