This year has been a year of pushing my limits. I mean REALLY pushing them! I set out to do things I have always been telling myself I couldn’t do because I wasn’t in shape enough, rich enough, experienced enough, successful enough …need I go on? So I set a couple goals to prove myself WRONG!! One goal I set is to run a half marathon this year.
I have never been a “runner”. I was a sprinter in high school, I had a speedy quick 200, but never, would I ever, consider myself to be a runner. But this past Saturday, after some training, I ran my first LONG DISTANCE race. Well, that was officially timed with the little disc on my shoe and a number on my shirt, the crowd gathered and the whole nine yards…or 4 miles in this case.
I almost missed the race, because, if you must know, I am really afraid to do things for the first time. So, having been my first official race, I almost backed out because of fear. I was completely negatively self-absorbed in how I truly didn’t prepare well enough, how I didn’t know what I was doing, how I really dislike running anyway, how I should have never signed up for this, how I didn’t like the yellow running shirt and black running pants I chose to wear (give me a break, I’m a girl!), how I had a million other things I could have been doing, how I really should have lost 10 pounds before doing my first race…you know the routine.
As I literally forced myself to get in the starting pen, I began to relax and get my attitude straightened out. I was going to be fine. I didn’t sign up to win a medal, to place, to beat
the world record, to prove anything other than that I was wrong: Yes, I could finish a longer distance than I had ever run before, in under 50 minutes! I just needed to relax and go with it.
Mile 1 was everything I expected. The streets were lined with fans and groups cheering for loved ones, members of their congregations, co-workers. They held signs, had matching t-shirts, organized a little rally all for someone they were there to support. I was unmoved. Completely what I expected and really, at that point, I was just glad not a single person in the crowd knew me. Being incognito was just fine for me.
Mile 2 I realized that I was hitting my stride and that a woman just ahead of me also wearing yellow shirt & black bottoms – (ok, so I must not have looked so ridiculous afterall) was running about the same pace as me. Sweet! I could pace myself with her. The crowd at this point had dwindled and a few volunteers were dotting the course. They clapped and cheered and encouraged, but yet, I was still glad I was unrecognizable. However, I appreciated their smiles and found myself giving a slight smile back.
Mile 3 I had to admit I was getting pretty darn proud of myself. Of course, there was no turning back and with half the race finished, I could see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. My attitude had shifted from “Thank God nobody here knows me” to “Wow, I really wish my three daughters could see me now!” All of a sudden I was craving ONE person, in the crowd, that yelled my name and encouraged me to keep going, to scream “Good Job Ami” and then it hit me. All those volunteers, those strangers, those men & women whom I had never laid eyes on before, were cheering for me. They were smiling, encouraging me and believing I could finish. And like the Grinch, my heart grew a size bigger
Mile 4 I was absolutely in a state of euphoria. There was motivational music, bands, the streets were getting more heavily lined again and the cheering and praise were becoming defeaning. I noticed the 15K runners were now starting pass me. I didn’t care. They were not someone to be embarrassed by, they appeared as a sign of inspiration to finish. At one point, two 15K runners were passing and the second place runner was yelling to the third place runner behind him; “Keep going, don’t you stop, don’t you slow down, you catch up to me, you keep going” I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing, it was as if he WANTED him to beat him. It was the most inspirational moment I have ever witnessed. I had tears in my eyes as I rounded the corner to the finish line, I could hardly see. I had finished, I could see the little blue mat that would record my time and then as I became cognizant of what I had just about accomplished, I heard it over the loudspeaker: “Ami Dean from Oglesby IL, great job and thanks for coming down today for the Steamboat Classic!” What? God? Who is that?
You see the reason for the number on your shirt – the announcer at the finish line can look who’s coming down the lane, look it up in the computer and blow incognito completely out of the water. And I beamed!