I’m not a runner, I’m a finisher

I love to run.

In fact, my latest pair of pink Brooks running shoes have a hole in them from all the months of training for the Lincoln Half Marathon that took place in May. I haven’t thrown them away because that race taught me something.

It taught me to run to the things that scare me to death instead of running away because when you run, you put even more distance between yourself and the solution to your problem. I’m in my 30s and only realizing this now. I had been running my entire life from the things I need most in my life. Maybe you have, too?

In high school, I hated running but it was my m.o. When school got hard, I skipped class and ran off with friends. When relationships grew rocky, I ran away from them. When my parents divorced, I ran away from home.

This worked well in theory until one morning I knew I couldn’t run from my problems anymore.

Staring at a positive pregnancy test at 17, I knew I couldn’t run. Nauseated, I realized something in that moment — there was another life depending on me. I had to face my biggest fear — myself. It didn’t matter whether I thought I was good enough as a person or as a mom, I had to try.

Knees quaking, I put one step in front of the other and walked into my future. It led my high school sweetheart and me to Kearney. Here, surrounded by row upon row of cornfields with a pink-and-purple sunset backdrop, I learned to run toward the answers, no matter how rough the terrain.

In this little town, God set the course that became the road where I discovered myself as I put one foot in front of the other.

I became a mother, a wife, a college student, employee and a home owner and eventually, the first person in five generations to graduate from high school and college.

Here, I became more than a runner, and it didn’t become clear to me until I ran my first half marathon.

Just minutes before the race, I pin on my number and smile for the camera. My oldest thinks I’ll die around mile 9 and my husband is impressed that I’m functioning without coffee. Who can drink coffee on a big day like this??? And I LOVE coffee…just saying.

I only entered the race to support my best friend and to get in shape. After all, I despised running. But the more I trained, the more I lived for the high of hitting each goal.

It also helped to pound my pink Brooks into the pavement. My dear, sweet husband thinks I look adorable in pink and bought me the shoes. But here’s the thing — I despise pink. I loathe it. If you see me in something pink, it’s because my husband bought it.

The day of the race, I found myself alone. My friend was injured and would be cheering for me from the stadium. I was surrounded by 10,000 strangers in runners’ gear and costumes, but I felt deserted as I thought about the 13.1 miles ahead of me. Running 13.1 miles just to do it sounds insane, crazy!

But then the crowd of runners started to move and thin out as they rounded the corner from the University of Nebraska — Lincoln. Miles of road stretched as far as I could see. The sides were lined with people cheering and holding up signs of encouragement, such as “Run like you stole something” or “You trained too hard to walk, MOVE IT.”

It’s fun for awhile, and the excitement, the music, the people help to shake off the jittery fear of not finishing. It takes your mind off how many miles are left. But by mile nine, I wondered if I could really do it.

Feet throbbing, hip hurting, I thought, “I could just stop running now,” but I couldn’t because I realized I wasn’t just a runner, I was a finisher.

Every struggle I had faced rolladecked through my mind as I remembered the mile after mile of training, routes created, early mornings and time away from family that led me to this moment.

Besides, I wanted to make sure I beat my pink shoes to a pulp.

 

As I rounded the corner at mile 11, Memorial Stadium came into view — pushing past the pain, I picked up the pace and began sprinting towards the finish line. The crowd’s cheers become a deafening roar as my shoes connected with the Astroturf and I sailed across the fifty yard line after running 2 hours and 32 minutes.

That moment made me realize, I wasn’t just a runner, I was a finisher. I was a marathoner.

Anyone can run. That part is supereasy, but facing the problems, working through mile and after mile — that’s what makes you strong.

The moments after were a blur of hugs with my husband, oldest daughter and friends. We celebrated with margaritas and tacos before limping home.

Will I do it again? Yes. But my new running shoes won’t be pink. Would I encourage someone else to do it? Absolutely. Do it!

Running a marathon isn’t about the miles, it’s about digging down to the core of who you are and drawing on the strength God gives you to put one foot in front of the other, no matter struggle nor the terrain.

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