I mentioned last time that running and I are at an odd place, and it’s been that way since before the GO! half. It’s not like this is the first time it’s happened. I believe that’s very well documented right here.
This time is turning around differently though.
On Saturday I was fortunate enough to take part in the Girls on the Run 5k. The organization “[P]rovides pre-adolescent girls with the necessary tools to embrace their individual strengths and successfully navigate life experiences.” To be honest, I’m surprised it took me so long to even run one. That’s a philosophy I can absolutely support.
Admittedly, the reason that I ran this race was because a 5k fit into my training plan for Ragnar, and the start line was six blocks from my apartment. It’s very difficult to not run races that close to my apartment (bonus of living downtown).
And yet this race became my favorite race.
You see, these girls of all colors from all walks of life showed up on that bright and sunny Saturday morning for the same reason. To run. To finish what they’d been working so hard towards. To prove to themselves and everyone else that “Can’t” wasn’t an option.
The words I heard the most along the race course were “Finish Strong.” Not “fast.” Not “before everyone else.” Strong.
That’s what running’s all about, isn’t it? I mean, that’s what LIFE is all about.
Running with these girls and parents and coaches and siblings and the general public just out to support them has brought me to tears on more than one occasion. It was precisely the reminder that I needed for why I go out and put my muscles and my body through hell and back.
When the coach running beside me mentioned to her girl, “It’s just a hill, we’ll go steady all the way to the top,” it was a reminder that so much of this is mental. So many times it’s not a body shutting down but a mental refusal to go any further. I needed that reminder that sometimes the difficulty of a race is all in my head. I can get to the top. I can make it further than I ever thought. With Ragnar less than a month away, holy moly I needed that.
There were the parents holding on to the hands of their daughters as the girls got tired, as the race became more difficult. It was a reminder that even though I’m an adult myself, there will always be a parent there to support me through the hard times and hold my hand if I need it.
The finish line was packed on both sides with supporters, almost more than were at the finish line of the last half marathon. Sometimes even strangers can be proud of you. If someone who doesn’t even know you can be proud of you, you can absolutely be proud of yourself.
And then there were the two girls who couldn’t have been more than ten. One was hurt somehow, limping a little bit, yet the finish line was only a tenth of a mile away. The friend had her arm around her, speaking words of encouragement into her ear. “You can do it, we’re almost there. I know it hurts, but just a little farther.” If I wasn’t already choked up that close to the finish line (I was), this did me in entirely. Sometimes you need a reminder that things can be hard, and you can be hurting, but if you’re lucky you’ll have a friend who will push you to your limits and be there for you every step of the way. Or at least make you actually run the last mile of the longest half marathon of your life.
Walking away from that finish line, away from the continuous cheers of support and the smiles of pride on the faces of the girls, I found myself reinvigorated. This was everything I needed to get out of my funk.
Yes, sometimes running is hard, but it is worth it. It is worth it to have a sense of pride in yourself, to have a healthy outlet for stress and frustration.
It is worth the aches and pains and blisters and on some days flat out exhaustion.
It is worth it to feel like we can do whatever we set our minds to.
It is worth it to feel strong. To finish strong.
To be strong.
To be a girl on the run.