A week ago, I was running my Saturday long run (which is a pretty short run these days) when I saw notices for the Austin Marathon taking place the next day. Yellow diamond-shaped signs saying DETOUR AHEAD were all along Congress Ave., where the race begins with a steady incline for 3 miles.
As I passed those signs, I felt a wave of bittersweet longing. I had run that race last year, my first full marathon ever! The journey that led to the marathon was daunting, as it is with anything difficult. My next thought was how awesome it would be if life gave us those signs. To prepare for what’s to come. Brace yourself, it’s about to get real! Instead, life plays out and takes us by surprise…
A few years back, I had been dating someone who was also a runner. We often travelled and ran 1/2 marathons in new cities. I loved that we had that in common. At the Expo before the San Antonio 1/2, we were picking up our packets and I was eyeing the runners preparing to run the full marathon the following day. Their energy was palpable… all that nervous excitement was contagious. I quietly said, “I’d really like to run a full someday.” I surprised myself by even saying it! I had done a few halves by then, but never even considered a full. He smirked and snarkily responded, “Oh, really? A full? How about I’ll ask you tomorrow after you finish the 1/2, if you want to do a marathon.”
We each ran the 1/2 the next day and, in all the races I’ve done, that one had the most grueling climate. It was 80 degrees with 90% humidity. Runners were falling out all over the course… Medics were handing out popsicle sticks covered in salt to prevent heat stroke. Marathoners were peeling off to do the 1/2 instead of the full race. The conditions really were brutal.
At the end of that race, I met up with my boyfriend, wrung out of my running skirt, and sank down, my sweat staining the pavement. Without missing a beat, he sarcastically asked, “So, you’re gonna do the full, huh? Ready to do double what you just did?” He laughed right in my face.
That crushed me. I cowered and relented there was no way I could ever do a full marathon. There are times in my life where harsh remarks have dimmed my spirit and this was one of those times. It should’ve been a red flag, but I wasn’t yet strong enough to deal with it head on, or to end that relationship. I married him, instead…
It wasn’t until a year after that marriage ended that I revisited doing a full marathon. It started out as this quiet thought that became louder and more often in my mind. Maybe I could do it… I’ve since learned that voice is usually the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart.
I began researching Best Beginner Marathons and Austin was on every list I came across… convenient, since that’s home. Disclaimer: whoever comes up with those lists has issues with understanding Beginner Marathon. Austin’s course is intense!!!
Training was demanding, exhausting, challenging, painful, time consuming… all of the things. And, I loved it… I learned so much about myself from it. Each time I broke a new distance record, I felt empowered. Amazed that my body could do that. It wasn’t always pretty, and never easy, but it was possible.
I’ll admit, there were many runs that had an angry backdrop of proving him wrong!!! But it wore off, in time, and evolved toward building myself back up instead of allowing past hurts to cut me down. That’s where the running is about so much more than just running. It’s about the internal changes that manifest… That transformation feels miraculous. It can only be a God-driven shift.
Crossing that finish line was one of the greatest moments of my life.