At 5 a.m. September 15, 2012, an alarm clock interrupted my peaceful sleep. The day I had spent ten months preparing for had finally arrived. I yawned, stretched and stealthly sent my travel pillow flying across the room nailing my friend Lisa as she dressed in the dark. I knew it was going to be a great day. Despite the fact that I had broken my neck ten months earlier and struggled through much of my race training, I wasn’t anxious about the day’s events.
It was a clear, crisp 48 degrees in Dayton as we loaded the car and headed for Wright Patterson Air Force Base. I spent my pre-race time smiling, laughing and chatting with the group of runners who had graciously invited me into their circle. For them, this was an annual event, for me, it was a stake in the ground; an act of defiance aimed at an enemy who tried to take me out, and an act of worship dedicated to the One who spared my life.
The start was mass chaos, it took about ten minutes from where we lined up to actually cross the start line. I stayed with my friends who were planning to walk the 13.1 miles until we reached the starting mat, waved good-bye and set off to run my race. And run my race I did. I knew there would be no personal record or age division awards, this race was about being present and finishing. I kept my pace slow and steady, comfortable. Right before the race started I realized my MP3 player hadn’t held a charge so I would have to run sans music, but I didn’t even let that upset me. Instead, I spent the time thanking God that I was alive and able to run, and praying that He would continue to show me the plans He has for me.
Admittedly I am easily irritated, but that morning, it was like I was enveloped in a cloud of serenity. The crowds didn’t bother me, the lack of music didn’t faze me, my body never grew weary, my neck and shoulders didn’t tense up, I never struggled. Well, maybe I struggled a little, there was a crazy, steep hill right after mile marker 8. It was right about that time I got the brilliant idea to use Pandora on my phone and just turn up the volume as loud as possible. The phone was tucked in an SPI belt around my waist (thank you very much Danielle!), but miraculously I could still hear it.
As the miles passed, I could tell I was on track to beat the time from my first half marathon in October 2010. That made me smile. About mile 11 it really started to hit me that I was almost finished with the race, a race I almost did not live to run. My emotions almost got the best of me, I started hyperventilating and I decided I should shelf those reflections for after I crossed the finish line.
Finally the finish line came into sight. It was a cruel finish because runners have to run parallel to the finish and then turn and run some more before actually crossing it. I could see it, but it felt like I would never actually reach it. But I did cross it, in 2 hours and 26 minutes, 2 minutes faster than my first pre-accident half!! The only thing missing was that my biggest fan wasn’t waiting for me at the finish. Imagine thrill I got checking my phone post race and discovering that he had paid to track my progress live during the race and was cheering me on via virtual updates.
The race is behind me now and so I press toward the mark for the prize that is the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. On October 27 you’ll find me in Gruene, TX running the Chosen Half Marathon for Adoption in support of Leo Phillip Simmons. His proud parents Kelly and Ashley Simmons brought him home from Ukraine Friday, September 21. And so I run once again, this time in celebration that another orphan has found a home. To God be the Glory!