When I began running in the 6th grade, I swore that I would one day run a marathon. My oldest sister was at Boston College and running the Boston Marathon with Team Griffins Friends. She was my hero. I looked up to her. She labored all day in classes and at work and then found the time to run— sometimes up to 20 miles at a time! I was starstruck by the result.
At the time, I had no real idea what it took to run a marathon. I had no idea what it felt like to run more than 2 miles at a time, taking 1-2 minute breaks every 5 minutes. But then, over the years, I became slowly and ferociously obsessed with running. I craved it. As I started out high school, I joined the same team that my oldest sister ran on. I ran alongside 2 more of my sisters, making my way up the ranks to the one of the fastest girls.
My expectations for myself heightened. By my senior year, I had gone from competing in track and field at the league level to the state level, climbing up to the regional and finally, finally breaking onto the National stage. I became a top-ranked runner in the nation in the 1000 meters race in indoor track that year, battling against the fastest girls in the nation in the 800 meters in both indoor and outdoor track.
I felt unstoppable. I felt as though running had supercharged me, given me a breath of immortal air. I trained 6 days a week, throughout the school year and into each summer. I woke up every morning with an eagerness to get through the schoolday so that I could train with my team, my coach. Saturdays were my favorite training days. As soon as I woke up, I was able to head right to practice. Days where I stayed home from school due to a slight sickness or to catch up on a paper did not break my stride. I went to practice.
I graduated from high school and made my way to Bentley University to run and in my spare time study Marketing and Business. I received the Freshman of the Year award in Cross Country from the League. I was breaking down my fast times, training with the seniors and basking in the glow of top recruit.
Freshman year would be my strongest year of competition. College began to wear me down. My dedication dropped over the course of the next year. My times suffered, my splits inconsistent, my passion sputtering. Every start to a new season was an opportunity to really get my ass into gear again. But I always fell short of my expectations.
My Junior year, I fractured my patella. The patella is the incredibly important part of the knee that holds everything together for the runner. And I fractured it. My rehabilitation was long, insufferable. Without that spark I once had, I never regained the passion and commitment I knew I needed to run well again.
As the years started to sweep by, I did everything I could to showcase my long-lost love for running. I attempted to train on my own, well after receiving my diploma from Bentley and moving on into the real word. I took on amazing jobs in the Running Industry, working with and coaching young runners, marketing with top tiered running brands as well as with emerging and passionate brands. These endeavors fell short of my expectations.
And then, one day, without the proper training, without the proper gearing up, I found myself at the starting line of the Houston Marathon. My work was sponsoring the event and I was given a free registration that I, stubbornly, could not pass up to run 26.2 grueling miles.
The crowd around me jostled with excitement, buzzing and humming and morphing into this one, unique entity. I was pulled in.
The race announcer raised his gun high in the air, said something incredibly motivational, I am sure of it. But for me, time was frozen. I thought of my oldest sister, training for her own marathons so many years back, unstoppable. I felt as though I may be cheating the system.
BANG. The gun fired off, the crowd began to move, the race was actually starting. I set out at a deathly slow pace, keeping my head together, taking in the sights, the sounds, the wonder around me. Runners dressed in tutus, in superman capes, in compression socks and KT Tape on their knees. People lined the street, clapping and cowbells, shouts and encouragement.
As I made my way through each mile, each turn, each portion of the 26.2 miles, I found myself surging through a series of emotions. Happiness, to be healthy and be running. Frustration, to be slower than I knew I was ultimately capable of. Choked up tears, to be running with so many inspirational people and to be singled out and cheered for by so many strangers. Elation, as I hit mile 26 with point 2 to go.
That final point 2. Point 2 miles left after running 26 before them. Time slowed, just as it did at the race’s start. Faces in the crowd spilled together, their shouting and cheers completely inaudible. The ground beneath my running shoes somehow went missing. I was floating. Out of nowhere, the finishline was a step away and as I crossed the red, white and blue line, I had to force my body to stop, stop running. ‘It’s over now, it’s done’, a soft voice in my head, ‘You can stop running.’
I was immediately hit with the rush of new and raw emotion. Tears fell down my cheeks, making a distinct line through the dried, caked salt from sweat. 2 volunteers grabbed each side of me and guided me into the finishers tent. I could barely speak. I could barely think. All I could do was feel an enormous and familiar deluge of passion.
I was a runner. I was capable of so many great things. And I was going to do them.
Less than a year later, I crossed the finishline at the New York City Marathon. This time around, I put in the miles and pushed my body through adequate training. The result was an obvious PR- A Personal Record, taking off 20 minutes from my time at the Houston Marathon. Now, I am training for the Alaska Marathon in June. There, I intend to take off 20 more of those minutes. Because that is my expectation for myself. Because that expectation deserves life.
Every Sunday long run, I reflect on my training from the week before it. I reflect on how my body feels, how I have nurtured it and how I have challenged it. But, mostly, I reflect on the journey. I think back to my sister, working her way to her own finishline and without knowing it, pushing me to my own.
Thanks for the love. Run with your heart, xo Babs