13.1 Miles: A Lesson of Acceptance

There is a certain peace about 5 a.m. in the morning that I can’t explain (mainly because 99.9% of the time I am sleeping during that early in the morning). But as I kissed my husband goodbye and asked Bandit to give me some good luck, I was overwhelmed with relaxation. I walked outside, and the sky was still dark. I saw an older man walking alone in a bright orange vest. Was he warming up for the mini marathon? Maybe. I smiled.
I met my friends / running partners, Brittany and Lexi, in Fishers. I ran inside to get Starbucks – nothing fancy, just a bold coffee. We hit the road discussing our expectations, worries (well my worries) and funny stories.
I didn’t really get nervous until we got downtown and I started seeing everyone. Hundreds of people – all walking towards the start line- which was filled with thousands of people. All the while, I was still looking for some suspicious activity as the news reports questioned the safety of runners after bin Laden’s death. I could have worked for the FBI that morning because I was looking in every hotel window and down every grassy knoll.

When the gun went off, I reminded myself not to get too excited. I was in corral V – and I was warned it would take at least 30-45 minutes just to reach the start line. By the time we crossed the start line, it was 28 minutes into the race. (But our time didn’t start until we crossed the start line).

We started to run, but quickly turned it to light a jog. There were so many people and it was very hard to pass anyone. So we just took it easy.

The first person I saw performing on the side of the road was a man with a megaphone talking about Jesus. It took me back to my Ball State days – I wondered if it was the same man, and kept running. The next few bands I saw were awesome. There were even kids – totally rocking out to songs like “TNT”. Another band was singing about breathing – and that was the first time I thought of the people who’ve passed before me. The people I am running and raising money for through the American Heart Association. I’m breathing, I’m alive. I threw my arm in the air as I passed them and yelled, “Thank you!”
I was doing pretty good until about mile 5. That’s when I noticed I was asking for walking breaks more often. My back started hurting pretty bad, but I tried to fight through it. Lexie started to press against my back and rub.

“I am not sure if I am helping or if I am just pushing you along,” she joked.

Once we got off the track, we stopped for fruit snacks and a stretch. I mentally told myself to “lock it up” and I tried to take myself to a positive place.

“THIS IS AMAZING!” I said. “I feel great- these fruit snacks are really hitting the spot and this stretch feels great.”

But that burst of positive excitement was short lived. I quickly reached behind me and grabbed my back; It hurt so bad. 
We didn’t even run half a mile and I was already wanting a break again. I felt awful for them. I really wanted Britt to get a personal best and Lexie to enjoy her first race. I really wanted a personal best, but more importantly – I wanted HER to get one if she physically could…I knew I probably wouldn’t hit my best time.

“You guys..” I said. “Just go. Please just run ahead of me and get your personal best. I’m not sure we will make it.” 

“Ashley, stop it!” Brittany said sternly. “If we wanted to run ahead of you, we would have stayed in our corral. We are staying beside you and we will finish together.”

I didn’t accept that answer.

“Brittany,” I said. “Seriously- if you can do better – do better – I just feel so bad and guilty – I want you to..”

“Ashley!” Brittany said. “Stop it – you are making me mad. I’ve made my decision.”

At that moment, we crossed the 10 mile marker. 

And it was settled. We would finish together. But it was also during this moment that we realized we would not be getting a personal best. In fact, we would be cutting it close to even reach our time at the last race.

And I got really sad – How would I explain that I did better at a race when I was limping in pain, had bruised ribs, and scraps on my body?  

We walked the final 3 miles, but made sure we were always running before and slightly after a mile marker. When we weren’t talking, I was trying to answer that question in my head the whole time.

We got to victory mile. It didn’t feel like much of a victory for me. I felt defeated. Weak. Discouraged. I was holding back tears the whole time. I felt like I let not only myself and running partners down, but everyone who donated. I told myself I should have trained harder and gave it more. 

We ran the final quarter mile.  I’m not sure what I looked liked when I crossed the finish line. I wanted to smile through my pain, but it was even harder knowing I didn’t have my husband to run to and friends to hug on the sidelines. Thank goodness I had Britt & Lexi there to make me smile and laugh. Our afternoon was a little crazy after the race, but looking back – I can’t help but smile. I’m so glad they never gave up on me….

If I would have wrote this blog immediately after the race, it would have been awful. I was miserable – not only did I feel sore physically- I was an emotional wreck.

But the moment I reached for my phone, I couldn’t help but be inspired! SO many people left comments on my split time status updates! I had messages of encouragement and pride written on my wall. People told me I was such an inspiration and that I did such a great job. YOU ARE ALL AMAZING. Thank you so much – for every comment, text and phone call – you all truly made a huge difference.

When I went to lunch at McAllister’s, the manager gave me a discount for wearing my medal in. He didn’t ask me what my time was once. He simply gave me a big smile, huge high-five and told me great job!

Even better, I came home to an inspiring video my husband left me. He reminded me that I  can’t beat myself up after every single race. You’ll always have a better or worse time- it gives you motivation to do better in the future. With tears streaming down my face, he closed by saying this:  “Nobody cares about the time you ran – no one donated money to you beating your last time- everyone is proud of you and that is what everyone thinks.” ♥

Later that night, I went out with my friends for Delanie’s bachelorette party.

And I proudly wore my medal out all night long.

I view those 13.1 miles on Saturday as acceptance. I am accepting that I have my work cut out for me in the future. However, I am also accepting the fact that I accomplished something huge. I still beat 10,000 other people. I still finished. I still ran / walked / limped with heart across that finish line.

Much love,
Ashley

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