May 22, 2012

free yourself.

Three months ago my friend Jessica and I decided we would train for the Great Wall Half Marathon. 

At the time, three months felt like such a long time into the future. May was practically summer and the snow flurries in the air made summer seem like a distant idea. 

But we trained through the winter as the weather warmed up and our running tights were replaced by shorts and tanks. We ran countless flights of stairs and kept each other up to date with our Runner's World iphone app for training (highly recommended, FYI). 

We reminded each other to steer clear of sugar and alcohol and staying up late. We made decisions based on, "will this be good for the marathon?" From what I ate, to how I spent my money, many aspects of my life these past few months have revolved around this one distant date in May.

I read blogs and looked up photos of past races. I cannot count the number of times I sat at my computer and got teary eyed thinking that I too would run those stairs soon. I read everything I could about the race and people's experiences. And the more I read, the more excited I became about our choice to participate despite the great commitment of time, energy, and money. 

And now the day has come and gone. And it was all worth it. Every lunge, every squat, every mile, every stair, every penny, every 9:30pm bed time. 

What an experience. I wish something like this for everyone. I can hardly form words to express how much participating in this race meant to me. A year ago I would not have been able to physically complete the race. Now, 30 pounds lighter, I was able to not only complete the race, but enjoy each step. I'm so thankful for the experience. That this is my life and I get to do what makes me come alive. 

During training I would choose a mantra for each long run, usually based on whatever was going on at the time. They ranged from dumb, "you're not fat," to funny, "push push push," to serious, "don't give up." 

Saturday's mantra was, "free yourself." As the miles added up, my shoulders hunched and my stride shortened. My back started to hurt and my body was tight with the stress of activity. Every few hundred meters I would remind myself, "shoulders back, boobs out, lengthen your stride, free yourself." And the stress I was putting on my back would momentarily disappear, (until I had to remind myself again a few minutes later - isn't that how life goes? ha). 

In light of my recent break-up that has left me with a cloud of sadness, I was so inspired by the freedom that running through the village and along the wall gave me. Not only was I able to free myself of the fleeting pain of distance running by making small adjustments, but I was able to reflect on the freedom that I have given myself by making the choice I did. I'm free to be the person I am meant to be - a person who does not conform or make excuses. It was a good mantra for the time and I had plenty of thought space since I did not listen to music for most of the race. 

I'll do a legit race re-cap soon (when my internet is not being dumb). But for now here are some pictures of one of the 5 great adventure marathons on earth, a beautiful, well-planned course along a remote section of the Great Wall (Huanguyuan) and through a village...

We did it! I can't believe it is over.

Jess and I kept saying, "We can't believe we did that!" It was a dream come true.

At the finish line, I sobbed and laughed and squeeled at the same time. (that's a pretty sight, FYI, ha - a big, squeeling, slobbery redhead).

You really can do anything you set your mind to. How cool is that?

walk slow. xoxo. 


agapelife said...

you go girl.

Miss Lynda said...

Mr. Al and I are so very, very proud of you! What a beautiful testimony and example you are. My heart is happy for you, but hurts too, when I read your sweet words describing the highs and lows of this past week. Trust that all these experiences are part of a process, blending together and weaving the beautiful tapestry of your life. Your courage and conviction blow me away, yet encourage me to be a better person. I am so proud to be your GodMother, and friend!