I ran a 10k race this weekend. When I was at my race I looked around at all the runners and thought of their stories. I wondered why they were running. Did they have something to prove? What were their challenges? How did their training go? I wondered which of the runners had stories like mine. I wanted to know how many of them fought for this race. I wanted to know how much this race meant to each and every one of them.
For you see, I haven’t always been a runner. In fact when first I signed up for cross country running in seventh grade, I’m not even sure I knew what cross country was. I remember my dad chuckling at the thought of me running every day after school because I was the kid who walked most of the mile run in gym class. Even during the first part of that cross country season I walked during my races. Something changed for me mid-year. I found out that I could run and I did enjoy it. I became strong and fast. What started for me as a way to spend more time away from home became a sport that I loved. In my new found love of running I was part of an amazing team. My cross country team was made up of great, fun loving people. I was happy when I ran and I could see myself running for the rest of my life. I began to have hopes and dreams of some day running a marathon.
After high school, I took a break from running. I was busy trying to figure out how to be an adult. I had a job and stuff to do. While I never totally forgot my dream of running a marathon, my focus shifted. Then Friday night, July 24th, 1992 my dreams of running a marathon were taken away from me by force. I was in a car accident that broke my pelvis, fractured two of my vertebrae, left me with nerve damage, and toes that no longer worked. Worse of all I had been about thirty six weeks pregnant. I was due to have my first child in about a month. On July 25th I gave birth to my still born daughter, Shea Marie.
I spent years in depression. I was in so much physical and mental pain I sometimes still wonder how I survived. I was told by doctors that there was nothing they could do for the nerve damage, but slowly, year by year, I started to heal. There were eventually times I didn’t need a cane to walk. There were eventually days where I didn’t burst out in random tears and cry myself to sleep at night. I started to dream of running again.
Each year I would strap on my running shoes and try. It was hard. Physically my body didn’t want to work. I would run a block and my foot would cramp up. I would spend the rest of the day fighting the massive cramps in my foot and crying from the pain. I pressed on. I forced it time and time again. I had decided that I would run again, that physically I would heal.
It has taken me almost sixteen years of small victories and painful setbacks, but I ran my first race since high school this weekend. I was nervous and afraid. I ran the whole way and while my time was a far cry from where it used to be, I’m proud. I finished my race and proved to myself that I can do it. This race was not only for me. I dedicated this race to my daughter, Shea Marie.