Let’s start this off by acknowledging something that I did not…
- I live in San Diego at Sea Level.
- Frisco, Colorado is 9,097 feet elevation.
- That’s a big difference.
On Friday, the fourteen of us were finally all together in Frisco, Colorado, so we spent the day wandering around the cute little city, peeking in tiny museums and random gift shops. We were sampling gumbo and beignets at a little Cajun place, where Dave spotted a sign advertising a Half Marathon taking place the very next day. On the spot, I decided to do it.
Saturday morning, I got up at 6am and walked one block to the Frisco Community Center, where I paid for a bib and boarded a bus to the Start Line. I shivered and froze my tail off for an hour and a half before the gun went off. As I huddled amidst the crowds, I listened to endless fretting about the wind, the big gray clouds that were quickly rolling in, and the altitude. I had forgotten my iPod and it had been six days since the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon, so I couldn’t help wondering what the heck I was doing out there, but at the same time, I wasn’t the least bit nervous or worried. I had no expectations or plans for this event other than to enjoy running in Colorado with all of it’s obstacles and challenges.
At 8:30, we were off. Immediately, I was aware of the most difficult challenge: breathing. It was impossible to get full, deep breaths and although I started out at a slow and easy pace, I felt out of breath like I was all-out sprinting. I kept on, but was overwhelmed with emotions as I struggled to breathe.
Without my iPod, I went to a dark place… I had flashbacks of the trauma eight years ago, of being choked and the moments before I lost consciousness where I had absolutely no control and no ability to fight. My eyes filled with tears as I ran, but I wasn’t sad. I was angry and empowered, knowing that eight years later, I’m in control of my life and my body. It’s those excruciatingly tough parts of running that I cherish because when I dare to remember that horrific day of my life and the stormy year that followed, I also remember that I saved myself.
I’ve been running for four years now, and it’s (still) not easy. A couple years ago, I wrote: “I run because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s the most challenging and painful form of exercise that I’ve pursued. It tears you down, beats you up and leaves you stripped of everything, so all that’s left is you, doing what you can to survive the journey. No one’s going to carry you to the finish line–no one can get you there but yourself. You push, you push harder, you breathe, you sweat, you fight… you save yourself or you remain unsaved.”
At the heart of it, I run for me–for my life and for what I’ve reclaimed by running. I run because I’m a survivor and no matter how many years may pass, sometimes, I still need to save myself.
Just shy of Mile 6, the Half Marathon and 10K courses split and I hit a wall. I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. My muscles were cramping and I was overcome with nausea. I veered into the woods and threw up. I shuffled back to the course, laughing at myself, feeling dizzy and lightheaded and much, much better. I ran on.
I caught sight of the Finish Line and was flooded with another wave of emotion as I spotted my friends waving, jumping, screaming, and cheering for me. I didn’t expect anyone to be there… we were on vacation, it was early in the morning, I’d decided to run at the last minute, and knew it was a crazy move on my part. Honestly, I think I underestimated how much they love me and really get it.
Anyhow, they were there! And as though my heart wasn’t already about to explode from the altitude and exertion, it overflowed as they screamed my name and then showered me with hugs.
We flew back to San Diego last night and although I can finally breathe again (I heart sea level!), I couldn’t have asked for a better or more perfect weekend and like I said in the previous post, I am truly brimming with love and gratitude for these crazy, awesome peeps.