The tattoo on my inner bicep says “Love Always Hopes.” It comes from 1 Corinthians and is my daily reminder to not be afraid to keep hoping. That in times of doubt and dismay, hope can still remain.
I’ve had several years of bad running. Three years ago I had gained so much weight I was not in racing shape. Two years ago I had two foot surgeries that kept me from being able to run for 3 months. Last year I was pregnant and sick as a dog. This year I’ve been recovering from labor and deliver, trying to rebuild what was damaged.
Throughout all of this, I’ve kept running. Even though I was overweight, I trained and showed up to the races. The surgeries prevented me from running for months, but 2 weeks after my return to running I ran a half marathon. My pregnancy left me weak and discouraged, I had to take an 8 week break from running at the end of my first trimester and into the second. But that didn’t stop me from running 5k’s at 20 and 26 weeks pregnant, and even a half marathon at 31 weeks. I thought my big break would come once my son was born, but I didn’t realize how much labor and delivery would decimate all of the muscles in my abdomen and surrounding my hips. It was a long, slow, tedious process getting back into running. But that didn’t stop me from completing my 11th marathon at just 5 months postpartum.
I’m proud of those accomplishments. I’m proud that, in the face of struggle and doubt, I showed up. I put in the work to the best of my ability. But I’m tired of just showing up. I want to race; I want to compete.
And so I’ve started training hard again. Getting out to the track and running repeats, logging the miles, signing up for races. And while my body is getting back in shape, I’ve struggled mentally. My mind has been holding me back, telling me to be careful. Saying lies about how I’ll always run, but never be fast again. I’ve believed the lies. I’ve let myself think that the hard years have done me in, that there will just be more setbacks, that I need to just settle for mediocre. But that all changed this weekend.
I ran the We Care Twin Cities Half Marathon in Bloomington on Saturday. It’s the same half marathon I ran last year at 31 weeks pregnant. My goal was 1:45, an hour faster than last year. Granted, 1:45 is still not great for me. But it’s a lot faster than I’ve been in the more recent years. I felt like if I could get out of my head and push myself, I could at least come close to my former self. That’s all I needed, a glimpse of what used to be.
It was a really tough race. I forgot what it’s like to pace myself for such a distance. The course also goes on a bike path and there are other runners using it at the same time. I would find myself trying to race them only to realize they weren’t even participating. By mile 4, my mantra had become “run your race.” Quit worrying about everyone else and just do what you came out here to do.
It was a straight out and back. They had a clock set up at the turn around. As I made my way around it, it read 51 minutes. I could do it. I could reach my goal. A few miles later, back on the bike path, I stepped on some kind of shell and rolled my right ankle. Fortunately I didn’t injure it, but it did leave me more cautious and I slowed down until I got off the path.
When I was down to the last few miles, my mantra was “give it all.” Don’t hold back, don’t doubt, just go. I crossed the finish line at 1:43. It was an amazing feeling to see the clock as I crossed the line. Plenty of runners finished before me and I wasn’t an overall winner for the day, but that didn’t matter. Because for the first time in years, I had hope. I believed in me and I believed my best wasn’t behind me. That I could keep moving forward and improving with every run.
So I’m going to keep heading out there, putting one foot in front of the other. There might be setbacks and I might not ever be as fast as I once was, but there’s still hope. And that’s all I need.