Sunday, October 23, 2011

"She believed she could so she did"

I purchased this tiny plaque shortly after closing on my first solo home nearly 5 years ago. I had SOLO in spades - I was divorced and had transplanted my young daughter and I to a place where I had neither friends nor relatives. This 7 inch plaque hangs in my kitchen mostly ignored - like the tree you pass everyday but only truly notice about twice a year - when it blooms or the falling leaves become a nuisance.  For a while I had a few written wishes, folded and placed in the back of it, then last summer I just decided that most of them were either unattainable now or no longer reflected my real wishes so I discarded them all.  However for about the last 3 weeks I've been thinking about this plaque and last Saturday it took on new meaning.

I mentioned in previous posts that my BFF Teri talked me into signing up for the Baltimore Half Marathon.  I said "sure" like somebody in reasonable shape who could actually RUN a marathon. Now the important point here is that Teri joined a running club in January while I do not run. Let me say that again, the Voluptuous Brown Gurl DOES NOT RUN.  Not even to the bathroom. I don 't like the way my stuff jiggles and I don't like gasping for breath either. Running has never been one of those things that made me say "Gosh I wish I could do that".  Watching somebody dive into a pool and/or swim does make me wishful, running not ever.  So we decided that walking was the option for me because I do love to walk - endurance I have, speed I do not. In the back of my mind I kept thinking we'd never see this baby to fruition.  I figured we'd get close and then back out. Plus I really didn't wanna part with the $95 entry fee. Lo and behold, Teri texted me while relaxing at Myrtle Beach that she'd just registered. "Oh Fudge, I can't believe she did that to me" were very close to my exact words.  Owing to the fact that I try desperately to keep my word, I reluctantly registered once I got home from vacation. We live about 100 miles apart but found a training schedule and a wonderful website called to track our training together and we were off. 

Anyway, I logged over 200 miles during 5 months of "training", posted my big challenges on Facebook, lost NO weight though I did tone up enough to lose a clothes size. Still I was afraid that something would come up to prevent me from accomplishing the goal. And I did get a virus causing severe sore throat and general malaise recurrently in the 8 days before the race. Then the most unwelcome of visitors invaded my nether region the day before the race!! Seriously Mama Nature, that couldn't have been put off by 36 hours?? But most disturbing, the Monday before the race I woke feeling incomprehensibly ungrounded due to the recent death of my Dad. It felt like my very foundation had been shaken and I couldn't stand straight or see through the fog. While my Mom is like the tarp one uses for a tent - sheltering, knowing all; my Dad was like the stakes that hold it in place and allow it to bend and twist as necessary without uprooting it -  unforgivably easy to forget until they aren't any longer there. His absence has thrown me off balance in a manner I never ever expected.  First because while I've imagined just about everyone I know dead at one time or another; he was the exception. Second because as an only child and a single mother, I am truly sandwiched between both my beloved Mom and my wunderkind.  The feeling is still with me but I know time, patience and yes, prayer will help me to sort it out.

Anyway, I decided, finally, that I had trained and deserved to give race participation an honest shot. Did I mention my increased anguish upon picking up my race packet and seeing all the skinny marathon types? Yeah, that was there too. This is also where the whole race becomes bittersweet because from the moment I thought about competing, my Dad had known. I had always imagined that He, my Mom and daughter would drop me off for the race, have breakfast and hang out at the Inner Harbor while they waited for me to finish and then pick me up for some of his infamous ribbing after the race.  My dad was a former Marine after all and they can handle anything or so they'd have you believe. That fantasy died with him on August 25th and I refused to think about the details of getting to/fro until literally the day before the race. Anyway I did finally arrange rides asking my friend Sandy to drop me off at the light rail station at the airport instead of dealing with the congestion around the downtown start line.  I asked my cousin to pick me up after the race since I knew there was zero chance of me driving myself to my parent's home afterward.

The morning of the race started a little disconcertingly as we approached the airport I said to Sandy "do you know where the light rail stop is", her reply was " no, I thought you did" and I then realized it was my job to at least provide directions to where I needed to be that early on a Saturday morning - DUH! Then I thought, I can not believe THIS is how I'm gonna self-sabotage this whole race business by missing my damn train?  Well fortunately, nothing rattles Sandy and we drove around a bit until we got proper directions and of course we were just a couple blocks away. I boarded the train and as I got closer to the start line I got a little excited but nothing like Teri who was practically ebullient and raring to go. I kept looking behind us saying "I'm at the end. Oh Lord, don't let me be last". While we were participating together, we were not "together" as she was running and I was not.  Anyway the first 3 miles were as hard as they always are, there's something about getting started that is daunting and separates the serious from those who are not. At Mile 3 the full marathoners course merged with ours. There were lots of them who had run earlier and were taking a break walking (at their mile 16) so I was no longer last, phew! I was told there'd be bands etc and there were but I was in the tail-end of the procession so most were packing up shop by the time I got to them.  Trying to be the good two shoes I too often am, I heeded their admonition on the earphones and ipods and mine even though I'd only trained to music.  I would even go back home  to retrieve my jams, if I started out on a walk without it. I found it the beats super helpful in keeping or increasing my pace. Harmoniously challenged, I trudged on. The day was lovely albeit a bit windy.  The scenery after the 1/2 point was truly gorgeous. As I walked around Lake Montebello clogin in on mile 8, I found myself wanting so badly to use the facilities (a porta-john), to sit down,  to effin' give up and go home.  I actually started to cry with sobs and tears. Then I asked my Dad to help me finish because I knew the ridicule I'd incur if he were alive and I quit. Also I didn't want my little girl to see me fail - though I belive that to is a lesson children should learn form their parents. Just not today. So I kept walking (without the potty break) past my high school alma mater and neighborhood I lived in for a good part of my teen and early adult years.  It was when I got to my old stomping grounds that I knew I had what it took to finish because I had a good gauge on my time (well under the 5 hour limit for finishing) and I knew those streets. I'd walked them many times when I was too impatient to await the bus as a teen. Nothing, not even a charlie horse on the 11 mile was gonna stop me from finishing. As I quickly downed a banana I had the good sense to snag and kept walk in a matter of minutes, the pain was gone.  When I was about 1/2 mile from finished I heard some people say "Keep going Sis, you're almost there".  I turned to them, smiled and said "Thanks, I got this". I may not have looked like it but I had trained for that day and I was prepared. I finished 4 hours, 8 minutes and 58 seconds after I crossed the start line - 18 minutes faster than I anticipated even with music. Teri and her family were there to cheer me with a poster of my Dad that brought me to tears - for  a second time that day. I got a cool medal to go with my awesome orange official tee and took a photo in the Champions village. At my Mom's house, there were jubilant and ample "Congratulations" all around, finally a toilet break and a nice hot shower, my requested victory dinner - meatloaf, mashed potatoes, greens, 2 glasses of Sweet Bitch Shiraz and a very warm bed.

My accomplishment took about 16 hours of sleep to fully wear off.  I have no idea who actually won the marathon, their time nor prize. I could google it but it has no bearing on me at this point.  Teri mentioned later a piece of trivia I hadn't known or even thought about - that that less than 2% of the population has ever finished a marathon. What I do know is that in the most unlikely of occurrences (a half marathon) the most unlikely of people (a very Voluptuous Brown Gurl) once again surprised herself (and quite a few others) doing something so outrageous and unexpected that only she could have believed and so she did...and the proof, my medal, is the first thing I see when I awake in the mornings - egging me on to the next big thing.

UPDATE 6/4/2012: She believed she could so she did....AGAIN with the Wunderkind!!!
This past weekend the wunderkind and I participated in our first 10K (6.2 miles) together - sort of -  she ran 'cause that's what kids do but y'all know the VBG don't run - unless something ferocious is chasing. Anyway, I managed to take in the awesome Annapolis MD scenery at a slightly faster pace than I did the half marathon in Baltimore - see what a little Bay air will do for ya. As I neared the finish line though, taking in all the chatter around me (this ones done 20 halfs, that ones done 5 full) , I came to the conclusion that I don't need to keep paying someone else to track my time though the Big Browns do seem to love a challenge! I think that rather than focus on the being active we give far too much power to the act of running which is just not sustainable for so many of us -it's hard on the knees of even those who ARE hgt/wgt proportionate.  We ALL walk, doing it more purposefully and as main mode of strengthening and fat burning exercise it what endeavor.  So if you're in a race I cheer for ya but decline to join- have a blast. After a stint on the driving range today, after many years of wanting it, I think there's bit of golfing in my future :)

1 comment:

S said...

Wicked - good for you!