I’m not going to lie. This is one of the hardest blog posts I’ve ever written because it acknowledges something so profound to me that it makes me emotional to the point of tearing up. I suspect for anyone else whose ever had a dream and worked hard to make that dream a reality, the feeling is the same. Reliving what it took to make the dream come true and acknowledging how the whole experience changed you as a person can and probably should be an emotional journey, peppered with moments of great clarity as to what it all means.
So my dream was to recover enough from Lyme disease- to go from having spent the three previous years as an invalid- to running a marathon. And not just ANY marathon, I specifically wanted to run the New York City Marathon, because, though I didn’t know much about marathons at the time, what I did know was that the NYC Marathon was THE LARGEST marathon in the world. And I figured, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it BIG! *(And I honestly can’t say enough good things about this marathon, and again, it’s hard to think about it without tearing up, but I’ll say more about it at the end of this post.)
A life changing experience
I was fortunate enough to have friends who had run the NYC Marathon, and they all told me the same thing; that crossing that finish line would be a life-changing experience. I didn’t know back in October 2010 how true that insight would turn out to be, and all the gifts that running would give me along the way to that finish line. As I reflect back on that time and think about where I am today, it is all down to the gifts running has given me and the passion that running has created in my life. So here’s my list of 10 gifts running has brought to my life.
10 gifts running has given me
As defined by Merriam-Webster: a period of new life, growth, or activity. Lyme disease left me scarred both emotionally and physically. Running rebuilt my body, slowly, day-by-day, week-by-week. The rebuilding started to repair not only my physical person, but my mental state; fortifying my soul with every step of every run. When I was ill, I had to accept that I would not be the same person after my illness that I had been before. But running made me believe I could and would be a better person – stronger, fitter, with a better appreciation of life and all of the beauty and love that surrounded me.
As defined by Merriam-Webster: a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something. As I recently discovered from interviewing my mother, it wasn’t just me that wondered if I could run a marathon post Lyme, but yeah, my mom and my family had their doubts. None of us knew what long-term damage Lyme disease may have inflicted on my body, but in my mind, there was only one way to find out- put it to the test and see. With every training run, I started to develop more and more confidence that I was on the road to recovery and that it would last. Crossing that finish line in NYC made me believe in myself again, that I was strong and that if I set my mind to do something, I could succeed at it. Lyme robbed me of that feeling for several years. Brain fog and constant fatigue left me second guessing everything I did during the time I was ill. Completing NYC rebuilt my confidence in myself and the confidence to do more to help others who were also battling Lyme.
As defined by Merriam-Webster: the aim or goal of a person : what a person is trying to do, become, etc. Running has given me an aim, goals and desire, (not to mention a reason to get out of bed at 4:30am). I know I’m just a mom from Maine and came to the running game later in life, (I ran NYC when I was 46 years old), but running gave me the goal of trying to see what else I could achieve by running. It gave me an external goal of advocating for others who could not run, and a personal goal to see if I could run all of the six World Major Marathons. Because with purpose comes number 4 on this list… passion.
As defined by Merriam-Webster: a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. Once you get the running bug, there is no feeling like it. Sure, there are days where I feel tired, or my legs feel like cement, but my passion for running and what you can achieve with it, remains intact. Running is the best form of therapy there is out there. The pleasure of experiencing a beautiful sunrise, or the first steps you take onto snow covered trails, are all priceless rewards my passion for running has given me. Lyme had me seeing life in shades of grey for a few years, my passion for running has helped me have a passion for life itself, and has helped me to see life again in full-color, in all of its glory and splendor.
As defined by Merriam-Webster: firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end. Running has given me the determination to never give up both on the track and in life. It has made me determined to give everything i do best I have to give; from being a mom, to performing my day job with zeal, honesty and integrity. It has also given me the determination to make dreams reality, and to advocate where I see injustice, especially for those battling chronic illness.
As defined by Merriam-Webster: the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous. Crossing the finish line of the NYC Marathon restored my sense of courage, not to overcome something dangerous, but something difficult. As I said, Lyme disease left me scarred emotionally as well as physically. It brought about the destruction of my courage to live, to see if the next day would restore my health. Every step of every run it took to cross that finish line rebuilt my courage to take on life again and changed my mindset from fearing what the next day would hold, to looking forward to the possibilities the next day would have in store.
As defined by Merriam-Webster: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. For anyone who’s every followed an 18 week runner’s training plan, you know the kind of discipline it takes to follow the plan and get in as many of the prescribed runs as you can while balancing a squillion others things. I found this kind of discipline helped me focus more both at home and and to work. It helped me to prioritize, compartmentalize, and make better life decisions.
As defined by Merriam-Webster: a friendly feeling or attitude : kindness or help given to someone. Running has brought so many wonderful people into my life, rekindled old friendships and built long-lasting new ones. The kindness and friendship shown to me by other runners on the streets of the NYC marathon will stay with me forever and has also given me the courage to make new friends, to open up, to share my running with others, and to help others along their journey. As we say in my running group, “no one gets left behind.” We find a way to make it work and stick together, like true friends do.
As defined by Merriam-Webster: a feeling of appreciation or thanks. Reading this list, there’s not a single thing NOT to be grateful for. But I’m also grateful for my family who have done nothing but support me throughout all of this. It doesn’t matter how great any marathon or running event is, without the support of my family, I would not be able to do any of it.
As defined by Merriam-Webster: a state of tranquillity. Running has brought me full-circle. It has repaired me both mentally and physically, it has strengthened me and fortified me spiritually. Running is contemplative, a form of meditation. It calms and soothes me. It has given me a sense of peace and tranquility within myself and with the world, all of which is priceless.
There are many other gifts running has given me; compassion, empathy, community, fortitude, belonging, and on any given day these would substitute for any of my 10 gifts above. But one thing will always remain the same, the gift that crossing the finish line at NYC WAS life-changing and for that, I will always be grateful.
*(A note about the NYC Marathon. I couldn’t have picked a better marathon as my first marathon. The crowd support helped me finish. The extraordinary volunteers, the organization, the other runners, the support and love exuding from the streets of the city was electrifying. This marathon propelled me into the world of marathon running and gave me the running bug. Since NYC was such a great experience, I decided to take on other WMMajors and they have all equally been as wonderful, teary, emotional and rewarding.)
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