What happens when 4 girls and 3.1 miles collide?
I was scared that I would be last on Saturday, I was nervous I would not do well, disappoint Lindsey and the girls, the folks rooting for me and myself. I don’t know if I was really prepared for the experience that would unfold for me on Saturday. In many ways this was one of the most important days so far in the dog-lbs journey.
We met as we always do at Urban Active, I gave the girls their t-shirts I had made for us to wear. The dog-lbs logo on the front and each persons name on the back, only the back of my shirt says simply TRISTAN, a reminder that while this 5k was about me, he is part of this path I walk and I never want to let that stray from my head or heart. We pin our numbers on and I ask a plethora of questions, the timing chip is in the number you pin to your shirt, pretty slick, eh? I had Charmaine write the words “you got this” upside down across the bottom of my shirt in case I need to look down at it, trying to give myself the tools I need to do the best I can. We drive to find parking and it is a sea of congestion, we park and walk up stairs and find our way to the starting point of the race. There are so many people, some are dressed in wacky outfits, some look like they could be on the cover of runners world and a few even look like me. The starting cannon echos in my head and then we are moving forward and instantly I think I am going to throw up, but I look at Jess’s feet next to me, I don’t look up and I pray I don’t bump into someone but I just watch her feet then it clears a bit we begin to run, and we are off.
The next 3.1 miles would go by so fast and yet in the moment went so slowly that I thought we would never get to the end. In the 56 minutes and 16 seconds it took me to complete the 5k, these are the things I remember most as I sit here writing Sunday night at 8:56 pm.
The faces that would pop out at me as I struggled along, Amy, Jef, Christine and Ryan on Third street, Deb with her coffee cup and sweet southern twang yelling for me to make it up the hill on Sycamore street, literally running up the hill with me, tears in her eyes yelling “You can make it girl”! I focused on my feet many times not looking up but trying to just focus on my feet, remembering Meggie and how good she made me feel when I was so ashamed and embarrassed to walk into the Running Spot. Billie Jo (Jessica’s boss) who I don’t even know followed us the WHOLE way popping up when you least expected it but when I needed it the most, cheering and running with us, holding up signs and pushing me further as there is no way I could stop running with that amazing energy washing over me.
There is a downhill spot before we hit Eggleston Avenue and I broke away from running in the street to going by myself on the sidewalk. That stretch makes me feel like a real runner, the gravity, the wind, the effortlessness of it is my reward in that moment and then we turn the corner. I walked a fair bit that stretch and Lindsey looks back at me and says “ready to run?” she would do this often and the answer was always yes in my heart (though my body did not always agree with that answer) we would run past my friends Nikki and Lora, giant grins on their faces and after a gross sweaty hug of support off I went running down the road to catch back up with the girls.
I find myself totally choked up trying to write about these three amazing women who I have come to adore. Charmaine’s support unwavering from the very beginning walking with me to the pool as I counted the steps, trying desperately to free myself from the cloak of shame in wearing a swimsuit in public. Jessica who has infected me with her love of running, and without fail shows up ready to work hard and set an example of what is possible when you push yourself. Then there is Lindsey, and I might sound like a broken record and she will say that it’s me who is doing the hard work but I am here to tell you yet again that if not for her dedication to me and what I am doing I simply would not be where I am today. She makes me laugh, she kicks my butt in the best possible way, she pushes me, she inspires me and motivates me to be a better person both inside and out….and most importantly she has not walked away or given up on me even when I sometimes feel like giving up on myself.
We turn down Pete Rose Way and it’s a straight shot, I am worried about running too soon for the final push and not being able to finish running the whole way to the end, I want to run across the finish line. I see Lauren standing on the corner with Dena cheering, a surprise that means the world to me and makes my feet move faster. Jessica, Charmaine and Lindsey stay right with me, it’s not fast barely a jog really all of them capable of running much much faster, and I am overwhelmed at this point thinking of it all as the past months, past years, a lifetime of struggling with my body comes down to simply getting my feet across the finish line in front of me, the tears come and they stream down my face as I run by the supporters lining the street who are yelling and cheering for all the people that have made it this far. I see Jess’s sweet mom with an awesome sign she made with little dog bones glued all over it that said “You got this Lori”, and I look over and see my mom with my dear friend John standing just feet from the finish line. It is over in an instance and I lose the battle and tears come and I can feel myself let go of another layer of shame. I stand proud as a woman drapes a medal around my neck.
I thought it was over at that point, my work was done and I take my tired body over to see my mom, and that is when I witness what will stay etched in my mind for a very long time. A young man who we had passed at some point being pushed in a wheelchair who was now just feet from the finish line. He slowly forces his crippled body from the chair and with the assistance of a walker he pushes through the space in front of him each and every part of his body a massive struggle to move and control, all I can focus on is his face and the smile that stretches beyond the metal containment barriers and wraps itself around each one of us with tears in our eyes sharing this moment with him. Just inches to go and the announcer says he name and with his head held high, he looks up and pulls his middle and index finger to his lips and blows a kiss up to the sky. Your life is truly what you make of it, and it only took me 3.1 miles to learn this lesson. That is the real prize I am taking away from my very first 5k.
Even though I did not finish last, as a matter of fact 675 people finished after me, it only matters that I finished. Everyone has a story, a struggle and a reason to walk across that finish line the details and stats often mean nothing at all but individual triumphs mean everything.
Thank you is not nearly enough for all the support, encouragement and love I have been shown over the last several months from so so many people. I ran across that finish line Saturday morning with all of you in my heart.
Here are some pics I thought I would share.