In a a sea of sneakers, smiles and untold stories I stood there feeling small and insignificant as my heart raced anticipating what the next few hours would hold. I had built a fortress of strength, the people who surrounded me have already walked so many miles with me and while I felt safe sandwiched between Bob, Mel and Jonsey inching my way forward to the starting line of the Flying Pig 10K one small step at a time, I knew I would stand alone at some point in the next 6.2 miles.
We were moving before I realized it and out of instinct I began running, and I ran until I could not go any further, the bridge into Kentucky was now in sight when I felt the sun on my face and the wind blowing hard from the sky above. I thought of my Dad and touched his wedding ring I wore around my neck on a shiny silver chain borrowed from my mom the night before.
Jonsey and I chatted for about a mile alternating walking and running along the way, we had been training on Wednesday nights for several months yet I felt anxious about being on my own. Bob and Mel had respected my choice to try to run as much of the race as I could and knew it was important to me to at least do a portion of the miles alone. They decided in the 11th hour to walk the 10k themselves, bringing some friends Vickie and Tami along for the adventure. It felt good to know they were close by, as I have said before they have become family to me, I never doubt that they will be there when I need them, I could not love them more. As we made our way down the road along side the Ohio river I just couldn’t make myself say the words out loud to Jonesy , but she knew when the time had come, “I am going to go ahead and run for awhile”, nothing else was said and with a hug she was gone.
There was stillness in the repetitive movement of my feet. Each step was neither random nor careless but a definite firmly planted choice to stomp out and discard years of my soul’s yard sale junk I had accumulated over a lifetime. I fought my way through 2.5 miles as we wound through Newport and Covington until I saw the bridge in front of me heading back into Ohio. I wanted to run across the whole thing, I began to move and shortly into the run I wanted to stop, it felt hopeless then my phone buzzed and I looked over at my ipone strapped around my arm playing my music to see a text from Lindsey in Knoxville that read “Getting closer to the end…you can do it!!!” I thought of Lindsey so often during the race, hearing her voice in my head, encouraging me in her words…”ready to run?” so I turned up my music and ran…..
With each step I thought of all the years my body was unable to move, trapped and tethered by a food chain so strong that it seemed unthinkable to break free from its insatiable grip. As I made my way over the bridge, with each jolt of my feet hitting the pavement it was as the earth beneath me cracked open and memories of my past were unleashed. It was a fight, an all out war between words of the past, a sucker punch from the greasy haired teen boys of my youth chanting ….”Damn lardass, how did you get so fucking fat?” then the one, two counter punch in the uplifting lyrics of the songs that so many supporters sent my way to download for this day.
(Give me scars give me pain
Then they’ll say to me, say to me, say to me
There goes the fighter, there goes the fighter
Here comes the fighter
That’s what they’ll say to me, say to me, say to me,
This one’s a fighter)
In the end I fought through to the other side of the bridge, exhausted I kept moving.
My friend Nikki is a marathon runner, she was running the full Flying Pig Marathon the next day but she ran the 10 k that morning with another friend Micheal and had said to me she would circle back and run with me at the end if I needed her to be there. After crossing the bridge I texted yet another friend who was with Nikki letting her know I definitely needed Nikki to run me in at the end. Lora responded “We are all waiting for you at mile 5″…. and so they were, standing at mile 5 with open arms and silly smiles, I was energized immediately. Nikki, Lora, Micheal and Michael (yes two adorable friends both named Michael!) walked with me till I was ready to run again. As we made our way closer to the finish line time was getting close to the start of the 5K, which Nikki was running in as well. (yep, she is THAT amazing!) So Lora, who we all call Panda said she would do it. You have to remember that Lora was not even registered for the race, she wore no running bib, she was not really dressed to run, but that did not stop her from running me in, standing next to me and telling me over and over that I was almost there and I could do this. I saw the finish line ahead of me and I did not stop, crossing the finish line under the two hour goal I had set for myself.
I receive my medal and continued through the runners tunnel grabbing a bottle of water but walking past all the other offerings till I reached the end where I would be met by my family, Bob and Melinda were right there with giant hugs for the taking. There was a familiar face in a friend from my work at Playhouse in the Park, another marathon runner who came to support me, which meant so much to know Deb took the time be there. I immediately went to get my mom for a celebratory healthy breakfast with the gang, it was important to me that she share in this day.
I am not sure how to put into words the feeling of crossing over that finish line and what it meant for me. Fifteen years ago I weighed over 600lbs, two years ago, I could barely walk one mile at 400lbs. Saturday I finished a 10K race, and it does not matter to me that I did not run the whole race without stopping to walk when I needed to walk, nor does not matter that it took me 1:53:36 to finish the 6.2 mile course. Not giving up is what matters, and in the end working each day to be the best you can be for yourself and the world around you is worth the fight. Keep fighting….
Perhaps pictures say it best.
(Keep clicking on the images for a larger view)
I will keep fighting my battle to become healthier and I will continue fighting for the dogs that sit on death row in high kill shelters with little to no hope of getting out alive. Rescues like Recycled Doggies many times are the only lifeline to freedom for these dogs. Please consider a donation to help support the amazing work they do! They believe all dogs should have a chance…dogs like my sweet boy Tristan who went from this:
If it’s a dollar a mile, or more every little bit helps and I am so grateful for any amount donated to this cause that means so much to me. A heartfelt thank you to those who have donated already, I am always amazed at the generosity of others to make a difference for the dogs who have been left behind.
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