I started walking towards the exit gate, heading out towards what I had been both dreading and working towards for the last 4 months, semi-regularly. I was fumbling with my keys, trying to get them into the zippered part of my camelback when the brisk cold air made my fingers tighten on my right hand. The hand without the glove on yet. I got halfway to the gate when I realized I dropped my glove and I had to turn back. “Should I just call it? Is this a sign from the universe?” I thought to myself. But I knew my pride was too strong. I had to give it everything I had.
I made it to the gate, I turned on my Fitbit and hit the start button on my running app, RunCoachSays. It was now or never and I knew, I had pancakes waiting for me on the other side of this run, if I did, in fact, run it. I pressed shuffle play on my playlist that I made the night before and to my delight, the first song that came on was by The Piano Boys, an instrumental mash up of Fight Song and Amazing Grace. This was my anthem. I turned on my headlamp and I started running.
I’m not a runner by blood or by passion. I’m a runner by chance. I teach yoga and not long after I started teaching at a gym, did I start coming a little early to class and get on the treadmill. Every now and then I would increase the speed and run for 30 seconds at a time up to a minute, eventually onto half a mile. I noticed my body was getting used to getting past the hump. The part where I have to match my breath with my heart rate and eventually my legs would not feel like 400lbs of lead. I didn’t enjoy it, but my body was capable of little by little more and more and I was impressed.
The last time I had felt impressed with my physical body was when I did my yoga teacher training in India. I realized my physical body had flexibility that matched the flexibility of my mind and that was the first time I felt proud of what encased my feelings and my thoughts. Then I started running, not a lot, but enough to bring back that euphoric pride.
On June 10, 2017 I received a devastating call that my soul sister’s husband took his life on June 9th. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Words were hard to find. To be honest, I was hard to find. I was supposed to teach yoga that day at noon, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t find the effort to guide people on a journey to joy and an open heart when mine, my own heart was hurt and shutting down. Instead, I drove to the running trail that I would walk and sometimes run bit by bit. I got out of my car and I started running. I had tears falling under my sunglasses, my face splotchy from heat and sadness. The next thing I knew, I was back at my car. I looked behind me thinking about what I had just done. I ran three miles. I ran it with him, for him and about him. I ran for her, and them and what was and now what isn’t. I remembered seeing him running next to me, pushing me, like he had pushed himself so much. I crouched down, my face in my knees and I sobbed out loud. I had just run 3 miles without incident, without breaks, with pain but not because of the run, but because of everything else. And so it began.
I left for Virginia Beach just a few days later to be with my soul sister and do whatever I could to be of service. And each day, I left and went for a run. I ran further than before. I ran to the water and then I ran to the pier and then I ran down to the pier. And finally on that 3rd day, I got to the pier and started walking around in circles. I called everyone in my family, and one answered. And when she did, I crouched down, put my head into my knees and I wailed out loud. I ran to get out the tears. I ran away from what waited for me when I stopped.
On June 9th every year after that, I run, that same trail, in his memory, in their honor. Because I learned that my physical body and my mind were capable and that too, should be honored as so many are not that lucky to have both. On the 19th of January in 2020 I ran my first half marathon. It was in 2019 when I decided to see if I could run further and with other purpose and on a whim, I signed up for the Chevron Houston Marathon the following year. I trained and surprised myself multiple times when 3 went to 4 to 6 to 8 to 11 miles even. I couldn’t believe my body was capable. When the day came for the half, I walked to that starting line and when it was my turn to start running, I burst into tears. Those same tears falling down my cheeks because I realized where this all began. When I finished the race, the first person I texted was my soul sister. “I did it Boots! I ran the half marathon”. I told her I cried, I thought of him and them and I felt him run with me for a bit and tell me he was proud. She cried with pride too.
The reason I run got away from me when I started training for this second half. I didn’t want to do it without the energy from the crowds and the joy and cheering from my family who would be along the route in different places. But I had registered in that euphoria from 2020, and I had a commitment. I was unsure I would be able to do it, my body ached in each training run. I would long for a red light so that I might slow down but dreaded starting back up. I was afraid my body would fail me, because my mind was in such a negative place. I knew that I wasn’t in control of my thoughts anymore. This pandemic made sure of that. The chaos that this country is in, made sure of that when I can’t turn away from the news. It has been a lot and too much at times too.
I decided I was going to give it all that I could, that is all I could ask for. If I only run 9 or 11 without stopping, that would be okay, because that would be the furthest I had gone since the 2020 race. But I was also afraid of the shame I would feel. What if I can’t do that? What will people say? Here I am, 41 years old and worried about what people, who know nothing about the capability of my physical body nor where my mind is, would say if I didn’t complete it. I learned every reason why to let go of the ego at that teacher training, and yet, it’s all I had at that moment.
So when I pressed play and the mash up song came on and I started running, unexpectant, my heart filled with pride for trying and my eyes filled with tears for the why. I thought of the year, I thought of the past 3.5 years, I thought of Bill and I thought of my soul sister, I thought of my parents waving enthusiastically at me when I passed them on the run last year and my sister and nieces jumping up and down when I ran by them. I thought of my friends rooting for me and believing in me and I smiled through my joyful tears. Because no matter what thoughts were in my way leading up to this moment, I never once let them defeat me.
And as I ran along busy streets and through quiet neighborhoods, it occurred to me that once again, I was not doing this alone. For not one light was red when I came upon it, the universe and maybe Bill, conspired against my every self-doubt and never gave me a reason to quit. And when that 13.1 bell rang and I came to a stop just two tenths of a mile past where I started, I felt the sides of my mouth touch the tips of my ears and wet droplets of joy come from my eyes. And I reported back, I did it. I did it. And the first text I sent. “I did it Boots. I ran the half marathon”.