After kissing Peter good-bye and walking into the runners corral — it became about finding my place in the Starting Line-up. CGI Racing Group was the organizer for the Unite Half Marathon, and again — this was very well-organized. Inside the corral, they had pace runners for every minute-mile category, with red balloons tied to their yellow vests, marked with the minute mile target.
So as I entered the corral, I walked past the elite runners, past the 7 minute-milers, the 8 minute-milers, and the 9, 10, and 11 minute-milers, until I found “my people“. The 12 minute-miler group. The 12 minute-mile pace team was a family, Mom, Dad, and teenage son. These people were my “rabbits“. The people I would chase, and follow, and do my very best to keep up with. If I did, then I would cross the Finish Line within the target range I had set for myself — somewhere between 2 hours 37 minutes and 2 hours 45 minutes. As I walked past all of the gazelle, I couldn’t help notice how lean and fit these people looked. They were health-Y! With a Capital Y. Many many were also very young. This was Rutgers University after all. It’s likely alot of these fresh-faced folks were out drinking beer last night, and still managing to run today. But whatever — keep walking Diane, YOUR people are out there.
And alas, there they were. A Family of 3, with red balloons tied to their vests, and on the balloons stamped in black ink was the number 12. Ahhh, 12. Good ole’ number 12. It’s a good number, no? I was home. So I walked up to them and said, with a smile and good humor, “So are we the proud 12 minute milers, Yes?” The pacer Rabbit Family said YES, YES we are! And a couple of other ladies said, Yup, you are in the right place. I added, with sarcastic humor — “well good, cuz those people (pointing at the herd of gazelle in front of us) annoy me — but hey, they will be gone soon anyway! Ha!” Their laughs and smiles showed me — these are good people. They have stories, like I do. I found my people. This was going to be good.
I never got their names, but I spent the 10 minutes in the Runners Corral, talking with two other women. Great women. Here are their stories. I believe the older woman said she was 51, the younger woman was 43. W51 asked if this was our first time. W43 and I giggled with nervous laughter and said YES ma’am! W43 continued to declare that she would be coming in last! HA! W51 challenged that she would fight her for that title! Nice people. It just emoted from them. Perfect strangers one minute ago …..kindred spirits now and for the next 13.1 miles. It was lovely.
W51 began to encourage us, saying she had done this before. We asked her — Share, Tell Us Anything, Everything. Teach Us Just One Thing in this Next 10 minutes That Will Help Us……or, ….just share yourself, and help us forget our nervousness. It was the latter that began to emote from W51. She told us that her husband had Stage 4 Cancer about five years ago. [Ok, side bar — as I walked up to the 12 min-miler group, I saw a man and a teenage girl say good luck and kiss W51, so…..I was already hoping this story had a happy ending!!] W51 described the aggressive treatment her husband had endured, and in the middle of it all, when they were fighting to stay positive that he would live through his cancer, her husband said — “When I am better, I am going to run a marathon.” Here he is, at the bottom of life’s trials, and he is planning his future. [GOD, Thank you for being relentless with your spirit!] It was in those moments when he gave his family back their hope….hope for his survival. Fast forward 5 years. He survived. And more than that — W51 told us her husband ran his Marathon last year — the Marine Core Marathon in Fredericksburg, Va.. Semper Fi! Semper Fi!!! So there was W51 watching her husband, cancer survivor, who fought his way back to life…..running a Marathon. In that moment, she told us, she decided…..If He can do that, there is no reason I can’t. And she began to run. Since Jan 2011, she has run 12 races, and half of them were Half Marathons! She said to us, as we stood there in the corral, having met her 2 minutes ago…..She always finishes in the bottom x%, but that doesn’t matter. The way she figures it…..she is ahead of those who quit, and Way Ahead of all those who never started. O.M.G. She just taught us the Most Important Lesson we could have wanted 5 minutes before the start of the race. We were all winners. Winners in our own lives. Life is Amazing.
W43 said she wasn’t sure why she was there. She signed up for the Half Marathon because she needed something for Herself. She is going through a divorce, and is suffering through all the normal, painful things that process brings. I can relate, I had been through that myself in 1999. Apparently when she was considering doing the Unite Half, and she told her husband — he laughed at her. Told her, she could never do something like that. There she stood, a beautiful woman, a bit broken down by her life’s experiences. She looked a little bit like a fish out of water. Hadn’t trained much. But she had decided to do the Half because she wants to Believe in Herself again. That’s what she said. She didn’t say — –she wants to prove her dog of a husband wrong (although I’m sure there’s a bit of that in there too — hell she’s human). She knew she was going to walk alot of it. Yet she was determined to Finish. That’s what W51 and I encouraged her to do. She had her music, she had pep in her step. She was out in the Big World — Remaking Herself. Oh Man, how many of us can relate to that. Go pound your name into the ground W43. Go Find the next phase of your Life — And Live the Hell Out of It. You have So Much in front of you. I sent some of my hopes with her as we began to run. God Speed W43, God Speed!
And of course, there was me. From Couch-Potato to Half Marathon Runner minus 75 pounds and void of Doubt and Fear. Unstoppable!
That was an amazing 10 minutes of my life. Unexpected. Beautiful. Three women, with some Pain at the core of their Purpose, but Full of Purpose none-the-less. When the drum line began, we got excited together. When the Star Spangled Banner was sung, we put our hands on our hearts and sang together. When the gun went off, we wished each other a Good Race, and with waves and smiles for each other……..
More to come…..
Ciao for now….Diane