Despite my fears of being last, a recurrent neck injury and my truly messed up final month of training, Roberto and I finished our first half-marathon. Yep. I said our first because it probably won’t be our last and we are already planning to be part of the Parkway Classic in April. The blisters that emerged somewhere between miles six and eight are going to have to be popped soon to prevent real trouble, but they don’t hurt much. I’m still glowing and a bit high from our accomplishment. We had set a goal of finishing in 3 hours and 30 minutes and made it with 42 seconds to spare, crossing the finish line together.
The Team in Training inspiration dinner proved to be both funny and heartwarming, partly because one of the presenters spent a good deal of her time photo-bombing. That might sound rude, but eight year old Emily Whitehead is a survivor whose parents shared the story behind the amazing film “Fire With Fire” and the hijacked-HIV cure that Emily was the first child ever to receive. Watching Emily give her parents bunny ears while her father talked about his frustrations and fears during the process underscored the importance of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s mission of funding researchers and supporting families. Thanks to our donors and the donors before them, Emily is now a pretty normal child with an extraordinary story.
There were more immediate, selfish pleasures too. For the first time since going gluten-and-dairy free, there was something for me to eat everywhere we went with a minimum of fuss. All I had to do was ask. In fact, I even got a free lunch because my post-race pasta took longer than the kitchen felt was right.
The weekend was not perfect by any means — in fact it was raining when we landed in Orlando and headed over to the expo to collect our race materials. I chickened out of my impulse to carry Donald Duck along for the race in the spare water bottle slot on my belt, a slot that was there because one of my water bottles went missing the night we packed. The back of my race tee wound up a bit more stylized and urban than I intended when it slid to the ground right after I decorated it with glitter glue. On race morning, I felt significantly less than 100%. Those white shorts may never be truly, perfectly white again. But never mind perfection — there’s still a medal at the finish line no matter how much chocolate fuel you spill in your pockets.
It felt great to be part of such a huge community of volunteers, athletes and families that converged upon Walt Disney World and woke up insanely early for the sake of a race. Perhaps there’s something deeply ancient within us that calls us to achieve beyond our known limits, to challenge ourselves and give witness to the extraordinary.
Tomorrow is another day, a return to work and deadlines and the rest of life. It is also a new day, and each day forward will glow a bit brighter for me with this medal in my heart.