Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Big Finish

With all the pressures and challenges of every day life, it's rare that I have a day that is completely satisfying, but today was one of those days. I just don't see how this day could have been any better. I had a 5K race this morning and did well (for me). I won second place in my age division and shaved a minute off my best time on that course. I was thrilled because the last race I ran was a disaster. It was a month ago, on a chilly damp Saturday morning. My allergies were out of control, my head was stopped up and Hubby tried to convince me I should stay home. I was mule stubborn as usual and went anyway. He was right. Three blocks into the race, I was literally gasping for breath and had to walk. I had myself a nice little asthma attack right there on the street. That had never happened to me before. I should have turned around and come home, but I have that "I Must Finish No Matter What" rule. It was painful and took me about six minutes longer than usual to get through the 3.1 miles. To make matters worse, my car key flew out of my shoe pocket during the first half of the race, and I had to walk part of the course AGAIN to look for my key. I came home frustrated and exhausted.

A trip to the allergist confirmed my suspicions about exercise induced asthma and provided me with an inhaler and new allergy medication. For the last few weeks I've been working through my breathing issues, afraid that my running times wouldn't get any faster. To say that running has been an exercise in frustration recently is an understatement. I wanted so badly to do better today. Mentally, I NEEDED to do better. I put on my "No Sniveling" hat, focused on sticking to my pace and ended with a great personal time. It felt good. Really, really good. But even better than that was the feeling of watching an acquaintance of mine run his first race today.

This fellow has had his share of struggles with food and weight for most of his life. He had gastric bypass surgery a couple of years ago, and is still trying to lose weight and make lifestyle changes. Recently, he began a walking group at his church. He has been adding a little running to his walking and wanted to give the race a try. Throughout the race he was behind me and kept falling farther and farther back. In fact, I was afraid he had quit when I waited for him at the finish line and didn't see him after a considerable amount of time. I had hoped to cheer him on as he entered the chute toward the finish line. I walked back up the course a little ways and finally saw him chugging along. My heart went out to him. I know what it's like to be at the very back of the pack. To know that everyone but you and a few stragglers crossed the finish line a long time ago. To want so badly to finish when you really feel like sitting on the curb and waiting for the next stretcher to pick you up. To feel like you probably don't belong out there with all of those "real" runners. To feel embarrassed that you are so slow. I waited for him and has he got closer I started to cheer for him. He smiled and jokingly shouted, "It's about finishing right?" "Yes! It's just about finishing," I yelled back. He looked so tired, and even though I was tired, I figured I could make it another quarter of a mile. I slid in beside him and started running with him. "You're almost there, you know. Just a little longer. You're going to make it, " I told him. "I'm praying I will," he joked. "I pray all the time when I run," I laughed. "Really?" "Sure. I need all the help I can get." We laughed some more. I shared with him that I always add David Crowder's version of I Saw The Light to the end of my iPod racing playlists because it always makes me run faster. Our little bit of conversation seemed to take his mind off his weariness. We inched closer toward the finish line, and I told him, "Come on, let's finish big." I started running faster and hollered, "Let's go!" He picked up speed and off we went. "Come on! Dig in! You're almost there! Go, go, go!" I kept going, and he kept picking them up and putting them down. I could hear the spectators start to yell and clap for him too as we got closer. "Into the chute, into the chute. Come on! You're here, you're here!! And with that, we crossed the line. His smile was a mile wide, and my heart felt so full. I gave him a big hug and knew in my heart he would not forget how it felt to cross that finish line for the first time. I've been there, too. For the second time during that race, I said a little prayer. This time it was thanking the good Lord for letting me witness my friend's big finish. I finished twice and won both times. What a day. What a great day.


oreneta said...

So glad you had a good time, and so very glad your buddy finished, and had such a good running partner! What happens if you finish twice? I assume they take the better time, no?

Amy said...

Encouraging story!:)
Happy Mother's Day, Hula!

God Bless,