Sunday, May 22, 2016

The one with the cheer squad

Five years ago I ran my first half marathon in San Diego. My uncle had called me in January of 2012 and told me he was planing to run the full marathon and if I wanted to run the half, he would pay for my airfare out to Cali. That seemed like a pretty sweet deal, although it was a VERY tough decision. I don't make decisions lightly and I don't go back on my word. So if I was going to say yes, there would be no backing out. I really WOULD be running 13.1 miles. California seemed great, but the running part was going to be tricky. I found a training plan that seemed doable, talked myself into it, and said "yes!"

I will never forget that moment, crossing the finish line. Actually, I will never forget each mile of that race. Remembering how I felt, how nervous I was to see if I would actually be able to do it. I had only trained up to 10 miles and that race would be the first time my body had ever gone 13.1 miles.

This weekend, almost to the exact day, I ran my 5th half marathon. With each race, my goals have changed.

1.) San Diego 2012: finish, and finish without walking.
2.) Washington DC 2013: finish, and have fun.
3.) Virginia Beach 2014: bring a friend, finish, and set a new PR.
4.) Philadelphia 2015: Finish strong & new PR.
5.) Brooklyn 2016: Finish.

I had some major knee issues the last few months and quite honestly, I wanted to finish. I was worried I might have to drop out of the race if my knees didn't pull it together and cooperate. I felt like I'd been set back, going back to square one of having a goal to just finish.

For San Diego, I was so focused. I never missed a training run. I may have been a little obsessive about it, but I knew if I was going to make it- I had to do EXACTLY what I was told. I had to follow the directions I was given. Did not swerve to the right or to the left. I trained. If someone suggested an idea that wasn't on the training plan, I said no. I couldn't mess with the plan. (I laugh as I write this remembering how uptight I was. Gosh.)

For Washington, DC, I had just moved to a new city, my apartment had burned down a few months prior and I needed a goal to look forward to. Running in a new city helps you gather your bearings, and when it was suggested, I agreed to run. I walked quite a bit during that race but I finished and enjoyed it! There was SO much less pressure. This time, I knew I could do it. I knew I was physically capable of finishing.

For Virginia Beach, I was first going down to watch and cheer for a friend when plans changed and I decided to run with! I recruited two others to come along as well and we turned it into one big beach weekend party. I had started cross-training in prep for this race and I knew I could beat my time. So I decided to go for it, set the goal, and make it happen.

For Philly, I wanted to finish strong. I trained, I cross-trained, I wanted to finish and not feel like I was going to die after :) I knew the course, I knew the elevations, I knew what parts could be troublesome. But I was going to finish and finish strong.

For Brooklyn, my original goal was to finish, have fun, and enjoy the route. It was going to be a no pressure run. It was going to be a "run because I like running" run. Seven weeks in and it turned into a "oh gosh. This might be my last half marathon" kind of run. My knees were aching. After every run I had to come home, ice them, take meds, and rest. Going up and down stairs at my apartment was painful. I began mentally planning for my final race. I wouldn't stop running altogether, but I would not be running long distances anymore. I had friends praying for my knees. That they would be strong and help me cross the finish line.

Two weeks before the race, I found out I would have a cheering squad on the sidelines. Several friends from DC were coming to NYC for the weekend and changed their plans a bit to make time to come cheer for me. The pressure was on. I HAD to finish. My friends were coming. To cheer for ME! I had to finish the race.

Saturday morning comes and my friend Leticia and I arrive at the start line with every intent of running our own race. That's the beauty of running. You run your own race- at your own pace. We said goodbye and knew we would meet up at the finish.

I had decided to slow things down and listen to my body. I repeated to myself more than a dozen times "you don't have to be a hero. If you need to stop, do it. This is your race. Run your own race." At mile six I felt good. At mile seven my knee buckled. I stopped, massaged it out, and walked a bit. I attempted running again and it felt OK. I kept going. At mile 10. Oooooh at mile ten. The most beautiful site. For the first time in any race I'd ever run, I saw a sign. "GO MINDA." And I saw six beautiful faces of friends who sacrificed their cozy and restful morning to come cheer. There was nothing in it for them. They received no medal at the end. They didn't get the free shirt. They just came to cheer me on. I tear up even typing this out. Guys. Having friends cheer for you is the best. I stopped for a selfie, some high fives, and finished my race. I felt strong, I felt energized, and I felt ready to tackle those final three miles.

I crossed the finish line, got my medal, visited the medical tent for some ice and had them wrap my knee, and went to find Leticia.

Five half marathons complete.

I'm not sure what my next race will be. I will most likely visit a doctor to have my knees checked out. I will keep running. But my next goal is to find someone to cheer for.

Who are you cheering for? In life... Who is cheering you on? Who shows up for the big events? Who are the people that you say "it's a non negotiable- I'm gonna be there."?

Weddings and babies aren't the only times we should be showing up and cheering for people. We are really good at celebrating those things. We like celebrating those so much we even created things called "gender reveal" parties and engagement parties. Those are big things, yes. But there are other big things happening in people's lives.

Go show up and cheer for someone this week. Find a reason to celebrate them. Especially if it means there is nothing in it for you. You will make their day/week/month/year. I promise.

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