From the Director’s Desk

Choose Happy.

Often times, the greatest experiences are the ones most difficult to put into words. Every time I finish a long-distance race, I take time to reflect and embrace the journey. As I shared back in May, I set out to complete a half marathon in August, the last one for me having been in 2019. The race took place this weekend, August 12.

I ran in the Happy Half Marathon in Springfield, Ohio. Hence (partially) the title of today’s blog- Choose Happy. This race isn’t your destination race, nor is it one with a huge field of runners. However, it is very well put together and a very fun time. The volunteers are so encouraging,and you’ll read I learned first-hand, they truly stick around to the end. Plus, a good friend of mine is one of the directors. So, all those elements together made this race a good choice for my re-entry into the half marathon world.

I won’t give you the play by play, but I’ll share some highlights and special lessons learned. My friends Leah and Tracy signed up for the race as well, though all of us at different paces. Leah, being the one with the best running time, became my accountability partner through this experience. She told me when she arrived that morning that she was going to stick with me. To which I said “Uh… Leah… you do know my pace right?” And she said, “Yep, I sure do. Let’s do this together!” And she graciously stuck with me and literally had a smile on her face the entire time! Tracy did not start out with us, but around mile 5 we all ended up together and remained together through the finish.

Running friends make everything better. 

I’m not used to having someone with me. I run solo most of the time. I really enjoyed having two of my good girlfriends by my side. Around mile 5.5, as we rounded a turn, we could see the remaining runners behind us, which were only about 5, and the tail end Charlie vehicle. I asked Leah how she would feel if we ended up with that vehicle on our heels taking the last spot. She shrugged her shoulders, smiled and said, “It’s all about finishing.”

Through the years I have had negative words said to me about my pace such as “I pace the slow people” and “we should get you faster” and “don’t let that person beat you!”. While I know the beauty in the journey, the haunting words can be difficult to forget. Tracy, ever the encourager, said “Take those thoughts and put them in the trash where they belong!” as she pointed to the trash can we were passing. She is right, and I would tell all the readers and our participants the same. (We are always our own worst critics).

The journey of training for this race was a challenge. I’ve worked long hours, traveled overseas with a non-profit and worked around some medical issues. But my determination remained the same: I really wanted to finish this Happy Half and get back in the game. Here’s a truth: I know what to do to train well. Second truth: I didn’t fully do that. But I did do the best that I could, and so I joined Leah and Tracy in saying “It’s all about finishing.”

First or last, Choose Happy.

When we hit mile 10, we became the tail end of the race, and I didn’t have it in me to push harder. Thus, we became the last of the participants. Leah and Tracy, laughing and enjoying the experience, had to remind me of the Choose Happy phrase. We laughed, snapped a photo with the tail end Charlie and pressed forward.  And as we pushed through the last 3 miles of the race, we just enjoyed one another. We enjoyed the experience. And we crossed the finish line arm-in-arm.

I’d be neglecting my great friend, Shalynne, if I didn’t also mention that she called me the night before to encourage me and was at the start line and waited at the end for me to finish, walking across with us (with permission from the race). Everyone needs a cheerleader!

Lessons Learned.

So, what did I learn? It is humbling to come in last, but no less important than the person who finishes first. I have never been in last place. And I am glad that this weekend I did finish last. Because I can fully understand now how hard the person who does finish last fights to get there. And it is 100% worth it.  Because for me, my legs were worn out and I had to fight mind over matter. So, for anyone who has finished last or for the person who will be the last to cross our finish line- I will be your biggest cheerleader and I can truly say I understand and appreciate you and the effort!

I also was reminded of all the important adequate training efforts. Obviously, doing the mileage is one. But also the strength training and eating properly  make a large difference. I am well aware of this, and was even more aware during the race how some of that was neglected the last 12 weeks.

Most of all, I embraced where I am in my running journey. It is my journey and no one else’s. I am not elite (though I never was). This weekend I was the last finisher. But last place isn’t what the world makes it out to be. Finishing is what counts, not the ugly words or comparisons- those belong in the trash. In my journey, I know my struggles and my challenges, and no one else does. Therefore, finishing is an accomplishment itself.

Thanks for journeying with me a little bit over these months in this endeavor. Next up: I will do the half marathon for the Air Force (virtually, of course!). And I will definitely be there on race day for both the first and the last place finisher! Run Happy, Choose Happy!