They Call Me 'Hero'
Pushing it hard, struggling against my own body, fighting the pain just to keep moving, holding back tears, ready to give up, begging myself not to. My first half-marathon hit me harder than I was able to hit back. My desperate attempt to pick my milage back up from the depths of my Thanksgiving stupor had failed miserably.
I entered into the starting corral with such butterflies that I thought I'd be too weak to run, in spite of the extreme breakfast I had eaten, which was the only thing that went according to plan.
I met a lovely girl at the start of the race. She left me in her dust a mile in when I realized I had been an idiot to ever start running in the first place. So, I was left to listen to the thousands (7000 to be exact) of runners pounding pavement around me and my panicked breathing. Unfortunately, headphones weren't allowed, and I had never run without them.
I fought the urge to walk at all cost. This meant I didn't stop to drink the power aid, I mostly sloshed it on my tongue, my hands, my face, my shirt. I didn't take that bathroom break I'd been dying for since about an hour before the race (not recommended). I didn't walk when the girl tripped over the cone next to me and made me laugh so hard I couldn't breathe. And I didn't stop when the hundreds of people lined up on the sides of mile 3 with posters of "Thank you for running for my son." and "This girl was our hero, now you are." shouted praises so loudly that I almost broke down in tears.
Did these people know that I was running mostly for me? Did they know I was racing just to accomplish something? Yet every leg of the race it wasn't music that kept me going it was the chant "Hero! Hero! Hero! Hero!" that grew from hill tops to valleys that set one of my feet in front of the other.
Down to three miles left and I fought the tears again. At that moment I realized I was going to do something I had rarely done: finish something difficult. I was about to set a record that would be a strong foundation for me in many years to come.
Entering the last .1 mi the crowds grew stronger, the voices longer, the thankful clapping and encouraging words were a shot of adrenaline to my heart and my legs. "Go! Go! Go! You're right here! You're going to make it! You're a hero! You've got this!"
The stadium was so crowded and loud that I wouldn't have found my family had it not been for the orange shirt I knew my dad was wearing. I collapsed across the finish line with a 2:16 time, legs of noodles, knees that are still sore, chaffing, blisters on every toe, sweat from head to toe, sticky power aid all over me, and tears in my eyes.
Handing me my medal, the lady asked "How do you feel?". Wow. Truly? How did I feel? Like I had just lived a dream. I finally reached level "superhero". Like my dreams were possible. Like my life would forever be stronger, be different, be content. "Dead," I replied with all the smile I had strength to muster.
My family was a brilliant encouragement and as I hugged my mom, I wept. Me? I did this? Yeah! I did! I've surprised them all, I've outdone what they expected. Better still, I outdid myself. And the most glorious of them all, they cheered me on. They called me "hero".
I can't wait to do it again. It's the best drug I'll ever know.