The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. — Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher
A few years ago, as I embarked on my 30th birthday, I sat down with a pen and paper to take inventory of my life. With each stroke of the pen, I thought about the trials I’d faced and how far I’d come. But, as I numbered the list, it became obvious there was still plenty I wanted to accomplish. The working title quickly became “30 things I want to do before I turn 30.”
Number 19 read: “Run a marathon.” Fast forward a few years and my list had long been crumpled up and shoved in a drawer as I became pregnant and gave birth to my son. However, as he was approaching his first birthday, I was reminded of the list and felt prompted by God that it was time to complete my goal.
I stumbled upon some photos on a friend’s Facebook page documenting several races she participated in. I impulsively typed an email asking her if she would be willing to train me. With bated breath, I found my fingers hitting send. To my surprise, she quickly responded and wanted to meet me at 5:00 a.m. the very next morning! Ready or not, it was time.
We started my running journey with three-minute intervals of walking and running. My breathing was heavy and my legs felt like lead. But, with the encouragement of my friend, the support of my family, and the strength of my God, I pressed on. I clearly remember posting on Facebook the first time I doubled my time and ran six minutes without stopping! It was a glorious moment that gave me the confidence I needed. I signed up for my first half marathon.
Since that time, I’ve run in the wind, rain, single digit temperatures, snow, and even the dreaded treadmill. I’ve suffered two very minor injuries that forced me to take time off. Due to the demands of the schedule, I also had to learn to run alone. As a person who draws strengths from others, I was especially challenged by this. However, this experience ended up being one of the most memorable and life changing ones I would have on this journey. I learned that I was never alone. I had God and He was all I needed.
I specifically remember almost giving up. I set out on a run in snowy conditions and immediately felt weak. My muscles were tight and my fight was gone. Thoughts such as, Maybe you just aren’t meant to be a runner, pierced through my mind. I momentarily entertained them. But with God’s strength, I wiped away the tears and finished the run. Quitting just wasn’t an option.
The Big Day
It all paid off this weekend as I arrived downtown and set out to complete my first race. Excitement built and the crowds were pumped! The 30 mph winds threatened to blow away my confidence. But, with the sound of the horn, I took off. The big day was finally here.
The first few miles were surprisingly tough as I worked my way through the crowds. I pushed through them by imagining my husband and sons’ sweet faces waiting for me at the Speedway. After a quick hello and a kiss, I headed in for the next 2.5 miles. Around mile 7, I became emotional as I passed a girl in a wheelchair. I thought about my beautiful, determined sister–in–law, a talented artist and musician, who struggles with Muscular Dystrophy. I thought about our conversations and how she would love nothing more than to run a race with her active fiancé.
The tears flowed and chills went up my spine. Inspired by her determination, I made my way out of the Speedway and approached mile 9. I briefly enjoyed the entertainment and gave some high fives. I was feeling good.
Mile 10 approached and reality set in as my running partner needed to fall back and told me to go on. My knee began to ache (not something I had experienced before) and fear attempted to settle in. I felt alone. But at just the right time, a song my husband put on my i-Pod, “Mississippi Girl,” came on. The first line, “I’ve come a long way from Star, Mississippi,” resonated with me. This Mississippi girl had indeed come a long way herself. The tears again flowed.
I was reminded that the One who had enabled me was running with me, giving me the endurance I needed to finish. I prayed and surrendered the next three miles to Him.
Running those miles, I thought once again about the trials I’d faced in life and how far I’d come. I was overcome with emotion when I noticed the finish approaching. With my arms raised up, I crossed the line a transformed woman. Seven months ago, I took a single step. I ran three minutes without stopping. This day, I ran 143 minutes, 13.1 miles, and completed #19 on my list.
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Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
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