The Story of the Marathon—Finishing

Mile 23 marker laughed at me. I could hear that dumb sign laughing at me, so I turned my music up louder. Stayin’ Alive met I will Survive and I chuckled and breathed in deep. The Play List saves and then it doesn’t. The day I trained for 20 miles was the longest run of my life. I planned out the hours. First, I’ll listen to music. Then I’ll listen to a podcast. Then I’ll go back to music, and so on and so on. I remember getting to 15 miles in that training run, and I was just plain tired of listening to anything. Just as I was yanking out my ear buds, I saw a guy on a bike getting close to me. I didn’t pay much attention until he slowed down and rode right with my running pace. It was my friend Dave from the runners club. I laughed as I breathed out and told him how much further. He asked me about my nutrition and reminded me to eat a gel at that point. I got one out and started to chew on it. He kept talking and talking. I released him from having to ride with me, but I think he knew that I was struggling. He encouraged me to do some stride outs to fix my gait, and I did and it helped. I hadn’t realized how tight I was. I finished that 20 miles feeling pretty good thanks to help from a fellow runner. Sometimes you just need some help.

I shook my head and was blinking back to the present. I was passing a medical tent, and there were two runners inside injured with medical people helping them. The agony on their faces was tough to take and not at all about a foot or a calf of which each was holding. I felt their agony of being so close, and it sunk down deep into me that their race was over. And then I saw mile marker 24 and I realized…..my race was not over. I glanced down at my watch; adrenaline shot through me. My tired legs began to find some rhythm; I began to feel everything and nothing all at the same time.

The race path turned left and then left and then we were back in the city; the side lines began to crowd up and the race path began to narrow. I became aware of how soaked I was from four hours of sweating and working and rubbing and struggling and chafing. I had to shake that off….just a little further. The crowds cheered and the words they produced collectively invigorates.

And there it was—mile 25. My heart jumped….one more mile! The sobered, pain aware part of me reminded me of the .2 miles that I had left off in my excited heart-jump. The inside mind conversations that I have are one of my favorite parts about running long distances. Suddenly I knew, I had a lot left in this body. I could go farther. Farther than 1.2 more miles. But how far? I didn’t know….but I knew at that point I conserve a lot on the unknown possibility of running out.

I began to stretch out my stride. I ripped out my ear buds and shoved them in my little pouch. I breathed in and out. My arms stretched out. My feet and legs hesitated at first, but then they too found their rhythm in my breathing. My feet pounded the ground. I couldn’t feel them. I just ran. It felt so good to run. What a funny thing to think on that last mile! It feels good to run!

And then it was there and I could see it and I couldn’t believe it and then I was through that finish line and trying to wrap my head around it.

But my feet were slowing down, and tears were running down my face. And everyone was telling me great job, you did it! A race worker held my arm gently to stop me and put my medal around my neck. I was holding it and crying and grinning like a fool. And we all were ushered inside and someone took my photo. I called my family who were at a rodeo in Uvalde and cried and yelled that I did it. They were all so excited. And then someone handed me an ice cream sandwich and I ate it. I went in the T-shirt line and received my finisher shirt. Someone handed me a chocolate milk and I drank it. I felt happy and stiff and automatic and unreal all at once.

I kept moving until I found my sister in law. She had been in the medical tent. She had not had a good race, but she was dealing with it. She was happy for me. I had exceeded my own expectations for my time. We hugged and cried together. And then we picked up her shirt. After cleaning up, we had a big meal together before heading home. It was a great end to a long training and a long race.

When’s your next one? I hear a lot and I even heard it that day. But I wouldn’t even think about it. I let myself just bask in that finish line. I mean, you know what it meant to cross it, right?

But you also know it wasn’t really about the finish line.

All the way on the drive home, I squinted hard into all that training, all that sweating, and all that planning….trying to find the moment I learned the most, or I accomplished the most or I was humbled the most. And its like I couldn’t describe a piece of this experience without all the other pieces, and I wouldn’t trade one for the other. I learned so much…about me, about limits, from the road, from podcasts, about running, about life, from other runners, about breathing, and so many more things.

The first marathoner (in the history books) died at the end of his race having delivered the message he needed to give. So, let’s go on a race, shall we? A race to give the message we are meant to give. I assure you…every piece will be worth something in the end.

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The Story of the Marathon Part 3

So 15 miles went by me and 16 did also. I kept running like Forrest and I was enjoying every minute. And while I pounded onto mile 17, my mind wandered to the memory of training…of running 16 miles the day after Thanksgiving. It started like this.

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It was the most ill prepared training run that I did. I had had too much food and drink the night before, but I was sticking to my training plan no matter what. I didn’t have enough KT tape to tape my feet and my good socks were dirty. I set out that morning ready for a long haul, and 6 miles in found myself in a common situation for runners. I had to go. And I was in the middle of nowhere. On a highway. All I can say is that I’m thankful to the rancher whose pasture I borrowed in a little grove of trees. I felt like a fugitive; it was an emergency.

I ran and ran on that training run until I could feel the blister forming on the bottom of my foot. It was the longest I had ever run, and I struggled hard from mile 14 on. I remembered the very moment my watch said 16 miles, I slowed to a walk. My muscles had tightened and I bent over to stretch…then I saw that tears were coming out of my eyeballs. Then I noticed that I was sobbing actually and I couldn’t pull myself together. My husband had come to pick me up in his truck at that point, and with a look of concern asked why I was crying and what was wrong. I shook my head. I didn’t know. My feet had hurt like hell at that point, but not enough to cry. I cried for awhile and then I stopped and I was okay. I just needed ice for my feet. I felt so released.

Jolting myself back to the present, I saw that 17 mile marker flow passed my line of vision. I grinned….I had gained some grit along the way in all that training. I looked around me again, and the same folks I had seen before were in front and behind me. I also saw a member of the sideline crowd with a sign that said, “Run fast, in two weeks, Trump will have nukes!” I laughed loudly, and I exhaled long, satisfied with my pace and feeling connected to people. I made a quick pit stop…as quick as I could realizing how tight my muscles were getting. It was hard to get going again, but eventually I found my rhythm. I don’t remember much about mile 19, but passing 20 was triumphant. I had heard all these stories about how people break down at 20 and start crying and walking. I was feeling alright, and I was beginning to get excited about how this race was going to end for me.

Then I passed mile 21, and my legs began to ache. My feet were starting to cry out, and I thought about how far away mile 22 was. So. very far. All my bravado at 20 was gone, and then I saw the beer stand. Just what the doctor ordered right? The smiling man shoved the beer cup in my hand as I kept running, and I drank it fast, sloshing most of it out. It did help some, but I kept thinking how long the park in Houston must be for it to go on and on and on. I knew that the city had to be coming up at some point, right?

I felt around in my runners pouch and my fingers wrapped around an energy chew. I’m mostly an energy gel person, but I had brought one chew to mix it up. I popped that chew in my mouth, and started chewing. It was tough to get it down, but it helped me increase my speed to get to mile 23. I heaved a sigh of relief seeing that dumb 23 but then my tired old brain freaked me out with the thought of 3 more miles! 30 more minutes of running! Good God! I had to make it. I couldn’t tank in the end. I was out of nutrition. I was out of motivation. I was out of grit.

And so…I turned to the playlist…

To be continued…

The Story of the Marathon Part 2

So, I guess I’m still at the 10K mark right? You’ll have to forgive the delay. Blame it on rodeo. Seriously. We are in the State Finals right now. Serious business. Here’s the map so you can get my drift.

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The 10K sign was welcomed, and I found myself in rhythm with the road. I was watching my running watch pretty close, and I was happy with my pace. I relaxed into the run, and I began to observe first the surroundings and the atmosphere. It was a nice view as we ran out of the downtown area and into the city. It was humid and the coolness was dissipating.

At this point I started to notice the other runners around me. There was a younger lady a little in front of me who was keeping a nice pace. There was a purple haired gal to the left of me. I saw the packages of nutrition gels on the ground in front of me. I noticed the middle aged guy who was keeping my pace with me. I smiled. We were all in this together.

Suddenly there were signs and workers pointing to the signs of the course separation between the half-marathoners and the wholes. “We are the Champions” began playing in my ear buds from my carefully crafted race list. I waved to the halves and turned right with the wholes. I felt a little pride that I was moving on from that race distance to this new goal. I felt strong as I pulled out an energy gel to take in. I was glad for the advice my new friends in the Runner’s Club had given me about nutrition. I didn’t want to become depleted of electrolytes, and gels and water seem to work well for me.

When I reached the half marathon distance, I remembered my very first Half-Marathon Race a few years ago and how accomplished I had felt when I ran the Tyler Rose Half Marathon in memory of my mom. I thought about the year I ran the half marathon in Dallas and how sick I was that day and how my ankle was badly bruised and taped up. I had a good time that day even though I had to use my inhaler to get through.

Half way there rang through my mind, and I was excited and energized by how my muscles were performing. Then I reached the 14 mile mark, and I remembered my 14 mile training run. I had started in the park and run 7 miles with the runner’s club, grateful for the conversation with new friends. The last 7 I had looped around the park and our downtown in the cold wet, and I was slow and sluggish and feeling like I didn’t fit in marathon training. And yet, somehow I had continued to train through the sluggish, through sickness, through rain and ice, through kids’ schedules, and on and on.

I heard my name, “C’mon Katie! Let’s go Katie! You’re doing great!” a crowd member cheered to me. I looked down and saw my name on my bib. I looked back up grinning like a fool and found tears coming to my eyes. Wow. Encouragement. Never underestimate the power. Or the power of the moment you need it and don’t even know.

And then I was beside them. I had seen her earlier, the runner with the jogging stroller. But, I hadn’t looked on or really seen her. And all of a sudden, we were running together. She kept one hand on the stroller and reached down to adjust the sunshade on the man in the stroller. He looked like he had maybe cerebral palsy or something similar. At this point we are at the 15 mile marker, and I marveled at her strength. He looked tired too, and he pushed his neck over to look at me. His eyes met mine, and he smiled big. It was the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and the most encouragement I’ve ever received. Tears fell down my cheeks and it took me a moment to feel them. I was overwhelmed by gratefulness. I was still running, and I said thank you to the lady pushing my new friend. She gave me a thumbs up and said, “We are all going to cross that finish line, right?” I nodded.

I flashed back at my attempt 15 years ago to run a mile with a jogging stroller with a baby in it. How weak I was. How easily I gave up. How lazy I was.

I wondered but I knew in my heart how she was doing it. Determination, commitment, discipline, love. It’s all you need.


To be continued….

The Story of the Marathon

Five months, I had trained, I thought as I sat in the green portapotty doing my pre-race thing, appreciating the cleanliness. I had done everything right the day before….ran a mile to loosen up, ate carb-heavy, didn’t stay on my feet, and early to bed.  I had reveled in picking up my marathon packet and number. Then my sister-in-law and I carefully applied our tattoos.  I had slept horrible. My running watch so nicely described that I had only 1 hour of deep sleep. Thanks, Garmin. How does it know anyway? That’s what I’d like to know.

I finished my business, and moved out into what was a sizeable crowd in the what I thought was respectable “C” Corral. My sister-in-law had moved on to the “A” Corral where the serious runners are.


My hand moved down my taped leg as I stretched slowly wondering what this day would be like. The crowd was gathering, and the portojohn lines were crazy long. The announcer was blaring and the gun went off. I squinted through my corral barriers trying to see my sister in law as they let out the “A” group. There were so many people running this race. The crowd pressed in on all sides as friends chatted about their goals. I was glad I was alone. I caught the eye of the stranger next to me. We both smiled nervously and then we both took a deep breath. I chuckled. Let’s go already, I breathed.

And then finally, it was our turn. We all started walking out of the corral toward the starting line, and then as one big mob, the jog started, and then the announcer was talking to us and I was across the starting line. Here we go!


Almost immediately, the bruise on my left quadricep began to throb with each pound of my foot. I had fallen in my last training…tripped by some dumb wire at the park. It was so ridiculous and frustrating, but I had that damn injury iced as much as it could be and now taped up like a champ. I talked to the leg…settle in, come on, you’ve got this, get over it, just give me 5 hours…you get it.

My heart was pounding. This is going to be a long adventure, I said to myself, breathe and go! So, I did. By the 2nd mile, I couldn’t feel the pain anymore in the leg, and I was going at a pretty good pace. Mile 3, 4 and 5 went by pretty quick, and then–there–the big sign said 10K. I finally felt my breathing smooth out and I ran past the sign feeling consistent and steady.

To be continued….

The Year of the Story

The Story of the Blog

You want to know why I started this whole blog thing? I really just needed a place to write creatively. Without a template. Without word counts. Without anyone directing my writing. And it worked.

I wrote. And I read other people’s blogs. And I was sincere. And I began to tell you my story. And I worked on it. It was fun. It wasn’t easy. I tried advertising on it. I tried lots of ways to tag and categorize and link. It grew. and lots of people read it. My best years for the blog traffic were 2012 and 2013.

And then I acquired a book contract. And I went back to school. And I started working more. And my family became busier and older and busier. And my capacity to blog decreased. And the years went on. My book was published in 2015, and I was so very grateful for my time here that helped that project to be a success.

This will be my 8th year to blog here. My many other responsibilities and ventures get me thinking of shutting it down, but I haven’t been able to close the book on it. So, here we are again. You, me, the internet. My thoughts and abilities and words and ideas connecting somehow to you out there.

One of the connections I make with you is that you know from my stories that parenting can be very fun and that I’m a real person with struggles and heartache. Also, my faith is real, but I’m not interested in shouting about anything. I’ve never taken a political stance on here, but I’m not saying I never will. It’s been important to me to keep the connection open and not distract with shock or awe or anger. Another thing you need to know about me is that I write from inward, and it’s been right lately to keep things close.

The story of the blog goes on in 2017. For, I’m going to do a little exploring with my writing in some different ways. You get to be part of this experiment. Little by little we’ll see if we can make this thing work as part of the ongoing forward path of my life now. Be prepared for more intensity. Or less. Know that I may tell some other folk’s stories. Maybe I’ll tell yours.

I’ll do my best to keep things concise and interesting. And you do your best to read it. I don’t just want to tell you stories though. I want to connect in a way to assist, to inspire, to show the possibility of greatness that is in all of us.

In two weeks, I will be running a marathon instead of writing at this very moment and it will be hard. But, I have trained and built slowly up to this point. I have discovered my body can be stretched and pained and pushed to perform but not without rest, planning, and fuel. Writing is the same, and I am ready to move towards greatness…so are you.

Rewriting Your History (Down to Studs)

Raise your hand if you look around and find surprise in how your life looks. Not what you expected? Yeah, me too. It can be good.

See, I have fluctuated between knowing living life like Mother Theresa is the right path and simply wanting to enjoy life with new shoes and a dress. This life and place and path has shifted and weaved and moved around it can be hard to be proactive and responsive. The feelings come and we “feel” thrown around by life circumstances. Faith is hard, and life direction can be confusing. So much of our life gets shifted by emotions and feelings and perspectives.

We all have our moments where we stop and look around to try to figure out if we are where we set out to go…or are we just a long way from home. Perspective is powerful.

Our life has changed a lot in the last few months. My husband transitioned out of his position at the church, and he is onto a different adventure. My oldest child is driving a car now. I’m training for a marathon. We have two high schoolers. We are finding our way in peace. Schedules, goals, all has adjusted and we are shifting our perspectives.

The things I knew when I was young, some were true, and some were wrong. -Lumineers, “The Gun Song”

Last weekend, we took the kids to Baton Rouge and we cleaned out a few flood homes together. One house we were in had nothing by the curb, and by the end of our time there everything 4 feet down we had hauled out to that same curb. I stood in the middle of the elderly lady’s bedroom overwhelmed by the stuff ruined…so much gone of her life. But, it was all just stuff. We drove away looking at all the piles of everyone’s things on the curbs. Everyone was the same….everyone down to studs.

My kids worked so hard. I was proud of them. They saw into the experience too. No one complained or fussed about sweating or working hard. Maile looked at me and said, “I don’t have any problems,” during one of our breaks. They aren’t perfect, and the situation we put them in on purpose wasn’t perfect. We talked about what we were doing and why. And then we drove home to our dry house with all the stuff in tact.


And so today, I find myself in the middle of all these memories while I shift through all the things 4 feet and down in my house to ensure that I am taking care of the stuff in my life and letting go of all the stuff that doesn’t need to be there. Reflection, perspectives, change all around me as I sort through high school senior pictures, my baby pictures, my babies’ baby pictures.

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I’m not just in this life. Maybe maturity and experience always lead to this place of realizing how much I don’t know. I look around me and I find nothing is what I thought it was; I’m glad, mostly, it causes wonder to continually born within.

It’s my life, and I have a responsibility to lead in it. So do you. We are rewriting our history…maybe you should too. Hear your breath for a minute.

Slow down.

Look.


But don’t just look.

See. Have faith in God. Know that faith is not always what you think it is. Too mystical for you? Knowing what you don’t know may be an area you want to explore.

Get into your life. Are you there? Don’t just make it. We are meant for more than surviving….although there are moments when its all you can do. Everyone is gutted to studs at some point. That’s a tough moment, and no one would ever wish for it. That’s never happened to me physically, like these flood victims.

But, it has happened to me internally, and somehow everything gets clear in that moment…what’s important, what’s worth keeping, why you are just thankful for your people. Survival breathes gratefulness…and that’s good too. We aren’t meant to stay in “just making it mode.”

Do what you need to do to…clean out the wet and moldy. Dry out. Get ready to rebuild. It could be better than it was or what you expected.

Time to do more than survive. If you’re tired, go rest. If you’re sad, be sad. If there are problems, address them. Don’t be afraid to dig deep, to take a risk, to sit down into your funky feelings….resolution, redemption, peace will come. Inhale, exhale. Pray. Live.

Don’t worry about doing it perfect….always simply begin. 

 

 

 

The Story of Place Part 2

 

The chapel was small, and there were some people in the middle aisle. We sat on the right with only two people in front of us. Sitting there quietly, I watched every person curiously. One man came was friendly and came to shake our hands, and then the service began. The pastor was an African-American woman, and she led everything. There was one pianist.

The pastor read the obituary, and then she invited friends and family to give testimony of Karen’s life. A friend went up first. She was open, smiling, sincere, and she knew a lot about this place. She met Karen through AA. They had just started volunteering at the Salvation Army together. She was sad for Karen to say goodbye. But Karen knew Jesus, her friend said, she knew Jesus, and she is with Jesus now. She smiled and returned to her seat.

The man that had greeted us went up next. He had known Karen through AA also for a long time. He said she was his friend. He said he loved her. And he said she was so frustrating at times. He knew her too well and he could always tell when she was using again. He said it was hard to be with her sometimes. He said, “But she was clean and sober the last three years. She was clean and sober when she died and that was a victory. And she loved God…like a child. And she was with God now; and her struggle is over. ” He sighed in relief and sat down.

I felt heavy. Most of the places Karen had been were places I had never been to until now. Hard places of addiction, places of sorrow, places of depression, poverty, and illness. What a gift she gave me to not be in those places with her.

A cousin went up to talk about Karen. She was trying her hardest to be positive. The strengths she found to speak of came with details behind them of how much Karen must have hurt her family…the family she came from. They all looked nice enough. It was all weighted. Every word.

My head spun around my whole life to try to see hers. She was my flesh. She is gone. I had already said goodbye to my adopted mother with the sorrow and pain of a child and I miss her so very dearly every day even now. But, now. I was saying goodbye to the one who bore me into this place.

My heart was heavy, but there on that pew, nothing was hanging out there for me anymore. I felt myself open-wide. Open. I knew it all. I knew she was too young to have me. I knew there was something broken in her life. I knew the rest of her adulthood was filled with addiction and pain with some points of light. I knew she was probably using when she was writing me letters. I knew she had somehow made peace, made friends, and made this place her church. I knew that her story and my story and our places were coming full circle in this moment to find redemption in the bigger story of God in us.

After the last prayer, the man who spoke of Karen in the service came straight to me. He knew me.  He held my hand and said, “I know it must have been a very hard decision to come here, but I’m so glad you are here today in this place.” I smiled and squeezed his hand. “Me, too.”  I was welcomed into the reception warmly. I spent the next hour meeting people who knew about me and those who didn’t. All of them were delighted to talk with me, curious, kind. It was like a big exhale for all of us. As my dad and I stood in front of my car to say goodbye, we just looked thoughtfully at each other, satisfied. “I’m so glad you came with me,” I said.

“Thank you for letting me be part of this with you,” he said, emotional. I couldn’t say much more. I needed him that day. I needed him that day in 1975 also. Thanks, Dad.

This story is one I have never told. I’m not sure why. I guess I wasn’t ready until now…until this place. I tell it to you now to remind you of all of the stories, all of the places that have never been told. I tell it to you now to remind you of all the stories, of all the places you have never been yet. I tell it to you now to remind you of our place in God’s story of redemption…..messy, circling, love, openness and sacrifice.

And so we find that God uses place to open us wide. Or we must open to the place we are in or the place God is sending us….for

St. John of Chrysostom said “It is not enough to leave Egypt. One must also enter the Promised Land.”

I’m not in the place you are in. God is. That’s what I do know. Being open to seeing value in the place you are in suddenly opens up places within you that you knew nothing about!

You might have seen hints…you might have smelled them or glimpsed them through some crack. You were searching for this place all along, praying, writing, grasping. You lit some candles. You’ve been on your knees and nothing happened. But then it did perhaps in a place you would have never imagined. Opportunity knocks right here. Light comes in, into all these places within you that you never knew and then you knew. After all, perspective is about the lighting, right?

Your places are there for the seeking. You might be surprised where you find brokenness, redemption, true love, and sacrifice. Don’t be afraid. There might be some fear, maybe the whole thing is closed up by fear. Be afraid and remember that perfect love drives out fear. You’ll be okay. Perfect love is the place, the whole story. So, crack it open, that place you’re in.

Eph. 2:22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

For this place’s sake, don’t miss it.

My Lord God, we have no idea where we are going. We do not see the road ahead of us. We cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do we really know ourselves, and the fact that we think we are following your will does not mean that we are actually doing so. But we believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And we hope we have that desire in all that we are doing. We hope that we will never do anything apart from that desire. And we know that if we do this you will lead us by the right road, though we may know nothing about it. Therefore we will trust you always though we may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. We will not fear, for you are ever with us, and you will never leave us to face my perils alone.

—Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude