My best friend, Katelyn, and I have been running together for years. In fact, we first meet through track and field our sophomore year of high school.
When running, we are a dynamic duo: I push the pace, she pushes the distance. Ultimately, we both end up bettering ourselves and accomplishing more than we thought possible.
I am grateful for the support Katelyn offers and the ways she pushes me to be a better runner. However, often I lose any confidence when I lace up my shoes and hit the roads solo.
This weekend, Katelyn and I took a road trip to compete in a few races.
Last night we ran a 5K together, as part of a “Go Far Challenge.”
Although I was suffering from a nasty sinus infection, she pushed me through the finish line.
The races this morning were different stories: She was taking on her third marathon and I was alone on a 10K.
My support was gone. With my spirits already down from sickness, I didn’t have much hope when I lined up at the start.
To add insult to injury, just as the mayor was offering a few words of support (which were along the lines of, “I give you all credit… I can’t run to save my life!”), the skies opened up. Within moments, the brisk morning turned into a soggy, slippery chiller.
At promptly 7 a.m., the siren went off. Hundreds of runners pushed toward the starting line, sweeping up all in their paths in a racing frenzy.
Normally, any plans I ever had to start off with a steady, maintainable pace shoot out the window as soon as a race starts.
However, this morning, I knew not to push my limits. Within the first mile, I found a group of women holding a good pace. Unbeknownst to them, I latched on to their group and trailed them for a while.
I felt good—certainly not my speediest—but good, nonetheless.
Soon, the group of women seemed to lose a bit of speed. I still felt strong, so I pushed ahead. A few meters ahead, I saw a girl running alone, who looked to be holding another good pace. I edge up toward her, silently got on her side and used her for support, although I don’t think she knew it.
After a few minutes, the girl I was with began to fade. Remarkably, I still felt strong. I pushed on. I found another runner with a good pace… and so the trend continued.
Before I knew it, I was at the halfway point, and I still felt better than during the 5K.
Mile four. Mile five. The crowds began to swell. The finish line was in sight.
In a state of disbelief, I checked my watch. I was on pace to break my own personal record!
Mile six… less than a quarter-mile to go.
My legs pumped as I found reserve strength. I rushed down the final hill and crossed the finish line.
I pumped my fist in the air, the same way Katelyn and I always do after a good run.
But, this time there was no one by my side. I had run this race. I had pushed myself. I had beaten my own personal record.
I had done this all. Yet, as any runner knows, there is much more to a race than the distance between start and finish lines.
Ten kilometers earlier, I lined up at the start, dreaded the task ahead and thought I would run alone.
I never actually did. I ran with a group of women who were racing to support cancer victims. I ran with a man who had recently lost a significant amount of weight. I ran with a college student who, after taking off time from sports, had rediscovered a passion for running.
In a way, I even ran with Katelyn. Although she was back at the start, preparing for her 26.2 miles, I could still hear her encouraging me, pushing me along.
This morning, I learned that just because I begin a race alone, doesn’t mean I finish that way.