Although the word perseverance generally invokes the idea of steadfastness and steady persistence in spite of opposition, my favorite definition of the word perseverance is
“Continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory”.
It’s that word grace that resonates strongly with me, because for a lot of years I didn’t know how to extend mercy or clemency towards myself. I harbored a lot of negative or inaccurate opinions of who I was or could be; saw myself as too flawed to succeed. I was my own worst offender. But not anymore. Now I extend grace to myself everyday, sometimes more than once. I make mistakes as a wife, mother, friend and daughter often. But instead of letting it bring me down, or dwell on the short-comings, I move forward.
On Sunday I ran my first 10K. Most of you know I have been training for the last 24 weeks to run my first half marathon on June 17th. Sunday’s race was a way to mentally prepare myself for this goal. It was a restless sleep Saturday night. I worried about the most ridiculous of scenarios.
- What if I got lost on the trail?
- What if I got nauseous and had to puke?
- Where would the portal-potties be located?
- What if I don’t finish or come in last?
By 4am I was staring at the ceiling, second guessing my decision to race at all. Then the alarm woke me up at 5:30, and I moved through the motions: showered, ate breakfast, prepared for the event. DW and The Hare took me to the race location, made sure I was checked in okay and then waited for the start. They planned to eat breakfast while I was running, then meet me at the finish line.
“You shouldn’t plan on seeing me before an hour and 24 minutes,” I said. “In fact, I’d be happy with an hour and a half.”
That’s roughly a twelve and a half-minute mile, and considering how hilly this particular route was, it seemed reasonable. DW and The Hare waved at me as the race started. I smiled nervously, concentrating on each step, trying to pace consistently to avoid early burnout. Several people passed me, but I finally found my niche, a woman in front of me with her earphones firmly in place. Her feet seemed to be beating to a specific tempo. I kept in time just a few steps behind, listening to the sound of my deep breathing and feet hitting the pavement. We continued in this type of “follow the leader” game for the first 3 miles, but she started to slow down to a point that I was having difficulty staying behind. At the next water station, I grabbed my first drink and passed her confidently, determining my tempo for the next two miles.
Approaching mile 5, I could feel the muscles in my thighs and calves tightening. My feet felt heavier and my breathing was a little more labored. In the distance, I could hear the Rocky theme played by a live band, and remembered that a handful of my musician friends were working at this event. Suddenly I heard my name, looked up, and saw them waving at me, some standing and shouting,
“Way to go Emily! You can do this! Great job!”
That last mile was all up hill. So I shortened my stride, and led with my hip, digging in with each step. As I passed several people, worn out from the incline, I felt like I had gotten a second wind. It didn’t matter how many previous runs had been under my time goal, or workouts I missed because I just didn’t feel like it, or even how many times I felt like giving up because my body ached and my feet were blistered. It also didn’t matter how many times I had over reacted to something my kids did, forgot to do something important, hadn’t cleaned the house or made the beds, provided a home cooked meal or spent time with a friend. None of my shortcomings mattered in that moment.
I was in a continued state of grace.
Names were called as people crossed the finish line, drawing us closer, one by one. I just wanted to hear my name. I just wanted to be recognized, so I started sprinting as hard as I could, finishing in a state of glory. DW and The Hare were waving and cheering from the sidelines. As I came off the street, DW wrapped me in his arms and The Hare buried her face in my side in congratulations.
“I am so proud of you,” they said simultaneously.
I am too, I thought.
I am too.
I finished in one hour and 9 minutes, that’s an average of 10:52 a mile. My best time ever.