Friday I headed into Georgetown with my friend, Sarah, to pick up my packet for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. Nike knows how to throw a race– and a party– so after standing in line for maybe three minutes, we still had plenty of time on the meter to wander around. Perfect for a few photo ops. They even had a huge wall and theme colored sharpies so that everyone could leave a message– why they run, encouragement for themselves and others… I decided to go simply. Suck it, cancer. I will do this.
I have to admit that cancer didn’t really take all that much from me. I made it through the treatments pretty well. I didn’t miss any major life events. Maybe a couple of field trips, but I can handle missing a trip downtown with 25 kindergartners. But I did miss this race. I had been looking forward to it, and there was just no way that I could run it last year. But this year, I was determined. Cancer had taken this away, and I was taking it back. Suck it, cancer.
They were so efficient putting together my bag at packet pick-up, I didn’t notice until I got home that I’d gotten assigned to the wrong start corral. I don’t quite run less than an eight minute mile, at least not for longer than a block or so. I guess Nike was a little more optimistic about my performance than I…
It was a beautiful morning for a run. Crisp, cool, and sunny. And the course was so lovely. I’ve run parts of it before, and I’ve walked or driven most of the rest of it. But running through, with so many clapping and yelling words of encouragement, trees in bloom, was special. After mile 5, I still felt great and felt pretty confident that I would make it. Through East Potomac Park I started getting stiff and stopped to stretch a few times. After the third time or so, it became one of those situations where you start talking to yourself. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.) “You’re stronger than your legs,” I told myself as I stretched against a tree. And then it came to me. “You’re stronger than your body.” (Rats, that could have been my #5words2cancer!) I’m stronger than my legs. I’m stronger than cancer.
As I came out of the Ninth Street Tunnel and with less than a mile to go, I knew I had made it. A few times before and during the race, I was fighting back tears– not sad tears, not really happy tears, just overwhelmed. This was one of those times. Yet the sun, the spectators, and loud music quickly overcame my tears and I finished strong. “On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons will forever hold a special place in my heart. Perfect timing. At the top of that hill, the finish line in sight, I was on top of the world. My only goal had been to run the whole way, and after my knee started bothering me a month ago, my goal had become to merely finish. And yet, I made it. I met my original goal. I ran. I finished. I was stronger than my body.
Not only do they know how to organize a race at Nike, they know that most finisher’s medals end up in a drawer or hanging in a closet. But when it comes in a blue box from Tiffany? Oh, yes, then it gets worn.
I wanted that necklace. Yet I wanted to earn it, I wanted to be proud of it if I were going to wear it. After today’s race, I will wear it, and I will be proud of how I earned it. I not only finished, but I finished well. I finished strong. I am stronger than my body.