This past Sunday, I ran my first half marathon in Oklahoma City alongside my soul mate whom I bibbed as, “Lover Boy.” The victory was so much more than a run and so much more than a person.
Over twenty-four thousand bodies lined up, fearlessly, ready to race. American runners. A national tribe I have watched for over the last decade until I so proudly joined them. Tears, hugs, and words of encouragement were seen and heard as the fenced-in cattle anticipated the start call. “Sweet Caroline” played as the officiators paid tribute to the runners who were unable to finish the Boston Marathon.
Just knowing that the herd of runners included Boston Marathon survivors and runners wishing to cross the finish line brought about inspiration and an immediate goal of pushing myself to my own personal limit. About mile-eight some of the crowd began to cramp up and walk, yes, I considered it until I saw a powerful sign that read, “Run for those who can’t!”
I was once one of those who couldn’t. Just about five years ago, my doctor was eliminating Leukemia as a possible diagnosis for my perpetual fatigue and uncontrolled asthma. By God’s grace, she discovered that my root problem was what I was eating. She diagnosed me with Celiac, an auto-immune disease from eating the protein found in wheat.
Now, I run because I can.
By mile-eleven my right knee was killing me, but I knew that I had trained to “finish strong”, our family motto thanks to my husband. So, I looked over and made eye-contact with Lover Boy and took off. Apparently, I shaved off two minutes per mile with my speedy pace. I am an American runner.
American runners stand for something more global than themselves. They show up to a marathon, just a mere week or two after the biggest terror attack on runners in American history, and declare freedom. They are unmoved by fear. They are moved by the same desires of their forefathers – liberty and compassion for all mankind.
My medal will one day end up in an attic somewhere, but my memory of being surrounded by such an incredible legacy and getting to be an American runner will be a prized memory that I will cherish for as long as I can remember.
“Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.” – Pericles
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