One step over that finish line and I burst into tears. I fell to my knees and kissed the medal that had been placed around my neck. It was, without a doubt, an extremely melodramatic display of my emotion. But I had accomplished something that I was not sure would be possible… at the age of eighteen, I had run the Marine Corps Marathon.
Sure the training had kept me in shape through the first few months of my freshman year of college, kept me on a schedule, and allowed me to see the sites of DC while many of my other friends stayed glued to campus- but it also afforded me an emotional escape and a time of reflection that I may not have sought out otherwise. Three hours is a long time. A long time to spend alone with yourself every Sunday. A long time to listen to your thoughts and to your body. A long time to analyze decisions, actions, and an uncertain future- and to develop a sense of self that can be hard to pinpoint in the bustling world around us. Sometimes it seemed like moving was the only way to stand still.
Running became, in those few months, an integral piece of my livelihood. It was not, however, until three years later that I was given the words behind the power of what I was experiencing through running. Two years after this marathon, during my third year of college, I began training a good friend for a half marathon. She had not run more than 3 miles in her life before the training began, and so she, much more than I, needed words of encouragement to finish those miles. She wanted to finish that race, perhaps even more than I did. I had run 7 half marathons in the past few years- leaving me with the illusion that this race was somehow less of an accomplishment.
One morning, while running an eight-mile training run, she said the words to me that have become more a part of me than perhaps any phrase in the world. “There will be a day when we can not do this…” she said, “but today is not that day.” That was it. That was everything I had ever felt about running in one sentence. Running was power. It was opportunity. And it was proof that I could and would do something great- even if it were only to finish that run. It was a promise. This I believe, that the most important belief in the world is an interminable belief in yourself.
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