Finishing strong

I ran a marathon.  Once.  It's been nearly four years ago, and there are parts of me that want to run the full 26.2 miles again just to see if I can.  And then I remember the difficulty of it.  I would almost say that it was the hardest thing I have ever physically accomplished, but then I remember birthing four babies and that one horrific kidney stone.

I trained for four months, and each week the required miles would stretch my endurance even further.  I knew I could run at least 13 miles, having already accomplished a half marathon, but as the race grew closer, the miles grew longer and I doubted if I would be able to finish.  I never stopped trying.

The longest distance I would be required to run before the race was 20 miles.  I remember waking up on that rainy Saturday morning, and feeling a nervous excitement.  Would I be able to finish?  Would I do it well?

The rain poured down on me for three hours, and there was more than one concerned motorist that stopped and offered me a ride home.  They must have thought I was crazy.  Maybe I was.  But I was also determined.  The miles clicked on and I finally came to the end of my endurance when I reached 18.  The lightning that began to crack through the gray sky threatened my resolve.

Race day came on an unusually warm day for May.  Even after all of my preparation, my training, my resolve, I did not know if I would be able to finish.  But I was certainly going to try.

I hit the wall, as they say, at mile 16.  I still had 10.2 miles to go, and that number seemed impossible to accomplish.  I hurt everywhere!  My pace slowed, and every step took great effort.  It became a mental battle of the will, and for a very long time I didn't know which side would win.  But I kept pressing forward.

My mind focused on the finish.  I imagined my husband and my children waiting for me, my sisters too.  I knew they wanted to see me realize this dream.  And I knew I wanted it more than anyone.

It was when I passed the 26 mile marker that I knew I would finish.  With two-tenths of a mile to go, I called forth every ounce of energy that remained, and I pushed myself to go harder and faster.  If I was going to finish, I wanted to do it well.

And I did.


I'm remembering that story especially now as I am coming to the end of living life as I have always known it.  With less than 6 months to go, I am realizing more than ever how I want to finish it well.  I find myself traveling unchartered territories, and feel that there are so many opportunities to lose my way.

I cradle the delicacy of feelings.  I hold gently the imagined sadness of our absence in the church pew, or the parties we won't be able to attend, the holidays we can't be a part of, and the friends who will be too far out of reach for me to hug them tight just so they know how much I love them.  I'm going to miss it too.

I've never done this before, and I'm not sure how to finish strong, but I think it might look a lot like being present in the moment.  I think it might look like skipping the huge pile of laundry to meet a friend for lunch, or missing my treasured time of solitude to talk to someone on the phone.  It might resemble buying outrageous tickets to a Bengal's game, because your son has never been to one.  Or maybe even your husband going to work at 2 o'clock in the morning to finish a project, not because he's looking for a pay raise or a promotion, but because he is determined to give his best for as long as he is committed.

I think that's how I want this chapter to end.  I want to give my best; gather all of my reserves, until I finish.

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