After months of training and planning, I ran the St. Jude Nashville marathon Saturday. It’s still hard for me to believe I completed 26.2 miles. The whole experience – amazing and life-changing in so many ways – was made extra special because I got to share it with some wonderful people who were also running their first marathon. And all of us were running in honor of Cara Hawxby, my 7-year-old cousin, who will be undergoing treatments for leukemia at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis for the next two and half years.
|L to R: Rachel Brown, Tyne Rose, Molly Ledbetter, Kelly Humphries. Back: Nick Prososki, Tim Prososki, Gene Britt. Middle: Serena Prososki, Penny Britt, me, Norene Prososki (mom). Front: Shauna Rose Price, Heather Heide (Cara's mom), Sherry Alexander.|
Back in October, Mom and I made the decision to go through this marathon journey together. We planned on doing our training runs together, but she pulled a muscle in November that took her out of running for awhile. I really didn’t want to train by myself, so my dad said he would do it with me! He is a lot faster than me, but he stuck right by me through every training run - no matter how slow. While we were running the marathon I tried to tell him how thankful I was to him for doing this with me, but it was hard to get the words out without crying. Once I finally choked out the words, he said. “Any dad should be honored and privileged to do this with their daughter.” He had a little catch in his voice, so I think he was about to cry, too.
Speaking of crying - I had no idea how emotional this day would be. So many times, I was overwhelmed with how thankful I was to be there. So many times, I felt like God was right there with us. There’s a verse in the Bible that is especially meaningful to me and our family – Isaiah 40:31 – But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. It was my Poppo Delmar’s favorite verse; he took joy and comfort in those words when ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) caused his muscles to stop working. It’s engraved on his tombstone.
In one of the first letters I got from my husband, Zack, long before we ever met, while he was in the Marines, he told me it was his favorite verse and it helped get him through tough times in boot camp. (It was a little sign from God that Zack was indeed the man put on this earth for me.)
Days before the marathon I had asked a fellow IRC member to pray for me because I was nervous about my first marathon and she simply replied with “YOU GOT THIS!! You will “soar on wings like eagles.”
Within the first few miles of our marathon, we ran by a woman encouraging her friend, saying in a strong, commanding voice, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength and mount up with wings as eagles!” Then she shouted, “Amen!” Dad and I, with tears streaming down our faces, shouted “Amen!” right back to her.
After the race, Penny Britt, who also ran her first marathon that day, brought up that same verse and told us of all the times throughout the day and the week prior that it had encouraged her, not knowing that we had almost the same story. There were many blessings throughout this journey. Just the fact that all of us made it to the start and finish line is huge. Mom got a horribly sharp pain in her foot .2 miles into the race, we all prayed and it went away and she had an awesome race. God is Great!
I loved everything about this experience - especially the people! The roads were lined with spectators. Some handed out oranges, apples, ice cubes; some sprayed us with the water hose; some held funny and encouraging signs. But my favorite had to be the all the kids standing there with their little hands sticking out for high fives. I think I may have added half a mile onto my distance just trying to get over to high five all of the kids.
All of that support from strangers is amazing, but when Dad and I saw the Rose family and the Britt girls –our friends from home ‑ it was a high point of the marathon. It really helped keep me going. It made me think of everyone from our small town and all of my friends who I knew were thinking about me and who were praying for me, and it was overwhelming.
There were 31,000 people running in Nashville and so many of them were an inspiration for me. In front of me a woman with a prosthetic leg was running in the marathon. Shauna Rose Price, one of my fellow Cara runners, said she saw a blind man who was running with the aid of two sticks. A soldier in full camo uniform and boots with a huge backpack was right next to us running in memory of soldiers who had died in combat.
Even at the end of the marathon, in those final miles, with aching muscles and the sun frying blisters on my nose, I turned to Dad and said, “How awesome is this!”
Crossing the finish line was surreal. I don’t know if it was being so tired or from being in the direct sunlight for 6 hours but I really don’t remember everything crystal clear. I’m not sure which friend I hugged first but I do remember how happy I was to see their good looking faces. I saw Heather, Cara’s mom, waiting for me. As soon as we saw each other, we both started crying. She was saying thank you to me for doing the run for Cara, but I want to thank her for letting me. I was the one who was blessed.
I still have to tell myself every day, "I ran a marathon!" It still doesn't seem real. I just feel so blessed that God not only got me through the training injury free but I honestly enjoyed it. The memories I made with my Dad on this journey are irreplaceable.