What if today, we were just grateful for everything?
I have to admit that I’m not a fan of all those cutesy memes currently clogging up my Facebook page. But when a friend posted this one, I had to stop and pay attention. How many things and people and experiences happen in my life that I take for granted? Why is it that when life is good that I seem most likely to forget that pretty much everything in it is a gift? Sometimes it takes a real gut check to remember that life is a gift, not an entitlement.
Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me again to stop and let the gratitude sweep over me. The trigger was an insane physical and mental challenge: the Charm City Run 20-miler. Now, I have to say, I didn’t just sign up for a 20-mile run without preparation; no, this was the scheduled 20-mile training run built right into my schedule. I was sure that my legs were up to the challenge. It was the rest of me that I doubted.
You see, last year, I tried this run three weeks after wrist surgery that had interrupted my training. For a variety of reasons, I decided to run even though I knew I wasn’t ready. It was hot and humid that morning, but I chose to ignore all the warning bells going off in my head. But here is a indisputable fact: hot+humid+lack of preparation+MS = “not going to happen” — and it didn’t. I bailed at the 11 mile marked, and while intellectually, I understood the decision, emotionally, I carried that decision like a ninety-pound weight around my neck all year.
This year, I had every intention to volunteer but not to run this race. It always happens on the Sunday before Labor Day, so it’s going to be hot. But the universe had other plans, and yesterday, I ran that freakin’ race. And I finished it. If you consider speed a measure of accomplishment, I failed miserably. Those 20 miles took almost as long as any of my full marathons. Take away the time, though, and I won on so many levels that I am truly overwhelmed with gratitude.
Some of you may not be runners, so let me explain how running 20 miles in 82 degree, 93% humidity can possibly inspire gratitude.
Let’s start with the most obvious, most amazing aspect of that: I have multiple sclerosis. I am NOT supposed to be able to walk, much less run, at any speed in those conditions. Period. It’s not supposed to happen. And I did it. I have been blessed to do something that others would give their right arm to do again. Go back to my older posts when I first started on this running journey, and you hopefully will understand why I choke up every time I see a finish line. It’s just a gift. And it’s one that I may have been taking for granted this summer. I’m grateful for the reminder that every stride, no matter if it’s long or short, is a gift.
I could stop right there, but I shouldn’t. Sunday reminded me of how I have been gifted with an amazing group of people from my running community. Some I know very well, and some I just know tangentially from training. But I know one thing: there was no one on that trail on Sunday who wanted anything for me but to have the best run I could have. From great coaches to running buddies in the race and volunteering on the course to complete strangers that urge me on to complete strangers just out for a Sunday bike ride – how many people can say they have support ike that?
And then there were Pam and Bob. I know Pam, but we’ve only run together a couple of times. I met Bob Sunday. We ran together until the very end, and I don’t know that I would have finished without them. And it was while talking about things other than running that I was once again reminded that my life is beyond my wildest dreams, eHow many people can say they have a support system like that? ven as I push through 20 miserable miles just to prove something to myself.
And how appropriate was it that my personal gift appeared as we exited the trail, cheering like a maniac as his exhausted wife dug into what was left to finish the last mile? His very presence injected the last bit of energy that I needed to cross the finish.
So I won on Sunday. Yes, 95% of the runners finished in front of me. But for me, running is often a spiritual experience, and Sunday was one of those days. I am still kind of overwhelmed by it. Today, at least, I am grateful for everything – including sore hip flexors!