2016 was the best running year of my life so far. I met some amazing people, people who have quickly become my best friends. There were a lot of really awesome running moments in 2016, but I decided to just touch on a few that really stood out to me. Most made me laugh, some made me cry, and all of them made me a better person. Thank you to my running friends for making this year so incredible for me!
The Peas in a Pod: I was not sure about joining my local running group. I had always thought that running clubs were for fast runners, something I most certainly am not. During the winter and early spring months, my local running group started longer training runs for the half marathon that I was planning to sign up for. I finally got up the courage to go to a run and asked if any slow runners would be out here, especially any who did run/walk intervals. That’s how I ended up meeting my friend Staci. We ran 8 miles together that day and learned a ton of things about each other. Over the last 6+ months we have learned more and more about each other and realize that we are two peas in a pod! She ended up running my first half marathon with me, and we both ran our first marathon together… but you’ll read more about those races later. :)
The First Half Marathon: The half marathon was a race that was a long time in the making. I had planned on running two other half marathons, but things got in the way and I wasn’t able to do it. I finally committed to a race and started training early this year. Even with this race I was nervous, as I had issues with shin splints and wasn’t sure if I would be able to do the race. I gained more and more confidence the more I trained, and after meeting Staci I felt even better as I planned to run the race with her. I was so grateful to have her with me because I knew if she hadn’t been there, I would not have done as well as I did. That race boosted my self confidence like no other race ever had, and I finished with such joy and sense of accomplishment!
The Master Runner: During my first half marathon, Staci and I met an incredible man – Jerry Johncock. I had seen him at races before, he is famous for wearing a shirt that says “Run with Jesus”. He ended up running the last few miles with Staci and I and gave us some great advice for running our first marathon. At the time Staci was already signed up for the Detroit International Marathon, and I thought running a marathon seemed absolutely insane. Jerry kept us going those last few miles when we wanted to give up with his amazing stories. We learned that he had been running for 38 years, and that he started running when he was 50… yes, you’re doing the math right, he is 88 years young! He ended up setting a national record that day. He encouraged me to sprint to the finish line, and I did. It was an honor running with him that day!
The Little Cheerleader: At mile 7 of our half marathon, Staci and I came across a couple of kids handing out water and cheering on runners. We happened to be walking at the time, and one of the girls said “Don’t stop running! You only have 6 more miles to go! You’ve already run 7!” We laughed – and we STILL talk about that little girl to this day. She will never know how encouraging it was to hear that!
The Ninja Trip: This moment happened during my first ever run with my friends Matt & Paula, which also happened to be my first trail run. It was a hot and humid day, but luckily the trails kept us cool. Paula had warned me beforehand that she trips and falls almost every time she runs on trails… which was a good warning since she was leading us and I was running behind her. Fortunately, Paula did not trip, but unfortunately this girl did! And boy, was it ever epic. That root came out of nowhere, and I did some crazy ninja dance moves to stay upright. Somehow I didn’t fall on my face, but I could not stop laughing thinking about just how ridiculous I must have looked from Matt’s perspective running behind us!
The Proposal: So this isn’t exactly a running moment, but it involves running, so it’s going on this list. On August 6th, I met up with Matt and Paula in East Lansing to do a 10 mile training run. It was another hot and humid day, and I ended up feeling miserable. I think I probably had heat exhaustion and ended up having to walk a lot and let Matt and Paula go on their own. It wasn’t really a great run for any of us… but Matt and I knew something better was coming after the run! We all met up again for the last stretch of the run, which ended up just being about 8 miles instead of 10, and then split up to get back to our cars because I had “gotten confused” and “couldn’t find the engineering building”. While I drove back to my sister’s house, Matt and Paula walked back across campus and Matt proposed to Paula in front of Beaumont Tower. She was TOTALLY surprised and it was perfect, even if it wasn’t a perfect run. Matt surprised her AGAIN by having her family and his family meet up with us for lunch. I was SO freakin’ honored to be a part of that day!
The Proud Supporter: After running my second half marathon, I waited with my running friends for Matt to finish his first marathon. I was so excited for him to do this as it had been something he had talked about since I first met him. We all waited, tracking him on our RaceJoy app, anxious for him to finish. My mom and I stood together waiting to take a video of his finish. My phone jingled to tell me that he was coming close and I was so excited! I saw him round the corner and heard them announce his name, and then heard them announce another runner’s name from our group, and realized that Jon had found Matt and helped him finish his first marathon! Matt was obviously overjoyed as he ran across the finish line, the smile on his face and his fist in the air showed it. I sounded like a stupid cheerleader as I cheered for him. I may or may not have shed a tear… I was so proud of him!
The Power Up: Staci and I saw some really awesome signs while in Canada during our marathon. In fact, our short jog in Canada was probably my favorite part of the whole marathon. One of the best moments, though, was when we saw a kid with a super mushroom sign saying “Tap here to power up!” We ran over to his side of the road and I slapped the poster. Staci, however, must have really gotten some power from that super mushroom, because when she slapped it she ended up taking the whole poster with her! We were laughing so hard – it was just one of those “I can’t believe that just happened, that was great!” moments.
The Big Surprise: At about 24-ish miles into my first marathon, when I felt like I really should have bought a shirt that said “Everything hurts and I’m dying”, I got the biggest surprise ever. I’m trotting along with Staci, every step hurting, just ready for this torture to be done with, then I see two people out of the corner of my eye jump onto the path. Suddenly I realize… I know these people. It’s Matt and Paula! Those little stinkers surprised us and joined us for our last 2+ miles of our marathon, when we really, really needed that encouragement. After my initial shock, I cried, because apparently when you run a marathon the smallest things will make you cry. I truly cannot express how much them being there for me and Staci meant, especially in that moment. Running friends are SERIOUSLY the best.
The Finish Line: There were a lot of finish lines this year, but one in particular meant more than anything, and that was the Detroit International Marathon finish line. By the end of the marathon, I was in a lot of pain. Staci and I had really been through the ringer. We had sweat in the humidity, struggled up and down hills, fought nausea and stomach issues, fought the urge to give up, gotten soaked to the bone in the pouring rain, and put our bodies through… quite frankly… hell. There were really amazing and fun moments, as you have already read about above, but I can’t lie – this race was really hard. So when we approached the finish line, we were overwhelmed with emotion. Staci’s kids cheered us on right before we turned the corner, and I already had lost it at that point. We walked most of the finish chute, but agreed we would start running at the crosswalk before the finish line. We started running when we heard them announce our names, throwing our hands in the air and cheering, and then the tears just overflowed. We grabbed each other’s hands and ran across that finish line, screaming with joy and then sobbing with joy as we hugged each other. We went to our families, and I cried as I hugged my mom, my sister, my dad, my brother-in-law and my husband. My nephew poured us glasses of apple cider and gave us donuts. Matt and Paula had run ahead so that they could take pictures and videos of us crossing the finish line. We are marathoners, and we earned it. And we did it together – something I am so incredibly grateful for. It meant so much to me to cross that finish line with my friend. WE FREAKIN’ DID IT!