Silence except the sound of my footsteps, rhythmically pounding in time with the sound of my breathing… heavy at this point, but not labored. As the sun gets high in the sky it lights up the gentle rolls in the water that fills the lake. It’s nearly noon. I come to a bridge that I know well. It’s not a big one. It’s not one that hurts my aching knees as I cross it. It’s small, spanning just a small offshoot of White Rock Lake. Two women and two girls crouch below it, picking up plastic bottles and trash.
“What is this?” one woman asks.
“Plastic!” both girls proudly and loudly reply.
“That’s right! And what do we do with plastic?” asks the other women.
“Recycle!!” the girls exclaim.
I smile big, wave and run on… alone again with just my thoughts. Returned to silence, with the exception of the footsteps and the breathing.
It’s hard not to focus on the pain. I’ve been running for hours and over 16 miles. I fight the urge to wince, to stop, to give in to the thoughts in my head that tell me that I can’t, that I won’t, that it’s too hard. It’s been a particularly challenging run for me. With no running partner to pass the time chatting with, I’ve been left to run alone for the longest run I’ve faced in years. No Ipod, just my watch and my thoughts.
I take a minute to look to my left, to really take in the lake. It’s something I take for granted most Saturday mornings. My head is usually down or focused straight ahead. I realize I’m coming up on the water stop that will mark 17 miles, one mile from my finishing point. Another runner passes, alone in his own bubble of silence, which he breaks to look up and simply say, “You’re doing great! Hang in there.”
I’m suddenly overcome by emotion, by pride, by happiness, by peace. I am doing great. I am hanging in there. I’ve been hanging in there for over 16 miles, and I’m going to hang in there for all 18. And then I’m going to run a marathon next month. I’m going to do this! And I have nobody to thank but myself.
As a family of ducks swims past me, I turn toward the stretch that takes me to the water fountains, and it’s all I can do to keep the tears from coming. Look at what you’ve done! And why are you so surprised? Why would it be so shocking that you could run 18 miles all by yourself? You’ve trained for this. You have run these distances before, though it was so far back and so far removed from the life you know now it may seem like another lifetime. You are strong. You had a baby with no epidural! You are a mother. You can do ANYTHING!!
The last mile of my long runs is usually brutal, filled with various four letter words, shouted loud enough for any and all to hear, but not today. Today my last mile is a mile of peace, of pride, of reflection. Today my last mile inspired me to do more, to run more, to love more, to write more, to live more. And this mile of peace… this glorious moment of peace didn’t come easy. It came after 17 lonely, self doubting miles, after hours of silence and footsteps. It was my gift for facing a challenge that threatened to stop me in my tracks, literally. It was my gift for pushing myself beyond the point that I believed in myself. It was one of my most beautiful and best moments of 2009.
This is the story of my favorite moment of peace in 2009, inspired by Gwen Bell’s #Best09 challenge. It’s one quiet moment of the year that stands out as having the biggest impact on me, and surprisingly not a drop of wine or a single dose of Benadryl was involved. I know this post veers away from my traditional sarcastic writing voice, and is probably way more sappy than some of you can stomach, but alas, I can be cheezy and sappy sometimes. I knew the moment I saw the writing prompt for December 8th (Moment of peace. An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?) that I had to get this story out. It touches on so much that has shaped me this year.
This happened on October 17th, 2009, and Kendall was 18 and a half months old at the time, at home with his father, eating pancakes and watching the Science Channel.