The times I feel odd happen frequently. Maybe because I’m born on an odd-numbered day. Sometimes I feel this way because of something I have: You have five children? People say, as if having any number over four has basically become as astronomical as living on Mars. Sometimes it’s because of something I do: You homeschool your kids? I could never do that. I’m never sure if that statement is supposed to make me feel better or worse than them. It always makes me feel odd, though. Sometimes I also feel it because of something I don’t do: You don’t wash your hair? Ok, I admit, even I thought that was weird a few months ago. But when one suffers relentlessly from dandruff, one will do almost anything, including the crazy, to be rid of those unwanted snowflakes which aren’t really snowflakes at all. Plus they never melt. Maybe I’ll do another post on that one a different day.
Lately, I’ve felt especially odd as I ran through the coldest, snowiest and sometimes most beautiful of days. Eight weeks ago I wasn’t quite sure about running one mile. Even the day before yesterday, I wasn’t quite sure about it:
Yesterday, I set out to do 13, with about 10,000 other oddities in the Philly Love Run. Finally, I’m not odd. Everyone, a common goal. Everybody screaming you on to finish.
Miles 1-5 were relatively smooth.
By mile 6, the rain was pretty heavy. My friend, Gail, and I ran together. We would laugh at how the rain pooled up inside our jacket sleeves. Whenever we straightened out our arms, rivers of water poured out like faucets. I stopped avoiding puddles and my sneakers spoke a second language, sounding a lot like: squish, squelch, squish, squelch.
Around mile 9 my legs felt a more like iron mixed with mush, and less like muscles and tendons. I was so hungry at mile 10, that when someone handed me a Swedish Fish candy, it tasted like a ten-dollar dessert. I savored the sugary calories stuck in my teeth for a few minutes. At mile 11 we ducked under an overpass to stretch one last time.
The deluge had turned to drizzle, but the cold was starting to cramp different parts of my legs. After a minute, we set off to whip those last miles into oblivion. At mile 12, the welcome sight of Philadelphia’s Boathouse Row came into view. As we approached mile 13, I had some emotional moments inside my head and heart. This is what it’s like to finish, I thought. It hurts. It’s beautiful. It’s thrilling. It’s really, really hard. For a few seconds I was given a quick glimmer of life’s finish line. Like an instagram from Heaven. We will look back and think: That was so hard. How did I get through it? Wow, life was so amazing. So difficult. Beautiful. Rewarding. Painful. So worth every second.
Unlike our eternal finish line when we’re finally Home, the thrill of this finish line was quickly replaced with the need for warmth and sustenance. We found our husbands, cheering under an umbrella. Then we squelched through inches of mud to receive our reward: a cool medal and a bag of potato chips (among other snacks, but the chips stood out to me the most).
It was a grand memory. I couldn’t have done it without the constant cheering of Matthew and Gail. Many others encouraged me as well, and you know who you are. And just like people ask you if you’re ever going to have more kids, the second after your baby pops into the world: YES, I’m going to keep running. Is that odd?