Ever have one of those runs you just know are going to be great from the minute you get up? Today was that day. I had laid out my clothes the night before and got my things ready before bed. I slept fitfully as the anticipation of the run and the fear of oversleeping my alarm were keeping me from getting into the deep ‘sleep of the dead’ sleep mode.

I got up and dressed and made my way downstairs for some breakfast. After some Chobani and coffee I was ready. I knew it was going to be a good run due to the weather. It was a fine 58 degrees…Mother Nature had finally decided to have some mercy on us Saturday Soldiers. Every other Saturday (and many weekdays too!) the early morning temps have been in the high 70’s or low 80’s with HIGH humidity at our start. Today’s weather felt FABULOUS!

I got in the car and headed off to meet my group. My pace group has been meeting 30 minutes before the rest of the group in order to beat the heat and finish with every one else….we are slower than most!  So it was good to hit the path at 6:30 in the cool morning air. We go out and back for our first 3. I wore a light pullover as it was cool and by mile 1.5 it was off and around my waist. We usually push the pace on the fist 3 but knowing we had a long distance today(15 miles)….I kept everyone right on task.

We all dumped our outer layers at the 3 mile marker,  got water then headed out for the 12…this was 6 up and 6 back. The chatter was often about how far we were running this week and how each in my pace group did not think they could do it….please don’t me upset if I need to walk….are you sure I can do this?….I might need to hang back….I might need some encouragement to get through this….

So we just kept putting one foot in front of the other as we chatted away the miles. We stopped for our water  breaks and people took on gel/gu/etc. Me? I prefer AccelGel. I tried orange and vanilla today…both agreed with me so well (and I think got me to the end strong). I did one at mile 5 and another at mile 10. I drank only water today too which helped.

As we ‘entered new territory’ as I like to call it on the path there was a lot of excitement. My group did not realize really how far we had run and the new landmarks along the way helped them comprehend it all. As we reached the turn around and water, the group was so thrilled. We had run amazingly well so far. No walking. No complaining. No whining. Only positive, encouraging words and fun discussions.

We turned around and headed back. This was going to be the tough part for them. So off we went and continued to find any number of things to talk about. It is amazing that for several hours we can just talk about any and everything.

After water at our mile 12.8 there is a bridge. We call her Wanda. Long story but some days Wanda can get the best of us. She is a hell of a hill/bridge. We ran her on the way out but  after water we walked up her this last time only because people were still hydrating (and I really did not want to kill my group today!). At her crest we took off on that downhill and enjoyed the momentum as we crossed into new territory…the distance after 13.1 was new ground for my group. Many have run half marathons so this was new ground.

I kept telling them that with each step they were running father than they had ever run before. We continued that mantra for the next 2 miles…every step is farther than you  have ever run…one foot in front of the other….every step is farther than you  have ever run….

As we got close to the finish, I could feel some of the girls start to push the pace and told them to take off…I knew they felt good and were excited. We ran the whole distance. There was no walking or slowing down. They maintained pace…something that has not happened in a while due to the heat. We ran every hill (save Wanda on the way back) and did not slow down. It was wonderful!

As I watched each runner cross the line at the end of the run I was overcome with pride. Seeing each of these people exceed their own expectations and accomplish something they were not sure they were capable of was awe inspiring. What makes me even happier is that this is only the beginning of exceeding expectations for this group. Crossing the finish line of the marathon will change their lives….

This is one of the main reasons I run…moments like this. I did not get to where I am alone. I stand on the shoulders of all the runners who came before me and helped me see my potential. We all have others to thank for where we are in our running and in our lives. We did not get here alone.

‘Forward is a pace’ is my personal motto in running and in life. However,  as I move forward it is my job to turn around and offer my hand and heart to those who follow. It is my hope that in doing this, we all learn to turn around and to ‘pay it forward’ by helping those who follow us. Peace.

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