The first race of the season is always daunting for me. I never know what to expect. I am always nervous. I never feel prepared enough. I feel out of practice and uncomfortable.

Today was no different. I felt all these things and more. I left my Garmin at home as I really had no expectation of time today. I was just looking forward to getting out and running the first race of the season.

I met up with one of my Sole sisters and we chatted as we waited for the start. Neither of us felt we had trained enough for this race so we both just said we would run for fun. We vowed to stay together unless one of us was having a great day and wanted to take off.

The race began and the nerves gave way to muscle memory. We almost were separated at the start as I made an error but my girl jumped a median so we could stay together. I felt foolish that I had made a beginner error but no matter….we motored on. I felt stiff and slow as we ran without chatting too much.

We got to mile one and she told me we needed to slow down as we were out MUCH to fast. I didn’t feel fast. I felt old and slow. But I chugged along. I was not going to slow her down. About the first aide stop, we took a water/walk break. I needed to regroup and so did she. We took off again with a fresh breath filling our lungs. Along the way we encouraged other runners and each other.

Over the bridge and into the sun, we were getting warm and tired. Another short break to catch our breath and we took off again.

Just before aide station 2 I needed to take off my top layer as I was sooo hot. We walked again for a little bit as I put myself together. Off we went again towards the aide station. There, like a beacon of hope, was our friend Tim taking pictures. We posed for a few, had some water and then headed towards the finish. I was feeling so tired and kept apologizing to her for slowing her down. She was my cheerleader reminding me of all the lessons I had taught her as we trained together each summer. As I heard my own words repeated back to me, they began to sink in.

We rounded the corner and headed up Michigan Avenue. Along this stretch, I was feeling a overwhelming sense of gratitude. I was grateful for so many things but at that moment, I was so grateful for friends, especially the one running beside me. She never gave up on me and didn’t not allow me to give up on myself.

We prepared ourselves for Mount Roosevelt and the finish. I wanted to walk on the hill so badly but I did not want to disappoint my friend. I slowed my pace but climbed that hill and then saw the finish. We wanted to cross the finish line holding hands but this was not to be. I knew she had gas left in the tank but I was fading. I told her to go and off she went. Watching her take off and finish before me brought tears to my eyes. She never left me and she could have. She didn’t let me take the easy way out. She matched me step for step and along the way we found what we had been missing….our mojo and a PR(for me!).

After a big hug, we walked to water looking for another friend of ours. Another big hug and some pictures and the morning was almost over for me.

I walked to my car alone looking out over the stunning skyline of the city thinking of how lucky I am. I am not only lucky to be able to run but to have friends like the ones that supported me today. I am so blessed.

So days we are the cheerleader and some days we need a cheerleader. Today was a good reminder of that and of all my many blessings. I am one lucky girl.


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