saturday was the Provo City half marathon that Mary and I have been training to run in for the last 6 weeks. it was cold and early, but we made our way onto the bus by 4 15 to make sure we got entered for the sweet giveaways you wouldn't want to miss. (aka last years race shirts- to say we were disappointed would be an understatement). As I sat on the bus as we travel the 13.1 miles up the canyon to our starting point I marveled at the camaradery that there is in the running world. At four in the morning my normal friendly self is still asleep and I tend to just be an empty shell of a person, fighting to stay awake. So i sat there and listen as people befriended complete strangers. They talked about their training, number of races, but then just life. Eventually, I forced myself out of my haze and began talking to those around me. I turned to the man I had been sitting next to for the last 20 minutes and had said nothing to besides "can i sit here" and began talking to him. It was his 105 marathon! I was amazed- he warned me about catching the bug.
we made our way off the bus and into the cool mountain air. we still had over two hours until our start time. we huddled around a small camp fire with 30+ other runners. we stood there as we watched the sky slowly brighten. More runners were added to the mix as bus after bus dropped off more people anxious to start.
we eventually left our perch by the fire to get set for the race. its odd, but I think my favorite part before a race is waiting in line for the port-a-potty. There are so many people to watch. I feel like I am part of the running community at that moment. You would think after running four half marathons you would consider yourself a runner, but I still feel like an impostor.
the long awaited start eventually came. first the marathoners. then the halfers. we took our place. on your mark. get set. the gun fired. we slowly started shuffling forward with a thousand other runners, we crossed the line, activating our chips and we were off.
I have a problem where I am competitive. I love passing people- it gives me a sense of satisfaction. I love driving in the left lane for this reason. So as we started we were cruising, passing people left and right. It didn't hurt that we were going down hill, and I was distracted talking to Mary. We eventually made it onto the river trail and hit a rhythm. But my mental games started kicking in. I would pick a person 30 feet ahead. They were my new goal- I had to stay with them, and eventually pass them. The girl in the teal. The man with the blue hat. The girl in purple. They were are targets, just pass them. We wound our way down the tree lined path getting closer to the finish with each step.
It was around Mile 9.5 when Mary said to me for the fifth time. "Ellie, go ahead, leave me, set a PR...GO" My response of "No, you are more important to me than a time" changed as I realized it would be easier for her if I left. So with my last words of encouragement I took off. I hadn't passed the girl in the purple yet. I was zooming and felt great. What was three more miles? I felt fresh. 1:25:00- I could still beat 2 hours if I kept pace. I caught up to the girl in the purple, and left her in the dust. I felt amazing- and then the hill came. I had never noticed it was a hill before, but suddenly I felt like I was climbing Mount Everest. It went of for what seemed like eternity- I could now feel my legs turning to jello, and the lack of breakfast and water was starting to make me feel weak. only 2.5 more miles. I was so close.
I had just passed a girl in pink, I later found out her name was Angela, and she was right on my tail. I was losing it. Mentally I was almost done. I turned to her- "hey this is way random, but is it okay if I pace with you" I was locked in. I had to keep up. I then started asking questions, and just talking to distract myself from the tingling I was feeling all through my left arm. I was getting close to empty. We talked. She told me about her life. She was 28, living in orem, working as a nurse. We talked about running. 1.5 miles to go. we were so close. We saw Nat, a girl walking, a pat on the back and a "you can do it you are so close" and she was there running with us. Her response "if you can do it, so can I." quick introductions and we were a new running crew. .5 miles to go. I can see my apartment, all I want is to shower and collapse on my bed. 1:55:00. five minutes, I can do it. no, no I cant. with .3 miles to go, I was done. I was on empty. My whole left side was tingling. I just needed to walk for a second and I would be okay. I turned to Nat and Angela, "Im such a hypocrite, but I need to walk for just a second, I will see you at the end" Angela's response "No- you are way to close- you can see the finish line! you can do it" so i kept running.
We got to the end, and my normal sprint to the finish was non-existent. I had absolutely nothing left. I saw my friends standing there, cheering, homemade signs in hand. I have never been so happy to see them in my life. I crossed the finish line. 2:00:06. seven seconds off my goal. but I had finished. I felt weak, like I was going to pass out. I grabbed a water bottle and made my way to stand with everyone and cheer Mary to the finish.
The rest of the morning was heaven. I have been blessed with the most wonderful friends. I jumped in the shower first thing, and got out to a text saying "Ellie, we want to make breakfast for you come over" I threw on sweats and made my way to their apartment. Not only did the feed us, but they played with our hair (my ultimate form of comfort) and massaged our legs. I have never felt so loved, and so blessed.
So this long post- gets even longer. There is a reason for the detail.
Today as I sat in Church- with my body reminding me that it was not happy about the day before- I did our favorite thing at EFY and started debriefing my experience. I thought about the race- especially the end. And suddenly the gospel comparison was right in front of me.
I feel like in the gospel there are times where I am on top of it all. I am giving everything I have, and I feel great. Like the moment right after I left Mary. There was no stopping me. But there are times where we feel like we have given everything, that we have nothing else to give, and we can't make it. The celestial kingdom is my goal, but at times it seems like I can't get there. It is just too hard. I am burnt out, and just want to give up.
I've been reading an absolutely amazing book called "Believing Christ" and in the book he tells a story about his wife. She had been going full speed ahead in the gospel, and one day she became burnt out. No matter how hard she tried she would never be perfect, and what was the point of trying. She believed that Christ had lived, and she believed in the atonement, but she didn't believe him when he said he would make up the rest.
I couldn't have finished that race on my own (well, I would have finished, but I would have walked), just like I can't make it to the Celestial Kingdom on my own. My Heavenly Father doesn't expect me to be perfect, he knows I wont be, and because of Christ I don't have to be. All he asks is that I give him all I have. If I do that- he will be there. A boy in Sunday school today made a comment about how we have to realize that there is no way we can be perfect on our own, and that we need the Savior.
I am so far from being perfect, and there are times that I feel like no matter how hard I try I wont make it to the finish line. What comfort the knowledge of the atonement has brought to my life.
Another connection to the gospel is the fact that it doesn't matter when you finish, or how you finish, just that you finish. Our Heavenly Father doesn't care if you are a convert, or if you have been a member your whole life. It doesn't matter if you were the Relief Society President, or an activities committee member. He just cares that you keep moving forward. That you keep trying. That you make it across the finish line- even if you are crawling on hands and knees.
The connections went on and on through my head today. I guess it was just great prep for a summer full of EFY.