This February, I found myself in Huntington Beach, CA for the Surf City Half Marathon.Â Â It had been my goal to “re-enter” the world of running again – to find joy in a sport that I had taken a hiatus from for over a year.Â You see, running has been a huge part of who I am since I was 18.Â I’m not competitive (in the “did-you-run-on-a-team” sense), I just love running (trust me, it’s an acquired taste).Â
Someone close to me introduced me to the sportÂ a long timeÂ ago, and over the years, I found myself running more and more miles, until I had completed 6 marathons, countless half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks.Â Â In fact, I found a way for running to be a part of my life’s work.Â Â Running and I had a pretty tight relationship.Â The one thing I could turn to in times of stress, happiness, sadness, anger… and something that had brought me unforgettable experiences and precious friendships.
Â But over the past year, runningÂ has seemed like a distant memory.Â Â A long-forgotten friend.Â The past year has been one of the most difficult and challenging,Â both personally and professionally, and something had to give.Â So, running and I “took a break”.Â Â But as I looked to start a new chapter in my life, I realized, I wanted running to come along.Â So.Â Back to the beach.Â The Surf City experience was one I had decided was to be my “return to running”.Â This was it.Â Â I was going to use this race toÂ find my love of running again – and I honestly hoped it was still there.Â In all honesty, I was signed up to complete the full marathon, but had to “downgrade” to the half marathon, because my training was virtually absent.Â I knew my legs had enough memory to complete 13.1 miles, so it seemed like a logical move.
I headed to Huntington Beach with some of my best friends- training partners and people that, were it not for running, I would have never known.Â Â Most of us had not trained for this race, for various reasons, so we were in it “just to have fun”.Â
So, unlike any other race event I have ever participated in, I approached the starting line with complete ease.Â Surrounded by my friends, we entered the second to last corral… among the casual runners, walkers, “first timers”, and generally “non-runner” runners.Â Â Normally, this would make me freak out – I wouldn’t want to be viewed as a “slow runner” or get jumbled up in the pack of people that might compromise a personal best for me.Â But as I looked around the start, I felt a sense of calm.Â I had no watch.Â I had no expectations.Â Â I was just here, among my friends and strangers that had one goal: move forward and finish the race.Â And it was amazing.
As the gun went off for the race and we started collectively moving forward, I looked around.Â Â The back of the pack, although the slowest, might just be the place to find the “purest” reasons for running.Â There wereÂ people running in memory of someone,Â or for a cause, or to cross a race off their “bucket list”.Â There were girlfriends walking together.Â There were people new to the sport, and people that were veterans, finding that their bodies that once allowed them a more “elite” status gave in to the trudging along with the rest of us.Â There were many that didn’t “look like” runners – heavy, or muscular, or whatever… but you could tell their journey was just as important as the front of the pack.
So as the miles clicked on, I found myself feeling a year’s worth of emotion exiting through each footstep.Â By mile 5, I remembered what I loved so much about running.Â Feeling free. Feeling my lungs fill with fresh air, my legs push against the ground, my feet pushing back.Â Allowing my mind to wander as the time and miles passed by.Â Talking with my training partners, admiring the scenery.Â Enjoying theÂ purest of sports.Â As the race drew to a close, I found myself thinking, “I could have run this faster”.Â ButÂ the new runner in me quickly squashed this thought.Â This would be my personal worst time. But as I crossed the finish line with best friends… I knew this was my personal best raceÂ .
Running.Â Hello, old friend.Â Now, follow me to the post-race beer tent!