EVERY MILE MATTERS
by Angie Webb
As a child I loved to run, but I hated running. Give me a basketball or soccer ball and I could run for hours. Tell me to go and run a mile and I wouldn’t do it. In Junior High School I played on the basketball, soccer and softball teams. I dominated dodgeball and flag football in P.E. It was Wednesdays that I dreaded most: the day of the “FUN” run.
On Those days I did not want to dress down and wished I had the guts to cut class. I could not see the “FUN” in running a mile and a half. Why in the world would someone run when there was no one chasing you down the field to steal the ball from you or sprinting down the court to score a fast break layup? In my mind, the only purpose for running was when you were playing sports. That’s it.
I reminded myself of this every Wednesday as I slowly got dressed into my P.E. clothes and slugglishly walked out to the track. My “FUN” run consisted of hanging out with the other girls at the back of the pack, complaining about having to do a stupid mile and a half, and trying to get away with as little running as possible. Needless to say, my “FUN” runs were usually more of a “FUN” walk, with a small bit of running whenever Coach Bitton blew her whistle and told us to get moving.
My high school days were not much different. I played varsity basketball and soccer, and to me, running was a punishment. It was something we had to do when someone missed a free throw in practice or when our soccer coach would get frustrated and send us off on a mile run. My teammates and I did whatever we could to get out of running in our strength and conditioning class, which was taught by Coach Morgan, the football coach. When he wasn’t looking, we’d take turns hiding, or we’d bribe him with donuts to get out of running laps. Fortunately, the donuts usually did the trick.
It wasn’t until I moved away to college that I decided to give this whole running thing a try. I went down to St. George with my parents to watch my mom run the St. George Marathon. It was the first time I’d ever witnessed anything like that. I stood in awe as I watched people, both young and old, run the final 300 yards of a 26.2 mile run and I was overcome with emotion. I cried as I watched a little boy run out and run the final 100 feet, hand in hand, with his mom. I clapped for the older man that came limping in, but determined to cross that finish line.
Then there was my mom, a 49-year-old mother of eight children, running the final stretch. I could see the pain in her face as she struggled towards the finish, but she smiled as she completed her marathon. In that moment I caught the bug. Or should I say, the bug caught me. It bit me so hard and all I could think about was crossing that finish line.
I moved back to my home state of Utah to finish my degree at the University of Utah. It was during this time that I fell in love with running. I registered for the St. George Marathon and when I found out that I got in then the serious training began. I had only run in one event before and it was a small 5K in Anchorage, Alaska. The thought of running 26.2 miles was overwhelming, but once again, the thought of crossing the finish line pushed me forward.My second semester of college I signed up for a 6:00am running class. Don’t ask me what I was thinking signing up for such an early class, but I did it and I never missed. I wish I could say I fell in love with running right from the start, but that would be a lie. It was hard. I wanted to quit. I wanted to walk, and a few times I did. An added bonus is that I attended my first few semesters of college in Hawaii and I loved running on the beach. My friend, Anjanelle, and I would go for a run and then jump in the ocean for a refreshing swim. During that time I caught small glimpses of how “FUN” running could be and how good it made me feel.
During one of my training runs I discovered the runner’s high. It was a clear, sunny morning filled with bright blue sky. The trees lining the roads were covered in fresh snow that had fallen the night before. I took off for a five mile run through my sleepy little neighborhood. As I ran, water dripped onto the street as the snow started to melt from the branches and I felt so alive. I felt like I could run forever and I did not want to stop. My whole body felt awake, alert and so very strong. Whenever I ran I craved to have that feeling, and although it didn’t always happen, I loved how good running made me feel – physically, mentally and emotionally.
Running the St. George Marathon was an amazing experience for me. My mom also ran it that year and it was fun to share the experience with the person that inspired me to do it in the first place. There were 7,000 runners and I loved being part of the crowd and the excitement at the starting line. For the first mile I listened as thousands of feet hit the pavement. I’ll never forget that. I felt so connected as my own feet joined in the rumbling chorus.
I wish I could say that the run was easy. It was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and there were a couple of times I was ready to call it quits. The finish line seemed to be thousands of miles away. But I kept putting one foot in front of the other and eventually the end was in sight. With about 200 yards left I was slowly dragging my aching legs towards the finish line when an older man came to my side and said, “You’re not going to let a 60 year old man beat you to the finish line are you?” He had a huge grin on his face and started running fast, nearly sprinting, as he pulled ahead of me. In that moment I forgot about the pain and I pulled every ounce of energy I had left, and began to sprint. I crossed that finish line neck and neck with that man and then he gave me a smile and was gone.
I had completed a marathon. My whole body was sore and my legs felt like jelly when I finished, but I did finish. That day I realized that I can do anything. My body is strong and my feet will carry my wherever I ask them to go. Later that day I lost a toenail and for two weeks my legs hurt so bad. Walking up stairs or sitting down on the toilet was excruciating, but it was all worth it. Soon enough my body healed and I was out running again. In the next few years I ran several half marathons and went through phases where I ran and where I didn’t run. It was a beautiful love-hate relationship. And through it all I can see how important each and every mile is, especially those miles that carried me to the starting line of my first marathon.
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