It's a hell of a day.
You get up early, grab your running shoes, lots of water, toilet paper (for the porta-potties), the best and worst carbs available--i.e. gazads of peanut M+Ms, kettle chips, mint Milanos, good tunes, a change of clothes and if you're in a car with me, well, your strong constitution--I like to curse and tell stories that involve the word vagina and basically, how much I smell like one post my portions of the race.
Over the course of 12 hours, 8 people jump in and out of a vehicle as they take turns running their hearts out for 3, 4, and 5 mile staged legs, while their counter parts feverishly drive to the next exchange point to tag out a new runner.
I ran three legs.
It was the second one that nearly broke me.
I only had to run 4 miles...not a big deal.
But something happened as it got closer to my time to grab the baton. I thought I was going to throw up. I started to sweat and make stupid jokes. I told my teammates that they could stay in the car...I'd be okay to see myself off. It was as though my intuition knew that this run was going to be a bitch and I, its baby.
The sun was beating down and as my partner tagged me in, I rounded the bend onto a gravel road and four miles of fucking mental discipline ensued.
Let me begin by saying that I hate back, gravel roads. They're uneven. Cars drive on them and relentlessly kick dust into your eyes, face, mouth and lungs. That's when they're flat.
I was on a never-ending up hill battle with a gravel road that was winning.
Even though I meticulously customize my playlist, my songs were even letting me down. To top it off, a mile and half in, I saw the kiss of death...fellow runners started slowing down and then walking...while phenomenal athletes were passing me by with a cavalier thumbs up and a "way to go!" cheer. Fuck me.
Just as I began to lose faith, I turned to see a giant cornfield butted up against a crystal blue sky, and a group of cows hanging out in the distance enjoying a lazy Saturday afternoon. And it dawned on me.
Within the same day, hour, minute, moment, we're all here. The sun, the sky, the cow, the walker, the sprinter, the grass, the trees, the corn, me...we all get to occupy the same space in the same plane simultaneously. And while we take up room and experience all of it....we can endure it as a battle or we can sit in it and take it in for what it is, or we can transcend it and find the beauty in the blue, the cool air, the brilliant sun, the sweat, the strong legs, the gorgeousness and moment of a Saturday.
And so, I slowed down--way down.
And I looked around and gave thanks.
It was Saturday. And I was blessed to spend the whole day seeing lots of countryside, small towns and people focused on their fitness, running with friends for lots of causes and many reasons.
This was a time of celebration and joy, even if it hurt.
In my final leg, I was running as the sun went down, watching the leaves fall from the trees, realizing that change is on the horizon and that in each moment, I have a choice as to how I receive it.
I can bemoan it, or I can accept it and find the places where it enhances me instead of threatens me.
And I can recognize that I am not alone.
We are all tagging each other on this journey...sharing a baton, encouraging through words, humor, hope, forgiveness and love....promising that even if we're scared to go on our portion, that there will be a cow or two along the path, the sun in the sky, the guy who tells you to "keep up the good work," and the belief that even if it's painful, it will end. And you will be better for heading up the gravel road.
Moments after my leg, my fellow teammate, took this photo of me as I was scarfing down food, re-reading a note I wrote to myself as a reminder that I can do it one moment, one mile, one breath at a time. It's one of my favorite memories from the day. Along with the pics of the best partners a girl could ask for. Here's to baton passing along the journey...