Grad School showed me not only a new path in my personal and professional life, but a desire for challenges and opportunities.
The day I decided to run a marathon was an early Saturday morning at the end of September. I was cheering, clapping, and encouraging thousands of runners during the Akron Marathon in 2009. This event brings the community together by filling the streets of the city with one objective: remind runners that they are not running a race by themselves. The atmosphere is filled with excitement and streets are packed with supporters from all backgrounds. Families accompany their loved ones by holding signs of encouragement, live music is played all over the city, spectators carry bells and noise makers to bring spirits up, performers join the party, photographers ask you to smile when you want to cry, and hundreds of volunteers make such event a success.
My decision behind this goal was to prove myself that I could accomplish anything even though I never ran any competition before. I was inspired by all the runners crossing the finish line. My plan was to start training in March and have enough time to condition my body and mind to 26.2 miles of pain.
My training schedule was simple: 2 days a week, gym, cardio and 10 minutes running around the track. I would concentrate on my pace and I was hoping that the shoes I bought online promised the outcome that I had in mind. Early mornings became my best scenario; cold and dark streets fed my spirit, cleared my mind and fueled my day.
I increased my long runs, and when September arrived, the longest distance was 9 miles after 2 hours of running. I did not know what to expect for the day of the race, but this experience made a great impact in my life. It became a habit and a therapy of mindfulness.
The National Anthem was playing, thousands of runners stretching, and the sound of the bell indicated the beginning of 26.2 miles of pain. Little did I know about logistics and the 12-minute pace group. I followed them and stayed close, but after 8 miles, muscle cramps, sore legs, fatigue, thirst, and sticky hands from Gu energy gels showed me the beauty of running marathons.
Everyone was very supportive; I stopped once to stretch my legs and one more time to get water and Gatorade. Reaching mile 22 marked the beginning of my decline, I made it this far, and I needed a break by walking a mile. Far in the horizon, downtown Akron was waiting for my arrival and I noticed fewer runners by my side and many more carrying a medal while coming back. I gave it all in the last mile – home stretch was finally here Veni, Vici, Vidi.
Arriving to the finish line was a relief after 5 hours and 30 minutes of suffering. I shook hands with the director of the race; I claimed my medal, two cans of beer, a bagel, a banana, a massage, and a photograph.
At this point, you should be asking how I was feeling and to tell you the truth: “I survived to tell this story”.
All things considered, running has been one of the most rewarding experiences during Grad School. I convinced my friends to run along, for miles, hours, covering paths, trails, experiencing parks, nature, and getting inspired. My running career accumulates 3 relays, 3 half marathons, many 5Ks, an 8K, a 10K, and an injury that made me master the use of crutches.
The path ahead of me stretches for miles and miles. I have only covered a tiny fraction, and yet I have learnt so much. I learnt that no matter where and how, running frees my mind, and it makes me feel and see the world from a different perspective.
What has your community done for you?