The day promised to be warm and would get warmer so I was well on my way before the sun had risen Sunday morning. The cloud cover would keep me from overheating, and I started my 20-mile trek with 20 ounces of water, 20 ounces of Gatorade, and three packs of goo-trition.
[urbandictionary.com defines “gootrition” as the process of obtaining food necessary for bad health and obesity. Goo-trition is my term for those little packs of gel that provide quick energy for endurance events.]
The first ten miles went great. Felt great. Looked great. Even the four miles after that were solid. My pace dipped a bit, but then picked up again slightly.
As I neared the 15-mile mark my rations were getting low, but I thought I had reserved enough to make it through. My feet were hurting a bit, but not too bad. My attitude was good and not too shaky. I had this one. Almost.
The last quarter of this route—and there’s no getting around it—are steadily uphill and into the sun. Neither thing is too bad by itself, but together they are completely draining. As I came out of that last bit of shade the sun was bright and hot and four miles left felt like forty miles to go. And by the last mile, I had nothing left. No energy, no water, no nothing.
I’ve learned many times over that one foot down, one foot up gets the job done. Next foot down, next foot up. Drink a little here, drink a little there, and arrive home safe and sound. I knew I would—and I did—but something special happened in the last mile.
As I turned the corner to the home stretch, my pace had slowed to a shuffle, and I was hot, tired, dry and thirsty. To make matters seem worse, I had to pass right by a 7-Eleven where there was ice, Slurpees, gulps, water, juice, soda, refrigerators, cold cuts, kool-aid, squirt guns, water balloons, popsicles, freeze pops, ice cream, fudgesicles, well, anything that was or sounded cold or wet (or both). I dreamed of climbing into the icebox and sleeping on the icebag mountain, and that didn’t make my mental state any less fragile.
Right in front of the store there is a little grassy hill, not more than 4-5 feet above street level. Normally I just run on by, but there, on the very top, was a beautiful golden angel smiling and waving at me. I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t tell who it was or even if she was real. I stared at her, and she wouldn’t look away. I thought the stare-down might work if she had mistaken me for someone else, but she kept right on smiling at me as the sun made her blonde hair glow from behind. Was this angel there for me?
Turns out she was.
My angel was one of my soccer girls whose family had seen me on the road and had stopped to wave me on. If you’ve ever run a long race and you’ve seen a friendly face in the crowd then you know sort of what this felt like. But in the race you’re looking for that face, and you know it should be there. This time I found one quite by happenstance. Or, rather, she found me.
And she carried me home. Not literally, of course, but spiritually. I honestly don’t remember my feet touching the ground over that last half mile.
Thank you, Holly. You made my day.