Running The Tree of Peaches

This is it. You are standing in a sea of people staring at the largest American flag you have ever seen. Of course, you have seen it for the past ten years, same place, same bat time, but somehow it feels different. This year, you have something to prove—to you. You started this thing as a challenge, you repeated it to prove to The Kids anything is possible, you ran this whole thing in emotional shambles, you reduced your run to a walk after injury and sadly, was benched by The Cheersquad while carrying new life. But this time…this year….it is about no one, no one but you……..

For the last ten years, I have run the Peachtree Road Race. I stand in a sea of runners at the starting line, stomach gurgling with nervous anticipation. Every year for a decade I have been a ball of nervous energy as I waited for yet another chance to make it to the end. Each time I get the “Congratulations!” notification, I am all too excited to join an area tradition that has somehow become such a huge part of my life. I have muddled around in the mud with my shoes off after it was over, drank beer in the rain at a pit stop, glided up Cardiac Hill and cried when I crossed the finish line knowing inside all would be well. This time around it should be no different….but, for some strange reason, it is. This year, when the acceptance email came, I was afraid.

Any woman will tell you after she gives birth her body just isn’t the same. I dunno about the Beyonce’s of the world who spit out a kid and bounce right back, but us regular chicks do not always bounce back—especially knocking on the door of forty. Eight months later and I can finally walk up and down the steps without feeling like my whole body is about to fall apart. My joints are back to where they should be and my Va Gina bones have finally stopped hurting. The baby blues have subsided and I think the uterus has no longer gone rogue. I am back to myself–finally. However, the thought of trying to make it 6.2 miles in the Georgia July sun with rusty head, shoulders, knees, and toes makes me a little fearful. When will I train? Hell, when will I sleep? What will I eat? Can I actually make it? Better question: What if I can’t?

This will be the first indication if I am the same because, to be honest, nothing about me feels the same. A lot of days the world is fuzzy and focusing is futile. My heart is sort of numb and everything is tasteless. My immediate responses to everything are either boiling hot or extremely cold with nothing in between. ‘I don’t care’ falls from my lips far too often and it seems ignorance really is bliss. This run will be a test of will and mental mind (as YG says). For a decade, this race has been about everything and everyone but me. It has been proof to others I am capable, proof anyone can do anything, proof I was strong enough to pull through, proof no injury could hold me back. This will be the first of many moments when no one and nothing matters except the one walking six miles in these shoes.

…….The buzz of the crowd swirls around like bees. The announcer has the crowd count down and suddenly, the swell moves. Your feet cross the red and blue line and you realize there is no going back. You have been counted. Your time has been started, and no matter how long it takes, even if you are last, quitting is not an option. And you know what? You don’t want to quit. You want to prove to yourself that you are you, this is you and no matter how far you get from home you will always come back.

~SM

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