Finally! Last year I had a dream – a promise I made to myself, wrote it down (it became a goal), and broke it into small baby steps (a goal with a plan). Saturday, I finally kept the promise I made to myself. That really sounds kind of sad, doesn’t it – “finally kept a promise”? I think that I am far better at keeping promises I make to others than the ones I make to myself.
I did the Never Quit 10k again – it was as good as last year – although the weather was more challenging. Hot and humid is not as pleasant as rainy, cold and windy. I’ll take the latter any day. Last year, I promised myself to do it this year, and carry the American Flag. Done!!!
I am amazed at how emotional this experience was. I am proud that I carried the flag the whole course. I am prouder of what that flag represents – the freedom that we have thanks to the many men and women that have worked and work hard to defend the flag/our country every day. On a personal level – that I could carry it in memory of my Dad, and in honor of Bill and Walter. I lost count of the number of people on the beach that thanked me (and everyone else carrying a flag) for carrying the flag. A couple of men (I’m guessing they are veterans) even took their hats off as I went by or saluted the flag.
To put this into perspective – it was a 10k – only 6 miles. I walk that distance a couple times a week. The flag – a 3’X5’ on a wooden staff that is a few inches shorter than I am. For a lot of people, it would likely be a walk in the park. And that is okay. For me, I know that 4 years ago I would have NEVER even considered something like this, and a year ago I was dreaming of carrying the flag for the 6 miles. The only person I have to compete against is myself, and the only time frame I have to use is this very moment.
When I crossed the official starting line, and as I set my tracker, my thought was – “I am doing this – keeping my promise from last year!”. My smile was huge, and my heart was full to overflowing with joy (overflowed right out of my eyes and down my cheeks)! I really appreciate the idea the race organizers have by adding a space on your bib to write the names of those people who inspire you to “Never Quit”, or those you would “never quit” for. Boldly, I wrote “Me” first – last year I realized that if I never quit for myself, I will be better able to serve the other names on my bib. It is my hope to be the kind of person that would make at least one other person vow to never quit.
It was the kind of day that inspired less than aggressive speed because of the heat and humidity. It was the kind of event that inspired me to be intentional about seeing those around me and listen to the stories. The stories are so much more important than pace. The father with his two sons – he in his full fire-fighting gear, one son in a child-sized version marching along beside and the other being pulled in a wagon. And I thought I was warm in shorts and t-shirt…. All the veterans – various ages and a multitude of stories…. The many “newbies” – experiencing their first 5 or 10k – and their reasons…. The people on the sand pushing their walker (young AND old) and celebrating with joy that they were able to take every step…. Those of us that carried the flag, cherishing our individual reasons and what that flag symbolizes….
I met a few more new friends. Charlene and I spent about a mile and a half together – leading up to and just beyond the turn around point. She was at the event with a group of 10-15 from an area south of us. She has completed 29 half marathons, and this was her first Never Quit event. She was not able to train on the beach and been doing quite a bit of traveling so had done very little preparation for this event. I met her just before mile 2 and greeted her as I started to pass. She seemed a little down, so instead of passing, I slowed a bit and struck up a conversation. We chatted a bit, and she assured me that I didn’t have to stay with her slower pace. I thanked her for that – and offered to “stick around” until the turn-around point. Her smile was brighter than the sun. As we passed the turn-around point, we congratulated each other and headed toward “home”. We caught up to one of her group members, and I told her I was going to go ahead but would see her at the finish line. Bill and I waited, and I congratulated her when she finished – her smile and “oh, you remembered me!” was icing on my cake.
Several times along the way, I smiled and reminded myself that I was making good on my promise – and was still amazed at the emotion that generated. Many people along the route offered to carry the flag for me to give me a break. I thanked them for the offer and declined. One couple persisted and assured me that they would let me have the flag back. We laughed, and I told them that although a little break might feel good – I would feel so much better when I crossed the finish line knowing that I did what I set out to do. They told me they would see me next year, and they would be carrying as well. Another lady – out for a walk and not a part of the event – reversed her course and joined me – she wanted to know what was happening and why I was carrying a flag. “What am I missing, and what is your story?” So, she kept pace and listened and offered encouragement and thanks.
Bill met me along the last ½ mile and kept pace to the finish. Once again, my heart just filled to overflowing – right down my cheeks – realizing that I had made good on the promise. In fact, it felt/feels so good that I plan on making more promises/dreams to myself-turn them into goals-break them into tiny baby steps-and celebrating them into reality. Having the Love of My Life beside me at the finish line is an indescribable joy.
Grace Lesson: The event was spectacular and joy-filled. However, the real lesson is the importance of keeping promises to yourself, making dreams into goals into steps into reality, and fully immersing yourself in the moment. Think about your “story”. You write it every moment of every day. Do you like what you are writing? Is it a story you would enjoy reading? If you answered “no” to either of those questions – why? YOU are the author. Yes, I believe that God knew each of us before we were born, with plans for us and our lives. I also believe he gave us the power of choice. Use your power wisely. Choose to write yourself a story that you are proud of, would enjoy reading, and a story that will cause others to want to “Never quit”. Extend yourself to others – and listen to their stories – it will enrich your story.