Well, a week has passed. Another Around the Bay race has come and gone, and quite frankly, it’s hard for me to believe. I still remember sitting in the stands 3 years ago, anxiously waiting for my friends to cross the finish line, and dreaming of the day I would get the glory of my own ATB finish. 3 years ago, I didn’t think it was possible. Last year I proved myself wrong, and this year I got to bring last year’s story full circle and share an incredible experience with an amazing woman.
To catch you up, I met Andra en route during last year’s 30km race at around the 25km mark. My phone had died, my watch had died, and my legs almost gave out, but the universe had other plans. Beside me was a woman filled with her own pain and emotion. At a time when we both needed to dig deep, the universe sent us each other, and the coincidences were just too uncanny. My mind is still blown that each of our names is a hybrid form of Alexandra (Alex & Andra), and that we live only a few blocks from one another.
The part of this story that I hold so dear is the inspirational friendship that has formed between us. While we don’t see each other often, it is a friendship built on encouragement. The same gentle encouragement that carried us across the finish line in 2015 – together. It was that monumental finish that sparked the inspiration for us running the 2 person relay in 2016.
When this goal was set, I didn’t see an annoying knee injury in my future. I didn’t see the 2 months of sheer inactivity due to an agitated ligament, and I certainly didn’t see the massive blow to my confidence as a result.
I quickly learned that overcoming the obstacle of an injury is much harder than overcoming learning to run. Trying to balance the need to rest with still ever so gingerly training was far more mentally challenging for me than anything I have ever faced in my running journey thus far. When I first started running, I had no confidence. I had to teach myself what I could accomplish. When I got injured, I had to convince my determined heart and mind to look past my accomplishments because my body physically hurt. It was the first time it really hurt to run. It was the first time since I started running that I really questioned if I could rise to the occasion and complete my leg of the relay with Andra.
Knowing this, and feeling like the biggest pile of poo ever, I only complicated things by convincing myself that I wasn’t good enough and that I would be ruining Andra’s relay experience. I struggled with whether to tell her or not. I struggled with whether I should tell her the truth about how I was feeling. A quick text later, I fessed up. Her response? So supportive that it brought me to tears.
“I don’t know that I would have ever started running if I hadn’t met up with you during the race last year. Honestly. I was so incredibly close to giving up and you came along at just the right time. I call you my running guardian angel.”
Fast forward to race day. It was those words that I thought of when I needed to dig deep at the halfway point and wanted to quit. It was those words that made me realize that no one was going to save me this time because I didn’t need anyone to save me. I already had everything I needed to save myself.
I often say that every race teaches you something. If you’re lucky, it gifts you with more than just one lesson. This race gave me my confidence back. It gave me a chance to give back in a unique way that celebrated our story, and when I got to cheer Andra on through to the finish it was by far my favourite part of this year’s race. It was seeing first hand what inspiration and a lot of hard work can achieve and it was awesome. She was awesome.
It reminded me that it’s not just about the PB’s and the negative splits. It’s not just about time or pushing ourselves to our limits. For me, it was learning that our real greatness lies within us and all we have to do is listen. For me, I realized that whatever anyone’s goal might be on race day, we’re all in it together.
PS – thank you to everyone who sent cheers along for me via text, message or phone call, and also to Ty, my mom, and my friend Jenny for being my cheer squad at the 11km marker. Love you guys.