A half marathon is a goal I’ve had for a long time, and to finally have crossed that finish line this morning meant so much to me for so many reasons.

The pride I feel right now as I write this almost didn’t happen. A tonsillectomy caused a hiccup in my training plan, and I questioned several times if I could do it or not. Even the day before the race I was battling between doing it or not. I chose to run it. And I’m so glad I did.

Something happens at that starting line. The national anthem began and tears fell from my eyes. “You’re crying already?!” I thought to myself. “It hasn’t even started yet!” But truly, the connectedness you feel with 2,500 other strangers is indescribable.

That gun goes off and then you take off. You run for those who can’t, for your mother who just passed away or for your friend who just got in a life threatening car accident or for the men and women whose legs got blown off last year at the Boston Marathon. Or if you’re me – you run for your uncle & godfather whose fighting a major battle against stage 4 terminal cancer.

You see, the reason I was contemplating running it or not just the day before was because I got a call from my father with unfortunate news. “It’s not looking good Sam, it’s just a matter of time”, he said. My heart sank. Could I run 13.1 miles with that on my mind? Would I be mentally okay for this race? Wait…am I even physically prepared? So much went through my mind.

And then it hit me…. you’re going to run this race, and you’re going to finish strong for your uncle.

The spirit and energy of the runners, the volunteers, the family members of the runners and the spectators was contagious. The signs I read along the way kept me going & smiling along the course- “runners have balls all other sports just play with them”, “I run because dieting is not an option”, “Blisters are in this season”, “May the course be with you”.

The pictures pinned on the backs of peoples shirts in memory of their loved ones made me realize how fortunate I was to be in that moment. To be alive. Breathing heavy. Feeling my feet hit the pavement. Feeling my muscles ache. Living. Being.

The sayings on the backs of people’s shirts were also encouraging, “I run because I can. When I get tired I remember those who can’t run. What they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted. And I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me”. The little ones holding up signs for their moms or dads warmed my heart. The old woman kissing her husband with the “this is my 60th half marathon” shirt on as he ran by her made me smile. This is life. These are the moments we are made for.

Miles 7-10 were basically all up and down hill and I questioned if I would be able to finish. When my legs wanted to give up I would say to myself “your legs aren’t giving up, your heart is” or “pain is temporary, pride is forever”….but my favorite one of all was “your uncle doesn’t want to give up and he has to…..you want to give up yet you don’t have to…. KEEP GOING“.

As I neared the finish line, my eyes welled up with tears and I pushed through, finishing strong. I wanted to hug every other runner, feeling so triumphant that we just completed such a feat. What I love is that every person runs for a reason, whatever it may be. What a wonder it was today to be a part of such a miracle.

Thank you to my aunt and boyfriend for being there to watch me cross the finish line. It meant so much. Thank you to my family for their support and the friends who said “I know you’ll kill it” when I doubted if I could do it. Thank you to the volunteers and spectators who encouraged me with their claps and signs when I desperately needed it. Thank you to Fleet Feet Rochester for helping put on such an amazing morning. Thank you to my legs for not giving out and for racing up hills when that was the last thing they wanted to do. Thank you to my mind for insisting that I could keep going and to my heart for not giving up.

Oh, and that half marathon bug they say you catch? Yep…. I’ve caught it!

Do me a favor & hug your loved ones tight. Life is so fragile, make the most out of each day & embrace each moment. Everyday is a blessing.

My Uncle passed one day later. That one was for you Uncle John. You were such a fighter, and will continue to inspire me daily. I love you, forever


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