Tough Stuff

A few weeks ago, I ran my second half-marathon. The first was about twenty years—and two kids—ago, back when I didn’t make a noise every time I got out of a chair and my concept of gravity involved apples—and not other things—falling. My goals were simple: avoid getting med evac’d out or experiencing any major (and majorly embarrassing) gastroenterological events.

Things started out tough even before the race began. Because my boyfriend, Ian, was running the full marathon, he had to take an early morning shuttle to the starting line, which necessitated a 3 a.m. (not a typo) wakeup call. We rallied. I caffeinated. Things were looking up. Unfortunately, the mercury was also on its way up as Maui’s heat and humidity began to rise. It was already hot. Very hot.

The nerves kicked in. “What if I can’t do this?” I asked Ian en route to the shuttle.

He looked at me. “You can do hard things.”

I knew he wasn’t just talking about slogging 13.1 miles in the heat.

To say that I’m not hardened is an understatement on par with “The Sahara Desert can be a bit sandy” or “’Tis but a scratch,” uttered by the Black Knight after losing a sword battle in The Holy Grail.

The truth is, I am soft. I let people cut in front of me in line. I say “please” when I’m telling asking my dog to do something. But recently, I’ve discovered that I’m made of some pretty tough stuff.

The last three years have demanded that of me.

I have had to learn to find my voice. To forge an entirely new life. To do the right thing when I would have much preferred the easy thing. The comfortable thing. The old thing.

Ian’s words galvanized me.

I queued up with the other half-marathoners and awaited the start. Then at the word “Go,” I did just that.

I ran. Then ran some more. And when I didn’t feel like running any longer, I carried on.

It was hard. And I still did it.

If I were a character in one of my books, the half-marathon would have been a metaphor for the long and arduous journey that has wrought one of my least favorite things: personal growth. If this were a book, character-me would realize that this race is only one of many challenges I’ll have the internal tough stuff needed to persevere.

Maybe I’ll write that book as an art-imitates-life homage. Or maybe I’ll just continue to run and muse. Either way, I know I’ll have what it takes to keep going.

Dear friends, have you ever surprised yourself with your strength? Have you ever encountered a situation that was easier—or harder—than expected? Have you–or would you–run a half or full marathon?

37 thoughts on “Tough Stuff

  1. Way to go, Kathy! That’s a HUGE accomplishment! I’m 2009, when my wife was going through breast cancer treatment, I participated in an event called the Weekend to End Breast Cancer. It was a 40 mile walk over 2 days. The first day was 24 miles, which I decided was close enough to marathon distance for me to count as a marsthon. The second day was a “mere” 16. I finished. And have no desire to walk that many miles in a weekend ever again!

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    1. J.C., I had trouble making it through one evening in a pair of cute but increasingly tight shoes at Malice–even with preemptory BandAids applied.

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  2. Five years ago my whole world changed and I woke up not knowing how to put one foot in front of the other. And on top of that, for about 9 months + I wasn’t even physically able to do that simple thing that we all take for granted. After time, I was able to begin both walking and moving forward in life again. Not every day is an easy one, but I did surprise myself with the growth within that needed to happen– actually happened.

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  3. Kathy, I’m so impressed. I only run if I’m being chased, so I have the utmost respect for you. And knowing what you’ve been through over the last few year just makes me admire you even more. You’re an inspiration! And a fabulous role model to your kids. This is what a strong, powerful, loving woman looks like.

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    1. Aw thank you. ❤ My kids are VERY unimpressed. But that's pretty standard with whatever I do. When my someone asked my daughter what I did for a living, seven-year-old Cecilia shrugged and said, "I don't know. Looking at Facebook, I think." lol!

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  4. Kathy, I love you SO MUCH right now! And even though I haven’t met him (which I hope will be rectified soon), I’m pretty sure I love Ian, too. Because what he said is what my son says to his kids when they get nervous about something. “You can do hard things.” It’s a simple, yet necessary lesson we all need to be reminded of every so often. Because we can. And we do. And we will.

    But the marathon thing? Not so much. After my surgery I thought it would give some closure to me having to learn to walk again so I toyed with the idea of doing the Colfax Marathon here in Denver. I thought it would be cool to have my surgeon join me. He looked at me like I’d asked him to slather himself in peanut butter and sit on an ant hill. And even though I pointed out we could walk it, it never happened. Turns out it was for the best, but that’s a story for another day.

    Huge admiration for anyone crazy enough to run a marathon!

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  5. What a beautiful essay, my dear Kathy! Kinda made me tear up. And Ian is right (that Ian whom–like Becky said–I sure hope I can meet soon!): You CAN do hard things. And will continue to be able to do so. (But here’s hoping things get a little easier in general going forward.)

    As for me, I was pretty sure I’d be able to handle the first year of law school without too much problem, so it felt like being slammed against a brick wall when I realized exactly what being a “IL” truly meant. Oy. But I did it. And kept on doing it. (I would never even attempt a half-marathon, though….)

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    1. Law school sounds like a grueling academic marathon requiring superhuman endurance! Kudos for peeling yourself off of that figurative wall and continuing that journey. I also love how it’s crossed paths with your writing journey!! ❤

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  6. Yay, Kathy! You’re tough and strong and fierce. So inspirational!

    I don’t think I could ever do a marathon. The closest I got was a 6K (and I didn’t run the whole time). I have friends who run marathons, and a few who are into triathlons (!). I’ll be cheering from the sidelines…

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  7. Kathy, you are so amazing and awesome–we all already knew that, of course, but now you do, too! Congrats on that half-marathon. I would never, I’m afraid. I’d be happy to marathon in the pool–I used to love distance swimming, but there’s something about me and running that just doesn’t jibe. I even look funny doing it. In college I ran “guest miles” (i.e. ONE at a time) in a 24-hour charity marathon held at an indoor track. We all had sleeping bags in the center. My friends were part of a team that did the real running–the faster they ran, the more money we made. All I did was give people time to sleep, ha. The team’s name, I remember, was Feet Don’t Fail Me Now.

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    1. What a great team name!! I had a friend whose team was I Thought They Said Rum. lol

      I’m impressed with your guest miles. What a lovely way to support!! And running in the middle of the night is no mean feat (feet).

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  8. My hat is off to you. I did one half marathon 10 years ago, and I decided that was it as far as long runs go. Honestly, since the Camp Pendleton Mud Run seems to be a thing of the past, I haven’t run more than 4 miles for several years now. And even at that, I walk part of the time when I go out and run these days.

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  9. Kathy, you’re killing it! A half-marathon is a mighty deed. And this is on top of all the hard things you’ve had to deal with the last few years! My husband often tells me I’m brave. I’m not brave, but I still do hard things when I need to, including a medical procedure yesterday that made me that made me weak, dizzy, and nauseated! I won’t be walking a half (or quarter marathon), but hopefully soon I’ll be walking further than I can now!

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  10. OMG, I left a comment on this (via my phone, which is doing weird things…I should have double checked it). Here goes again: Kathy, you are amazing and this is beautiful. You are so strong and of course very, very loved. So impressed by this, which may have been your latest victory but I know for sure will not be your last. You are AWESOME!

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