Three months ago when someone suggested that I run a half marathon — I thought they were crazy. 3 months, 135 training miles and 15 pounds later, I crossed the finish line of the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 12 minutes and 27 seconds. I still believe that my friend who suggested the half marathon is crazy… but now so am I — because I actually ran it.
I knew heading to the race that it would be an emotional day. I cried a total of 5 times throughout the course of the race. As the scene from “A League of Their Own” played over and over in my head (“There’s no crying in baseball…”), I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment — of the journey that I was on. At mile 12, a DJ stationed along the course cued the “Olympic Anthem” and as I heard the song reverberate of the nearby buildings I couldn’t fight the moment — I was an athlete.
While there is plenty I could share about my 13.1 trek last Saturday, there is one story that stands above them all. A story of loss, perspective, power, strength and committment. This blog post is about that story.
In all of my training for the half marathon, there were plenty of people willing to offer advice. Somehow though, in all of the conversations about race day, my friends forgot to mention the concept of “throw away” clothes. I was talking with my coworker about what I should wear for the race and he asked about my throw away clothes. I told him I had none — he asked if I had any old clothes I didn’t mind leaving behind, and that’s where this story begins.
When I began this journey, I weighed almost 400 pounds. I have very few of the clothes from that era, but still regularly wear two articles of clothing: my Bronco Marching Band sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants. Both of these were 3x and 4x articles of clothing, that when I was at my heaviest were the only two pieces of clothing that I was comfortable in. I’ve had both of these for years — the BMB sweatshirt dating back to my sophomore year of college (10 years ago).
As I continued to lose weight, I would pack up clothes to take to Goodwill. Every time I would hold up the sweatpants and the sweatshirt, think about it, and realize I wasn’t quite ready to give them up. It happened once, then a second time, and mostly recently two weeks ago when I took my latest batch of “too big” clothes to be donated. I just couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye.
To me, these clothes resembled comfort. They had been with me from the beginning.
Well, as I was getting ready for the race — a symbol of just how far on my journey I had come — I thought about what I would wear. I checked the weather to find that it would be between 32-35 during race time. I thought about what my friend had said about “throw away” clothes. And, I got dressed….
…I realized for the first time just how ridiculous they were. It was decided — today was the day.
As I got to the race and entered my corral I put my headphones in, double checked my shoes and got myself in to the zone for the race. Ignoring as much as I could of what was around me I found solace in knowing my training had prepared me physically for the next 2 hours — but not sure emotionally that I was ready for the next 5 minutes.
At the two minute warning point, I realized the time had come. It was time to say goodbye to the most comfortable pair of sweatpants I’ve ever owned. The sweatpants that got through the past few years and always made me feel at home, when I was at home. With one minute left I slid the sweatpants off, exposing my legs to the cold for the first time that morning, and joined the crowd in the mass throwing of clothes off to the side of the course. It was time to run.
I knew from the beginning that it I would need the sweatshirt for a while. It was literally freezing after all. I also knew it would be as easy to just throw my sweatshirt off to the side of the road and call it a day. As I hit mile 1, I realized that I would soon need to ditch the sweatshirt. Approaching mile 2 I slid my arms from the sweatshirt but continued to wear the sweatshirt around my neck. Then I realized — it was time.
As I crossed the mile 2 marker, I took the sweatshirt off, folded it in half and tossed it on to the side of the road in a pile of clothes ditched by all the runners before me. In that moment I freed myself from that person I had been. In that moment — I committed to never again returning to the point where a 4x sweatshirt would be the only piece of clothing I was comfortable in. In that moment… I committed to never needing a 4x sweatshirt ever again. I will never see that sweatshirt again — it joined the other clothes that were collected and donated to a local charity.
It probably seems silly to most, but to me was an incredibly emotional and inspirational moment. The bottom line though, was that I didn’t need it any more. I don’t need to hold on to that period of my life, and that includes holding on to the clothes that no longer serve me a purpose. I needed to know the time was right to let go — and in the early stages of running the longest race of my life (so far) — I saw the perfect opportunity.
And, I needed to celebrate all that I had accomplished in the process….
This post was modified slightly from the author’s original post on Sunday, November 6, 2011.