If you would've told me five years ago that I'd run 10 miles, I'd say you were joking. But that's just what I did on Sunday, completing the Army Ten Miler race in an exercise (pardon the pun) of inspiration, mental toughness and a healthy dose of perspective.
I got the idea to run the race from my oldest, closest friend of more than 30 years. I was so inspired that she (who works days, with a husband who works nights...and 2 year old twins) gets up every morning in the dark to run in preparation for several 10K races, that I would hit the treadmill, too. We signed up for the race together. When she was sidelined with a foot injury, I was looking for some more......inspiration.
It just so happens that I ran into another friend, my sons' former preschool director, who was training for a marathon (a marathon!) and wanted to run the race as part of her plan. I got her Inspiring Friend #1's bib, and away we went. When I asked this friend what motivated her to train for a marathon, she replied simply, "I needed something that was for me, all me."
So away we ran, on a gorgeous October day through the best and most beautiful parts of Washington. Circling the Lincoln Memorial, under the balcony at the Kennedy Center, down the Mall (and back). At each mile marker, I felt just a little bit stronger despite growing aches and even a few pains. I recalled everything I've ever learned in yoga about mental toughness, about visualizing yourself completing your goal, about staying on top of my breathing and above all, to smile. As Inspiring Friend #2 said, this was for me, all me.
That mental toughness only made it to Mile 9 when we approached the 14th Street Bridge, which looks like it goes on forever when you're on the ground and not whizzing by in a car or on a metro train. I was just starting to complain about my foot pain, right at the top of my arches, when I saw him: my healthy dose of perspective.
Surrounded by a team of 4 buddies serving as coaches, Medics and cheerleaders was one of hundreds of soldiers with missing parts in action (MPIA). This gentleman was a double amputee, at mile 9, surrounded by his most inspiring friends, and he was most certainly not complaining. He was smiling with a level of mental grit I have never seen before, and was almost to the finish line. Suddenly, my feet didn't hurt anymore.
So despite the fact that I clocked a great time, didn't stop to walk and actually enjoyed running 10 miles, the image that will stay with me as I recall this race is that soldier, surrounded by his buddies, making it to the finish line against all odds.
As I take on life's daily challenges of sick kids, missed deadlines, car trouble and a leaky faucet, I come back to this lesson: with deep breathing, inspiration and help from our friends, we can do it all. And we're lucky to be doing it all, everyday.