by: Kristina Hamlett
Even in a race where I started (and knew there was a chance I might finish) at the tail end of the pack, it did not matter. I just wanted both of us to cross the finish line.
The weather was the very definition of April showers. I burrowed my face under my sweatshirt hoodie. The energy was palpable as thousands of us crept forward toward the start line. My husband and I were embarking on our first 10k together on Monument Ave. in the rainy heart of Richmond, Virginia.
As we moved forward, I was bubbling with excitement, but my husband showed signs of nerves as he was braving it for the first time. Challenging ourselves to this race was all part of making this year the one that we topple the wall of excuses we had built.
As we took off, my husband encouraged me to set my own pace while he adjusted to the crowds and the physicality. While I observed all the smiles of the costumed groups gearing up to be judged at the finish, the bands jamming, and the backs of t-shirts dedicated to lost loved ones, I found myself back in a familiar place.
A couple of years ago, I walked another 10k race, barely a tenth of this size with other participants, except with no fun, quirky groups, or music to bring a smile or the distraction I sorely needed. At the time, I had convinced myself I was on the verge of a new adventure, so proud of myself for just completing it. I never had so much pride in limping across the finish line in dead-last place.
The swell of pride did not last long enough, because my motivation did not include a full acceptance of the truth at the time:
I was at least 100 pounds overweight, diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and fibroids, still had not moved toward empowering myself professionally, and was struggling with forgiving myself for gaining the weight in the first place.
In the last year, my immune system began attacking my body in the form of psoriasis from my scalp to my legs. The topical steroids that were prescribed to me did not consistently work, so at the beginning of this year, I stopped applying them.
After researching, I began to adopt more of a plant-based diet to reduce inflammation in my body. I started to work out again. I began graduate school to become a counselor in January.
Taking control, even in a world that can make anyone feel like a drifting puppet in the wind, became my best medicine.
So there I was again, in a sea of people, but solitary in my own thoughts. I would glance backwards to check on my husband, confident that he was finding his inner cheerleader. I not only walked, but this time, actually pounded that pavement by jogging. At times, I beamed in that cool rain, and at others, I grimaced at the thought of having to push all of this extra weight, healing skin and heart through 6.2 miles.
I now know the point was and always will be that I am pushing myself. I pushed until I bore a hole in my sock and flew over the finish line, flush with simultaneous relief and exhilaration. My work has just begun.
There are many more pounds to lose, finisher’s ribbons to collect, goals to crush, and more of myself to find.