Lisa, why don’t you smile more? I have always heard this growing up and even still to this day. It seems like a harmless comment and all with good intentions, but it cuts like a knife. We are all burdened with our own insecurities and you really don’t know unless you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes what those personal insecurities are. Whenever I heard that phrase uttered or some derivative of it, I instantly felt like I wasn’t enough, like I was broken or there was a piece of me that was missing. I’ve found myself forcing a smile or trying to come across the way others expect a generally happy person to be. And in all these attempts I’ve found it’s truly not worth it. Just because I don’t have a smile across my face doesn’t mean I am not happy or that I am angry. It’s just me. Some days I say the most negative statements to myself, and I have shared I am my own worst critic, but I have come to discover that this is not something I dislike about myself.
Now, I am not incapable of a smile. It’s just that I don’t force it. When it feels natural, I embrace it and truly let the overwhelming happiness take over. Now you may be thinking, where am I going with this? How does THIS relate at all to running? Perhaps, it’s because I can’t stop thinking about last weekend and the smile that seemed to be plastered across my face throughout the 13.1 miles I ran with my sister during the Publix Atlanta Half Marathon. What a beautiful race! Perfect weather, getting the chance to explore a new city alongside my sister who has always made me laugh until my tummy hurts. Sure, we have had our hardships, our ups and downs, but the ones I remember most are the smiles and the laughs I’ve shared with her. And to make it all the better, my mother, my rock throughout my entire life was there to cheer us on during the race.
Now, we all take different paths in life, but I am sure many can relate to growing up and moving away from your family, the ones you love most. We are separated by hundreds of miles, but it’s like we haven’t skipped a beat when we all get together again. The morning started with a 4:30 wakeup call and a quick breakfast of bagels, peanut butter and banana before we were out the door to catch the Marta to the start line. We both wore our oversized 2-dollar Old Navy zip ups to keep us warm once we reached Centennial Park to await the start of the race. If you have never been, it really is a beautiful sight. The statue of the Olympic rings, the wide-open field with beautiful trees and a skyline of Atlanta complete with a Ferris wheel in plain sight. We didn’t have to wait too long until our 7am start with a very energetic announcer and music to get us pumped up. As soon as the siren blew, we were off and running while it was still dark outside!
At mile 2, I was ecstatic to see my mom and brother-in-law there to cheer us on and get us excited for the miles ahead of us. Although the course boasted some rolling hills, I actually found that I enjoyed the variety in the course. The downhills seemed to last a long time and I really had a chance to take in all the beautiful scenery.
I may be biased in thinking that the running community is the best one, but I noticed something spectacular on this course. I have said it before, but I am always so impressed by the volunteers out there on the course. When the runners are done, we are given a shiny new medal, snacks and congratulations, and we aren’t out there standing in the cold for as long as they are. Throughout the race, I kept hearing, over and over again, runners going by and saying, “thank you for being out here today” to the volunteers. It wasn’t just a quick thank you, but “thank you for being out here today”. Georgia, your runners are impressive, so kind and gracious.
Finally, we made it to mile 12 and it was time to bid our farewells to those runners doing the full marathon. We veered left and the end was in sight. It was quite the experience. While I am usually beyond grateful to be at the finish and want it done as quickly as possible, I was overcome with other emotions. I took a mental picture. This is why I run. Here I am celebrating all the hard training paying off and running alongside my best friend for life. We held hands and raised them in the air as we crossed, and just like that, we were done.
The rest of the day and the day after we spent sightseeing and doing activities like exploring the CNN tower, the Atlanta Aquarium, and the World of Coke Museum. It was an excellent way to not only celebrate my 12th half marathon but celebrate my mother’s birthday. To cap off the entire trip, we visited “Mary Mac’s Tea Room” (Please do yourself a favor and make this a top priority if you visit Atlanta…
It was incredibly delicious! Fried chicken, okra, cheese grits, biscuits, and to top it all off I ended with probably the most delicious key lime pie I’ve ever had!
As I write this post, I could not be more thankful for such an incredible weekend. Looking ahead, I will be working once again with an online coach on a customized training plan. There will be many challenges ahead, but after such a strong race, I can’t wait to see what’s next for me.