I crossed off one of the biggest items on my bucket list this past weekend – the marathon.
Truth be told, I knew on July 8, 2012 that I would do this. That's the day my mother died after an 80-day battle with brain cancer. It was the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life. I knew if I could handle that, then I could do anything.
The plan was hatched over coffee with my running group in winter 2015. Everyone agreed that despite my turtle-speed, I had a little Forrest Gump in me. To be clear, I came to athleticism later in life for health reasons and stress relief. I am no hero when it comes to sports, just tenacious.
So, this past spring, I began my training regimen. I was disciplined, following it to a T, doing long runs in the early morning to escape the heat. I ran at 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m. in the summertime.
Sometimes, I had company, sometimes, I didn't. I listened to dozens of audiobooks. Afterwards, I iced my feet and knees, stretched and crossed off my long runs with a red Sharpie pen on a list that hung in the kitchen. This went on for months. No matter how tired I was, or what else I had going on in my life, I ran.
The week, before the race, I ate carbohydrates, drank lots of water and electrolytes and got plenty of rest. OK, maybe not plenty, but more rest than usual.
But, on race day, I realized that all the training and all the preparations would give me stamina, but didn't guarantee my finish.
Like many major hurdles in life, the middle of the race was the hardest. The boredom, the tedium, the growing aches and pains in my legs, and the cold wind all seemed to conspire against me, chipping away at my confidence.
But, it was in those moments that I realized what the marathon was all about for me - it was about finishing strong. It was about setting a goal and following through with it. It was for me, and it was for my girls to show them that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
In the last few miles, I put on my headphones and listened to music, settling into an easy, regulated pace I knew I could maintain despite the pain in my legs. And, believe me, there is pain no matter what kind of shape you are in.
I passed people on the side of the road, stretching, lying in the grass, throwing up, crying, shuffling, people, who just like me, only wanted to achieve their goal of finishing. Like me, I'm sure they had trained, yet, they were facing major obstacles so close to the finish.
I silently hoped they would all make it. I couldn't imagine coming this far, only to have a problem so close to the end. So, I persevered, realizing whatever I was dealing with was far less than what others were facing. I had to finish. There were no excuses.
I perked up as I neared the finish line and heard the roar of the crowd. When I saw my family enthusiastically cheering on the sidelines, I knew I had made it. The pain abated, the months of grueling training faded from my memory, and I enthusiastically sprinted across the finish line.
I hope someday my girls will learn something from watching me go through this process. I hope they will take away that we all have our own personal "marathons" in life. No one can run them for us. But we all truly have what it takes inside of us if we really dig deep to make it happen.
Whatever your race is, finish it. You can do it. I know you can.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.