This week’s Photo Challenge is one that truly made me think: Forward. We are asked to select a photo that signifies forward whether it be an image moving us forward or a symbolic time in our lives that pull us ahead. Instantly I thought of my normal favorite topic, climbing mountains, but that is what I always seem to choose.
As I rested in bed with a head cold, another thought came to my mind and I selected this photo.
The photo was taken around mile 20 of The Twin Cities Marathon on October 7, 2001. I will never forget this moment in time. It was less than a month after September 11th and in an odd sense, this photo is what began my journey as a global advocate promoting peace and cultural understanding.
You may wonder where on earth I came up with this belief. Although the picture is not the best one of me, it shows a few things: Pain, desire to never give up, a difficult road ahead, perseverance and advocacy. You see, at this point in the race my legs hurt so incredibly bad I could hardly feel them. I had set my goals exceedingly high for a first time marathon. I wanted to finish in three hours and forty minutes, the qualifying time to run Boston. Four months before the race I could hardly do a mile. Furthermore, after four months of too many miles, I was injured. An injury that would leave me unable to sit comfortably in a chair and run for over a year. Yet despite it all, I kept going and didn’t give up. I was resolved to finish no matter what the costs.
Devastated by 9/11, I continued to run in hopes that it would help sort through my anger and fear of what happened. For me, running is my lifeblood. It is the best way I can think and sort through my life. After 9/11, I felt even more of a need to run. It was my only escape from all those unanswered questions and feelings that my optimistic viewpoint on life had finally been burst. Running was my way of fighting. I bought an American flag shirt to wear during the race as my way of telling everyone we can’t give up. We’ve got to fight.
As I neared the terrible last few miles going up Summit Hill I had to stop and walk. I thought I’d never make it to the finish line, my legs were completely done. Yet every time I stopped I could hear strangers cheering me on, “Let’s go, America“. “Don’t stop now“. As tired and sore as I was, I made my legs go on and I ran.
In a fog I crossed the finish line. I missed my goal by less than two minutes. Although I didn’t quality for the Boston marathon, I did learn something very important. That if you set your mind to a goal, you can do it no matter what. And I did.
Fast forward twelve years and I’m running forward with my dream to help change the world one blog post at a time. It is a long journey ahead as an international advocate, but it is one I’m ready to take for no mountain is ever too high to climb. If there is a will, there is a way.
This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward. To read more entries, click here.