Tears trickled down my cheeks as I walked with a slight limp out of the physical therapist’s office. It was over. I had to quit. I wouldn’t accomplish my goal. Not only was I devastated, but I needed to tell my best friend and running partner, and disappoint her as well.
The goal was to run my first 25K. At that point, I was five months into training, and the race was only a few weeks away. Five months of consistent training: 5:00 AM runs during the week, up every Saturday for a long training run which averaged two hours, and running through the darkest, coldest and snowiest winter months in Michigan. All the training miles had been logged with my friend. My life had been rearranged by my goal.
The trip to the physical therapist’s office was a blow to my heart—a crushing feeling that echoed the word “failure” over and over through my mind. I had a major hip flexor strain; each step was filled with pain. I needed to back out of the race or risk more damage that would take longer to repair. My body couldn’t handle my current training regimen. It was over. I am not a quitter. I am a woman who determines a goal and makes it happen. I don’t give up. I don’t quit. Failure isn’t an option.
Here I was, during my own perceived failure, encouraging my friend to succeed. I wholeheartedly encouraged her to continue. I reminded her that I was with her every step of the way.
I was not able to physically run the race with her, but I was with her in spirit.
When Race Day arrived, I was there to cheer her on. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I knew the route and the best places to catch a glimpse of her. I called another friend and we got up early, dressed for the weather, our maps in hand. We followed her all around the city to find her at specific locations and cheer for her. At every checkpoint, I checked my watch to evaluate her pace. I knew where she wanted to be. I craned my neck and stood on tiptoes to look for her blond ponytail bouncing among all the other runners.
When I saw her, my eyes welled with tears, I was so full of pride for her. My feelings were tinged with sadness over my own loss, but my excitement for her was paramount. She was doing it! I cheered her all the way across the finish line. As I watched her finish the goal we had set together, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t give up. I would try again next year; I would come back from this.
With renewed determination, I began training for the 25K later that year. With my friend by my side and an extreme feeling of déjà vu, I began logging miles. I woke up early during the week to get my runs in before work. I gave up large chunks of time on Saturday to get in a long run. I rearranged my life around training, and endured a wide range of winter running conditions. There were subzero temperatures, unplowed snowy sidewalks, snow plows to dodge, multiple layers of heat gear, and icicles hanging from my eyelashes. Every step was made with an intense determination to complete the 25K this year.
I made it successfully to Race Day, excited and nervous all at once. My friend had told me weeks earlier that she was going to run with me. We were running this one together! She was by my side for the entire race. She encouraged me to keep going when my legs felt like lead and my head told me I couldn’t take another step. Friends followed us along the race route and cheered us on, giving us even more energy.
As we rounded the final corner, we knew the finish line was just ahead. We pushed ourselves to run a little faster as we approached the final leg of our journey. As we got closer to the finish line, my friend said, “We did this together, we will finish together,” and she grabbed my hand. We crossed the finish line holding hands, smiles on our faces. I can still remember the feeling of my hand in hers. The accomplishment. The intense joy. The triumph. The bond we would always share. This was the greatest comeback.
Kenda Haines finds joy in spending time with friends, encouraging those around her, singing worship music and being filled with beautiful words. She loves being a mama to two beautiful young ladies and resides in Lowell, MI. She enjoys making time in her life to laugh, share stories and go on grand adventures.