Completely random strangers graciously handed me cups of water, Gatorade, GU energy gels, baggies filled with ice and even Girl Scout Cookies today.

I got the best high-five of my life around mile 7 from a little girl who was probably 4 or 5 years old. She helped me make my way over that first bridge.

I ran next to a woman who must have been 70 or older, skin hanging everywhere, running away like a machine, like it was nothing. This was the one point in the race when I almost cried. She was absolutely inspirational. I couldn’t help but look at her and smile the biggest smile of my life.

I passed a woman who was fighting cancer but living life—head shaved, pink shirt, running like mad—proving to the world that nothing could slow her down.

There was so much to smile about today. I never felt the pain in my knees or the blisters on my feet. Every strike of my shoes on the pavement brought me one step closer to doing something for me. Something I set as a goal for myself many months ago. Something that I really never dreamed I could do. But something I had to prove to myself.

13.1. Take THAT, Dr. Adler.

I had a pretty tough pediatrician as a kid, who didn’t exactly provide the most encouraging motivation for us to lose weight. My brother and I both had a tough time with it around the same age. We both eventually turned to running.

I don’t think I have seen Dr. Adler since ninth grade, since I lost all the weight. I don’t even want to see him. I just want to write him a note. “Remember me? Guess the happy meals didn’t really hurt me after all.” I’d of course include a 13.1 sticker for his car.

But I didn’t do it to prove anything to anyone. I didn’t do it just so I could put a cool sticker on my car. I didn’t do it for the shirt or the shiny medal. Today was all about me.

Jaime asked me if I wanted to sign up for the 2012 Iron Girl half marathon in November of last year, and I did it right away on the first day registration opened. At first, I questioned her and I questioned myself. 13.1 miles? I had never really run more than 5 or 6. I would have to run more than double that. I talked to Marcelo about it. A few other people looked at me with eyebrows raised. It just reinforced the fact that this was for ME. My body, my goal— I can push myself to do anything I want. And I really believe in that. You really can do anything you set your sights on.

As I started up the second bridge, the storm that was brewing let loose. Sideways wind and cool rain pushed hard at all of us as we left mile 11 and headed towards mile 12. These mile markers mean so much more than just a distance. Especially these last few. They mean you’re almost there, there’s no turning back— you are really doing this! At mile 12 the fun started. I think I smiled the whole way in.

Strangers lined the street and I could see the finish line. I got so many high fives. Cowbells rang out. People cheered. I pushed it as hard as I could and I crossed that finish line with a smile still on my face.

As I stopped running I felt a rush come over me. A tingly happy feeling I don’t think I can describe. I just can’t wait to see my finishing photo. I know I couldn’t possibly have smiled harder or bigger.

13.1.

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