By: Barbara Mullen
From the time I was six or seven, I can recall having a love of running. I would run everywhere. I would run to the store, up the block and around the house. I would race the neighborhood kids and fly like the wind. Then in sixth grade, I had to do the President’s fitness test and run the “mile”. Being that I was a “solid” kid, I was slow and one of the last kids to finish in about 13 minutes. I was ridiculed and I felt awful. I gave up running. I wasn’t fast anymore and I wasn’t any good at it anyway. I disregarded any sport like track or soccer or basketball. No running for me. Fast forward. I got married (to a former track star ironically) and had a daughter. During my pregnancy, I gained a whopping 60 pounds. I just couldn’t say no…to anything. It wasn’t until I decided to try to drop the weight that I began doing research on running. At first it was a novelty, something new; a fad. I bought new clothes and shoes but I wasn’t serious about it. The weight never came off because I wasn’t really serious about running. I made every excuse. I’m too heavy, I’m too busy, and besides…black girls don’t run. The change came when I moved to Seattle with my husband and daughter.
It was something about being in this beautiful place, a renewal, the mountains, the Evergreens and the fact that people all around me were running, everywhere; that made me rethink it. When I first started looking at running I subscribed to BGR and until then it had just been another blog. Then one day I read a newsletter about a BGR member who ran the Disney Half Marathon. Her narrative was so inspiring. She gave a mile by mile description of how she was feeling and what she was going through. Then when I scrolled down more, I saw her. She looked like me and she ran a half marathon. I decided to give it another try. In January of 2012 I signed up for a 12k run in San Francisco. The training was hard but managed to get through. I felt so empowered.
After I cleared 7.4 miles, I signed up for a Mother’s Day half marathon near my home. I had four weeks to train. When race day came, I was a bucket of nerves. I had been training and pushing myself. I would run in the gym, around my home and say, “did you come to walk? Or did you come to run? Well, run then! “ I knew I was ready but I didn’t feel ready. My husband gave me final thumbs up and I kissed my one year old on the cheek. I lined up with the other runners and said to myself, “ Did you come to run? “ Then I changed my train of thought almost immediately and replied (to myself), “ I came to finish.” With that final thought, I took off. I paced myself so I wouldn’t tire to quickly. Did I mention I live in the mountains; those hills alone almost killed me. “I came to finish.” At one point, I was one of the last people in the group. “So what? I came to finish.” I kept trying to find pacers but I would lose them. “I came to finish.” I looked up and somewhere between Kool and the Gang and Lady Gaga, I was at mile 10. “Just finish,” I would tell myself. I hit the 12 mile marker and I was about to stop. I was really just about to sit down on a park bench and call my husband to come and get me because I couldn’t finish. Just as I was slowing down and taking out my phone to call him; there he is with my daughter. They met me at the 12.3 point and he said, “come on honey you can do this.”
He ran with me pushing Lillian in the stroller. When I made my music list, I had Whitney Houston’s One Moment in Time as the last song. That’s the song I wanted playing when I finished. If I didn’t finish, I couldn’t hear, “One moment in time, when I’m racing with destiny.”I unplugged my earphones and let it ring out as I pushed through the last two blocks. Seeing others walking back with their medals made me push for mine. It seemed like everyone could see the determination in my face, or had been there themselves. “You’re almost there! One more block!” Then as I rounded the corner to cross the finish line, my husband yelled, “Baby look at your time!” 2 hours and 45 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. I would have never thought in a million years I would be capable of running 13.1 miles in under three hours. This wasn’t just a race for me. This was a defining moment in my life. This was the day I learned to never underestimate myself; an important lesson that I can now teach my daughter. Happy Mother’s Day to me.
Barbara currently lives in Bellevue, Washington (just outside Seattle), and is an instructor at Bellevue College and a Special Education Advocate. She has been running consistently for about a year and currently training for a Triathlon.
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