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Dec 20, 2023

The Road to Redemption is Paved with Grit & Gratitude

After finishing the Chicago Marathon in October 2022, I felt defeated, felt as if I’d let myself and all my supporters down. I didn’t do my best and didn’t even want to celebrate the fact that I finished my second marathon and my first major one. Craziness, right? But I was so caught up in the time goal, in the what ifs, and in the what could have, should have been.

That evening at dinner, my sole sisters were reveling in their physical and mental strength, the ability and acumen it takes to accomplish such a feat, meanwhile I was lamenting how disappointing my performance had been. Upon traveling home, I quickly re-entered the lottery to gain a bib for the Chicago Marathon 2023. I set out on a mission to redeem myself, to get my journey of completing the Abbott World Marathon Majors back on track, and to prove what commitment, consistency, and confidence could yield during the next training cycle because in the last one, I seemed to always have one foot in, and one foot out throughout the process—as revealed by the results.

But the process would have it, you have to decide, execute, and trust. This time I did. I didn’t win a spot in Chicago 2023 via lottery, I was not chosen. I was not deterred. I signed up with a sports tour company and secured my place. As 2023 beckoned, I counted down the days until the official start of marathon training. I put in the work to find the right running shoes, adjusted my nutrition, elevated my mindset, and embraced the hot, humid dog days of summer running. Every time I wanted to quit or complain I reminded myself of my why—to go back to Chicago and prove something. At the time something seemed so clear, but as I hit milestones in my training and my run was improving and changing, my why and what I had to prove changed too.

I realized that I could do it. It didn’t happen in 2022 but that’s okay. I didn’t need to do Chicago again to show myself that I could. There are five more marathons in the series, for goodness sake! Hindsight is usually 20/20, and although by now I am no longer stressed or obsessed about my ‘slow’ 2022 finish, the show of Chicago 2023 still had to go on—with me or without me.

I arrived in Chicago solo and at the start line ready, relaxed, and with resolve. The second half of the race was not as pretty as the first half. At mile 16, my legs began to ache. By mile 18, they were cramping. But having to stop at the porta potty twice, the double-edged sword that is hydration, I no longer had any wiggle room if I were going to shave 45 minutes off my last year’s time.

I tried to be my voice of reason and to remember that no matter what, I was capable and worthy of the finish I sought, even if this second time around wasn’t going to be my time to claim it, again. By mile 20, I felt humbled and grateful to still be running, even moving, as I saw several runners who weren’t so fortunate. Talk about perspective. Even still, my brain would not let me stop and by only the grace of God my body complied. He was definitely complicit in my shenanigans but also taught and reminded me of several things along the way—about gratitude and will and my why.

I had been chasing a time and a feeling fueled by pride. However, what began as a goal of redemption turned out to be a lesson in rediscovery of sorts. So, whether your reason for running is for better health, to complete your first 5k, check off states, conquer the majors or the seven continents, etc., every start line is a blessing, and every finish is a victory. Respond accordingly.

When you focus on the pastthat’s your ego. When I focus on the future, it’s my pride. Focus on the moment, in the present. That’s humility.” — Giannis Antetokounmpo

By: Joy Harrell @joyrunsrealestate

Joy Harrell is a licensed real estate agent and co-owner of The Sift Sisters bakery based in Houston, Texas. She is a native Houstonian and graduate of the University of Houston—go Coogs! When she is not helping people buy, sell or invest in real estate, she can be found hanging or traveling with her hubby, running or biking the streets and trails in and around Houston, mentoring girls, or testing new food and cocktail recipes.