Michelle Sieg
Unscripted

An unexpected personal best

By - May 22nd, 2010 04:00 am
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On May 1st, I completed the Door County Half Marathon. I ran some, I walked some, I wanted to sit down and cry. But I didn’t.

The mid-day sun was beating down on my fair (but thankfully, sun-screened) skin and the 70-degree heat was unusual for Wisconsin in spring. The course made good on its promise of being the toughest half marathon in the state – and made bad with my hamstrings. But I finished.

My mind was all over the place prior to the race and admittedly, during. I felt amazed by all of the goodness that has found its way to me these past few months. I was running with friends in one of the most beautiful State Parks in Wisconsin and there was a cheerleader (who had come all the way from Atlanta) waiting to see me cross the finish line. But I still struggled.

A week prior to the race, I decided to run in memory of my older brother, Darren, who passed away on May 1st, 1977. I was only a year and a half old. According to my mom, having me as a baby sister was one of his greatest joys in life. It’s funny – I had never thought about what I meant to him; only how sad I was that I hadn’t had the chance to know him.

Along the winding, hilly and sometimes rough course, I came upon a runner who was just about the age Darren would be today. He was limping from a strained calf muscle and as I passed him, I realized he was slightly cognitively disabled. I’m convinced this man (whose name, I learned after the race, was Jerome) was put there to represent my brother who was also cognitively and physically disabled, but who always limped along anyway.

As someone with more of a power forward’s build than a runner’s, I occasionally get funny looks from people who are surprised to learn I complete half marathons. It used to piss me off and sometimes, it still does. But these races are not only about physical fitness (endurance, by the way, comes in all shapes and sizes), it’s about the emotional journey.

After four races thus far, I can safely say that they’re a challenge. At the end of the Door County race, I saw a few runners collapse and heard that a couple of people had puked. There were runners who performed well and there were those of us whose times definitely didn’t reflect any records.

But on the other hand, I sort of feel like just being out there again was one of my personal bests.

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