Monday, March 14, 2016

Never Stop

Entering me in the contest was a practical joke my best friend Robyn was playing on me. The odds of an ex-smoker, former obese, middle-aged woman winning a spot on the Olympic Torch carrying team were pretty far-fetched. We laughed about it when the letter came in announcing I was a finalist. She knew I was not a runner, God had gotten generous with me up top and unless I used duct tape to strap the girls down, running was not something I did voluntarily.
So how did I end up here in South America, standing on a dirt road with a camera crew on hand and spectators sipping on water bottles and shouting in a multitude of languages, with me only understanding English and a smattering of Spanish words? It all comes down to pride. Somebody told me that I would fail. Do you  want to know how to motivate me? Tell me I can’t do it, tell me I’m going to fall and people will laugh, challenge me that way and you can bet that I’m going to try all that much harder to prove you wrong.
However, my pride was not enough to keep the reservations away. Despite losing over a hundred pounds and beating a smoking addiction, I still looked in the mirror and saw the woman I used to be. I could feel the eyes of the crowd judging me, criticizing my ample chest, my thick thighs and the telltale rasp of the beginnings of emphysema. What was I doing here? I know they were asking the questions because I was asking the same thing. It wasn’t too late though, I could step away, feign a stomach bug or just admit that I shouldn’t be there.
I was nearly to that point when I heard the cry of the crowd as the other runner came in site, torch flickering in the late afternoon sun. My heart started racing as I took my position and waited, my hand outstretched waiting for the smooth metal of the torch I would carry into the night. Pounding footsteps came up behind me, the sound of heavy breathing and the slap of metal hitting my hand. My fingers curled around it and I started to run, and caught my toe on the hard dirt surface of the road. I did a whole lunging forward kind of motion, with the crushing knowledge that I wasn’t going to catch myself before slamming into the ground in front of hundreds of strangers. The stones that dug into my knees and elbows were sharp, my face burned in humiliation and I looked up to see I had somehow managed to keep the torch upright. A gasp had rippled through the crowd and all I could think was that I needed to disappear fast!
I jumped up and gave my cuts a cursory glance, the gasp turned to a cheer and I put one foot out and then another, determined to do this. As I faded into the darkness, running my shame into the ground as I allowed myself to laugh and a new sense of determination filled me


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