8. Taking a Leap of Faith

8. Taking a Leap of Faith

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

Taking a Leap of Faith

I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible.
 ~Oscar Wilde

Four short years ago, I rejoiced after escaping one of those dreaded 2-mile gym fitness runs. I hated running with a passion; it was just something that never came easily to me. As a short-statured, and somewhat stocky girl, I’d always been a back-of-the-pack runner who struggled to finish the very labored laps. At that time, if you had told me that I would one day run a marathon, I’d have told you in all honesty that I had a better chance of winning the lottery.

The turning point came when I met Mrs. Gray. I was in awe that she was fifty years old, going through chemotherapy for her recurring cancer, and still managed to run 30 miles a week. I figured that if Mrs. Gray could run 6 miles at a time, I could run at least one or two. In February, in the cold, bitter, Michigan weather, I started to walk a 2-mile route around my neighborhood and would struggle to add in short bursts of running. I’d start huffing and puffing, desperate to complete even a half-mile segment without stopping. Two months later, I finished the whole route, running, for the first time. I felt exhausted, but I felt incredible.

Over the next several years, I continued to push each run for a few extra minutes, slowly building my endurance. Those last few minutes would often be excruciating: my quads burning, my lungs begging for air, my mind wrestling against my body, ready to be done. Despite the physical and mental battle, I loved every minute of these runs — I knew I was not only building physical endurance, but also perseverance, mental strength, and a passion for running. A runner was born, and at 4’10” and 110 pounds, she was one who did not exactly fit the tall and thin ideal. It didn’t matter to me; my heart was in it completely. I didn’t need to compete against other runners, for my most important competition was myself.

After building a solid mileage base of about 25-30 miles per week, I started entering some local road races. Being an endurance runner, rather than one with speed, I was drawn toward the 10K races. Although I loved improving my times, nothing competed with the feeling of going into distances of “uncharted territory.” After continuing to challenge myself and finishing two half marathons, I knew it was time to step it up. I decided I would train for the Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Bank Marathon.

My summer was filled with many long 6 AM runs in an effort to beat the brutal summer heat. Despite the labored last miles, painful quads, tight IT bands, necessary ice baths and compromised sleep, I loved my training. I knew I was finally on the road to conquering my “Everest.” The prospect of crossing the finish line after running 26.2 miles helped me truly comprehend my capabilities.

Race day finally came, and I was filled with infinite excitement and apprehension. It was finally time to see what I was made of. With the gorgeous weather, scenic course, supportive Detroit and Windsor spectators, and the reality of my soon feat, the experience ended up being incredible. I did struggle through the last few miles, but after my journey, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d finish. As I crossed the finish line, I experienced the strongest sense of pride and happiness I ever had in my life. I was now a marathoner.

As John Bingham once said, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

~Marianne Mousigian

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