I have run the Annapolis 10-Miler a handful of times at least. I have stood at the starting line of hundreds of races, including marathons, ultramarathons, and an Ironman just ten months ago. But this morning was different. This morning I was standing in a crowd of people, waiting for the race to start, feeling my heart pound, trying to catch my breath and holding back tears. I was terrified and only seconds from ducking under the orange tape and bagging the whole thing.
Not only have I only run 5 times in the past 7 weeks but this was my first big event since leaving the psych ward less than a month ago and truth be told, although I had a great week leading up to this race, actually feeling happy for the first time since March, I have been truly struggling in crowds. I have felt like a open wound. The slightest insult or even perceived insult can break my heart. The smallest misstep feels like a fall from a tower. I am not 100% and standing at that starting was almost too much.
Then out of the crowd stepped a fellow runner I have only really spoken with once. She recognized me by my new red hair color, came up to me, hugged me and reminded me that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. Then without ever telling me what she was going to do she went step by step with me for 10 miles. When I needed to walk a hill, she walked a hill. When I slowed down for a drink of water she slowed down. She talked and kept my mind off the crowds and my fear and she helped me every step of the way. As we climbed that final hill to the finish line she reminded me to leave everything on the course. She didn’t let me shrink away from the crowd at the finish. She made me push and cross the finish line at a sprint.
Heather Newton was my angel on this course today. Without her I would have ducked out. Without here I would have waited by the car to cheer my husband in and I would have felt like I had quit. I would have known I had quit.
A few weeks ago I talked about asking for help. Apparently I am still not very good at that. But what was made apparent to me today is that sometimes there are people who do not need to be asked. They see a person in need and lend a hand. In this case, Heather loaned me her race. She didn’t think of her time or getting a PR she was well capable of getting, instead she got me through the race. She was selfless every step of the way and I will never be able to really express just how much that means to me but I will keep trying.
Heather Newton, you are my hero. Thank you so much for everything you did today and thank you for not making me ask. I will never forget this race and the kindness you showed.