Friday, April 29, 2011

SLC Half Marathon (April 17, 2011)

Diana (left) and Brenda (right) after finishing the SLC Half-Marathon!

In February my older sister Brenda asked if she could join me in my goal of running the Salt Lake City Half-Marathon. I must admit I was humbled and honored that she wanted to do something like this for me or with me. 

I’ve always looked up to Brenda with regards to her running. She might be older, but she’s a quick one and always has been. Her walk is hard to keep up with sometimes, so I was a little worried about keeping up with her running. 

She said on the phone numerous times that she wants to run “with” me the entire way. I’m still amazed that she did this. She flew out from Georgia, knowing she’d have an elevation change to contend with and potentially a slower pace.
Within a week of her confirming her registration for the half-m and purchasing her ticket, I began battling some difficulties with my bowels. In the runner’s circle it’s called “runner’s gut” or “runner’s diarrhea”, it was so bad that I got really worried about whether or not I could pull the mileage off for this kind of running. 

In addition to my runner's gut, my right foot started giving me a little grief. So, I’m training and resting at the same time. Mixing the two is an interesting and nerve-wracking experience, especially when the timeframe is short and the miles are long.
My husband Josh came to pick me up after one particular training run that was cut short due my bowels. I was shooting for eleven miles, but was only able to get to three miles that day. As we were driving home, I was angry. 

Mortified about my experience, but not embarrassed, if that can make sense. I was absolutely livid that I didn’t meet my goal for that day. I was so ticked off that I decided to punish myself and tried to hit an eleven-miler the very next day. 

I was only able to get eight and a half miles out of that run due to the same issues. I was very weak and tired. So I pulled my phone from my running belt, sat down on the curb and called my husband to pick me up for the second time. 

While Josh was driving, I had a thought about my experiences the last two days and so I voiced it to him. I said, “I never believed that there would be a day where I would be upset that I was only able to complete a three-miler or even eight and a half miles.” Oh my holy freaking cow! I was upset that I didn’t get to eleven miles! 

Something changed inside my heart and I was thrilled about what I had accomplished so far. At that moment I knew, that come hell or high water I would do this. I would be okay and that God would get me through. It was like a total instant flash and replay of prayers uttered and prayers answered. 

I was reminded what was promised. I was filled with calm and amazement of what I knew I could and would do in just a few weeks. To make it more amazing, my sister would be an awesome presence at my side. I had nothing to fear and everything to gain.
Thursday, April 15, 2011: Race bib pick-up and Brenda arrives.
Friday, April 16, 2011: Time with family. Pre-race reflexology appointments for our feet. To bed early and a semi-restless night. I was excited and nervous. I slept maybe four hours.
Up at four-thirty in the morning to stretch and ready myself for the run. Josh drove us up really close to the starting area. On the way it was sprinkling a bit; it had been crazy wet, snowy, windy weather a few days prior. 

I was praying to God, anything but wind, as wind challenges my balance something fierce. There was no wind, so I was very relieved. I was anxious for the pre-race preambling to get over with, and during that time Brenda took off her sweats so she would be in her running shorts; at that time I saw something that just brought tears to my eyes. 

Brenda had written all over the back of her legs with motivating themes, if ever I should fall behind. On her left leg it read “Go Diana” and had MS crossed out. On the right leg it read “Diana Is A Non-stop Athlete”. 

Emotionally this just about made me break down into tears, but motivationally it instantly washed away all my fears and anxiety. I was ready to run and run well.
So as not to get bumped by eager runners at the start, we lingered back to let them go by. We started out at what felt like a really nice and slow pace for a warm up. 

After one and a half miles I looked down at my watch to see that we were running a ten minute, ten second per mile pace. Which was a lot faster than either of us thought we’d start out at. 

We kept a ten minute, ten to twenty second minute per mile pace for the first six and a half or seven miles, and it felt surprisingly good. During this time though, I had to take two pit stops because of the bowels (dang it!), but we kept on with our quick pace and Brenda said I ran better after my potty breaks. 

I kept thinking to myself about how much faster I could have run if I felt more confident in “keeping things together”. Looking back, I think it was God’s way of keeping me from running too fast and burning myself out before the finish.
It was totally awesome to see my sister Natalie around mile four and a half. When Brenda spotted her, she told me that at that moment Soul Sister was playing on her playlist, so that was fitting in a fun way. 

Then our brother Jesse and sister Melene (who also has MS) were around mile five with signs. That was such an energy charge! 

Then at about mile six there were several members from my husband's side of the family. Josh had somehow finagled his way through the starting line traffic and was there as well. This was a total boost! 

Dad and Mom were somewhere around mile seven and I was so surprised since I didn’t know they were coming. That was so cool!
I had envisioned running through the beautiful Sugar House neighborhood, but have never done it before. It was very pretty and oddly soothing. Around mile eight my right foot was being moody and giving a little grief - enough to let me know it was there. 

It was then that my favorite song by Joan Baez started playing. That song carried me through as I focused on the words and realized that nothing could stop me now. 

I felt good. I was running well. And my sister was such a motivation to have at my side. I was enjoying this run and simply tickled to be running with Brenda. 

I was amazed at the family support. I was humbled by the belief that others had in me. Soon after this line of thinking, we were running through Liberty Park and I knew that I would need a bathroom once again - but that would be just fine. 

Shortly before the port-a-potties I noticed a woman favoring one of her legs and crying. 

I was filled with emotion as I recalled all the support that I had there that day, all the hard work that I had done, all the trials that occurred during my training, and that I was soon to pass mile ten and enter uncharted miles for myself. 

My goal was to finish and hope that I could do so without walking any of it; so far God had held up his promises. I simply couldn’t pass by this woman without encouraging her to do what she has set out to do, which was to finish what she had started. 

If I didn’t encourage her, there was no way I could honorably finish my run in my heart. While running very slowly at her side I put my arms around her and simply told her that she could do this. 

Even if she has to walk it, she could complete this "half-m". I told her to listen to her body and she would be able to know when to start running again; that she could indeed do this. 

I then had to excuse myself and use the potty or it would be bad news. I took care of business and then we were on our way again. By this time we were running about a ten minute, fifty second mile.
As we crossed mile ten I smiled. I did so because I felt good. I was happy because I knew that I had trained well. Then I saw that lady I had spoken to not long ago and she was going slow, but she was running again! 

I was renewed and filled with joy and excitement for her. Seeing her brought tears to my eyes. At that moment I became more aware of the song Ruins by Bebo Norman that was playing in my ears at that moment:
This is my holy hour, This is my world on fire
This is my desperate play, This is where I am saved
I've no fear of height or depth
I've no fear of crashing
The single thing I fear the most:
Simply feeling nothing
This is my holy hour, This is my world on fire
This is my desperate play, This is where I am made
This is my kingdom come, This is my freedom song
This is my helpless state, This is where I am saved
I simply had to speed up and applaud her. This was her ‘desperate play’, her ‘holy hour’ and she was giving it all she had. I was doing the same in my own way as I was soon to pass mile eleven. 

We needed to celebrate this! I was thrilled to see her smiling and I could see the renewed determination she had. Go girl!
Not long after this success of achieving mile eleven, we were looking at my parents and sister Natalie again. God bless and thank you for that support! 

Around mile twelve we saw my sister-in-law Lori and nephew Isaac supporting runners by handing out water. That is a huge support! Once we crested State Street and South Temple Hill I noted that we were running eleven minutes, twenty seconds per mile! 

Approaching the final stretch, Brenda asked how I wanted to finish. I told her the same way I finish every run. I punch it and give it all I have. 

Brenda said she was game for a strong finish and then all of the sudden that magician husband of mine and his sister appeared out of nowhere. Waving and cheering us on. An instant replay and reflection of what I had envisioned so many times played in my mind’s eye at that point. 

While recalling the words of Bebo singing Ruins, as I noted above. I could feel it. This was my holy hour and my world was on fire, but this time my play wasn't desperate. I knew I could do this. 

I am not helpless mentally or physically. I have won and conquered and in that knowledge, I am saved. So I sprinted with all I had left in me and held my sister’s hand across the finish line! 

My watch recorded that we ran 13.17 miles with an eleven minute, twenty-two second mile per hour average with a total time of only two hours, twenty-nine minutes! I swear I could feel God smiling down. I felt so much gratitude in my heart. I still do. 

Especially since my goal from a year ago was to simply to run a 5k sponsored by MS Walk 2011 (April 30th). With God’s help I’ve achieved my goal and a whole lot more!
(Above: my sister, Natalie)


  1. Oh my gosh what a great story. I so wish I could run but I know that day will never come. But I can feel the excitement thru others running.

    1. There are many things that you can do and I'm excited that you are doing them! You are a ball of energy and a wonderful dose of medicine. A beautiful person inside and out, that's for darn sure.

  2. Oh my GOSH! That is such a fantastic story! You have such courage - and I love that you are able to draw the strength from those who can give it. It truly is a blessing!

    1. You rock Happy Fun Pants! I'm glad you appear to be getting back into the swing of things. I've enjoyed having you come back online. Keep it up!

  3. Thanks for your encouraging story!! To God be the glory, great things He has done! I am so happy you are able to run, set goals, and achieve them despite your challenge of having MS. You are an inspiration!!

    "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." Charles Swindoll

    1. God is definitely good, merciful and kind. We are all blessed beyond imagination.

  4. This is a great story of Hope, Authenticity, overcoming challenge, looking FEAR in the face and laughing at it!
    You go Diana-
    "Holy Freakin' Cow" you are an incredible motivation to all who know you! Keep it up, we will beat this MS if it's the last thing we do!

    1. Holy Freakin' Cow is right, Sir! MS won't get us, will it? Give it all you've got Josh, then give it more. You are a good man.