I Am Proud

The Next Family

By: Brandy Black

Susan and Sophia race day

Susan ran the half-marathon this weekend and Sophia and I went out to cheer her on at the 9 mile water station.  While we waited to see mom run around the corner, we watched all the beaten down runners pass us.  When they heard Sophia yell “Good Job Guys, Yay Runners!” (I was coaxing her along) they all began to pick up their pace and their faces lit up.  We were the only ones out there apart from the marathon volunteers and even though we were there for Susan, it seemed to make the difference for everyone.  I was so emotional as I stood helpless on the sidelines -I had only my encouraging words.  Susan came running around the corner to see Sophia holding her “We love you mom” sign and there was a sweet moment of surprise even though she was expecting us.  We hugged and kissed her and off she went to finish the race.

Soph and I jumped in the car to make it to the finish line.  As I was driving to the Pasadena Rose Bowl I began welling up thinking about the marathon Susan and I did 8 years ago.  It was life changing.  When I committed to running it alongside Susan, I had never run more than 3 miles, I had no concept of what 26.2 miles meant to me physically or mentally.  Susan had been planning it.  She’s a personal trainer, it made sense for her, and I being her girlfriend at the time thought “sure I’ll tag along”.  We got a beginner’s marathon guide and followed it religiously.  As we conquered big milestones –8, 10, 12 miles –I found my outlook on life beginning to change – just little things to start,  but I began to feel more empowered and in control.  As the runs got longer and the marathon closer, I realized Susan and I were transforming.  At the time, we lived in a tiny studio apartment in West Hollywood and when we did our runs we would visualize what we wanted for our lives: the dream condo, the wedding, the kids, the eventual house.  We spent hours running and planning out how our lives would turn out together; we had nothing better to do other than search for the candies that we had strategically pre-placed in bushes of various houses while we drove the mileage before the big runs.  More than anything those runs were a bonding experience for us. We learned a lot about each other.

When Marathon day finally came, we were as ready as we could be.  Our longest run had been 18 miles and we felt prepared. The first 19 miles were a breeze; I was slapping hands of spectators on the sidelines and gulping down Gatorade and glazed donuts at every pit stop. At mile 20 Susan fell from grace and begin to drag her way through. At 22 I hit my wall and the last 4.2 miles were the longest 45 minutes of our lives.  We could barely breathe let alone talk.  My eyes were so blurry that I couldn’t see the Wiltern theatre standing right in front of us.

Me: Where are we?

Susan: We’re 3 miles away babe.

Me: I can’t do it.

Susan: Remember the visualizations; let’s talk about our condo.

Me: No, don’t talk about that right now, I can’t do it.

Susan: Ok I want you to picture the finish line, we’re raising our arms and crossing and all of our friends are watching.

Me: No, I can’t do it.

Susan: Ok, I’m here, we’re doing it together.

We ran silently weeping, silently cursing, silently together.  I ached in every muscle and shivered from dehydration.  We hobbled along for what seemed like eternity.

Me: ARE WE THERE YET?

Susan: Yes baby, can’t you hear the people screaming?

Me: No, where’s the finish line?

Susan: Right ahead of us, see the balloons?

Me: No! where?  TELL ME THE TRUTH!

Susan: It’s right there baby.

Me: I can’t see it.

Susan: We’re ten feet away, we’re there baby, we’re there, we’re here, we’re under, you’re ok.

I slowed to a stop, someone wrapped Mylar around me and I crumbled to the ground.  We were broken and I could never have made those last 4.2 miles without Susan by my side.  We had conquered the biggest physical challenge of our lives, together.

A few months later we bought our dream condo and got married.  The walls that I had built around myself had crashed to the ground.  I had no boundaries, my world became limitless and I realized that I was capable of anything.  I had changed because of that marathon.  Since then I have always vowed that if I ever felt “stuck” I would prescribe myself a marathon.

Standing with Sophia in my arms, I watched Susan race to the finish on her own and conquer yet another challenge.  I knew what that meant to her and I couldn’t have been more proud.

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