Honor defined by dictionary.com means: honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions; a source of credit or distinction; high respect, as for worth, merit or rank; high public esteem; fame; glory. Honor means a lot to me.
Throughout my life I have been honored in many ways. Honored to be a daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, honored to have served in the Air Force, honored to have a wonderful family and friends, honored by receiving various awards and recognition, honored by God to have the ability to push my body beyond its comforts zone at times. So this past Sunday, I ran a half marathon here in Oklahoma City. It was the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, a run that honors the memory of the 168 souls that were lost on that fateful day in April 1995. I’ve ran this race in various distances the last five years mostly in relay teams with my friend “aka The Champ” who is an ovarian cancer survivor. She finished her last round of chemo just three days before the race. On Sunday I laced up my shoes and ran with her daughter, our 8th race of the year, 13.1 miles. Several times throughout I held back tears thinking of how strong of a person she is, wishing she was running with us like she had planned. She is an amazing woman, friend and human being. Cancer is ugly but she has not let it take her down. Her spirit is catching and inspirational. I am honored to run 18 races this year in her honor.
The race went very well, started out humid with mild temperatures and a threat of rain. It was wonderful to see over 27,000 people line up to do something so honorable. There were firemen running (walking) with full gear and one soldier who carried 168 pounds on his back in honor of those fallen. We held a steady pace through the majority of the race; I encouraged my friend when she needed it. Prayed silently when I needed it and for her as well; pushing up and over hills as they came. Some call me sick because I actually like the hills, hills are our friends – I especially loved Gorilla Hill. At the top of it there is a huge banner that says gorilla hill and a huge inflatable gorilla. Then there were several people dressed as bananas, loved it!
Anyway, it finally started raining on us at about mile 8. It was very welcomed at that point. Shortly after mile 8 the male marathon winner flew past us. That was cool to see the police cars leading him down the street because at first I thought their sirens were because I was in the oncoming lane, ha. I loved being able to run next to my friend encouraging her when she needed it, being quiet when her looks told me to, pushing her when I knew she could dig a little deeper. We walked toward the end when it was needed and we shuffled to make forward motion. At mile 12 the overall female marathon winner passed us. We both commented on how that gave us chills, very inspiring. Finally we turned onto the home stretch keeping it steady knowing we would make it. Finally with the finish arch in sight she yelled “Ok, let’s go” we sprinted to the finish crossing together! I was so proud of her for digging deep and finishing, with a very respectable time of 2:40:24. We missed our goal of 2:30 but I don’t think either one of us cared. Again I was so very honored to have run with her.
When my friend called to tell me her Mom had Ovarian Cancer it hit me like a brick wall. I decided I needed to do something for her. Knowing how she enjoyed running and how I had paced her in her first few races that dedicating my year of racing to her was the right thing. So I decided to run one event for every week of treatment she had to endure. It is my honor. The 8 races out of 18 completed so far have not been for me. Every mile ran has been and will be for The Champ. Every mile biked has been and will be for The Champ. Every meter swam is and will be for The Champ. So when they handed my medal to me I didn’t put it around my neck as expected. No not this time. This time it was my honor to hang it around The Champ’s neck. It wasn’t my medal to receive.
Since Sunday I’ve done a lot of thinking and reflecting on this. Too many times I have laced up my shoes, rode my bike, swam my laps, and participated in a variety of events selfishly wanting a PR or to place ahead of a fellow athlete. I can’t explain the feelings that I have had so far this year. This year isn’t about me and I can’t tell you how liberating it feels. No pressure really. No, this year is about honor. This year is to honor a true friend. It is my honor after all.