Friends and a great cause can make you light on your feet

The summer before my freshman year of high school, my older sister invited me to go on a run with her. I was a soccer player. But I had never gone for a long distance run. For fun. Just because.

We ran four or five miles that day, and it felt amazing. I was hooked. A few weeks later, I signed up for cross-country, and I ran. And ran. And ran.

It was one of the only activities that seemed effortless to me.  I could run for miles and miles. And I always had a kick at the end.

Of course, there was one reason I felt so light. I was only 92 pounds at the time.

Broad Run High School running girls - 1989
But more than that, I simply loved the experience. The wind in my ears. My mind letting go as I entered the zone. The people cheering me on. The friends I made.

Running became a different experience years later. I'm not so light and free anymore. I've been pregnant. I chase after two kids. I work a lot, and because I'm a writer (an occupation for which the motto for success is "Ass in chair"), I sit. And sit. And sit.

But that 13-year-old runner girl was still in there somewhere. I just needed a little inspiration to coax her out.

Fellow Inspired Winer Allison Greiner and her son Matthew became that inspiration for me. Last year, Allison invited me to join her in running the Disney Half-Marathon for PPMD's Run for Our Sons.

A half-marathon. Hmmm. I had been thinking about getting back into running, but a few 5Ks and the occasional 10K was all I had in mind. I couldn't imagine having the time to train for 13.1 miles. And, honestly, I had no desire to run more than 5 or 6 tops.

Cindy, Mary, Allison and me 
But a good friend had made a generous invitation. She trusted me to take on the challenge. And here's the bottom line: Life is going to get challenging for Matthew. How could I say 13 miles was too much when such a feat may never be a possibility for him?

Matthew inspired me throughout my training program. Anytime "My Body" came on my iPod, I thought of him.

"My body tells me no. But I won't quit. Cause I want more. I want more. It's my road. It's my war."

On January 12th, Allison and I joined our friends Mary and Cindy for the Disney Half-Marathon. That Saturday morning, we woke up at 3AM, hopped on the monorail, and joined more than 23,000 other runners at the starting gates. Music pumped from speakers that were taller than I am. Fireworks lit up the black sky to signal the start.

The energy of the entire experience carried me the whole way. Being there with my friends. Watching the sun rise over Magic Kingdom. Waving at the characters and high-fiving spectators and kids from high school marching bands. People were genuinely excited to see the runners and cheer us on.

Some of their signs made me laugh - "Toenails are for sissies," one read.

Others made me incredibly grateful. "I don't know you, but I'm proud of you." That sign reminded me of the many generous donors who had donated to my fundraising page and cheered me on. Friends, relatives, and some people I haven't even seen in decades got involved. Their support was humbling.
At the finish!

Allison, Mary, Cindy and I crossed the finish line arm-in-arm. Then we huddled up, heads together, silent for a few moments.

I never imagined all those miles would feel so good. Every single step was pure adrenaline and joy. I could have run 13 more. I was light once again.



Andrea Spencer is copywriter and speechwriter for The University of North Carolina at Greensboro as well as a professional writing consultant and a mentor to fiction and non-fiction authors. She holds a BA in English Literature from High Point University and an MFA in Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University. Andrea is a wife and mother, soccer coach and one of the founding members of InspiredWining.com. She is currently seeking representation for her novel The Promise of Water.

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