Race Recap: Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Run

OK, this is way overdue. And it’s going to be long. Also, it’s not really a “race recap,” as it wasn’t really a race — it’s a “run.” They timed it only for the sake of a study they were conducting in partnership with Michigan State University.

Anyway, I’ve been having trouble writing this recap because this run was so much more than a run to me. It was a culmination of so many things: taking control of my life, facing my fears, celebrating my accomplishments and spreading the fitness love. As part of this run, the state of Michigan selects several Fitness Ambassadors, appointed by the governor to share their personal stories of living a healthy, fit lifestyle. I was honored to be selected as one of these ambassadors.

Fitness Ambassadors

The Fitness Ambassadors with Gov. Rick Snyder before the run.

As part of it, I got to share my story with several media outlets. (If you care to read them, you can see them here, here and here.) Honestly, I loved telling my story. But, it was a little strange knowing it was out there for so many people in my current community and my hometown to read. Someone at work hung it up on the fridge in the kitchen; my bootcamp coach brought it to one of our sessions and made everyone read it under the streetlights at 5:30 a.m.; some random gym guy brought it in and hung it up on the giant bulletin board in the gym. Flattering, humbling and … a little unsettling. But a positive experience all around. It even allowed me to start a conversation with several different people about healthy, fit lifestyles and the small changes people can make to improve their health.

Talking about health and fitness is fun for me. I’m certain most people’s eyes glaze over when I come back from a run, sweaty, sore and smiling — and dying to talk about it. But I don’t care. I am so happy to be where I am in my life, and I was so blessed to have this opportunity to tell my story to people — let them know that it’s not impossible, it’s not too late.

But I digress … I was lucky enough to have my mom join me for this little roadtrip for the run that kinda changed the game. We headed up Sunday afternoon, ready to have a pre-run dinner with the rest of the runners — only about 270 total of the 400 selected showed up for the run. Dinner was a pretty traditional spaghetti, salad and dinner rolls. Nothing fancy, but the evening was fun. I got to dine with a man who has done the run in his wheelchair four or five times. He was quite inspiring, and the joy he spread when talking about the event was enough to warm the coldest hearts.

Headed across the Mackinac Bridge with a smile and a wave. He's done this event for four or five years.

At the dinner, we got to hear from Bobby Crim, former State of Michigan Speaker of the House. He’s a fitness buff and able to perform the most ridiculous stretches. Oh, yeah, and he’s in his late 70s. It was pretty inspiring to see his zest for life and his drive to improve the physical fitness of Michiganders.

That night we had to go out and grab me an under-layer for the run. It was going to be in the very low 40s the following morning on the bridge, and the T-shirt alone simply wasn’t going to cut it.

T-shirt

All my gear waitin' for the morning.

We then headed back to the hotel and soaked in the outdoor hot tub a bit. It was nice to visit with my mom and just enjoy each other’s company. Called it a somewhat early night — had to leave for the shuttle buses around 5 a.m., as we were being shuttled from the south side of the bridge to the north side of the bridge for the run.

It would be a lie if I said I wasn’t a little lot nervous before the run. The Mackinac Bridge has always freaked me out. It’s big. Tall. Long. Intimidating. Oh, and it’s a suspension bridge, so it sways in the wind. And it was windy. I was kinda freaked about running on it — heck, I can barely drive on it. My mom, who has an amazingly comforting way with words, was there to support me.

conversation with mom

I can always count on Mom for love, support and "keepin' it real" when I most need it.

Plus, I received a perfectly timed text message from a wonderful fellow blogger that was super encouraging and meant so much to me. (I hope she realizes the difference it made.)

As all us runners huddled together, watching our breath fog up the air, I was wondering if I was going to be able to do it. Fear aside, I’d been having some issues with my ankle that had me worried. But, before I knew it, the Fitness Ambassadors were called up to the front of the line to meet the governor and start the run, the other 260 runners starting behind us.

One foot in front of the other, I started the run with barely a twinge of pain in my ankle and a giant smile on my face. Yes, I dopily ran the entire bridge with a grin on my face, thanking every single National Guard soldier along the way. Many looked like they didn’t want to be there, and I like to think my “thank you” warmed them as much as their cups of coffee.

I barely remembered to pay attention to my GPS and just ran. Ran to my heart’s content — never slowing, even for pictures. Yeah, I carried my camera the whole way, too.

Running on the bridge

Almost too happy for my own good, as the sun rises behind me.

The sun rising over Lake Huron was, perhaps, one of the most glorious things I’ve ever seen. I felt like I was seeing, feeling, experiencing something truly special. Something that not everyone gets the chance to see. I felt like it was just me on that bridge, the sky on fire with the joy of the moment — my heart on fire with the joy of the moment. I will forever look back on that day as one that changed me. It reminded me what a blessing this life is — and that it’s too easy to take it for granted. It’s too easy to forget to stop and enjoy the simple beauties, like the sunrise or a few quiet moments with your mom or the privilege of being able to put one foot in front of the other.

sun rise

Running under the rising sun, above the sparkling water — there's nothing like it.

Oh, and did I mention that as the sun rose over Lake Huron, a rainbow appeared over Lake Michigan on my other side?

Rainbow

A rainbow of hope and joy and beauty.

I may have gotten just a little misty-eyed at the beauty of that morning, of that experience.

I crossed the finish line with my fastest time yet: An average pace of 8:46. Wait, now, what? Sore ankle, ridiculous fear and my FASTEST run ever? Hm. This whole “overcoming your fears thing?” Kinda awesome.

But, you know what’s even more awesome? Having my mom at the finish line to give me a hug — and a cup of hot tea.

me and mom

A finish-line hug was the icing on the cake — or the cherry on top.

This run was a gift that came just when I needed it, just as I was starting to doubt my abilities to run a marathon, just as I thought my injuries would keep me from running, just as I started to feel the exhaustion from a summer of intense training. And I did nothing to deserve this gift. This was THE most amazing run of my life. My words don’t even begin to do it justice. I am a lucky girl.

certificate

I continue to feel inspired and empowered from this run.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Race Recap: Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Run

  1. Wonderful, inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it and for being a part of our event!

    Like

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