I had always heard people say that when you got older you stopped making new friends. I never really put much thought into it beyond that but will admit that it made sense especially as I got up into my thirties. Life was pretty much staying the same for me and I had an abundance of great friends. I really didn’t want for more and, well, then … I had Reese.
Because of Reese I became a part of a whole new world, the special needs world. And it’s not just filled with some pretty amazing kiddos. Nope, those special kids, have some pretty special parents too. And I have had the honor of making many of them my friends.
In less than two weeks I will be running in the Los Angeles Marathon. This will be my seventh marathon and my third time running that course. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to run LA this year. But then something changed my mind.
A few years ago I met Paula. One of her sons and Reese went to the same early childhood intervention program. And well, she and I became friends. Good friends.
Shortly after I met Paula I began my racing journey. She saw all of it. From 5K to marathon, the good, the bad and the ugly. Although Paula, along with everyone else, thought I was downright nuts, she was always encouraging me. I think when you start racing you automatically feel the need to drag people into it with you. I would always ask if anyone wanted to race with me, even if they didn’t run. And Paula was no exception.
Paula had never run before, so when I asked her to race with me she said “no”. But I kept at her. And within a few months Paula was registered for her first 5K. About a year after that Paula became a half marathoner … and I knew what was in her future.
In 2013 I had a crazy idea of trying to get into a running group called Marathon Maniacs. I had to run two full marathons in 14 days to qualify. The two races I chose, were just seven days apart. The first was the Long Beach Marathon and the second, the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. Paula decided to run the half marathon course at Nike that year so we stayed together in San Francisco.
I was pretty banged up when we got to San Fransisco having just run Long Beach. I was taping all different parts of my body together for this one. Paula had an up close and personal view of the ugly part of marathoning. And trust me, I wasn’t candy coating anything!
It was a great weekend in San Francisco. I earned my way into Marathon Maniacs and was met by Paula and another friend at the finish line. One of my favorite racing memories was finding out that they waited to open their Tiffany necklaces (Yep, that’s the Nike medal) until I finished. We opened them together and I don’t think I stopped crying for hours. It was a very special moment and Paula was there to share it with me.
When we were back at the hotel later that day, Paula saw the physical damage both races had done to me. I was a mess. I was elated, but I was a mess. In passing I made mention, as I had before, that she too could run a marathon.
And then … it happened.
Paula said it out loud.
She was considering IT … Paula was considering running a marathon. And I knew exactly what that really meant. Paula WAS GOING TO RUN A MARATHON! And I couldn’t be happier!
In the fall of last year Paula registered for the Los Angeles Marathon. About half way through her training I checked on her knowing that her mileage was about to start to climb. She asked if I wanted to do her long run with her that week. I immediately said “yes”.
We continued to meet, week after week, for some of the most enjoyable long runs I have ever experienced. We talked and laughed and cussed, HA! Each training run was a fun little adventure for us. But the best part was getting to see the changes happening in Paula. I loved watching her reach one running milestone after another. I loved how her confidence grew. She was believing more and more in herself and her abilities as time passed. It was absolutely beautiful to watch this transformation. And I was so thankful to be a part of this experience with her. Training with Paula gave me a whole new love and appreciation for running. It brought back so many wonderful feelings and memories for me. It was truly a gift.
And I knew what I wanted to do.
I wanted to run LA with her. I HAD TO! I wanted to see this crazy adventure of ours through to the FINISH. How could possibly I miss it?!?!
On March 15th Paula and I will stand at the start line of her very first marathon. We will take every step of that course together. And 26.2 miles later I will have the privilege of crossing that finish line with her and will watch my friend become a marathoner.
I guess I am a fairly seasoned marathoner at this point. I know what’s out there waiting for us. I know the emotions and the pain that you find along that 26.2 stretch. Something happens to you out there. Something very, very good. Whether it is your first or fiftieth marathon, it changes you. It teaches you a lesson. It tears you apart yet somehow leaves you more whole than you ever have been before. You are more. You are better. And you find at the end of those 26.2 miles that nothing is impossible … if you just believe.
Looking back I can honestly say that I didn’t think I needed anymore friends. But I know I was wrong. God saved Paula for me and me for Paula, to share this time of our lives together. We became friends just at the right time. God knew when we would need each other the most … at a time when both of us needed to become just a little bit more of who we were always meant to be.
Well, I hope you all have a day where you make a new friend!!!