Thirteen Point One? DONE!

As Jack, the kids and I cuddled on our couch after the race, 
I told them that this day would go down as one of my very favorite, 
best days EVER in my whole life. 
And I've had a lot of really great days!
And isn't that funny because it will ALSO go down as one of the 
most GRUELING things 
I have ever done in my life. 

 I have to shake my head sideways and just think that sometimes 
God takes the hard and the painful and uses those experiences in our lives to help us grow. 
For what He wants to do in our lives.
And maybe to help others with whatever they're dealing with.
For better things. 

I worked really, really hard at this. 
It was tough. 
Really tough. 

 I AM healthier because of the hardship of training and running over the last 6 months. 

I AM closer to Jesus because of the hard miles put on the trail. 
{I must step in once more to remind us all that 6 months ago I HATED running. 
Didn't think I could run 3 kilometres, 
let alone 13.1 MILES. 
This is nothing short of miraculous. 
Nothing short of a Divine appointment I had with God/Jesus
to show me a few really valuable lessons.}

I AM able to say, with all sorts of confidence, that PRAYER works. 
I knew that. 
I believed that. 
But it was GREAT to be reminded of that. 

God shows up. 
He takes our weakness and makes
that weakness beautiful.

I had NUMEROUS people reach out in various ways over the past 6 months, 
sharing that through this journey God has me on, 
they have tried something they thought was impossible, 
or they have not given up on prayer or on their faith when they were literally about
to chuck it all out the window. 
They have asked God to help them with their bad habit 
or to start a new good habit. 

That's God stuff. 
That's worth every hard mile run. 
That's worth a hamstring pull and a bottom that killed with every step run. 

Through this whole journey: 

 I can't describe how LOVED I felt. 
By God. 
By my family -- related and non.
By my friends. 
By my Facebook friends/family.

I can't describe how deeply 
connected to my Jesus I felt. 
He ran every training run with me. 
He sat with me in my sadness as I thought I might not be able to run, 
when injury crept in. 
He met me in the dark hours when fear was real. 
Doubting myself. 
Doubting if I could do it. 
He said, "Don't be scared, Alysa. Don't let fear rob you of joy.
 I'm with you! I've got this!" 

 I'm gonna be really honest here. 
There was a very good chance that while my heart wanted to run pain-free 
that might not be the reality of race day. 
My prayer might not be answered the way I wanted it answered.
I had actually braced myself for that reality. 
Not because I doubted that God could give me that gift of a pain-free run. 
But because I wasn't sure that it was really about running pain-free. 

I don't think we always get the easy road 
and that doesn't make God a bad God
 if we face hard things. 
I think the injury part of my journey was only PART of this journey for me. 

 There was a possibility that pain would be part of my run, and a good one at that, 
seeing as my right hip flexer was killing me on Friday, 
and the previous few runs my hamstring was not feeling great. 
I went into the race feeling like I might not have that prayer answered the way 
I want it answered. 
The "please no pain during the run" prayer. 

Just because we pray for something doesn't mean it always turns out the way we want. 
BUT, I will shout from the top of the Sears Tower 
that if I had had pain the whole run, 
I would STILL believe that God was there with me. 
And that He is FOR ME.
I would STILL believe that He loves me 
and wants good things for me.
I can't describe how much I care for Premila. 
When you pray for someone, you feel connected. 
You want God's best for that person. 
And I want SO much for sweet Premila!

I can't describe the JOY I felt during the race. 
I was tickled rather pink when I pulled up the photos last night. 

You see, there was part of me that was sort of dreading seeing the photos. 
While I lost 20 pounds on this journey, 
I still have lots to go. 
And as a gal, 
most of us hate seeing our own pictures. 

So, there was sort of this part of me that thought, 
"I don't want to hate how I look. 
This was a big day for me and 
I want to love the photos that captured my day.
But I probably won't." 

But you know what?
Every one of them!
They tell a story.
My story.
A story of  determination.
And hope.
And hard work.
And God showing up.
And feeling loved beyond belief.
And a girl that was weak but became strong because of God.

Do I see extra weight. 
But actually, NOPE. 

You see,
 I talked to God a lot leading up to my race, 
asking for this very gift. 
The gift of loving my own photos and not letting that taint my day. 
(I know, it's whacko thinking, but it's just my struggle. 
A struggle I've so been wanting God to help me through. 
He is, too. Slowly. 
But change is happening in how I view my body.) 

So you can imagine how I felt when I scrolled through the images that Jack captured and LOVED what I saw. 

I saw a girl just running her heart out for another girl. 
For herself. 
For her children. 
For her God. 

What I actually see, is JOY.

And HOPE. 
And FEAR set aside. 
And a girl that is SOOOO LOVED

You know what. 
The pictures don't lie. 
I look at them and they shout "JOY" to me.

Which was my heart's cry for this race.
And that is a joy that only comes from God. 
He gets the credit!
Because you know what -- in the middle of running 13.1 miles, 
you can't muster up JOY on your own. 
You can't fake it as you look at the camera. 
That run was HARD, HARD work. 

And yet, the joy was there. 
Not just happiness.

{ Transition }

So many of you have lovingly joined in on this journey with me 
so I thought I'd give you the details about the actual race. 

 I have to say, 
One of the proudest moments of my life.

 The weather you ask? 
The weather I've prayed for since I started training in June. 

We got to the race in plenty of time. 
Super early, Correll style.

Parking spot while we waited was my very favorite place to go downtown Chicago. 
Between the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium -- the PERFECT view of the city. During college days I would often scoop up my homework and 
head here and sit and people watch and look at the skyline and crank out papers and study for tests, hour after hour. 

So how cool that I got to run in my city 
spend a good 45 minutes before getting out of the car, 
looking at that view!

Did some stretching. 
I like this next photo of myself; 
I seem peaceful. 
Which I truly was. 
I think by this time I was focused on what was ahead, but not freaked out. 
I was ready to get started so I could be done. 
But definitely feeling peace.

Couldn't forget the Nano.
 Heaven help us all if I had forgotten the Nano.

Jack prayed over me right before I left to get into my pace group. 
I needed that.
I love my man!
{ I'm doing a whole post on him this week. I promise. He was/and is AMAZING!}
Set the tone for the race. 

 Excited and a wee bit nervous:
For a brief minute, 
before the gun went off 
(or the guy announced it was starting - 
I really don't remember if there was an actual gun shot or not), 
I was all alone. 
And I started to cry a little. 

And then I remembered that I wasn't all alone. 

There was a spot right beside me, 
saved for God. 

And that settled my nerves. 
The Peace He offers is remarkable.

All right. 
Fess up!
Who forgot to pray for my shins? 
Someone seriously slacked on that one. 
The first two miles I had crazy painful shins. 
I guess I sort of freaked Jack and Cleary out when they saw my face 
at mile 1 or so, and I told them, 
"My shins are killing. PRAY!" 

So at mile 2 when they saw me again, 
Jack quick rubbed my shins for about 30 seconds and off I ran. 

By mile 4, they were feeling GREAT. 
Wouldn't have known they hurt for one second.

 I felt the strongest between miles 4 through 6. 
Shins feeling great. 
Breathing good. 
Not one ounce of pain in my sciatica or my hamstring or my right hip flexer. 

Near the start ( I think) of Mile 6, 
was a very big hill (at least it seemed very big and I
think Team Alysa would concur it was a big hill), 
so Cleary and Jack jumped on the course and ran the hill with me. 

Can't tell you how that helped. 

And at the top of the hill were my kids and Denise and Becky Jo and Jeff. 
The perfect celebration to have made it up the hill without walking. 
Honestly, it was a big hill. 
SO thankful I wasn't alone because I very well might have given up 
and walked the darn thing. 

Cleary stayed alongside me and 
we ran Miles 6 through 8 together. 
I loved that.
Absolutely loved that. 

She was actually the first to know that I was even remotely considering 
doing a half marathon. 
Called her up, 
told her my thoughts, 
and I think she almost got into a wreck on the road with the shock
and surprise of that news.
I needed to hear from her, a runner if she really, truly
thought it was even a remote possibility that I could actually
do a half marathon. She'd be honest.

Because you see, 
she KNEW how much I hated running. 

I love that girl for believing I could do it. 
When I couldn't believe it for myself,
she believed for me.

At one point, 
probably around mile 7, 
when she could tell I was tanking, 
she did her coach thing and said, 
"This is NOTHING Alysa, compared to the hard things Premila has faced. 
(or something quite similar to that; can't remember her exact words.) 
 And I remember agreeing with her. 
You're right. 
This IS nothing in comparison. 
I'm doing this for HER. 
And on I plodded.

Cleary was my coach and dear friend on this journey.
 She's a runner and a VERY good one at that. 
Have I mentioned that on her first ever marathon she qualified for Boston?
And, she's running it next Spring.
 I am SO proud of her! 

Anyway, Cleary fielded many of my anxious phone calls this summer/fall 
and lovingly
would speak truth to me that I could do this,
that the fear I had was real but that it didn't have to control me, 
that my training was working,
that it was possible,
and all sorts of other words that touched me to the core. 

It was shortly after the Mile 8 marker that my fan club jumped in the car, 
headed back to the finish line.

It would be 5 miles before I'd see their faces again. 

And that actually began the hardest miles of the race. 
I think I can say with confidence that missing 3 weeks of crucial training, 
near the end of my training, 
really did affect the last part of my race. 
But that's okay because it was about persevering. 
It was about pushing through.
 It was about mental toughness. 

I walked for water breaks and actually at the water station around mile 9 (I think) 
I pulled out a goo and water and as I threw my cup on the ground 
and picked up my pace again, 
I looked up and saw Jack and my dear friend Kristin. 

I was shocked because I didn't expect to see them again until the end. 
And then, right as I saw Kristin, 
I saw Julie and Melissa, as Julie did a body plant right on the cement, 
not too far out ahead of me. 
I love that Jack caught this photo as I reacted to seeing Julie fall.
She took quite a tumble and even today is quite sore. 
The things your friends do for you! 
I actually started to cry as I got close to them and saw Julie, Melissa and Kristin up close and I just remember vaguely hearing Julie yell, 
"Don't cry!" 
(Julie, did you actually yell that? OR is my memory playing tricks on me?) 

Shortly afterwards the trail curved quite closely to Lake Shore Drive and wouldn't you know I heard honking and yelling and I looked to my left and saw 2 carloads of my favorite people cheering me on as they DROVE back to the finish line. 

I did, 
hate them for getting to drive to the finish 
while I had run the last 4 miles! 
It was a brief hate. 
Ever so slight.
I'm over it now. 

I can't describe to you how hard it was to run those last 4 miles. 
It was during those miles that I said to myself, 
"I will never even consider a full marathon. 
Not if a half is this hard." 

My friend Christi had written me the night before and said, 
"Don't over-complicate it. 
Breathe in. 
Breathe out. 
Put one foot in front of the other." 
I thought of that countless times on my run, too. 

 I prayed. 
I cried a few tears of weariness, too. 
I listened to the music on my Nano. 
I prayed more. 
I remember looking at my arm, thinking, 
if Premila can endure what she had to endure, 
I can certainly run 4 more miles. 
3 more. 
2 more. 

McCormick Place got closer. 

Soldier Field arrived. 

And THEN, 
I got to run around the lake side of the Shedd Aquarium, 
knowing that I was within one TENTH of a mile of being done. 

I caught a glimpse of Cleary at the far end of the tunnel under Lake Shore Drive. 
As I caught up to where she was standing 
she pulled out her phone and said, 

"SHE'S HERE!!!" 
She said it with such pride and excitement. 
Made me feel so loved. 
Isn't it interesting the words said that touch us deeply?

And then I saw the finish line. 
And of course the finish was UPHILL.
Because it's a flat, Chicago course you know.

And my family - both the related and non - 
 screaming and yelling and photographing 
and being thrilled for this victory of mine. 

Jackson and Maddie jumped out and ran the last little bit with me.

I love that they did.

And just like that, 
the race was over. 

Reunion with my family/friends was sweet!
That people would give up their Sunday morning for me. 
No other reason than to say, 
"We love you, Alysa! You can do this!" 
Sort of blows me away.

Tears of joy and feeling loved began to flow. 

My lovely belt buckle trophy.
{Ugly as, well, you know what.}

I have to say, 
I was almost more excited about getting to wear the silver wrap than the medal.
 It felt like I was part of a club. 
The Half Marathon Club. 
Felt SO good.

My dear friends that are family 
and family that are friends:

And on a COMPLETELY shallow side note, I am SO glad
I stuck in my cute pink hat at the last minute.
Because let's just say that 13.1 miles didn't bode well
for my hair.
So this hat hides the hair AND makes me feel cute.
 So there.

And on a DEEPER note ....

I can say, with all certainty, 
that while the accomplishment of running a HALF MARATHON is HUGE for me. 
And that while training for six months was HUGE for me. 
And getting up and running multiple days every week, 
when I'm not a morning person was HUGE for me. 
And sticking with something and being dedicated and 
doing the hard work was HUGE for me. 

The hands down, 
unexplainable GIFT in all of this was my time 
with Jesus/God on my runs. 
I felt Him so NEAR. 

I wish I could find the right words that would convince you 
each that there is POWER in meeting with Jesus. 
There is HOPE in meeting with Jesus. 
There is deep LOVE in meeting with Jesus. 
I've known that hope and power and love in the past. 
Honestly, I have. 
And yet, 
this took the blessing of His Presence 
to a completely new level. 

The BEST part of this running journey has been running alongside Jesus, 
day after day ...
after day.

I'm grateful that He chose to teach me about the power of His presence 
through what I thought was a next to impossible task for me. 

I just can hardly believe that I did it!

Thirteen Point One? 


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