Crushed it

As a child, recess meant my feet were on a field and my hair was in a messy ponytail. After recess, I would return to the classroom with dirty jeans, and usually, a smile on my face- just as long as I had won the game.

When I outgrew recess, I began channeling my competitive energy to playing soccer on a national level, but that came to an end when I went to college.

Instead of having my feet hit the field, they remained planted in the bleachers, itching to compete again.

Then, I discovered running.

My feet soon found a second home on the country roads of Champaign, Illinois where I pushed myself to run farther than I had ever gone before.
Yet the thought of my feet hitting the pavement during a race absolutely terrified me.
Why? Because as I told a friend, "I don’t want to just finish a race, I want to crush it."
After college, I worked at my company’s booth at the Bank of American Chicago Marathon Expo. I spoke with runners; each had a different background, goal, story and reason for running.
Their energy and enthusiasm was contagious- contagious enough to temporarily squash my fear of failing. They convinced me, that as scary as it may be, I could run a race, not just any race, but a marathon.

And that following Spring, hands shaking I registered for Chicago Marathon.

The night before my first long run, I could barely sleep. Thoughts of "What if I can't finish the run? What if I have to walk?" ran through my head. As the sun was rising along Lake Michigan, my feet carried me down Chicago's Lakefront Trail and I finished my first run. Soon 13 miles became 14, then 15 and beyond...with each run I gained confidence that I could crush the race.
On race day, I boarded a crowded el filled filled with the sound of nervous giggles as complete strangers bonded over the impending challenge. I joined a conversation, desperately trying to take my mind off of what was to come.
I stood in Millennium Park watching the sunrise alongside 40,000 people, from around the world who shared one common goal. As the national anthem began to play, my stomach began to churn, this was the moment I had spent months training for and now was my chance to crush the race.
I set out on a 3 hours and 47 minutes running tour of Chicago- down the streets of the Loop, past familiar stores and landmarks, through Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Old Town, West Loop and Greektown.

Thousands of people lined the streets, screaming, ringing cowbells and holding signs. Their funny signs amused me and their energy propelled me along the course. The first 10 miles flew by.

I thought, yes, I can crush this race.
As I approached the United Center, the crowds of spectators changed to a few fans scattered along the street and the screaming and cheering was replaced by silence. For the rest of the race it was just going to be me and miles of Chicago street littered with green Gatorade cups and bananas. I could no longer I rely on the energy of excited bystanders to fuel my race.

I hit mile 22 and my legs began to feel as though they were made of lead and my thighs started to burn. I began to question myself, wondering if I could finish. I tried to push out these feelings of doubt by focusing on each step, repeating "just don't stop, just don't stop."

As I ran down another desolate street approaching mile 24, I heard a voice yelling "Camille!" I turned and saw my parents. Their cheers and enthusiasm gave me a little surge of energy. While I do not think a second wind would be possible at this point in the race, I felt myself stand a little taller, my legs felt a little less heavy and the doubts about finishing began to wain as I focused on finishing the final 2.2 miles.
I smiled as I crossed the finish line. I had won the race by achieving my goal of not just finishing, but crushing it by giving it my all.
And two years later, I would do it all over again.

Credits:

Created with images by skeeze - "runners silhouette athletes" • Memekiller - "mountainviewelementaryBASE 059" • paulbr75 - "stadium seats sports recreational" • hypotekyfidler.cz - "Country road" • GoToVan - "2013 Vancouver Sun Run" • Dan Bock - "Chicago Marathon Expo" • thomas_sly - "IMG_1071" • Rex Roof - "sunrise on lake michigan" • David Paul Ohmer - "Chicago - El Train "Red, White & Blue"" • gsregalado - "IMG_5116" • gsregalado - "IMG_6266" • The Nick Page - "Running"

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