My dear invisible readers,
Summer always ends too fast, doesn’t it? Well, I guess that’s what I used to say, back in the day before Hopkins. Truth is, I am so excited to get to McCoy, unpack my very heavy bags, and run to see my friends. I’m excited for classes, too. I had to buy 22 books for my five classes, which is kind of scary. At the same time, though, I can’t wait to read them all…
Anyways, back to Summer. I can barely wrap my head around all the things that have happened since I packed up my beautiful room in Wolman and left Hopkins. It was so long ago. First, I went home for a week, and I was my Tia Leo’s official tour guide in Miami. Tia Leo is my mom’s sister, and she lives in Colombia. She comes to visit every couple years, and my mom and her literally shop till they drop (on my living room couch). I love seeing my mom when my aunt is visiting. It’s as if my mom is injected with a sudden happiness that nothing can compare to. As a daughter, there’s no greater gift than seeing my mom like that.
After spending some time at home, I packed up my backpacking gear and headed back to Baltimore. Though I already blogged about this trip, I really want to talk more about it, in the context of my summer as a whole. I like to believe that things truly do happen for a reason. Each struggle, somehow, makes us stronger. A hard class teaches us to be organized and to work hard. A fight with a friend teaches us to communicate. The loss of loved one teaches us to appreciate the time we have with the people in our lives. My backpacking trip. What purpose, in the grand scheme of things, did it serve? It prepared me. Big time.
It rained nearly every day. It was cold, and I was always wet. (At one point, I went to bed in dry clothes, and I changed into wet clothes so as to not waste my last dry pants…Low point. YES). I became someone I really did not want to be. Wake up. Pack up personal gear. Cook breakfast. Hike. Lightning drill. Hike. Lightning drill. Lunch. Hike. Lightning drill. Hike. Make camp. Cook dinner. Sleep. Repeat. Not having enough dry clothes, not having good rain gear, not having any comfort. It got to me, and I complained like crazy. I think that every other sentence that came out of my mouth was a complaint. It was hard, and I wasn’t used to it. My friends got me through it. They warmed me up after I fell in the bog in the middle of a hike in the dark. It was freezing, and I was SO cold. They warmed me up. Their warmth was the most important thing to me at the moment. How can you repay warmth, though? When the trip ended, I felt so strong. I had seen myself at my worst. Now, I could become my best. That’s what I told myself that first night after we got back when I slept on my friend’s couch. Now, I can become my best.
What did the trip prepare me for? Two weeks after getting back to “civilization” I embarked on a journey that tested every ounce of me. Now it is time for me to refer to the title of my blog. 4,000 Lessons Learned. My last blog was a series of pictures from my amazing journey across America. Last January, I stumbled upon the 4K for Cancer website. A run across America? Whoever does that must be CRAZY. That’s what I thought. I closed the window and continued searching for things to do. A week later, I was signed up and ready to train. 5:45 am was my wake-up time everyday during the semester, running anywhere from 3 to 10 miles a day.
The 4K was 4,000 mile run from San Francisco to Baltimore. The 4,000 lessons I learned: each step, each mile, each tear, each smile, each story, each survivor, each host. Every minute from when I first met my teammates to when I hugged them goodbye in Baltimore was so special.
We began by hijacking the SanFran marathon. Our first four miles were across the Golden Gate bridge. I was so excited. I could not believe it was real. I was actually starting a run across America. We ran in two-mile segments after that. My first segment was a steep uphill, the whole two miles. I was running with Amanda, and we were both struggling. I live in Florida, so hills have never really been my thing. I had Sandy’s name written on my leg, as I was running for her. Suddenly, Amanda said, “ Girl, I keep looking at your calves and I just can’t stop. Gotta keep going for Sandy.” I started crying, running up that hill. When we got to the top, I couldn’t believe it. Amanda and I hugged one another, crying. We made it. We’re brave. We made it. For Sandy. She pushed us.
The rest of the run was full of moment like that. One day, I ran almost 19 miles. That day I felt strong. One day, I was having horrible knee pain and I cried almost every mile I ran, even when I ran across the Nevada-Utah border. Another day, I ran a 9 minute mile, up hills, and I pushed myself so hard, I felt strong. Most of all, I felt strong every single time I stepped out of the van to run those two miles, simply because I knew my body was saying NO and I was SCREAMING “YES!!!” right back.
My backpacking trip from the beginning of the summer was nothing compared to the 4K, but I was better. Ask my teammates. They said the biggest complaint they could have about me was that I was always happy. Happy=strong. That’s what Sandy taught me.
There were so many amazing people I met along the way, starting with my teammates. Every morning, we made a circle before we started to run. The Dedication Circle was very special. The first circle, back in San Fran, was so powerful. I was standing next to Lauriann. Everyone began saying the names of the people they were running for. Saying Sandy’s name was so hard. I felt like she was there. She was right in the middle of that circle. Then, I heard Lauriann say that she was running for her dad. Lauriann’s dad passed away from cancer. When she said his name, I felt him there, too. Each day, I got to know all of my teammates, what made them tick. Every day, I felt stronger because my teammates were teaching me to be strong. My best friend died, and she came back in the form of 21 teammates that taught me to keep going no matter what.
I ran my last mile with very special people. Charlotte and her son, Jack, were there. Seeing Charlotte for the first time since I moved out was so special. Hugging her made it all worth it. Charlotte and I became such good friends in a short amount of time. Running with her is always special. She became such a great runner so quickly. She nothing less than a warrior, fighting for each breath, each step, each smile. And that’s why I love her. My brother was also there. He’s changed so much. I look at pictures when we were little, and I can’t help but smile. His beard. His smile. His entire body has changed. It can’t disguise, however, the little man I’ve always known that would do anything for me. That little man ran with me.
I guess it all goes to show that strength is something we all have, but we must dig deep within us to find it.
That’s what Sandy taught me.
That’s what this summer taught me.
I have 4,000 reasons to fight whatever comes my way. I can’t wait to start classes again, so I can fight for my grades. I can’t wait to be back in Baltimore, so I can keep running with Charlotte. I can’t wait to fight whatever my way. With my family. With my friends. With my team. I’m ready.