Almost There

4:37 PM

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. because I just could not sleep. My nerves were all over the place & my stomach had butterflies. I’ve never even done a 5k, but I was dreaming about what it would be like. When I woke up, my mind was racing. I immediately turned on the weather channel and to my dismay, there was a 70% chance of rain at 8 a.m. when the race started. But I had prepared for that in advance & decided that rain or shine, I was going to keep an open mind. So, I made myself some oatmeal and ate some fruit...but my stomach was in knots, so I couldn’t eat it all. After getting dressed, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “this is it.”

On the way down to Little Rock, I had one of my favorite songs on repeat, “On My Way to You” by Mercy Me. The lyrics were so perfect for what I was about to do.  Almost there, almost where I'm supposed to be. It's not all clear, but you keep showing me. With every step, the more my heart moves to your beat. Just like where I'm headed, there's joy in the journey . Teach me to think like you think. Show me the things that are true. Finish the work you have started in me. As I'm on my way to you. Create in me a pure heart and make me new. Less of me, Jesus more of you. Here I stand, still I'm drawn down to my knees. It's not my strength, but yours that carries me.” So, that’s where my mind was when I pulled into the parking lot for the 5k. There were people stretching & warming up...and I was intimidated...but determined. I kept reminding myself of the old saying, “slow & steady wins the race.” I wouldn’t be the fastest person, but I was determined to cross that finish line. I got help from a fellow 5ker to pin my number on and afterward, I got someone to take a picture for me. I wanted to remember that this was happening...and breathe in every moment.

I began warming up by walking & jogging a few blocks. Then, I found a nice secluded corner to stretch my shins (cause shin splints SUCK) and pray. I just asked God for strength...I was going to need it. As it got closer to 8, a crowd of eager racers started to form. There was so much diversity, from ethnicity to age to height to weight...I saw a little bit of everything. From serious runners, to literally just fun walkers in big, fancy hats. I thought I would feel out of place...but once I was there, in a sea of almost 1,000 people, I found that what many of you who encouraged me throughout this process kept telling me was exactly right. We all were there for the same purpose...to finish. Sure, there were people who also wanted to finish in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place...but everyone still had the common goal of getting across the finish line. I fit right in.

As the time got closer, my heart was beating faster & faster...then the countdown began...10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...and the guns went off. We all took off. There were people flying by me and also people that I was leaving behind. Cameras were flashing and news videos were rolling. I heard a few faithful fans cheering & yelling “good luck!” A few cold raindrops started to fall, but we kept on pushing. After about a half mile, I found my pace & got comfortable. And then...it started happening. The hills. I haven’t trained for hills...heck, I didn’t even realize downtown Little Rock had any hills. Maybe it’s because when I’m in my car, I don’t feel them. They’re not steep, but man, trying to keep pace on them is difficult. My fastest time to complete 3.1 miles during training was 51 minutes 4 seconds. I wanted to at least do that well again...but I just didn’t know how it would work out with it being so cold, wet, & windy...plus the hills...geez, it was rough. I had my phone with me to help me keep time since I don’t have a stopwatch. I was getting all sorts of encouraging texts & phone calls, but I didn’t look at them because I didn’t want to be distracted. There were no ½ mile markers or anything, so every time I felt like I had walked/run close to a mile, I would get anxious...and of course, the mile marker was always further away than I thought. I passed a few people who had raced ahead of me at the beginning...unfortunately, some people had already dropped out. My legs were feeling pretty good by this point and I started my 3rd mile. Then, the pain started...my sides were hurting...and while my body was not cold, my lungs were not happy with the chilly winds & air I was breathing in. My left foot was hurting...and here comes another hill...and then another one. I was in so much pain, but in the distance I could hear the voices of the announcers & cheering fans riding on the wind that was constantly hitting me in the face. I started to remember the words to the song I was listening to. “Almost there...almost where I’m supposed to be. With every step the more my heart moves to your beat. It’s not my strength, but yours that carries me.” I remember praying, “Lord, please let this be over soon...I’m in so much pain...please just let me finish. My strength is fading...but I know your grace is sufficient for me. When I’m weak, you are strong.” I felt tears starting to well up in my eyes...and as I looked at my phone to see the time,  right as I was in pain and praying that God’s strength continue to carry me...right when I was thinking in my mind, “how far away is the finish line? I’m getting closer & closer to the sounds but I can’t see the finish line...” Right at my weakest moment, I felt God’s strength take over. I pressed even harder towards the mark.

I’ll never forget what it was like when I rounded that last corner...and fans were standing around cheering & taking photos. I heard people cheering, “You can do it!” “Go girl!” Then I heard, “And we’ve got Pamela Johnson crossing the finish line folks!” When I crossed that finish line...I just couldn’t believe what had happened. I turned around and saw where I had come from...I thought about the distance we had gone. I thought about the pain I felt during the 3rd mile...and there I was, receiving a medal for finishing my first 5k. People were high-fiving me & volunteers were offering me water, fruit, protein bars, etc. Once again, cameras were flashing. And I had made it. My official time was 49 minutes 30 seconds, which was better than my best training time! I had endured the rain, cold, wind, & hills...and did better than what I had hoped for. When we started, there were almost 1,000 people...but only 753 people finished. And I was one of them.

Later that morning, I looked down & saw a huge red stain on my left shoe...turned out to be blood. I had managed to scratch one of toes during the race. It was a tiny cut, but I had bled profusely. I didn’t even feel it until afterwards. Of course, if you know me, you know this whole ordeal wouldn’t be complete without some kind of injury lol. So, now I’m sitting at home, tired, sore, and with a swollen, bandaged toe...and I am more proud of who I am physically right now than I’ve ever been. Now, that’s what I call success!

“For the race is not given to the swift or the strong...but to those who endure till the end.”

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