Path to the Half

I agreed to run the Music City Half Marathon with, realistically, less than a month to train for it. About a month ago, I bought a pair of brand-new Brooks with the goal in mind that I would start hitting the pavement more often, and the opportunity to run this half came without a price tag (thanks, BarTaco), so, here I am. In it to… finish it.

In the past two weeks, I have experienced some really good, and some really tragic distance runs. I completed 5.5 miles at the beautiful Percy Warner Park, only walking when I got to the steepest of hills, and then there was yesterday. Yesterday I ran from my house to Music Row (about to 2.5 miles) and had to slow it down right before I got to Tin Roof. Before I knew it, I was lost in a rough area of town.. and proceeded to walk/jog/call my mom…the entire 3 miles back to my apartment.

I used to get really frustrated with myself when I had a bad run, and even on my best days I knew I could do better, but I have tried my best to change my mentality this time around. First of all, I know I will not be the best runner on that street on April 29th. I will not be the most prepared, the most fit, or the most well-trained. With these facts in mind, I have allowed myself to see this race as less of a challenge, and more of a journey.

When I run at beautiful parks, sometimes I stop at the top of a hill to take in the scenery. The other day when I was jogging down 8th avenue, I caught a glimpse of Nashville architecture I had never noticed before; the houses looking more like they belonged in Seattle or Portland than the South. I’ve tried my best to truly enjoy my runs, and honestly when I stop worrying about how fast my miles are, or how many miles I’ve completed so far, I truly do enjoy the journey — the pace, the freeing of my mind and the movement forward.

I’ve been so blessed these past few months, there is no other word but blessed to describe it. I’m tutoring four days a week now; a steady routine in my every day that brings light to my life. I’ve found a patience with waiting tables that I’ve never had before. Even though I don’t see it as the end goal, I have thoroughly learned to appreciate the job that I have, that affords me so many advantages and opportunities (like the Half Marathon, for example). Although people are never perfect, including me, I’ve shared within the past few months, some incredibly good times with a few. I’ve caught up with old friends, and spent quality time with new ones. I only hope that my friendships grow and change with me and with time. I’ve tried to allow myself to dream, and to push myself toward the goals that I feel in my heart to be true — letting life gradually steer me in the right direction. Diligently, but gracefully following the path.

I’m going to end this post with a story of an event that happened on a busy Saturday night while I was waiting tables. Although I’m not sure that it coincides with the theme of this post, I’m hoping that the more I write.. the better it will fit; Because its been on my heart since it happened, and I need to type it out.

There are three kids, spanning from ages 5-15 who have been frequenting BarTaco the past few weeks, scanning the patio and asking people for money. They are constantly run off by managers who threaten to call the cops if they don’t leave the premises. On Saturday night, the 13 year old boy and his 5 year old sister had the guts to walk into the restaurant on a night so chaotic, they probably assumed they would get lost in the crowd. When I first saw the little girl at my table, I thought she was a “joiner” and began to fill her a kids cup with water. As the water began to fill, I glanced across the room and spotted her brother, arms crossed, eyes darting. I dropped the cup and bolted; “You guys have to leave,” I half begged/half asserted myself towards the brother. He refused to acknowledge me, the unwillingness to make eye contact a sure measure of tried and true practice. I spotted my manager across the room who was already on the way, “I’m calling the cops,” she told the boy, as his sister was crossing the room with a wadded up 20 in her tiny fist that she had just claimed from my table. They left hastily, but without a trace of fear or shame in their eyes. I stood paralyzed for a few minutes and then continued with my night; the situation not ever leaving my mind. Later I learned that these children’s parents drive them to 12 south, drop them off on the side of the road, and wait as they pan-handle in and out of different restaurants. When they get kicked out, they pick them up and speed away to the next location.

When I learned this truth, I filled with rage. How dare they make their children pander for money. How dare they steal from them their innocence. When I looked into the eyes of that boy, I saw nothing. His stare was blank. Even if he wouldn’t meet my eyes, I could clearly see into his. He seemed void of feeling, of hope, of anything but the task at hand.

When I run lately, its less about keeping my “eye on the prize” and more about enjoying every step, keeping an even pace, experiencing the journey full force. At certain points in my runs, I have been filled with overwhelming gratitude, which could be partially a runner’s high, but I think its more a state of mind — a place I go to physically and mentally.

I guess you could say the boy in the restaurant was doing the same thing, going somewhere in his mind, transporting himself to another place. I catch myself doing that sometimes. I feel like we all have our own mental destinations — mine is Mexico; the middle of summer. Tanned skin, eating local food with local people, running barefoot through the streets. I wonder where the boy goes in his mind when he’s in the middle of a restaurant, or a Walmart, or the gas station, watching over his baby sister as she begs people for money. I wonder if he’s ever seen the ocean, or dreams of going anywhere past his visions of being far away from his problems. I think of the kids I tutor every day, how they don’t come from the best, but less is always more to them. I wonder what they dream about at night. I wonder where their journeys will take them.

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