My StudiOne Story: Full Time Part Timer

Here is the fourth installment on the road to StudiOne.  If you missed the first one or three, you can link back through my journey below:

  1. The race that started it all
  2. The gym that shaped my training philosophy (and rest of my life)
  3. Choosing Tulsa

And now I present to you what I did for the two years in Tulsa while I waited for StudiOne to happen.  I did move here with high hopes of having my own personal training studio.  I wanted a place where I could train people one on one or in group fitness classes.  I also wanted to be able to coach running.  Yoga was nowhere on my radar except that I enjoyed taking classes.

I took a giant leap of faith and moved here with no job lined up.  (This was pre-budgeter Sprenk.)  I know I was spinning my wheels trying to get various training groups together around town.  I coached a small group of three people to their first half marathons in the Route 66 half.  I took over (and still manage) the events at my friends’ coffee shop.  My friend Katie works in the event industry and she helped get me a few leads to at least have some cash flow while I worked on growing my training business.

One of my main gigs at this point was working fancy style events for Skyloft (the top floor of one of the few skyscrapers in Tulsa) – galas, weddings, bar mitzvahs etc.  It wasn’t at all along my career path but it worked well for me initially.  I had a steady though small flow of income while I explored my training options in Tulsa, and was still able to have most of my daytimes free, sacrificing nights and weekends to work these special events.  By the wintertime, this job was wearing me out.  I’m grateful for the small stability this gig gave me when I first moved here, and that it led me to a bride named Leslie, who led me to swiping right on Tinder for a dude named Chap.

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View from SkyLoft

My second home was (still is) Foolish Things Coffee.  I did most of my work there since I didn’t have internet at my house yet.  Luckily for me, Justin and Katie needed some help managing the special events part of the business and I took over a job that I really enjoy and fits easily into my schedule (still does).  I manage inquiries for the use of the cafe for events ranging from birthday parties to book clubs to baby showers, rehearsal dinners and small receptions.  It’s easily manageable and I look forward to getting dressed up on the weekends.  I appreciated the smaller scale of this event management position compared to the one at SkyLoft.

Working the two event jobs gave me time to explore different gyms in Tulsa to see where I might want to train and/or teach.  I tried a lot of different things.  I ran a Groupon promo to have an outdoor bootcamp in my neighborhood.  0 people signed up.  I tried to teach bootcamps at my friends’ kickboxing gym but it was in a tough part of town for me to get to (I have a small radius).  I finally settled on teaching at the YMCA and working the floor.  I washed towels, cleaned machines and gave tours.  For one hour on my shift each day, I was able to teach a Sets and Reps weight lifting class.  I worked a split day 10-2 and then again 3-6:30.  It seemed to be a good fit for a while.

Then, an incredible opportunity fell in my lap while I was searching Demand.com as I did periodically to see what else was out there.  There was a fitness manager position available for a downtown start up called Live Streaming Fitness.  Their goal was to offer live fitness classes on their website all day, and filmed right here in Tulsa.  I applied and made it through the interview.  It seemed really wonderful at first as I interviewed and hired all different kinds of fitness teachers from Tulsa – conditioning coaches, yoga teachers, aerobics teachers, kickboxing etc.  I wrote plans for classes and planned out larger month long programs and challenges for members.

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Behind the scenes at LSF

Soon, the newness wore off and the expectations of most corporate or office jobs wore on me a little bit.  I wanted to be able to run or workout on my lunch break.  I wanted to travel for races and fun more than the number of paid vacation days allowed.  I quickly realized something I probably already knew: I don’t do well being bossed.

Much against Chap’s best advice, I turned in my two weeks’ notice and went back to part time at the YMCA.  I took on more teaching roles this time, added one private client and an outdoor boot camp.  I’m a big believer that nothing is a mistake and two of the trainers I hired at LSF led me to additional paying jobs I still hold today (that’ll be a later post – how to keep StudiOne floating).

Throughout all of this transition and job hunting and leaving, I found a steady yoga practice at Foolish Things.  Katie and Justin had envisioned having yoga on the patio weekend mornings before opening and as it happened, had a teacher inquiring about teaching for us.  I met with Teresa Moyer one afternoon at the cafe and talked to her about what we wanted as a coffee shop, and what she wanted as an instructor.  She was newly certified and wanted a chance to give a donation based class to our customers.  We gave her the green light and Saturday yoga became a thing.  I was stoked to get to have access to yoga every week.

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Yoga on the patio

There clearly isn’t a clean, straight line to living the dream.  I knew this as I walked through each of these transitions, trying to make ends meet (even driving for Uber for a while!) and just tried to promise myself that I would continue to work on and tend to the personal training and coaching dream.  Looking back it all is so clear how one step (and seeming mistakes) all led to a pretty sweet life I have going right now.  Important relationships (personal and professional), connections to future jobs, experience and income were all provided in some capacity from each job I tried and eventually left.  My bottom line for working – don’t be miserable.  No job is worth being unhappy.  I kept my eyes on my end goal and just meandered my way to it.

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My road to the Studio

StudiOne Story: Choosing Tulsa

Hi there!  This post is the third story from an undetermined number of pieces to make up the book that is “running my own little kingdom of StudiOne”.  A friend and reader asked me to talk about what it’s like to run our Studio and I decided to take several posts to show the evolution of this dream come true.  It’s been an interesting road to get here and I wanted to be able to portray that

even if you’re not doing in the immediate moment what you believe is your passion and your end game, you can still be well on your road to getting there.

If you missed either of the first two stories you can read about the race that changed my life, and the gym that made me a personal trainer.  Now I’m going to talk about how I went from being so heartset on returning to Memphis and ended up in Tulsa.

When I left the story last, I had just pulled away from Memphis for a summer at home taking summer school classes that were pre-requisites to my graduate studies at the University of Texas.  Yep, 24 years old and living with my (gracious) parents.  It was a mostly uneventful summer as I prepared for a move to Texas.  I can’t remember what sparked this thought but as I was mapping out my route from Indy to Austin I thought, I should swing through Oklahoma and say hi to my friend Katie.  (I really didn’t want to go to Austin and honestly think I was just postponing my arrival there).

 

Katie and I grew up as best friends and basically sisters in our small town WASPish childhood home.  We played basketball together, dated the same boys and I think she spent the night at my house more than her own.  We went our separate ways for college, she to Wheaton in Chicago and me to Rhodes in Memphis.  For a taste of how different our experiences were : when she called me to tell me she was engaged, I was buying tequila for the jello shots at my 21st birthday party.  I went to her wedding in January of 2010 to watch my beautiful friend marry this jockey football player I’d met only once and just remember thinking why would they quit college early?

Flash forward to 2012.  I planned a quick two night stay in Tulsa on my way southwest.  Katie and Justin were living with his folks while they did the buildout for their cafe.  We went to Fat Guys and Andolini’s, Old School Bagel and Brookside.  I got a tour of the under construction Foolish Things which was just the greatest and most inspiring thing that could probably have happened on this trip.  We had a great time catching up and I promised I would come back to see the finished cafe before I graduated.

I don’t write much about Austin because it just wasn’t a place I connected with.  This surprised me as much as it surprised anyone.  A warm, active city with beautiful parks, live music and plenty of options for running trails?  Sounds like my heaven.  I might have needed a massive attitude adjustment my first semester (I was on academic probation for bad grades and didn’t even know it until they told me I was removed from the list…..).  I think it was a combination of feeling like I left something great in Memphis, being massively disappointed in this “high ranking graduate program” I had chosen and generally annoyed at the ever present traffic.  I survived, I made some great friends, some poor decisions and adopted a sweet little puppy.  Now that I’m on the other side of the period of life that is 24-26 I would like to say to those approaching it, watch out!  There will be times of massive self-doubt, depression, confusion and carelessness.  Obviously this will not be the case for everyone but I certainly (and I have friends who agree) would have appreciated a little warning that this hurricane of a two years was even a possibility.

I made good on my promise and returned to Tulsa, Katie and Justin in November of 2015 to run the Route 66 Half Marathon.  I drove up on a Saturday, stayed that night, ran Sunday and left Monday morning.  They had moved into their own house and opened the cafe, all while I was floundering about in my Austin hurricane.  I don’t know if it was the nice toll booth lady who paid for my toll when I had absolutely no change coming into OK, or the majestic deco-inspired Tulsa skyline but as I drove into downtown Tulsa that night, coming north on 75 across the river, I just thought, I could move here.  As soon as I uttered those words to my hosts it was over.  If the coffee and floral business don’t work out for these two, they can be professional Tulsa recruiters.

We didn’t have much time that weekend to keep exploring Tulsa but I’m pretty sure we went back to Andolini’s and went over all the great things about Tulsa over and over on their couch.  Katie had started her own business since I was gone and the cafe was so cool to see finally open.  Another inspiring moment and I just thought, I want to be where people are living out their dreams.  And I drove off, making no promises this time but also kind of knowing what was going to happen.

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Majestic skyline

I had devised a plan that in March or April of my second year, I would visit Memphis and visit Tulsa while maybe still considering the possibility of staying in Austin, to really pick where I wanted to go next.  But first, I had a trip to New Orleans with Sharon (my friend and fellow blogger who inspired this series), and Erin my then-roommate.  We were running a race but the part of New Orleans that is relevant to this story is: I decided to have my fortune read in Jackson Square.  The lady I picked was a card reader and after talking for a while she said she would place three cards in front of me and then interpret their meaning to my life.  She laid three cards face down on her table.  In my head I assigned a city to each card: Austin, Tulsa and Memphis.  Here is how she talked about the cards and the cities they matched in my head.  Austin:  this card is chaos.  It represents an unsettled and difficult time.  Tulsa: this card is all rainbows and unicorns and new beginnings.  Memphis:  this card represents being inside out and upside down.  It’s really good and it’s really bad.  You’ll have a good ride but you better hang on.

Spot on.  But also kind of tossed aside, because come on.

I returned to Tulsa mid-spring of my graduating year.  It followed a trip to Memphis and my intention was to really think about each place and what my life would look like with each as a backdrop.  In my mind I really just had two choices: Memphis (familiar and home sweet home), Tulsa (fun and full of new opportunities).  The details of each trip are a little hazy but I remember sitting at Foolish Things with Justin and Katie, helping to host an event (sitting where I am this second actually) and I just decided.  It was a peaceful and exhilarating feeling.  I still had a few months until I would make my move but I just knew this would be it.  I told Katie and Justin that night and the next day Katie took me out to look at houses.  We looked at one over by TU, and two in Owen Park.  The third one we looked at in Owen Park is now my home!

I called my parents to tell them I was thinking about moving to Tulsa and that it was probably a good time to buy a house.  They agreed.  But I think also thought I jumped the gun a little bit on picking a house.  My mom joined me on yet another trip to T-town to see the house, and I think try to (unsuccessfully) talk me out of it.  But I know me.  And I know that when I find something I like, I’m not going to keep looking for something that could maybe be better.  I’m sure it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people from the outside that the third house I ever considered buying was the one but it doesn’t surprise me at all 😉

And that is how I got to Tulsa.  A deeply rooted friendship, the lure of a fun and growing city and a chance to try something I’ve never tried before.  I still love and will always miss Memphis, my first home away from home but I also knew what life looked like there.  I was ready for a new adventure and creating a life on my terms.  Stay tuned for the next installment which will be the story of the two years spent in Tulsa working while I dreamt of the studio.

 

My StudiOne Story: Part 2, Memphis

Welcome to the second installment on my series explaining what it’s like to “run my own little kingdom” that is StudiOne yoga + fitness.  In the first installment, I explained in detail the life event that I am certain changed the course of my life forever – my first marathon.  It’s a long read (mile by mile through the race) but it’s important.

Immediately after the marathon, I headed out for a fraternity formal (not a recommended recovery activity, but a damn good time) and then finished up my junior year of school.

I don’t remember the exact timeline of my working career at this gym that trained me to run the marathon, but I do know that first I taught Spinning there, and then I began working behind the desk.  I don’t think I can put into words the impact Lisa, Natalie, Donna and each member had on me.  It was my second home.

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My running family

I remember thinking and dreaming as I vacuumed around the cardio machines or mopped the red floor that I wanted to own my own place someday.  I wanted to have a place that made people feel as good about themselves and as safe as Inside Out did for me.

When I graduated, I had no promising entry-level positions in any career field.  My psychology degree didn’t give me a foot in to many places.  I was so surprised and don’t think I hesitated when the girls offered me a personal training position at Inside Out, even offering to cover the initial expense of getting certified.  I took the class as soon as I could and that first summer out of college was a personal trainer.

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TRX crew!

There were lots of opportunities for me and I soon loved the variety provided by a schedule of teaching mixed with personal training.  I was allowed and encouraged to develop my own programs, from Boot Camps to my own version of the marathon training club to private clients.  It took a while but with their encouragement and advice and my hard work and constant desire to just hang around that place, I had a full schedule fast.

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My last class 😦 

It wasn’t all easy and soon I was having trouble adjusting to weird times in the middle of the day being home from work, and then going back to the gym for my after work clients just as my neighbors and friends were coming home.  By the time I finished around 8 or 9, I needed to head to bed so I could get up for the 5:30 classes and appointments.  This was the only major drawback that I remember, and sometimes is still something I struggle with.

Sadly, after two years I moved on to graduate school in Austin, Texas.  Those few months preparing to leave Memphis were some of the toughest I’d experienced.  I had a client base that I loved deeply, and felt responsible for in some ways.  The best part of personal training was getting to know people on a deeper level.  I watched people get married, have babies, lose their loved ones, get dumped, move through divorce while we trained.  I met their dogs, got invited to dinners and set up on dates with mutual friends.  Some of the things I learned in sessions I don’t think spouses knew about their people.  I developed friendships that are still in tact to this day.  I loved my people and my town.

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Clients and friends

As I left with a broken heart, I had every intention of returning to Memphis after my two years in Austin were up.  For those of you who know where I am now, you know that’s not how it worked out!  But Memphis gave me two years of discovering that I’m on the earth to teach and encourage, and I learned from the best.  Thank you, IOG.

Stay tuned for Part 3: Choosing Tulsa.

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Goodbye, Memphis

 

My StudiOne Story: The Start

A few posts back when I asked you, the readers for some content inspiration, a good friend of mine and fellow blogger (go see her at Midlife Moments) suggested I write about what it’s like to “run my own little kingdom” at StudiOne.  I loved this analogy for it (who wouldn’t want to be compared to royalty!), and have spent the past week thinking about where to start.

Obviously the beginning is a very good place to start.  The trouble with this story is that I am not exactly sure where that beginning is.  I usually go way back to my basketball playing days, or my first days running with my dad when I talk about my love for fitness.  But that’s not the start of the Studio story.  When did I decide I wanted to have my own place?  And then it came to me.

Memphis, TN 2008

In 2008, I was two years into my college experience at Rhodes College.  And I was fairly unhappy.  I attended Rhodes to play basketball (that’s not the only reason I went to Rhodes, but that’s the reason I chose Rhodes over some others).  I played for two seasons before deciding in 2008 that I would hang up my basketball shoes.  The reasons were many and ranged from it wasn’t what I expected, I felt less fulfilled playing than I did with my high school team, I wanted to study abroad (the biggest one), and just a general and slow loss of heart for the game.

Somewhere in there (originally the email was to continue Spinning which I had discovered in my first summer home from college to help deal with that Freshman 15), I dug up that email Mama Sprenk sent with a list of gyms in the area.  At the top of the list, known for bringing Spinning to Memphis was Inside Out Gym.  I didn’t have a car at this point in college and one particular afternoon I was so upset with school and basketball that as soon as practice was out I ran there.  I arrived minutes before they were closing and was greeted by Natalie.  I think she was startled by my bright red face and heavy breathing (I had to run fast to get there before close!) but she talked with me beyond closing time, and really listened to what I was saying and looking for.

That day, I signed up for a rowing competition and I think from that day forward didn’t go a single week without setting foot in that gym until I moved away from Memphis.  From there, I branched out to Spinning and came to know the group of regulars that attended.  Lisa’s classes were my favorite and I made it a point to get to as many as I could on Tuesday nights and every other Sunday.  Somewhere in those months I transitioned from student to teacher in Lisa’s mind and at her nudging found myself at a Spinning certification workshop in Nashville.  And then I was teaching (terrified) my own classes.  This is the first half of the beginning.  I found my teaching heart and transitioned from a sad and wandering college student with no particular major in mind and became a teacher.

The next part was Natalie.  She announced that InsideOut would host a training group for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon in December of 2008.  I went to the call out meeting and she was so encouraging of the entire group of never-done-this-before-ers that I was convinced I could do it!  So, as a junior in college, finally able to legally drink and with no commitments to basketball practices or games, I signed up for this challenge (willingly giving up Friday nights to books and sleep, or DDing so I could get miles in on Saturday mornings).  This is the second half of the beginning.

That race changed my life.  It gave me a confidence I hadn’t found anywhere else.  I discovered a discipline and a follow-through that I didn’t know I had.  I’ve shared this story before, but I want to share it again because this was one of those transformative days of my life.  And there is no magic like the marathon.

I finished my first marathon in 4 hours and 36 minutes, 1400-somethingth place and absolutely enjoyed (most of) the experience.  I started in corral 8 at a ten-minute pace, with Janet the Unicorn, my training partner since August. Our guidebook had suggested we choose an animal to imitate when the running got tough.  She chose unicorn so that when people passed her, she would visualize poking them with her horn.  I chose to be a gazelle because of the way I run.  A glide, sort of shuffling along.  And because I don’t pick up my feet, I sometimes trip over cracking sidewalks.  Luckily this did not happen during the race!  Here’s a breakdown of my experience mile-by-mile:

Mile one was chilly – two layers on my head, four on my top, two on my bottom and one on my hands, but cheerful.  People chattering and laughing and cheering as our feet pound the pavement.  I’ve started my first marathon, there’s no going back now.

Mile two was a little warmer and takes me down along the Mississippi River towards the bridge.  I can feel the heat start to settle in all my layers and manage to remove on layer on my hands and top.  The streets are already littered with articles of clothing and lined with people cheering us on.  Before I know it, I’ve made it to Beale Street, which is much cleaner and less chaotic during the day than when I normally experience it after hours.  I catch my mama in my big Rhodes sweatshirt cheering me on with my aunt in front of Silky’s and drop off those layers.

I hit mile three and stop for my first water, realizing quickly how pointless it would be to try to run and drink at the same time.  More water ends up down my front than in my mouth so I stop for just a sip and then pick it up again.  Powerade is in the Coca-Cola cups, water in the white.

The fourth mile goes right past St. Jude and there’s a band playing outside the fire station.  By this point, I’ve (illegally) put in my headphones and am looking forward to the familiar stretch of North Parkway.

At mile five, there’s a sign on a tree – “Kelly – will you marry me? Answer at the finish!”, and as a girl, I naturally pretend that I’m Kelly and I’m excited for her.  Then anger sets in – who asks someone to marry him, then makes her run 8 or 21 more miles to answer?!  At least she had something to think about for the rest of the miles.

Mile 6 is on the bridge over I240 and I stop for my first half of a GU pack and some water.  It’s hard to open the Gu and squeeze it into my mouth while standing on a bridge that feels like it’s moving, either because of the runners on it, the flow of traffic below it or my delusional self.  I manage to refuel less than gracefully, but according to the plan, so I keep running.  This stretch of North Parkway has plenty of signs attached to trees – “Go Mom Go!  We Love You”  and “What are you running from?” I try to read them all, and then drop one layer off with Pete at his house and get a quick word of encouragement.

I’m looking for Katherine at mile 7.  She’s promised to be there in her formal dress and heels.  The Deltas were doing their charitable duties at a water station despite having been to a formal the night before.  Chip was there too in fact, he’ll be in big trouble if he doesn’t make it out to cheer.  She wasn’t at mile seven, so I keep running.  I eventually spot Lyndsay, Koko, Chip and Samson at Snowden.  I consider running over to them to say hi and hug but decide to keep running.

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My favorites

I get to mile 8 and see the beloved Deltas.  I sneak a quick hug from Katherine, not in her dress as promised but I’m so glad to see her that I overlook it.

Eight and nine were inside the park and very scenic.  I notice a tingling in my right foot but run on.  More than a third finished!  I catch the InsideOut crew – Lisa, Donna and Kiersten for the first time in the park.  Lisa and Donna have cameras and I give my best fun/triumphant pose.  Thinking of Kiersten keeps me occupied for the rest of Overton Park.  This year she completed an Ironman Triathlon and won her age division.  She’s run in multiple marathons and is someone I look to for fitness inspiration.

Mile 10 and 11 are a long, straight stretch down Poplar but Chris is going to be at Angelus, right past mile 10.  I run past Angelus and he’s not there.  Maybe he’s at McNeil with Marc and Jeff.  Get to McNeil and still don’t see them.  A little disappointed, I cheer myself up by convincing myself it’s because I was running faster than I anticipated and they just missed me.

Eleven goes right past another children’s hospital – LeBonheur.  There is construction underway for a new wing of the hospital and the kids’ faces are blown up and cover the fences for that entire block.  Seeing the smiles and hope on their faces was like having twenty more cheerleaders on the run.  My energy was instantly re-filled.  If they can fight, I can absolutely finish this marathon.  Someone trips on the trolley tracks in mile twelve and I’m thankful it wasn’t me!  She hops up and keeps running while I squeeze down some more Gu.

At mile thirteen, there was a big sign pointing the half-marathoners towards their finish line and the full marathoners down the road to the second half.  It absolutely crossed my mind to turn, but with the encouragement of fans on the road, I choose the path less traveled.  Suddenly, it’s just me on the course.  The tingling is in both feet now but I dismiss it.  I’m halfway there and headed back down Beale Street.  I’m feeling confident but aware of aches and pains.

I’ve run mile 14 past the FedEx Forum plenty of times during training and am familiar with the big hill by the parking garage.  I didn’t enjoy it during the training or the race.

I find my mom and Christi again at mile 15 and stop for a quick hug this time.  More Gu and water and I’m off again.  Looking forward to the roomies!

Mile 16 and 17 are another familiar part of my three and eight mile trails and I like to look at the houses and pretend what my life would be like in each one.  The pain in my feet is bad and unfamiliar.  I’ve heard stories about people breaking bones when they run but not being able to feel it.  In my seventeen-mile state of mind, I decided I had snapped one of the tarsals in my foot.  The identifying of that bone leads to the identifying of the rest of the bones in my body: thank you comparative vertebrate morphology.  Somewhere back in this stretch there’s a beer and candy stop and I get a little chuckle out of it.  I thought about stopping for a quick drink but considering how dehydrated I was and what a lightweight I am…..I decided against it.  The InsideOut crew was on this patch too.  It’s amazing how helpful and uplifting familiar faces are.

That gets me to eighteen and some more Gu and water – still on the every three miles plan, it’s working well.  Then, there are my three roommates.  These are my best friends, my drinking partners, my sisters.  They will be my wedding party, my children’s unofficial aunts and my escape when life gets overwhelming.  I love y’all.  See you again in three miles.  Now it’s one foot in front of the other.  My pace has slowed way down and I’m struggling to find songs that keep me going deep in the heart of Cooper Young.  I eventually settle on GirlTalk as I make the turn off of Young onto East Parkway.

The miles are getting longer now and I’m running with a fairly consistent group of strangers.  I have this antsy feeling too.  Get me to the next multiple of three so I can have water and Gu, get me to Rhodes so I can see familiar faces.  Get me to the next damn mile marker.  On and on.  Thinking about that gets me to the nineteenth mile.

I’m stopping for water at every mile now to help break up the run but every time I stop to drink, it gets harder and harder to pick up running again.  I’ve done this so many times I tell myself and manage to hit the road again.  We’re in the street and the cars are in the right lane coming at me.  There’s a lady on her phone, a man passing on my right, someone walking on my left.  And here I am in the middle, still running my first marathon.

Finally I can see the corner and make it to the intersection.  I had started off thanking all of the officers at the intersections but this one I just didn’t have the energy for.  When I saw Andy, Cory and Chris, I was so overwhelmed that I just ran to them and gave them all a hug and kiss.  Where are the girls?  Where’s the camera?  We need a group picture, y’all are supposed to be in it…..Jess!  Don’t stop running!  Run with me, please, please run with me -we need a picture.  And they did.  The three of them ran with me from East Parkway to McLean.  Cory in his jeans, Andy on the phone with “Bunyon” (Katherine) telling her to run fast in her Uggs.  Chris telling me in between breaths how out of shape he is.  Andy chanted “You are the Sprenkel, the might might Sprenkel…” I tried to talk to them but they wouldn’t let me, I needed to save my breath.

I stopped at 21 for a Gu and water and the boys were fascinated by the Gu, Powerade first, water second.  Twenty-one was a big marker because every step I take after this is farther than I’ve ever run in my life.  I keep telling the boys that.  We’re running still and McLean is getting closer.  I’m looking for my cheerleaders and then, there they are.  Hooray!  I stop for a quick picture with Chip, Koko, Audrey, Lynds, Kelly, Samson, Marc and the running boys.  It turned out to be my favorite photo and worth the extra seconds it put on my time.

I can’t stay long though because I might not start running again.  My thoughts turn to mile 22.  A little further down North Parkway, I literally run into Meredith, enveloped into a great big hug.  She runs with me for a little while, cheering me on with her contagious energy.  Also a Delta, she is quite dedicated for being out there the morning after a formal.

I get to my Mama again at mile 23.  It was easy to see her in the bright red Rhodes sweatshirt and I held back tears as she ran with me (“run” is not in her vocabulary, except when referring to me or my dad) a few blocks.  I dropped my iPod off with her and continued on, promising to find her at the finish.

My aunt Christi found me at mile 24 and in her puffy jacket and green scarf, helped me make it down the rest of North Parkway (that’s a long stretch!).  ALl my thoughts were on taking the next step – one, two, three, four , five, six, seven, eight….one, two, three…..

She was still with me at mile 25 when we reached the heart of the city again.  Still taking tiny sips of water at every mile but it doesn’t help the ache in my bones.  My legs are stiff and begging for relief.  Crid helps pull me up a tiny hill (literally tugging on my arm) and the runners around us are cheering us on.  She jokes that people will think she’s been running for the previous 25 miles and she looks pretty damn good!  She has to leave me shortly before mile 26.  Once a marathoner herself, life happened.  I climbed the rest of the last cruel hill right after mile 26 (not really that long at all, but seemed huge.  I just rolled my eyes)  I’m trying to think of anything to keep my mind off of actually running.  It drifts to the festivities of the evening.  Chip is taking me to his formal….I’ll wear my new purple dress….are we dating yet?…..almost there……definitely can’t wear heels tonight…..where’s the damn stadium?….I need a nap….come on Autozone…..I want a hot bath.

And then – there it is!  I can see the stadium and suddenly I perk up.  I know there’s less than .2 miles to go since I just passed the final mile marker and I turn into the stadium.  The last few hundred yards are actually on the baseball field.  I can see someone not too far ahead of me and try to catch him.  Still an athlete you know.  I feel like I’m sprinting thought I’m sure in actuality I’m not going that fast.  I think of my dad and all of our time running together and wished he was there.  He was, after all, the one who got me into this…I’m holding back tears again, just trying to stay on my feet.  And then I’m across the finish line!!  There was no triumphant breaking of the tape or throwing my arms in the air.  But I finished.  I was rewarded with a finisher’s medal and a foil blanket and then scolded for trying to walk off with my timing chip still attached to my shoe.  Did they honestly expect me to bend over?!  I was suddenly aware of the pain and cold all over my body but we managed to get it off an I limped down the chute.

I could hear my name coming from the stands.  I climbed the baseball stadium stairs (also cruel of the Memphis Runner’s Club) to find the best reward of all – Audrey, Lynds, Koko, Katherine, Meredith, Emma, Courtney and Lacy.  They surrounded me in a big hug despite the sweat and salt crusted to my face and my stale odor.  THe tears I had been holding back for miles finally came.  My mama joined us and I have never felt so loved and supported.

Throughout this experience, I learned not only the strength the human body possesses to do things put before it, but also what the soul can endure when surrounded by loving, encouraging family and friends.  And the rest is running history……

 

So, that marathon planted the seed.  And there you have the beginning of the kingdom.

Up next week, Memphis part 2.