Whether single, dating or in a relationship, I have always loved love, and I have always loved Valentine’s Day. But suddenly, being single on Feb.14th at age 27 did not sound very appealing. Even though I was surrounded by incredible family, friends, colleagues, roommates, a job that I enjoyed in a city I adored, I could not shake the empty feeling that was looming inside me.
I needed a distraction. Living in the ‘city of distractions’ (AKA: Los Angeles), I needed an even BIGGER distraction than what the city usually offered. I knew I had to do something that scared me even more than being single <in my late 20’s> on Valentine’s Day. I longed for an adventure, but an adventure that I could do alone without feeling alone. I itched for an excitement that was challenging, completely out of my comfort zone and, and intriguing enough to take my mind off all my failed relationships. If I’m honest, I wanted a legal version of a lobotomy.
SO, I signed myself up for the LA Marathon. I am a runner, but like a 2-3 mile runner, NOT a 26.2 mile runner. I had run a half-marathon about 5 years prior, so I knew my body was capable of running 13 miles, so what’s the big deal about running an extra 13 miles? (insert laugh here). As my loving parents drove me to the starting line at Dodgers Stadium in the early morning hours of race-day, the weight of what I was about to do set in. I was in tears as my mom prayed for me and gently talked me down from my ledge. In my silence of the back seat of my dad’s car, I begged God that I could finish the race before LA County started opening the streets back up to public traffic, and I was that ONE girl who would be shuffled to the sidewalk to finish the race….alone.
As I wiped my tears, kissed my parents good-bye and said, “I’ll see you in a few hours”, I headed to the starting line with thousands and thousands of other eager runners. I witnessed excitement, focus, friendships, laughs, and lots of hugs as I patiently awaited for the gun to go off. It suddenly clicked in me; I was going to finish this race, and I was going to do it under 5 hours. Head phones in, shoe laces tied tight, and I was ready. I was blessed enough with two working legs, a capable body, decent health, so I better use it to run the race set before me, and I knew I had to run the race well (both figuratively and literally).
I will not bore you with the pain or agony that my body began to feel around mile 15, but I will share with you what kept me going:
- God’s unfailing love (even when we lose our minds and decide to run a marathon)– I whispered the verse “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”over and over and over to my self, until I truly believed it. I COULD DO ALL THINGS: be a confident, loved, late twenties single woman on Valentine’s Day because of God’s unfailing love. I could finish the LA Marathon STRONG within 5 hours. I could be victorious in the race I was running in my everyday life. I could continue to love because I have been loved. I could do ALL things through Christ because He gave me strength. Even though I had felt pain in my heart and body, I KNEW I was able to slowly put one foot in front of the other, head down, heart up, while each steady step got me that much closer to the finish line.
- The city of Los Angeles became my Valentine– If you ever doubt that there is still good, solid love and joy in the world, then please run a marathon (or a half marathon). As I ran through 26 miles of one of the most diverse cities in the world, I saw thousands and thousands of people come out to encourage complete strangers with motivating cheers, colorful signs, live music, and even snacks! Helpful volunteers fed me water throughout my 5 hour journey, and even yelled encouraging words to keep going when I felt like giving up. I saw every skin color, ethnicity, age, and status level come out to support one cause: the LA Marathon runners. It changed my heart. I felt SO MUCH LOVE.
- My friends and family are my biggest loves– Two of my very best friends made signs for me and patiently waited at the finish line at Santa Monica Pier. Another bestie sent a box from ALABAMA, which was full of ‘Marathon Essentials’; bursting with tips + tricks, and one of the most encouraging cards I’ve ever received. My parents dropped me off, and coordinated meeting me at certain mile points to feed me Advil, offer juices, and even run with me to the next mile marker (my mom ended up jogging 4 miles with me, and my dad jogged 10 miles to keep me company!). I had been so focused on a romantic love that only a man could provide, that I was missing the incredible love I was so spoiled with by these precious people in my life.
Whatever race you are running this February, I KNOW that God is whispering, “Keep running dear one. If you need to walk, that’s fine. But I am here, I see your finish line, you are SO much stronger than you know, and you CAN DO IT.”