Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Running Kiawah

As I sit down to try to piece together my thoughts from the past five days, I am finding myself completely overwhelmed to even attempt to put it all into one blog post.  So, I’m going to have to break it up into a couple…at least.  I’ll begin with the reason we even went back to the Island that is dearest to our hearts…running the Kiawah Half Marathon…

Running has become my therapy over the past year.  It began as an {affordable} way for me to lose the weight that was holding me back in so many ways.  It quickly turned into my time of worship & reflection during the week…and, on the weekends,  a social event that has established and  re-established some of the most precious friendships in my life.  I may seem to be quite outspoken and extroverted but those who know me best know that the deepest, dearest thoughts are rarely voiced.   Instead, I will write or sing or…well…run them out.  The grief of burying my daughter is almost too deep for tears some days.  And, I found quickly that the more miles I logged, the more I was able to emotionally handle the constant pain of living without one of my children.

That’s where Kiawah comes in…

After having completed my first couch to half marathon last April, I needed another goal.  I had thought about doing something local but really wanted this one to be different.  I had heard about the Kiawah Island Marathon but at first thought knew it would be too hard emotionally for me to run.  Kiawah is the place that our family was offered to stay as a gift when Annabelle was born.  A precious family in our church knew that we would have to relocate to the Charleston area for quite some time with her upcoming birth and surgery.  And, they lent their beautiful beach home to our family to use as our home away from home.  Scott, Wyatt and myself went a few days before Annabelle’s birth and enjoyed the Island as Annabelle kicked and rolled and hiccupped  in my womb.   On the morning of her birth, Scott and I made a long, beautiful drive in the dark holding hands towards Charleston…surrounded by live oak trees and weeping willows.  We cried the entire way.  I lived with Annabelle at the hospital for most of our five weeks there but frequently made trips back to Kiawah to tuck Wyatt in at bedtime or wash another load of pink baby girl clothes or just enjoy a few moments with my husband.   I had not been able in nearly five years to go back…but running Kiawah for her and the precious memories we will forever hold closest to hearts gave me good reason to.

We contacted our friends who owned the home we stayed at our last visit and they gladly offered it to us again…except made sure to let us know up front that it was very different from the last time we were there.  A year or so ago they completely gutted it and renovated it…it was the same yet different.  Just like our family.  It was perfect.

On this past Saturday morning, I woke up early once again and Scott and I set out in the dark.  This time we went further into the Island instead of away from it.   He dropped me off and returned to the house to get the boys up and dressed.  As I walked in the door of the convention center, sure not to know a soul, I literally almost bumped right into two amazing women that cared for my girl at MUSC, Robin & Jennifer.  We sat and talked and stretched while waiting for the start of the race.  Out of nearly 4,000 people, I know it was no coincidence that I bumped into them.  We hugged and wished each other luck and found our places in the pack.  It was time to run!

I always start a little faster than my average pace so I decided to hop on up a little in the line…my first 7 miles were the fastest that I had run ever.  I didn’t have any music going yet but was enjoying listening to the crowds cheering and taking in the amazing views {and homes} on Kiawah.  I was running with my heart.  I let the adrenaline take over and just went with it.  I had two miles under 9 minutes and the other 5 miles were just a touch over {which has never ever ever happened}.  Amazingly, I felt good.  I just kept at a comfortable pace and let my body carry me.  And, trust me, it was surprising me. 

As we were running down Ocean Course Drive, I could see for what seemed like miles of golden marsh and winding rivers.  It was warm at nearly 65 degrees by the end of the race and the wildlife was active.  Birds and butterflies were all around us.  As I was taking in this natural beauty, my mind kept wandering to Heaven and how much more beautiful it must be there…

It was somewhere around the 10th mile that I got very sad.  I only had a 5k left to run and then this experience would be over.  I didn’t want this to end.  I had been looking forward to this for months…for the views…for the memories…for the healing.  If Annabelle had taught me anything in her two short months with us, it was to savor every single moment we have.  So, I called my husband at about 10 1/2 miles to let him know that I was going to slow down.  Little did I know that my time was so good or I may have kept running harder to get a sub-2…but not in this race…this race wasn’t about time… it was about the journey.  I had to listen to that still small voice telling me to take it all in so I did. 

I slowed down to about 10 minute miles and walked the water stations for the first time all race.  I looked into every pond, down every drive and over every open space I could find.  I read the signs of the crowd, turned my music on and sent silent prayers to Heaven.  

My Garmin hit 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 6 minutes but I was still nearly 3/10ths of a mile from the finish line.  So, I stopped my watch and found my boys on the side {just feet away from the world’s biggest alligator} cheering for me.  I kissed my husband and hugged my baby boy while I grabbed Wyatt’s hand to join me for the last little run to the finish.  His heart is so pure and he had stopped countless times over the weekend to hug me and tell me that he knew going back to Kiawah was hard for me but that everything would be okay.  He had to experience the end of this journey by my side.  His sweet little fingers held tightly onto mine as we made our way under the Kiawah Island banner.  I was quickly wrapped in a heat blanket and the recycled glass medal was hung around my neck.  Wyatt smiled the entire time.  {He’s since told me that running towards the finish line was “the coolest thing ever”.}

A few minutes later, Scott and Luke caught up with us.  All it took was a strong hug from my beloved and the tears came all at once.  The greatest depths of sorrow and joy overflowed.  I had just run Kiawah.


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{On a side note:  The race date was 12/8 & Annabelle’s birthday is 1/28.  My bib# was 427 & the date of the very first delivery of Annabelle Baskets to MUSC was 4/27…exactly one month after she went Home.  It’s the little things like this that let me know God is working in every tiny detail.  And I love it.}


Laurie in SC said...

So beautiful and so sacred. Thank you for sharing and allowing us to be part of your journey! Love and blessings always!!!

Unknown said...

So beautiful and inspiring Rebecca. It is an honor to know you and run along side you (behind you!) in even the tiniest part of your journey. I know the story of your journey will be or is being used by God to inspire others.

Sarah Leech said...

thanks for sharing your heart!! i always love reading your words!! so touching & real!!! what awesome details about your bib # & the race date!! love you friend!