“Sugar and spice and everything nice…”

You know the rest, right?

“. . . that’s what little girls are made of.”

The day for the lottery came. We were to find out by email if we had been selected to partcipate in the 2012 Houston Aramco Half Marathon. It was June 2011. As I opened my Inbox, I had conflicting hopes. If I didn’t get selected, I would not have to follow through on my decision to start running. If I did. . . I would find out what I was really made of. I suspected that it might be sugar and spice, but I was fairly confident it was something more akin to marshmallow creme.

Send / Receive. Nothing.

Send / Receive. Nothing.

Send / Receive. . . Email.

“We are pleased to inform you. . . ” the letter began. And the fear and self-doubt began to sink in.

You can’t do this!” my brain screamed. “You are no runner!” Then, as it frequently happens, I began playing the tapes that I remember so well. I remembered all the dieting failures. I remembered all of the aborted New Year’s resolutions. Fight or flight started duking it out. And flight was going to win.

I could still get out of it! “I can tell Michael that I really don’t want to do it. He won’t MAKE me!” But deep within, there was a seed of excitement, an energy building inside of me.

What if. . .

What if I could?

The first week of Katy Fit was a near disaster. I showed up too late for the crowded parking situation, missed the group start and took off too fast with an experienced marathoner dictating the pace. But, I finished. It was a 2 mile run. I felt like I was walking on air on the way back to the car.

The week that we ran 5 miles, I cried. I would never have dreamed I could do it. And yet, 5 was just 1 more than 4. As the weeks went by, each mile added was only another twelve or thirteen minutes of running. The conversations along the run were so enjoyable, I hardly noticed the increase in time.

I met Nan, who became one of my closest friends during the six months. She is an amazing 69 year old woman, feisty and energetic, a little bundle of energy and life-experience and wisdom. She has traveled all over the world, crushed grapes with her toes in Santa Barbara wine country, hiked in Patagonia, gone on safari in Africa. She has a new grandson, who lives in California. We talk about him a lot, as he is her joy.

I met Jeanelle, who is from Trinidad and Tobago. I loved listening to her talk about anything, simply because it enabled me to enjoy her beautiful accent! We talked about our children and what was going on each weekend.

One Saturday, I ran with a man who has beat prostate cancer. One Saturday, I ran with a woman who has a severely autistic son. One Saturday, I ran several miles listening to an experienced triathlete give advice to a new one.

One by one, Saturdays came and went. One by one, we added miles. I sailed through the 12 mile run. When I got home that morning, I bragged to Michael, “I am just having the easiest time with this! I cannot believe how great I feel. I am not having any problems at all!” “Just be careful,” Michael advised. “Things can change very quickly.”

Sure enough.

The next week was an “easy 10″ (this is the lingo they use once you have exceeded that mileage). Pretty early on, I began experiencing some pain on the outside of my knee. I continued running, knowing that I could be doing damage, but not wanting to throw away my long run of the week, in case it was nothing. I thought it might work itself out. It didn’t.

By the 8 mile mark, I was hurting pretty bad. I finished the 10, but was almost limping as I did. This is when I had my first massage. Not the “terrycloth robe, sipping cucumber water, listening to waves” kind of massage. This was more of the “bite on your shirt sleeve so you don’t scream” kind.

“It’s your IT band”, one of my coaches explained. “Congratulations! You are now a real runner!”

I was given orders to rest it for a week. No running at all. I learned a few stretches which I would be doing during the week, several times a day.

I could not hold back my emotion as I walked in the door at home. “I’m hurt”, I said to Michael, ┬áin a voice that reminded me of my young children. He held me close. He encouraged me. “You are going to be all right”, he said. That afternoon was spent with an ice pack on my knee. I really wanted to believe him. I had invested so much. I had run through the summer months of Houston heat. I had logged miles in the dark, in the rain, in the early morning, on vacation. Resting that week was as difficult as starting had been. By this point, running was something my body craved. But, I followed directions. I saw a physical therapist. I stretched. I waited and hoped and prayed for improvement.

The last four weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster, as I have continued my training. I have runs that are good and some that hurt a little. But, I have not quit.

Yesterday was the last official training run with Katy Fit. As I walked through the dark, pre-dawn parking lot towards the starting area, as I have every Saturday since July, I had some time for reflection.

Six months have gone by. Six months. I am struck by how quickly the time has gone. I am also amazed by what is possible in six months. Half a year ago, I was proud to take a 2 mile walk through the neighborhood. Next weekend, I will run 13.1 miles.

Six months can bring tremendous personal growth or six months can change nothing. It is up to you. And it is a decision. How much of life is like that!

As I proofread my book manuscript for the last time a couple of weeks ago, I made a monumental change in the biography section. For as long as I can remember, when asked to describe myself, I have written, “Melanie enjoys singing and playing the piano.” As I added the words, “and running”, it looked so foreign on the page.

“That’s not me!” the critic inside myself argued.

I had to smile to myself and silence the voice. And I pressed the “Save” button.

Here is what I have learned: I am sometimes made of sugar. I have a sensitive heart and I love to make the people I love smile. I am sometimes made of spice. I can be feisty and sassy and occasionally, downright ugly inside. But there is more to me. I am more than the experiences I have had. I am more than the recordings that play in my mind. I am more than what I see or what I feel. I have endless possibilities. My story has not seen its conclusion yet.

In just a few days, I will celebrate my 39th birthday. And in just a few days, I will earn my very first athletic medal.

You see, I am not made of marshmallow creme. I am strong. I am capable. I am tenacious and determined and tough. I am still surprising myself with what is possible.

And that is what little girls are made of.

Category: Uncategorized | 6 comments

  • Pete says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I just found your website and love your style. If your book is as good as this post, I will buy it.

  • Deanna Love says:

    I am so proud of you! Your writing makes me smile; at the same time it gives me encouragement to do things that my recording tells me I can’t. (The 69 year old does WHAT??!!)
    Can’t wait for the book! God bless you, my little sister and dear friend.

    • melaniesimpson says:

      Thank you, Deanna! Yes, Nan is amazing! The first day we ran together, I commented that I hoped my legs would look like hers when I am that age. She said, “Well, keep THIS up and they will!” She also told me that she plans to run the half marathon again next year, because at age 70, she will be in a new age division. Much less competition in that one! Love you, too.

  • Benjamin says:

    As usual, a great post, Melanie! Becoming a runner is such a cool thing and I’ve thrilled at your progress as you’ve built up miles and stuck with it. I’m praying for you to have a great race. Is it on Sunday? I’m also doing a half this Sunday, but it’s over in Santa Monica beach area. Would be fun if we were doing the same one!

    • melaniesimpson says:

      Thank you for the encouragement, Benjamin! You are such a wonderful uncle! Always have been. I appreciate the prayers! And, yes, it is on Sunday. Good luck with yours too, although I am sure you could probably do it in your sleep now, huh? I’ll send you a picture of me at the finish line! Love you!

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