It just so happens that the Women’s Half-Marathon Series falls each year on my birthday. I’ve been running this event since they first came to St. Petersburg over 4 years ago. It is a great race with lots of perks and amenities specific for women. Running along the waterfront in St. Petersburg and enjoying the typical 70 degree weather makes it an almost perfect event.
But with each race event, I found myself in the midst of thousands of women, yet without the connection, camaraderie, or excitement that comes with having a buddy to run it with you. Sure my family was there to cheer me on and support me, but I had yet to find a friend who was willing to run 13.1 miles for the fun of it. Most folks would laugh in my face at the mere suggestion.
It was my 49th birthday, and once again I was running another race alone. But this time I was reeling from a year of depression as a result of a shattered dream that literally altered my destiny. The race was tough and my run was slow. I didn’t enjoy it, and I knew I didn’t want my 50th birthday to be a repeat of year 49. At about mile 7, my mind started turning over ideas on how I could pull out of the slump I was in and make my 50th birthday a time of celebration. I crossed the finish line that day with a new vision and a new attitude.
Six months later, I was training 24 women for the Women’s Half-Marathon event. How did this happen? I simply extended the invitation to anyone I knew (or didn’t know) to let me train them for six months as my gift to them in celebration of my 50th birthday. In turn, it was a gift to me because I found some running buddies to cross the finish line with. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was the infectious community that would be birthed in the process.
The training was invigorating. Not because of the distance we were achieving in mileage each week, but because of the friendships that were formed. While in the midst of 90 degree heat, humidity, and a lot of sweat and sometimes tears, we found strength, support, encouragement, compassion, kindness, and a deep resolve and commitment to see each other through. Women and girls from all walks of life, all shapes, sizes, and ages, coming together in authentic community with one goal in mind – to cross the finish line of 13.1 miles. It didn’t matter what we looked like or what we wore. We presented ourselves vulnerable as we made the commitment to reach for a goal that seemed preposterous to many and outlandish to some. We made ourselves accountable to each other and came together each week to get our run on. Along the way, amidst our fears and doubts, we overcame, and we left our training sessions feeling strong, empowered, confident, capable, and courageous. On the following week, we came back for more….because we had stumbled upon something that was life changing for many of us, and it was infectious.
It is a profound dynamic that continues to amaze me to this day. Even as our team gets larger, with over 100 women having now crossed multiple finish lines of 13.1 miles, the dynamic doesn’t change. These ladies are positive, supportive, encouraging, and fun. We are “sole” sisters who have discovered that we are stronger together. We are the FAB 50 team, and we invite YOU to be a part.
From the ashes of a shattered dream, a new vision was birthed, hope was restored, friendships were made, and an infectious community was formed. My life will never be the same. – Coach Pamela