One last hill. Only a few more kilometres the spectators roared. Every muscle in my body had started screaming at me – “what are you doing this for?” A headache was creeping in and I knew my blood sugar was dropping. I’d come this far – but this hill? One last hurdle. Every little negative voice in my head was screaming at me and I’d slowed down to a crawling jog. Niall (running buddy and husband-to-be) had saved up his pep talk for this.
He reminded me where I was almost a year ago – feeling like I’d never see properly again or have the strength to walk, never mind run.
“Do you remember that second lumbar puncture?” he offered.
I knew what he was up to. I felt that little negative voice start to slow to a whisper at the same time my pace started to creep back up.
“When we found out only a week after the first lumbar puncture that you’d have to have a second. And you interrogated the doctor before heading to the bathroom to calm yourself down. And I thought you might just leave the hospital. But you didn’t. You faced it, and it was awful – far worse than the first – but you got through it. That was pain, that was fear. If you can do that then this, here, right now, this is nothing. It’s just you and a bit of road.”
I thought I’d given it everything. I thought there was nothing left. I was wrong. That’s just how amazing the human body is. I sprinted the last few km. I found energy I didn’t know existed. A strength I didn’t realise I had. I thought back over the last 12 months, all the highs and the lows – all leading up to this right here, right now. And how fitting that I should complete my first half marathon in the park I had once completed my first 1k, my first 5k. It’s in moments like this that you find out what you’re really made of – and that follows through in life; when you think you’ve given it everything you have, when you think there’s nothing left, there’s always that last little flicker of strength and hope. And it’s that little flicker that has the power to change everything.
I’ve struggled to deal with the what ifs of MS the last few weeks – some bad training runs, a running injury and a fight against fatigue only a few days before the half marathon all threatened to knock me off course, or, at the very least, destroy any tiny spark of self belief that was still left clinging on – but I fought against it all. So, to cross that finish line with Niall by my side, surrounded by my family cheering us on – and to see how proud they all were – I can’t describe how amazing it felt. We collected our medals and I burst into tears in Niall’s arms. I couldn’t be more proud of us. And when life undoubtedly gets tough and throws more obstacles our way, I’ll remind myself how I felt in that moment – nothing can take that from me.