I feel like a fraud when I sign up for runs.
I'll train and be excited for whatever 5k or in this case half marathon I've decided to do and then race day I'll show up and look around at the 'real' runners and feel like I shouldn't be there.
I haven't trained enough, I'm not thin enough, they can tell this isn't my thing.
But I keep doing it. Kept, I should say.
I ran my last run on Sunday. It took me three tries to go through with it, but I finally ran the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Well half-marathon.
I started training for it last year and half way through jacked my knee and could barely walk for 3 months, let alone run. So I deferred my registration to this year and started training in October.
Several years ago I registered and never trained or showed up for the run.
This was my year.
About a week before the run the tornado predictions began. Being a native Oklahoman I was not surprised or scared. The same could not be said for my Mems who watched the Weather Channel obsessively and daily urged me not to go and to skip the run.
Nevertheless I went and the morning of the race sat in the rain crying at the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. I've never gone to the memorial and not cried.
It's something in my blood, being in that place, seeing the reflecting pool and the chairs to honor the victims. Sometimes it's hard to breathe if I look around.
While I struggled to deal with my emotions and prepare for the mental and physical challenge head of me the race was delayed. Four times.
I finally took off more than two hours later. Tired, hungry and wet from rain. But I kept going.
I looked at all of the 'real' runners around me and felt their (imagined) judgment at my funny t-shirt and my Red Sox cap with my neon running shoes.
Every time I took a walk break, which happened more often as the cold, rainy weather became hot and muggy, I felt like they were shaking their heads at me, 'Why is that chubby girl trying to run?'
Then when I realized I was less than halfway done and my foot was numb and all my training seemed to be for nothing I saw a firefighter in full gear walking the marathon.
I started crying, for a million reasons. Exhaustion, thoughts of my Pops a former firefighter, thoughts of the firefighters pulling victims and survivors from the rubble of the Murrah building.
Then, I kept going. Every time I'd start to feel like quitting again I'd come across another firefighter, from another city, walking the course in full gear and I'd cry a little, suck it up and start again.
As I started the last mile I was almost openly sobbing as I went. Not for my hip that was in agony, but because I'd finally almost done the run I'd felt a need to do ever since it started.
I'd finally done this run to recognize all the victims I'd watched on the news as a child. The families I'd see come together every year to remember their loved ones.
The people I wrote stories about when I got into news. The people etched in my heart since that day in 1995 when I heard about the news from my teacher in school.