She sighed, she had made it another mark closer. The red benches meant she was getting closer to the barrier, which meant she was getting closer to the next throng of water people. It was exciting. In terms of how far there was actually left? Maybe five miles, probably more.
Carrie doesn’t know what made her want to run a marathon in the first place. She’s pretty sure it was her uncle, an avid runner and a guy who had run several marathons himself before reaching his breaking point and going too hard one day. He injured both his calves and ankles and this put him out of any racing for at least 9 months. Until Carrie started complaining about not finding a workout she could stay with. Then he jumped in with the running and almost got her hooked until she stopped after only one month.
She hated running. Why would anyone want to run in the first place? To cry about how they hurt everywhere? Why run when you can bike? When you can walk? Why are we even running? And don’t say for the cardio or the endorphin rush, there are other ways to achieve both. And yet, she still did it.
Because it gave her a way to let out her frustrations. Just by running some laps, she felt better. It was strange but she began to see exactly what her uncle meant. She even tried to get others into running but gave up upon realizing her arguments for joining were not very convincing. But Carrie knew the running community was supposed to be super supportive. At least that’s what she had heard. From numerous sources and well, the internet mostly. And her uncle.
One breezy October day, her uncle suggested to her that she sign up for a marathon with him. He was going to do a half one for charity in December. She sighed and closed her eyes, “Nope” and went back to creeping people on Instagram and Facebook. Like, why? Really, why? I’m actually starting to enjoy running, why would I want to add running a marathon (half or not) into the mix?
That was two years ago. Her uncle didn’t stop trying to get her to run one with him, but he didn’t force her either. When Carrie got a new job at a law firm, that took up all her time and she stopped running. Her friends suggested yoga which she tried for awhile, but she was never able to focus and let her mind stay at ease. She started taking walks any chance she could to clear her head.
By September, Carrie realizes she wants more than anything to travel and the person she wants to do that with is her uncle. Her uncle says he will do this for her of course, if only she will run with him somewhere (he gave up marathons because his legs finally reached their breaking point, he does of course still run when he can and is active in the running community despite this). She hesitates, it has been awhile. She knows that she will probably travel either way.
Four months later, in the early hours of New Years Day her uncle is killed in a drunk driving crash. The driver of the other car was not only intoxicated, but texting as well. Her uncle was driving back to his house 10 minutes away after spending New Year’s with Carrie and her family and friends. They begged him to stay the night, as it was nearly 1 AM anyway but he left saying he did actually have work in the morning. He is an ambulance driver. Despite many protests, her uncle left promising each of them that he would call once he reached home. He never called.
It was a mistake that Carrie thinks about as she holds her breath through the agonizing pain. Her legs are throbbing and her face is red, her hair is a mess and there is sweat through her brows, her thighs and everywhere else. She smells terrible and is sore.
Her mom sees her and runs to give her a bottle of water while giving her a hug. Her dad does the same, followed by her siblings and cousins. This is a moment. She barely even glances at the medal that is placed around her neck, but reaches instead to the pin on her headband: “Uncle Rich, I finally ran with you!” next to a smiling photo of him running this same race.