Marathon Monday: Gina’s Story

Good morning ya’ll and happy Monday!! If you’re like me, your gorging yourself on exercise, water and vegetables in an effort to detox from last week’s indulgences.  Holy moly.  One week eating things I don’t eat all the time and it leaves you feeling blah!!  So, it’s back on the horse today…or bike and treadmill in my case.  Hope ya’ll had an amazing week with family and friends.  I’m thrilled to be back to my normal blogging schedule this week after being without internet for a week then out of town last week.  I’ve missed you!!!  Ok, moving on to today’s post!!

Meet Gina.  Cute, adorable, always encouraging Gina who I just adore!! We “met” via Instagram and she’s a constant source of encouragement to me.  She has an amazing story that I feel most if not all women can relate to on some level.  I know you’ll just love her.  I know you will relate to her.  And I know you will be moved by her.  I know you will be motivated by her.

I started running in Feb 2011 at age 41 (40 pounds overweight)…..

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when my best friend (Nancy @fitzayers) called and said “hey will you join a Run for God class with me”. Nancy knew I had always wanted to run but couldn’t make it to my mailbox and back without hyperventilating. She had heard about the Run for God program and had asked our Sunday School teacher, Dan (also a runner) to teach the class. I thought it couldn’t hurt to try.  I had no idea how much it would change my life. I think I made this statement to Dan on day 1 of our class “I will NEVER run a full marathon or a ½”. I had no desire. “For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV”

The first week started and I thought, “heck I can do this” (run 60 secs/walk 90) but then the runs got longer and self-doubt set in…but somehow 12 weeks later I finished my first 5k in 37 mins.

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I was by no means fast and I couldn’t ever run without walking and that weighed on me. All the others in our class were faster and I always had to run alone. I wanted to run “with” them and not with them always coming back to get me. Little did I know that was just God telling me to wait and be satisfied with whatever speed He gave me. We continued our RFG class even after the first 12 weeks, having more and more new comers join us and that is when I saw God using me to help other new runners who were also slower. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 NLT”

Then somehow my girls (Nancy, Shannon, Deirdre, Trish & Kristy) talked me into doing a ½ in Nashville in September 2012.  It was the Women’s ½ Marathon and we all went together. We all ran our own race and ran our own pace but they were there for me encouraging me to the finish (I finished in 2:41:37). “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17”

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It was after this race that Kristy and I started running together more, we ran another ½ in Knoxville 2013 and I took 23 mins off my first ½ time.  It was here where I really understood what God was saying … see I had stopped asking to be faster and I started praising Him for whatever pace I had… and it was then that He gave me MORE.  I was so excited that I said to Kristy, “wanna run a marathon together” as it would also be a first for her. We decided the 7 Bridges Marathon in our hometown of Chattanooga would be our race, October 2013.

Enter 16 weeks of training all of which were either completely awesome, joyful, painful, beyond awful, full of rain, sun, unbearable heat etc… I could go on but the point is they were all a blessing.  One in particular.  I had a 20 mile day and Kristy had to work so I had Nancy and the girls for only part of the run and I had to finish the rest on my own, which I could not fathom doing.  When the girls parted from me God gave me a beautiful sunrise across the Veteran’s bridge and let me know He had me the rest of the way.

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I got back to my car with still approximately 3-4 miles to finish but I had to refill my fuel and there on my car was a note from Nancy.

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This woman, I can’t even tell you what she means to me. ALWAYS encouraging me. I read her note and finished that 20 miles praising Him the whole time.

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Enter race day…

Trish, Kristy and I ran the race together at a steady, consistent pace until approximately mile 17. It was then my stomach started to not cooperate, I told the girls I was heading for the bathroom and for them to go on and not to wait on me. That’s when the pain set in, in my mind and my body. I saw my husband after I came out of the bathroom and that was the last time I would see him until I finished. The first set of tears came. That man… I. Can’t. Even.  He kissed me, told me how proud of me he was and pushed me on my way (in his loving, yet stern Marine Corps tone).  I saw Dan at around mile 19 and more tears came, I just couldn’t do it anymore and he said “Yes you can, you keep going, Nancy and Shannon are waiting on you at curtain pole (a section of the race on the TN riverwalk, not sure what mile this was at that point)”. I honestly thought how am I going to make it that far! But I ran/walked and they were there waiting on me to help me to the finish line and yes, I cried some more. Enter mile 22ish where there is a dreaded ugly hill (in my eyes). It was then I said, I’m done and I literally stopped to sit down and take my shoes off but they were having none of that, Shannon grabbed my left arm and Nancy grabbed my right and they no joke dragged my butt up that hill.

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I had 4.2 more miles to go but wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. I just knew I didn’t want to disappoint my husband, my family or these wonderful friends God had given me. So I continued to run/walk and when I hit the Walnut Street Bridge … that last 1.2 miles (approx), I could hear the music coming from the finish line and God said it’s time for you to go.  And go I did… I rounded the last corner and gave everything I had left… they all ran me to the 26.2 finish line in 4:55. The emotions and pride I had are just unexplainable. I had just fought my way to the finish of 26.2 miles… sometimes I still can’t believe it.

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 I swore I’d NEVER run another, I was one and DONE….famous last words. Kristy and I entered the MCM lottery for 2014 and we got in.

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The weekend before MCM 2014 was the 7 Bridges Marathon. Kristy and I were able to go out on that same course where my girls had helped me finish the year before and encourage someone else.  Kristy’s friend Shelley was running the marathon and we met her at mile 18 to run the rest of the way in with her. I got ahead of Kristy and Shelley a little bit and was approaching that “dreaded ugly hill” when I saw a girl walking and crying.  I stopped to talk with her and told her it really wasn’t much further to the finish and she could do it.  Her knee was hurting and she said “don’t stop aren’t you racing” for which I replied “no, I think I’m here for you”.

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Katie had come up from GA to run the race alone, her FIRST marathon, her husband and son were riding bikes through-out the course to encourage her. We ran/walked up that ugly hill and I talked my head off hoping to distract her from hurting. I told her my misery at that same place the year before and that I was going to stay with her until she finished. I think she may have thought I was nuts lol but I knew God was using me to bless someone else like my girls had done for me. We hit Walnut Street Bridge and I told Katie this is it, it’s all downhill to the finish and she needed to go! Katie picked up her pace and we ran through the finish where her husband and son were waiting.

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The emotions I had were again just unexplainable. “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. Romans 8:18 NLT”

At this point of my running life I can honestly say I will not run anymore full marathons but I will happily encourage others and train with them to their finish. I don’t know if I have anything other runner’s would benefit from or be encouraged by but if I can encourage just one, then to me it’s all worth it. My whole goal of running is honestly to encourage someone else. I don’t run to win. Do I want to increase my pace, would I like to have a sub-2 half someday, sure!!! But it’s not my main focus anymore. I received a bigger blessing by encouraging Katie that day and other forever friends I have met via Instagram. I know God has something else for me and if I am faithful I KNOW He will give me more! “But as for you, be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded. Chronicles 15:7 NLT”

You can follow Gina on Instagram  @gbena

5 comments on “Marathon Monday: Gina’s Story

  1. Great story! Perfect for the last leg of my plane ride tonite! Thank you for sharing your story and blessing others!

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