TGIF: 3 “A-Ha Moments” in the Aftermath of Running My First Half-Marathon

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On ginger tea, the ugly cry, sista-friends and a few good men.

“I’d like to see your sweet face today!” I chirped on Idelette’s Facebook wall early Monday morning. “We need to process, unpack and revel.”

Idelette or Idli (as I like to call her) came over a little past noon on a rainy Monday afternoon. Now this wasn’t your average Monday visit. It was the Monday after conquering this behemoth undertaking.

We reflected over our 14-week “SheLoves Half-Marathon,” journey sipping on steaming cups of ginger tea, freshly cut mangoes, a homemade plum torte and banana chips. I’d hoped that spending time with her would give me words to define the full range of emotions I was feeling. We murmured the word “wow” a lot and smiled. Sip. I looked at the carelessly-strewn blue ribbon medal on my desk. It said, “Half-Marathon Runner.” Wow. On what parallel universe was I a half-marathon runner? Words couldn’t give shape to the enormity of what we were both feeling.

Sip.

I can always find words to express what I’m feeling but …

This was different.
This was significant.
This was sacred.

We had trained, toiled and triumphed. Mission accomplished. It’s hard to put into words what we (38 women + Josh) accomplished on Sunday, but if a picture tells a thousand words, then I think my entire half-marathon experience can be summed up in this one picture:

This is me, sobbing in my sister’s arms seconds after crossing the finish line. This wasn’t a polite sniff. A sentimental misty-eye. A feel-good teardrop.

This was a raw heart cry that emerged gushed out of the most tender part of my soul. If I weren’t crying in my sister’s arms, I would’ve probably been on my hands and knees, forehead to the ground, rocking myself back and forth weeping. This was me: stripped naked, head-spinning, heart-pounding, pushed to the very edge of my physical capacity and emotional sanity.

I had listened to the still small voice in my heart.
I had finished what I set out to do.
I had given it all.

In talking with my friend Kelley over Skype this week, I realized that a part of why I crying was because I could feel God’s incredible pleasure wash over me in that moment. So many times in the past I’ve procrastinated, taken the easy road and given up. For once in my life I kept my word, followed through and finished strong.

While I could talk about a million different things from the experience, here are the top three a-ha moments in the aftermath of running my first half-marathon:

1. Go fierce (big) or go home.

Meet my friend Njoki. I love this picture of us hugging just as she crossed the finish line! I want you to take a moment to look at her face. Go on. Scroll up. I’ll wait.

Primal, raw and fierce.

What you don’t know about the picture is that Njoki’s knee popped out of its socket at the 14km mark. This hardcore woman ran seven kilometers on a bum knee! She is such a fighter. I’ve mentioned this quote on TGIF before: “The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.” Njoki, gave it her umph alright. She ran across that line Saving Private Ryan style. In order to live a great life, to write a grand story, to leave behind a legacy you have to be fiercely committed to unleash the ferocious lioness within. And hey … if you need a solid cry later? We can hug it out over Ben & Jerry’s and watch Grey’s.

Lukewarm, mellow and laid-back can’t change the world. Fierce, relentless and a touch of crazy,  just might.

2. Sisterhood is powerful.

At the 17km mark my left leg started to seriously cramp up. My calves were rock hard like coconuts. Every step was excruciating and to be honest, I didn’t know how I was going to finish. Enter stage right, a mini battalion of sista-friends.

When the girls saw me struggling to reach the finish line they ran out to support me. This of course made me so emotional I started to do the ugly cry, which is incidentally why I’m covering my face. Hearing your friends say predictable things in times of distress is strangely comforting. Words like, “Go Tina”, “You’re almost there” and “You’re a rockstar!” were crucial to my finishing the race.

We all need someone in our corner. We need someone who believes in us. We need someone to chant, “You’re almost there.” We need to be the kind of girls who cheer each other across the finish line of life. Note to self: Show up for someone else today. *insert customary girl power anthem here: “We are a family, I’ve got all my sisters with me …” *

3. Good men are not an urban myth.

This is a picture of my friend Jenna’s mom and dad. I love that her dad is hugging his wife with one arm and documenting her victory with the other. Who says men can’t multi-task?

After race-day my Facebook newsfeed has had a steady stream of “likes,” comments and notifications regarding the half-marathon. My favourite status updates, however, have been from men bragging on their wives. Reading things like: “My wife is my hero;” “My wife just ran 21km. Boom!”; “I want to be just like my wife when I grow up,” make me want to break out into a tribal dance to the heavens.

While 38 women celebrated this physical and spiritual victory, about 38 men (give or take a few) took pictures, recorded video, watched babies, held jackets, carried towels, parked cars, distributed hugs and stood proudly on the sidelines. Giving my dad a hug before starting my last kilometer recharged me in a way that I can’t explain.

Husbands, sons and brothers rallied around their warrior womenfolk.

Isn’t this what God intended? Men who are strengthened, not intimidated, by women kicking butt at life. Men who cheer women across the finish line of life. Men who believe that women can shape culture, history and generations.

Men and women standing side by side, changing the world, one step at a time.

Sunday (bloody Sunday) was beautiful proof that it’s possible.

It’s out there, man … I’ve seen it … :)

____________________________________________________________

Here’s a look back at our 14-week journey:

  1. The Risky Business of Changing the World
  2. What I Learned About World Peace from JFK, Titanic and Miss Congeniality
  3. What Training for a Half-Marathon is Teaching me about Writing
  4. The Yellow T-Shirt that Taught Me to Love my Thunder Thighs
  5. Why is Beyonce Giving Me Mixed Signals?
  6. Are you a Lone Nut or a Leader?
  7. I Broke My iPhone But Life is Still Pretty Awesome
  8. I’m Coming Out and I Want the World to Know
  9. How a Cardboard Pirate Ship Helped Me Realize That My Life Had Come Full Circle
  10. One Wedding, Two Friends and Learning to Let Go
  11. Girl Meets Boy, Freaks “The-Heck-Out” and Runs Away. The End.
  12. How I Learned to Savour My Charlie Brown Moment?
  13. Our 14 Favourite “PowerSongs”: Anthems for the Battle of the Hamstrings vs. Heartstrings
  14. The Final Countdown: On exquisite blueberry tarts, epic writer’s block and savouring the moment.

______________________________________________________

So my SheLoves peeps, I have three thoughts this week:

1. Have you had a “Go fierce or go home” moment? When was the last time you gave 100% to something?

2. Can you think of a difficult season in your life when a sister helped you across the “finish line” of life? Is there a girl in your world that you need to show up for? Dig deep.

3. What are your views on men and women working together to change the future? Are you encouraged or disheartened by the current state of gender wars? Are we making progress or losing ground, according to you? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

And if you have been following our journey and not yet given to this incredible cause, we’d love for you to be part of this beautiful story we are all writing together. It’s not too late to give! Donate: HERE!

Love you more than the bacon cheeseburger and yam fries I inhaled after the race,
xoxo,
Teen

To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.

______________________________________________________

SheLoves Half-Marathon for Living Hope
- How it all got started? Read the story: HERE

- Donate: HERE

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Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis

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Tina Francis
  • http://kikiorchestra.wordpress.com/ Kiki

    I don’t have the words to express how profound this post (and all of your experiences) are and I didn’t even run through (and with) the entire range of human emotion that you all did. So moved. Just, thank you. To Teen and the inspiring team of women and Josh. (whom I’ve never met, I’m sorry!)

    xoxo
    Kiki

  • Adriel

    So proud of you, Tina. It is a really emotional and crazy thing to finish a race. I think I learned more about my life as a Christian in learning to run than anything else aside from the Word. It still is a strong indicator of where my hope-levels and discipline and faith are at.

    My “go fierce or go home” moments are much more miniature than the months-long training of a race at this point. Or even a 2 hour race. I get them in little moments when my husband asks me a question that I don’t want to answer, when I can feel my throat close up and can barely breathe and want to shut down instead of talk about what I’m feeling and face the inevitable conflict or misunderstanding. Or when I fight my self-pity with all my might, to be a grown up and refuse to throw an emotional tantrum internally or agree with lies that I’m worthless or unloved. It’s when lies in my head are bubbling up that I have that moment of truth — do I love the lie or the truth more? If I actually love the truth, will I fight big for it and not let go until it sticks and displaces the lie? Or will I agree with the lie and submerge myself in that murky jacuzzi water that is comfortable, suffocating, dizzying, numbing? Too often I have just loved comfortable, self-absorbed melancholy. But its comfort is a lie, it leads to death — death of friendships, death of trust, death of joy, death of peace, death of dreams, death of energy, death of everything. So I am fighting big now.

    Love ya.
    A

  • http://www.foodess.com/ Jenn

    So proud of you Tina!! This post made me cry! You and your sister!! Your friend’s fierceness! Your sisters supporting you! The husband and wife! You guys are amazing. Congratulations. You’re an inspiration.

  • sherrine francis

    Words fail me. And that almost never happens.

    What an authentically sincere journey this has been. My heart wells up when I even begin to think about it. It was such an honor to be part of this amazing team of extraordinary women – Women who will not settle. The very thought of that makes me feel light headed. It was a tiny snapshot of how they do life (the little things and the big one’s.)

    I felt a strange void this week. It’s funny how amazing the feeling of ‘belonging’ is and how much we crave it when it goes away. I woke up every morning this past week thinking about the girls and wondering what they were up to.

    I’m ready to fight a new battle. So ready.

    Sisterhood is powerful. It’s a force you don’t wanna mess with. I can’t help but think of that quote – “a woman is like a teabag, you never know her true strength till she’s in hot water.” And yes, the men in our lives have been nothing short of amazing..G’s my personal favorite.

  • Sandhya

    Teen Tintu, reading this its goosebumps all over again…. i can feel the love till here n beyond…. being part pf this even if only in words and spirit felt so good…. Teen ive said this before TGIF has been life changing for me every week, more so this week…. thanks for being our (S)hero….

  • http://www.shelovesmagazine.com idelette

    A few thoughts: This has been SUCH a big experience for us. *sip* // You captured it so beautifully. That Njoki moment wanted me to break out into the ugly cry …. So so powerful. And I LOVE the picture of the sisters running with you.

    I’m looking out at the rain this morning and I’m itching for a run! Haha. What have you done to me, Tina Francis?

    I love seeing the 14 weeks documented like that. So powerful.

    I love the lioness in you.

    Just read your bio again. “When something scares me, I do it.” // I’m thinking about what really scares me …

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  • Kelley Johnson Nikondeha

    Tea~ Made me cry – again! Love the pictures of you and your sweet sister, Jenna and Njoki… so powerful. I especially love the men who stood and cheered, encouraged, celebrated and rallied around their women. I have one in my corner, and he makes all the difference in my confidence, my joy and how I remain fierce in life. (I have said it before, I married well!)

    So proud of you (all). To echo you and Idelette – WOW!

  • http://www.fakeleft.com/blog/ Stephanie Motz Skinner

    This is such a heartwarming post. I got goosebumps thinking of the men standing by their women and cheering and celebrating together. Makes me really appreciate the amazing men I have in my life who stand by me – my husband, my father, my brothers and my father-in-law are all amazing examples of great men.

    As always, your writing is inspiring, Teen. Thanks for sharing your beautiful heart. It’s been an amazing journey to follow. I felt so proud of you all as I read the stream of comments on the half-marathon fb group’s wall. It’s amazing how far you’ve come. Following the journey really had me wishing I could have been a part of it and it’s challenged me to one day try something like that.

    You are all amazing and inspiring. Thanks for running alongside your sisters in Africa in their journey toward dignity. You are all truly (S)heroes.

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  • Wendy Delamont Lees

    This is beautiful, inspiring…I’ve never met you, but my eyes welled up as I read. I know you’ve all barely crossed the finish line, but any chance this event could become an annual one? I’ve got a Fifty-50 list (50 things I want to accomplish before I turn 50, which happens to be one year from today) and running a half-marathon is on my list. What I’d really like to do is make it count for something beyond that. If there’s a 2012 SheLoves Half-Marathon, I’m in!

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  • http://shirlock67.blogspot.com Shirlock67

    Dearest Teen-rah-rah,

    A great triumph. You tried and you umphed. In my book, there are no such thing as an “ugly cry”. Either you have an “inside cry” or an “all-out-venti-sized one.” Either way, tears are healing. At least mine are. Or I *feel* better after. ;-)

    Your voice has gotten stronger (some might say fiercer but I would disagree) but it’s also gotten nearer. You’ve always had a strong voice and an impish lull in your voice. I hear the primal scream and the gentle soothe all on one page but it’s the intimacy I hear most because you’ve come into the living room space of our hearts and stayed, chatted, banana-chipped and plum-torted. I took time to reflect upon your words. I’ve always been proud of you but this bears repeating. Congratulations on doing what you set out to do.

    It also made me think of a lot of women out there who for their own good and sensible reasons, do not have such sisters, nor a strong support of fathers husbands, or male figures to egg them on. My heart goes out to you today…

    Shirlz

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  • J. Mijares

    Great job running!

    I was looking through my photo archives and found one where there were a few of the She Loves Team in the background. I’ve provided the link below:

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/45660470/Surrey-20110925-01185.jpg

    It was taken just before the start of the race.

    Hopefully, this half marathon won’t be the last race that y’all will run. It’s always inspiring to see a group of runners united in a common cause.

    - Jay

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