Belief

February 21, 2014 Posted By: Serena Burla

80 minute run done. Sweaty, smelly, red faced, tired, satisfied; I enter the women’s locker room.  Yup, just like many of you, this winter weather has forced me to visit the local gym and hop on the treadmill (I’ve also heard dreadmill used by many a runner- ok myself included, but hey it sure beats missing a run).  I pop open my locker for my winter gear when I hear a timid, “Do you run marathons?” I look up to see a pleasant young woman directing the question at me.  “I saw you pounding away on the treadmill and just had to ask.  Do you have a second for me?”  Intrigued and always eager to spread the joy of running I said, “Of course.”

The date is January 28, 28 days since New Years resolutions were made and for this young woman January weather and illnesses had derailed her from her resolution and marathon training plan.  She asks, “Should I just scrap the idea of running my first marathon this Spring? Or is it still possible?”  My answer, “How bad do you want it? Are you willing to recommit, believe, and put in the work?  How big is your dream of crossing the finish line.” Ultimately how much do you believe you can do it?

As we spoke I saw the spark reignite in her eyes, a feeling of passion towards running related goals I can definitely relate to.  I was giddy. Maybe there was a reason I was forced inside to workout today.

As I left the locker room I was also reminded of a high school girl I met in Houston at the U.S. Half Marathon Championships.  The day before the race I had the honor of speaking with a group of high schoolers with the Katy Student Run for the Houston Marathon Foundation.  These students had trained for and were competing in the Houston Half Marathon.  For many of them it was their very first race.    Their questions were personal, well thought out, and they tackled issues runners at all levels face time and time again.  One particular student asked a question that struck me to the core.  She asked, “What do you do when people say you can’t?”  My answer, “Prove them wrong.”

These two women had doubt starting to creep into their psyche brought on by themselves and in the second case, by naysayers or boo birds.  This can happen to us all.  I can provide countless times I have been in the same boat.  Had I listened or given into the idea I would never be where I am now.

As I reflected on the date of the month and these two women, I realized it was 29 days since I was given the good news from my doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center that my PET scan was clear (what a terrific way to say goodbye to 2013), a true blessing from God.  I realized that all through my diagnosis, surgery, and recovery my doctors, my coach, my family, physical therapist, and supporters in the running community never once told me there would be things I couldn’t do.  Instead they were all committed to providing stories of miracles, hope, and focusing on the things I could do.  In turn, I believed in unlimited possibilities.

Can’t wasn’t in my vocabulary after my follow up visit following surgery when I said something to the effect of, “I still can’t stretch down to tie my shoe.” Doctor Boland seeing how much I was able to do, turned away and sent me out of the room.  As I bounced off the table, alive, with my leg in tack, and able to walk, I realized why.  I could do so much and had already surpassed what should have been possible.  I couldn’t stand in my own way.  From that moment on  I wouldn’t even let people refer to my right leg as the “bad leg” but rather it was my right leg or surgery leg and I was determined to see how far and fast I could go.  I’m still on that journey.

Perhaps it’s my stubborn, gritty nature, or my faith but I am focused on the “cans” in life.  Find a way, let your actions speak louder than words (a lesson my dad cemented in my head from my youth on,)trust in yourself, get up when knocked down, and surround yourself with people who also believe in you.  Anything is possible as long as you are willing to keep your chin up and work for it.  If I hadn’t believed in myself, I wouldn’t have had the courage to stick to my race plan in Houston a few weeks ago and run for the win.  So lace up those Mizuno’s, power up the treadmill, or toss on a face mask and get your miles in.  If you need someone else to believe in you, know that I do.

~Serena

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