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22 Years, 26.2 Miles

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I met her in 1990. Before I met my husband. Before she met hers. We went to different schools but there was something about Bea that I wanted to know. I wrote her a letter during the summer, and she wrote me back. We wrote all summer (these were the prehistoric ages, when email wasn’t a thing, when texting didn’t happen, when gmail hadn’t been dreamed up yet).

She got married as I stood next to her, clutching her flowers, smiling like a doofus after spending the afternoon cutting hydrangeas from my front yard with her French speaking mother. I got married with her standing beside me, holding my flowers, after I said something about her maybe needing a haircut before the wedding (still sorry about that one).

I moved to Tulsa. She came to visit me. She stayed in Pittsburgh. I came to visit her. I had babies. She had babies. We had a weekly phone call that was a cherished time for both of us. I pack my days, she packs her days, with work and family and church and chores and life.

No matter how long we go without contact (seriously, she needs unlimited texting) we pick up the thread exactly where we left off, like we’re working on a life-long knitting project. Row after row, we knit with our words, our prayers, our unspoken but clearly understood strivings and worries and needs and complaints. (Ok, we complain out loud. Whatever.)

She met me at the crest of a hill in East Liberty on Sunday. She called my name from the perch of her bike. I had just run through the most agonizing seven miles I’ve ever endured. Each step was another chink in my swagger. Each hill eroded my confidence and built a house of sand on doubt. I had been thinking about a good place to drop out until I heard my name on her lips. And a sob escaped me.

When she called my name, she struck a core of courage and hope I did not think I had. She had told me she’d just stay with me through her neighborhood. Instead, Bea biked the entire way, making the crowd call out my name. Then I saw these other “old” friends, though we are, not one of us, old. Karl, Jenn, B.J and Francois. Her kids ran with me and said the exact right things to me. What surprising and delightful children.

Because of her, I finished. Because of her I finished strong and on my feet and actually running, instead of crawling or in an ambulance. I met her 22 years ago and today, as always, I was more than grateful for her. Thank you, Bea. You were the wings.

*I must also say a thank you to my sister, Shannon, who drove me, fed me, cheered me, loved me, and supported me during my training and this weekend. These are the friends you want on your side.

And all of you, my real life friends and my virtual friends. My family. Thank you for supporting me in what I affectionately refer to as The Quest.

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20 Comment

  1. I love this so much. There is something profoundly important about good friends at your side.

    So crazy proud of you, my friend. Disappointed to have missed you, but so happy that you were able to make this happen. Love you!

  2. Love this Jennifer. There really is something really critical about having the right support network when you choose to challenge yourself like this. CONGRATS my friend. 

  3. Having people cheer you on makes a huge difference. Having your forever friends there to do that…well, your post gave me chills. I love it. I love how strong you are and how much your friends supported you and added to that strength.

  4. Love this post. Love the picture of you & Bea. So proud to know you. So humbled to know you. You make me be a better person, & I like that in a friend. And you gave me pause this morning in my yoga practice to think on my own circle of girlfriends, and how extraordinary every one of them is: powerful, strong, smart, gorgeous, lovely. And bold,courageous, daring to do great things. Just like you. Good on you for this run!

  5. Now my screen looks all blurry as I try to read through the tears. Beautiful. Can’t believe that was 22 years ago. That means I am old. — Julie

  6. Your story brought tears to my eyes Jen. I have the same relationship with my long-distance best friend and once running partner. What a beautiful experience. Congratulations as well!!

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