There is such power in these legs of mine.

November 23rd, 2014, 7am

There is such power in these legs of mine. I feel it course through the muscles, pulse along the tendons. It is momentous, this power, its motion always forward, always upward. I feel it hum down the bones, a restless, anticipatory zing of promise: we will carry you. However steep the climb, however far the distance, these legs are unintimidated.

I am running the Philadelphia Marathon, and each muscle presents itself to my awareness with every step I take. I feel the solidity of my quads, the sharpness of these calves, wrapped in the compress of fitted, familiar fabric. The bones, too, make themselves known, from the spidery shoots of my toes to knobby knuckled knees - each one bears the weight of unrelenting movement. In nearly four hours of running, how many steps do they hold together, piece by piece?

Each race tells its own story, but the starting gun is far from its beginning. A marathon is a narrative that begins months, perhaps years, in advance, and it encompasses everything from the initial decision to embark on such an insane venture, to many inglorious evenings pounding sidewalks after work, to the chitchat of my best friend on Saturday mornings as our runs stretched out farther and farther. It is everything from our various combined injuries, to nervous weather checks, to early alarms and sunrise jogs, to whatever little motivations make us demand this of our bodies, hearts, and minds. Every race has a reason, and we awake on race day for one final attempt to pin it down. The course, the fans, the heady kick across a vaunted finish line are not only a climax, but a question - did we find what we were looking for?

The story of my first marathon was one of reaching, grasping. The question: could I do it? Could I take the uncertainties that made up my life at that time and fold them into this one massive achievement? Could I stretch the definitions of my abilities and ask my body to carry me farther than it ever had before? I discovered the answer around mile 25, when Taylor and I looked at each other with eyes streaming from the realization that we would make it. That Virginia Beach finish was so much more than a line; it was the confirmation of my own ability to rise.

Philly’s course is packed, its fans enthusiastic. The weather is perfect, a morning dawning clear and bright, with just the right amount of chill. Nicole and I beat forward against the miles, and I feel the power reverberating in me. There is no Can I? Only What will hold me back? I discover that today nothing can.

Few things in life are as reassuring as running: my work, my love life, even my writing can take terribly unexpected turns. But running is running. No matter how unknown the course, in the end all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. Even the pain, when it returns to echo in the hollows of my joints, is predictable. Today, confident in the knowledge that I have put in my hours, pain and fatigue are as inconsequential as ghosts to the reality of the power in these legs of mine. The story of this race - which began at the finish line in Virginia Beach - is one of triumph. Rocky would be proud.

David Wade, ginny and Christine said thanks.

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Sara Ashley

Writer, runner, and a terrible but enthusiastic karaoke star.

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