The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beth's Story

The streets of the town were lined with people. An excitement that only an Olympic Trials can bring, filled the air. 10 year old Beth held the hand of her father, staying safely by his side. The women’s marathon was running through the streets of Olympia, Washington and would soon be nearing where Beth stood. In an instant, Joan Benoit Samuelson runs by, leaving behind her sprinkles of marathon dreams in the mind of a little girl.

“Daddy,” Beth said, “someday I am going to run a marathon.”

It was winter and Mary Kay was working hard on the training for her second marathon. This petite Southern Belle had been watching Beth run on the treadmill at the local health club for quite some time before introducing herself. The two personalities clicked into place like the last two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle; neither one realizing the pieces were missing until they had fallen perfectly into place. They made plans to meet that weekend and run.

Beth had never forgotten the dream born of a 10 year old girl to run a marathon, and watched with great admiration as Mary Kay trained for her race. Beth, who enjoyed the competition of racing the shorter distances, soon found herself running the longer training runs with Mary Kay.

Mary Kay and Beth ran well together. Harmony was found in their footsteps and they ran strong and effortlessly. The best of friendships are solidified in running side by side. Life and distance running bring many of the same emotions and opportunities. During the difficulties, the other takes the lead and encourages until strength is found to continue on. While the times are easy, laughter is heard and conversation is light. The time will come, in running and in life, when you must lean on your running partner and trust them without question. The miles were more than just a run for them, the miles were their lifelines.

Beth knew how to compete in the short and mid-distance races, but a marathon was something different. Not believing she was anywhere near the fitness level required for 26.2 miles, she always waved off the nudges Mary Kay would give her to run a marathon. That is until the day Beth finished a 22 mile training run with Mary Kay by her side.

“You are ready. There is no reason why you can’t run the Capital City Marathon with me.” Mary Kay encouraged. The next day, Beth mailed off her entry form. The hopes and dreams born of a 10 year old girl came alive that day. And with Mary Kay by her side, she would toe the line of her very first marathon.


The tears came. She knew they would. Beth blinked back the tears of joy she had welling up inside of her. It’s not every day one stands in the moment of an aspiration coming true. And yet here she was at the starting line of her first 26.2 mile adventure and sharing it with Mary Kay. She looks at Mary Kay and smiles. Tears speak what words cannot utter.

A horn blows and the race begins. Beth and Mary Kay fell into a familiar rhythm and easy conversation making the first half of the marathon speed by. Shortly after, Mary Kay began to slow and encouraged Beth to keep going. Beth hesitated, Mary Kay encouraged, and the competitor in Beth sparked. With her strong pace and Mary Kay’s blessing, she pushed forward.

On her own, she continued to race well. Mile 20 came and with it she hit The Wall, making it extremely difficult to stay on pace. By mile 21 her left quad began to cramp, forcing her to stop and stretch. In stretching her quad, her hamstring tightens. In pain and miserable, she hears an all too familiar laugh. May Kay has caught up to Beth, and with the authority of drill sergeant she barks, “Keep moving, stop stretching”

Beth listens. And it hurts. But with sheer determination, she keeps her eyes focused on Mary Kay ahead of her. Mary Kay is pulling away and Beth discovers the power of the marathon. Alone, hurting and fighting a mental battle she looks inward, digging deep. These are the tough miles, the miles in which one discovers a strength never known before.

Beth continues forward, knowing her friend has gone before her. With the final mile ahead of her a new found energy emerges. The finish line is in sight and with it, Mary Kay cheering her on. As she got closer, Beth could hear Mary Kay screaming, “We qualified! We qualified!” Knowing their times were fast enough to qualify them to run the Boston marathon, plans were being made to run it together even before leaving the finisher’s chute.

Beth and Mary Kay ran 5 marathons together, including Boston on April 15, 2002. Running friends see the worst, bring out the best and always believe in the strength they see in you. When Mary Kay received the news she had breast cancer, Beth knew she would see her friend through the ugly miles they knew lay ahead. Mary Kay’s fight ended on December 29, 2006. Beth now runs alone.

Her foot falls quietly on the streets of her town. Beth’s love of running died with Mary Kay that day. She runs to forget, she runs to remember, and the miles are lonely.  In the solitary miles Beth feels the closest to her friend.

It would take 2½ years before finding the courage to run another marathon. Strength emerged, and in the miles ran that race day Mary Kay was there. When the struggles came, Beth could hear the echoing words of Mary Kay, “Keep moving”.


  1. This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I'm really glad I keep a box of tissue next to my computer. What a beautiful story - well told!