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.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Carol King's Story

Carol stood at the starting line of the St. Jude’s Memphis Marathon alone; this no different than how she lived most her life.  It took years before being alone no longer felt lonely.   Her nerves somersaulted inside her.  Self-doubt crept in; perching itself on her shoulder whispering it’s all too familiar haunts.  She shook it off.  Not today.   Today was her day.

The horn blew and the sea of people ebbed forward.  Carol began running her first marathon.  The nerves she felt moments before lost their potency in the familiar and rhythmic steps of her running.  Comfort surrounded her as she found her pace.

Becoming a runner was something Carol never thought she would do.  Running was for athletic people – fit people – not women in their 40s, with weight to lose and had spent a life far away from sports.  The image of her beloved grandmother comes to mind as she recalls a private moment between them.  Carol, the youngest of three children, was a young child when she learned the truth about her birth.  Life was not easy and a third child to feed was not ideal.  Carol’s mother was not happy about the third pregnancy and tried to conceal it.   Carol felt the harshness in the reality of her grandmother’s words and vowed to never be a burden to anyone, never to ask for anything including the playing of sports in school.  An innocent conversation between a grandmother and granddaughter solidified walls Carol spent decades living behind.  Bricks of “don’t ask for anything”, “take care of yourself”, and “be self-sufficient at all costs” were mortared into the walls around her heart with a thick layer of doubt and low self-esteem.

“Walking In Memphis” plays on Carol’s iPod and pushes the memory from her mind.     She is running the streets, not walking them.  She loves the irony.  The route is peppered with bands all feeding her energy as she passes by.   Mile 10 a woman runs next to her, struggling to finish the half marathon.  Carol encourages her, telling her “You got this.  You can do it.”

These are not empty words of encouragement.  This is truth spoken from lessons learned after hard earned victories.   One of Carol’s first victories came at the end of a training run.  Brand new to running, she had just run 20 minutes without walking for the first time in her life.   The realization of what she just accomplished overwhelmed her, Carol is amazed at what she just learned she is capable of.  In the middle of the park’s path she breaks down and cries; each tear stripping away deep seeded self doubt.  

The woman listens to Carol’s encouragement and forges forward.  Two miles later they part ways as the half marathon route turns and the full marathon runners continue forward.  Here the runners greatly thin out.    With less people around, Carol realizes how few people run 26.2 miles.    Something happens within her.  Instead of feeling out of place with this realization, it strengthens her determination.  A lonely road did not scare her, it empowered her.

Miles were clicking by and an old injury began to flare up.  Exhaustion coupled with pain can weaken the strongest of resolve.  Carol does not want to quit.  She looks up at the apartment building she passes.  Above the street on a private balcony a young girl waves at her.  The girl’s smile gives Carol motivation.  There would be no giving up.  Carol pushes herself forward to show that little girl on the balcony and to prove to the little girl sitting across from her grandmother so many years ago, that there is no limit to the greatness within each of us. 

A sign reads ‘Mile 20’.  Carol is now running the final miles of the marathon.  These are the toughest miles and her injury adds to the difficulty.    Seeing Carol’s pain, a stranger runs alongside her and offers her some Advil.  In desperation she accepts.    This injury would not be what stops her.  She had come too far, she had too much to prove.

Standing in their kitchen, full of excitement after walking in a local race with a friend, Carol told her husband of her plans to run the half marathon the following year.  A terrifying goal for someone who had never run before, yet she could not deny the spark of desire she felt.  He looked at her and sneered, “Yeah.  Right.”  The spark had now became a flame.

To run the marathon had been her decision, her goal and it gave her tremendous purpose.  He tried to feed her self-doubt. Years of haircuts and hair colors, diets and exercise plans all failed to make him love her more than each of his passing girlfriends.  He knew how to make her feel worthless.  Yet, she continued to train.   Running was giving something back to her.    It was chipping away at the walls she hid behind.

Mile 21, 22…the bricks kept coming down.  Her whole life she believed in the fallacy of the smile she wore.  The marathon stripped her of that smile and showed her it was ok to struggle.  The marathon was showing her the struggle is what makes you stronger; it lays a foundation of greater strength than the bricks of self-doubt she’d always known.

Mile 23, 24…Carol reflected on the changes running has given her.  She remembers those first months of running.  Afraid of anyone seeing her, Carol’s running took place well into the night.  If anyone saw her, she felt surely they would laugh at her.  After all she wasn’t a real runner; she was an overweight housewife completely dead on the inside.  Real runners are fast and svelte and athletic and happy.  Carol is no longer the woman hiding in the cover of night.   She runs in the daylight through the park she loves.  Bags of clothes - now several sizes too big - were donated to charity and at 40 years old her training has made her an athlete.  She no longer needs the anti-depressants that sustained her.  Carol knows, even now at mile 24 with a body tired and wanting to quit, she is happier than she has ever been.  Running has given Carol herself.

Completing Mile 25 brings comfort knowing she is now in the final mile of the marathon.    Her determination to finish pushes away her pain.  Carol puts one foot in front of the other.  Each footstep taking her farther away from the woman she once was.  She runs from 20 years of infidelity and pain, 20 years of not being good enough.   She runs from the divorce he told her of.  She runs from the sad and scared child sitting across from her grandmother.

The final 385 yards lay ahead of her. Carol runs toward the finish line.  Each step drawing her closer to the woman she has become; a woman who proved to herself she owns a strength she hadn't dreamt capable.  Carol became a woman who came out from behind the walls confining her and began living in the world of possibility.  She had given herself a goal and she was achieving it.  In doing so, Carol has given herself one of life's greatest gifts, the gift of confidence.

The end is in sight.  Her friend Debby is waiting.  Carol runs across the finish line and collapses into the arms of her friend. Carol weeps.  She cries because the person she once was is gone forever.  She cries for the new woman born out on the marathon course that day.  Carol cries for her birth into a new life.  A life she was meant to live. 


  1. Allyson Fiorucci7/09/2012 8:15 PM

    I love you and this made me cry, it is terribly beautiful.

    1. In all honesty Allyson, it was written through tears...Carol is a remarkable woman and I am so blessed to call her my friend.