Everything happens for a reason. These are at once the best and the worst words ever.
Usually, people say this when things don’t go their way, and they really don’t know what else to say. For me, it was all I had to hold on to ten months ago. It was what kept me going, even though I hated it.
One year ago, October 2015, my husband and I found out we were pregnant for the first time. We were ecstatic. Everything was going to be perfect. Until it wasn’t. At 12 weeks, we went for what we thought was going to be a normal ultrasound, and walked out completely blindsided. How could this happen to us, two healthy, young people who did practically everything right? Our OB kept our hopes up. She told us, it wouldn’t take long to get pregnant again. She told us to try to go back to our normal lifestyles once we let ourselves grieve and heal.
After a few months of grieving, naturally I decided to train to race a marathon.
Now I know you don’t know me well yet, but I’m typically a very smart runner. I give myself plenty of time to train for races and put a lot of thought into my goals. This time? I had six weeks to train for a marathon, with hormones still raging from the miscarriage four months earlier. I called upon a coaching friend to help me set up a training program. She seemed a little hesitant when I told her I wanted to pull off a PR on race day. She very lightly told me that while it was a long shot, a PR could happen on a very, very good day. Of course, to me, that meant it was going to happen.
Six weeks of hard training while still trying to conceive was … interesting. I knew in the back of my mind the possibility of getting pregnant while throwing down 50-60 mile weeks was unlikely, but I remained willfully naïve and kept pushing.
May 15, 2016 rolled around. I bought a cute tank top for the race, my whole outfit was chosen with the credo, if you dress the part, you’re more likely to achieve your goals, in mind. Except when I walked up to the starting line it was 3x degrees. “This is great! Everything will be fine,” I kept telling myself, again willfully naïve.
I can’t remember when, but it started to rain, then sleet. Twelve miles in, the marathon split from the half marathon, and I turned into the wind with ice pellets slapping my face and thighs. I was laughing hysterically, even though deep down, I was scared knowing I had 14 miles to go. I put my head down so the brim of my hat shielded my face and gritted through the best I could.
By mile 18, it was snowing. My fingers were numb despite having hand warmers and two pairs of gloves on. My thighs were beet red. I was whimpering. I had accidentally hit my iPod when trying to get hand warmers out of my pocket, so a random radio station was statically blasting into my headphones, but my fingers couldn’t feel the volume button so I couldn’t fix it. Worse, I was being passed by people like I was standing still.
I tried my best to hold it together, but I just couldn’t do it. My body and my brain were screaming to stop. I saw my in-laws at mile 22, I crawled into their arms and begged them to take me home. My father-in-law told me I was so close, just four more miles! But at the time, I felt like I never wanted to take another step again. My run turned into a jog and then into a slog; it hurt my heart and my body too much to finish.
And in the aftermath of that DNF, I couldn’t help but cling to it again: everything happens for a reason.
What would have happened if I had tried to finish that day? Maybe I would have pulled something because my muscles were so cold and tight. Or maybe I would have slipped? Maybe I would have bonked after not taking my wet and half frozen gels.
I went home and decided I wasn’t that upset about my first ever DNF. My husband, family and friends were just happy I was okay.
I’ve learned this year that we can’t always control what the outcome is in every situation. At the start of a race or anything else, we have hope and we can pray all day and night to get what we want most, but we may never get it. Being an athlete, I like to believe that hard work generally pays off, and my goals will be reached. But life isn’t always like that. Some things are simply out of our control. This year, I have learned to believe that everything does happen for a reason, though we may never know what that reason is. God has a plan, and though I may not like it, I have to believe that it is the road set before me and that road will take me where I need to go.
We named our lost baby June Hope. She and the snow in May happened for a reason.
Have you ever had a situation in your life that you couldn’t control, but you had to keep the faith and believe that it happened for a purpose?