There I was, 12.5 miles into the Green Bay Half Marathon, running through the players' tunnel and approaching Lambeau Field and I'm almost crying.
Still running. But almost crying.
And it's not because I'm in pain and just wishing the finish line would appear and I'd be done. Because honestly, at that point, I'm still feeling pretty good. Nope. I become emotional because all of a sudden it hits me what I've accomplished.
I'll try not to get all sappy, but I can't make any promises. Because in my mind? Finishing this half marathon was kind of a big step for me.
Take a step back in time to September 2007. After The Great Neck Slicing of 2007, I decided to run my first half marathon, the Fox Cities Half Marathon. I found a training plan, logged the miles and on race day, I finished the 13.1 miles. I was at a pretty good place in my life. Happy. Healthy. I had plans.
The next thing I knew, two months later The Monster decides to take up residence in my head. I get sick. Want to chop my head off it hurts so bad. I don't remember most of December 2007. Doctors figure out what wrong with me. I take the drugs. Force The Monster out of my head.
But in the process I take a million steps backwards in terms of fitness. One month I'm able to run 13.1 miles and just three months later I'm struggling to run a mile. It doesn't stop there. I lose big chunks of hair. I gain weight. I'm not happy.
But I don't want The Monster to think he's won. And since running is still so hard (and honestly at that point I didn't enjoy it), I set my sights on a triathlon. I finish my first - the Danskin Women's Triathlon - and my Mom says if she didn't know me, so would have thought I was one of the cancer patients or survivors crossing the finish line. I wasn't fast, but I was proud, because I showed The Monster he wasn't going to win. That I'd be back to the person I was before he invaded my head.
And that's what I spent a good chunk of 2008 and 2009 doing. Getting back to where I was pre-Monster. I shed the pounds. I rediscovered way I loved running. And once I rediscovered that love, I knew what I had to do.
Tackle the half marathon again.
So I did. I picked Green Bay and circled the date on my calendar. Picked out a training plan, logged the miles and prepared myself for my final battle with The Monster. A battle that would show him what I'm made of. That he couldn't beat me, no matter how hard he tried.
And that's why I almost broke down and cried on Sunday when I stepped onto the warning track that goes around Lambeau Field. Because I made it. I was minutes away from crossing the finish line of half marathon number 2. And while it took me time, I got back to the person I was before The Monster showed up.
I'm a stronger person now than I was before The Monster arrived. All of the struggles, the times I've just wanted to quit and sit down and cry. They've made me the person I am today. A person who knows the good things in life aren't necessarily easy, that sometimes it's hard to lace up the sneakers and go out for a run. A person who rediscovered why she loves going for a run. Someone who understands that all of the hard work, struggles and pain I've put in during training will all pay off when I cross that finish line.
As I crossed that finish line Sunday, I didn't just add another medal to my collection. While I didn't come in first among the 7,000 runners who started the race Sunday, I did beat The Monster. I won the battle.
And now I can close the book on the chapter of my life that's been devoted to The Monster. I've learned a lot from him, but it's time to move on.