A little more than four years ago, I wrote this column. Please take five minutes to give it a read. The depth of this blog will be missed on you if you don't. I promise it's quick and easy. I'll be waiting for you.
Now that you're back, we can continue.
The words of Deena's coach said have stuck with me. I don't have a strong belief system in much, but those words are my mantra. Ever since moving to a new city, running has saved my sanity.
Before we go any further, there's a few things you need to know:
1. The company for whom I work sponsors the US Olympic Track and Field Team. As part of our sponsorship, we have the opportunity to bring Olympians to the area for events.
2. I love the Olympics.
3. I luuuuuvvvvvvvvv the summer Olympics.
4. I wrote a column about Deena Kastor about four years ago (in which I misspelled her name).
5. I have no filter and very little tact.
Again, back to our story.
Picture it: Gulf Shores, BP offices, a quiet Friday afternoon. My colleague, who was working on a half marathon in which we were going to bring Olympians, turned to me and said, "We have Deena Kastor coming..." I squealed (insert teenage girl/Justin Bieber image). It echoed throughout the office. Deena KASTOR? "SHUT THE ((DIRTY WORD)) UP!" Deena and Johnny Gray would be coming to talk at packet pickup, kick off the half marathon (and 5k) and participate in the awards ceremony. I was (insert curse word) pumped.
"I take it you know her," he said with a smile.
"Yeah, I wrote this column....She inspires me every day. Let me read you the column." That was mid October. She'd be in Orange Beach the weekend of Thanksgiving. I tucked this nugget into my heart and waited. I thought about how I'd mention the column. Would she want to read it? Would she care? Should I tell her how those words spoke to me as if they were from God Himself? Would she think I was just an overgrown stalker?
The weeks passed and the day came. I kept glancing at the time until I saw her tiny frame enter the over sized convention center room where packet pickup was being held. I whispered, "There she is." I had very little knowledge of what she looked like, but I knew she'd be fit. She effortlessly wore an autumn flavored sweater dress and cozy boots. Her straight, blond hair hung to her chin. She was natural and simple. I immediately wanted to be her friend. "Play it cool, you goon!" I said in my inner voice. "Cool, filter!"
Deena and Johnny spoke to the crowd, signed autographs. When time and space permitted, I introduced myself to her. My words made sense, they were slow and paced. I discussed the column and thanked her for sharing her coach's words. We talked more. I wanted to pull up a chair and sop her up with a biscuit. She was preaching and I was the desperate congregation. I say those two words every run, "define yourself". They've changed my life. I had to convey my appreciation, tactfully.
The afternoon quickly wrapped up, making way for dinner plans for the group. I arrived late and edged my co-worker out of his seat so I could sit next to her. I made a mental list of things not to mention:
1. Yes, Jake Ryan Gregg, the dog that "likes" you on Facebook is my dog. I didn't realize I was logged in as him when I liked your page.
2. My dog has a Facebook page so my friends and I can have one more neighbor on Zombie Lane.
4. Dying grandmother
5. Indigestion associated with running
I was well behaved, mature and not stalker-esque. Since I had no preconceived notion, I was overly thrilled to spend time with Deena. She is deep, methodical and an inspiration. Knowing that the inspiring words came to me through such a delightful person makes me speechlessly happy.
The next morning came and I resolved to remain cool, run the 5k and help as needed. Cool, you goon. Cool. Throughout the race, I kept my eye on the competition. The field was small and maybe, just maybe I could place in the top three of my age group. When it came time for the awards ceremony, I took a seat in the lush grass. As the announcers weaved through the brackets, my heart rate increased with the ages. They called the men in my age group. The guy that won the male division was fit. I've seen him at other races. He wins a lot. Three male names were read. "And in the female division... in first place: Allison Gregg."
I threw myself to my feet and whooo-hoooed. I whoo-hooed from the bottom of my lungs. I whoo-hooed as I waved my arms about while running to the stage. I whoo-hoooooooed as I climbed on the first place block. I whhhhooooooo-hooooooed as I got my prizes, FROM NONE OTHER THAN DEENA KASTOR! I whoooooooooooo-hoooooooo-hoooo-ed as my running friend took my picture. I whooo-hooed as I made my way back to my plot of grass. I also apologized to the crowd for said whoo-hooing.
All my inner coercing to not be a goon flew out the window. I won. I WON! I celebrated. I deserved it. In the past, I'd downplay this accomplishment. But no more. I won. I have the prizes and pictures to prove it.
What meeting Deena taught me is deep and wordless. Allowing myself to celebrate my win is a milestone in my growth. The fact that these two occurrences came at the same time is surely no coincidence. Be who you are. Believe what you do. Work hard and celebrate. More often than not, throw in a whoo-hoo. You're worth it.