Saturday, September 4, 2010
Running for a Cause: Lisa Smith-Batchen's Journey Across America (Part 1)
The foot was definitely broken. The doctor looked at it from every angle, applying slight pressure with his fingers at various points. She winced. "Does that hurt?" A no-brainer. The pain was radiant, brilliant and clear. Damned potholes. She had been talking casually with a group of people who were running with her in Plano, Texas, when her right foot suddenly rolled over. It was a really small pothole, too. But, it was enough to cause a break in the bone. They told her to stop running, but she couldn't entertain the thought. She just couldn't. She had come too far. And people were counting on her. The kids were counting on her. To stop would be to let them down, and she just couldn't do that. So they iced the foot and slapped an ankle brace on. That was over a month ago. 1,350 miles later, she was still running.
The good doctor's brow furrowed in concern. He looked truly doubtful. "I don't know, Lisa," he said. The foot was throbbing. "I just don't know." Here she was, on the night before her last run, and the orthopedist was giving her the bad news: she might not make it. But, Lisa wouldn't accept that.
"I don't know if your foot is going to last. So, when you see the finish, you just run like hell," he told her. "You give it all you have." Her journey was almost complete. Tomorrow would be her last day running.
Now, the wind whipped all around her. Lisa stood in the afternoon breeze. The sky was overcast. Not much farther. Just a few more miles to go. Just a few. Family and friends had come from all over to see her finish running 2,500 miles through America. That's 50 miles in each of the 50 states in 62 days. No other person on earth had ever accomplished such a feat. Lisa would be the first.
It seemed all of Driggs, Idaho, her hometown, had shown up for the event. It was a circus. People were cheering her name. Cameras flashed every which way. Onlookers honked their car horns. The local fire department had shown up, and they blasted their truck's siren. Even the weather wanted in on the party: the winds were absolutely torrential. Claps of thunder swelled in the threatening sky. "Look, Lisa," said Sister Mary Beth in an awed whisper, "God is bringing us home with a bang." Her good friend had always supported her and given her strength when she needed it most. Sr. Mary Beth's kind eyes brimmed with warmth and compassion. An accomplished athlete herself, the media dubbed Sr. Mary Beth Lloyd as "the Running Nun," but to Lisa Smith-Batchen, she was, and always would be simply "godmother." Lisa put on her shoe and stood up.
She started running. The pain was agonizing. The crowds emboldened her. But, there was something else that kept her going, something apart from the people and the cheering, something only she could hear - a voice, clear as crystal and serene as the sunset. A little voice that seemed to drown out all the noise of the wind and thunder. It told her everything was going to be okay and to keep moving. It made her feel so peaceful, so strong, like anything was possible. Anything. She had heard this voice before in her life, and each time she heard it, it filled her with such grace. It fueled her onward, through difficult times. It did so now. Each step came a little easier. It felt like she was walking on air, like the very wind was picking her up and lifting her to town and to the finish. Lisa was overwhelmed with emotion. Tears poured down her cheeks. Never in her life had she felt more loved than at this moment, right here and now.
Her husband and children were waiting for her at the finish. She could see her two little girls, Annabella and Gabriella, holding up the yellow ribbon finish line. She yearned to hold her daughters in her arms, to kiss and embrace her husband. She could see her family in the distance. Run like hell. Suddenly, the sun broke through the overcast sky and illuminated the scene. The brightness was exquisite. It brought Lisa's mind back to recollections of the long journey that brought her to this very point. As her community chanted her name, impelling her to the finish, Lisa's memory raced back in time...
Two months earlier, she was in a park in Morristown, New Jersey, about to embark on a long journey across the America. Her shoes were laced, and she was ready to start running.
This article is part of a series that will be published on a monthly basis. Click here for Part 2 of Lisa's story and here for Part 3.