NOTE: This blog was originally published on November 8th of 2012, and we have an update! Anne Tully is now the proud Mom of FOUR kiddos, giving birth to her son Griffin just a couple months ago! (Yes, we know. She’s amazing right?)
Rain or shine.
Sleet or snow.
She wakes up, grabs her flower, sneaks downstairs as to not wake her three young children, slips on her running shoes and sets herself free.
For one hour, it’s just her and the pavement. It is her solace. Her refuge. And if she needs to bust out more (which she can, and she does), she sets up shop on her treadmill in the basement while the kids nap. And if naptime goes bust, you’ll inevitably spot her running through town, at a double-stroller pace that is simply, well, staggering.
Every day. Every damn day. No excuses. Steely dedication.
A seasoned vet, her weekly mileage allows her to sign-up for races when her heart tells her, “it’s time.” When she needs the push, the adrenaline. This past October, just eight days before a local marathon, she registered. Yup, it’s time Anne.
What Anne didn’t know is that three other flowers registered for that same race. Though, for Rebecca Hamilton Hildebrandt, it was a different kind of journey. It was a first. After many weeks of training, she was realizing her goal – 13.1 miles. She was wearing purple – no more excuses. She was doing it – deserving of that finish line. Her two friends Missy and Heidi wore dark pink to celebrate Rebecca’s story, inspiring her to realize her true strength and that they were all worthy of these miles.
From the first time it was worn in 2011, the flower has served as a symbol of unity. Togetherness. Friendship – with women you’ve known for years and with those whose smiles you meet on the course. An impossible symbol to miss, the flower represents a universal truth – that we are in this together. Always.
Anne, a longtime Fellow Flower knows this well. It is deep in her soul and spirit.
What happened on the course that day could not – and would not – have happened without these women wearing flowers. As Anne came to the finish, embarking on a grueling, wet and windy 26.2 miles, she came upon three women wearing flowers. Steady, strong and determined and nearing their 13.1 mile journey. It was Rebecca, Missy and Heidi.
They didn’t know each other, and yet, as Anne approached, her heart connected with theirs.
Miles didn’t matter. Pace was irrelevant. Names unknown. They knew nothing of each other until that very moment. They didn’t need to – they were Fellow Flowers.
Anne yelled (in classic Anne Tully style), “We’ve got this ladies!” Cheering them on with everything she had in her. On that morning, Anne was wearing her orange flower. (Side note – she has all ten – and could’ve picked any color.) And as you read Anne’s marathon reflections below, any color would’ve fit her journey that day. And yet – she picked orange, our original.
/orange/ :: We are connected. Fiercely united. Marching on…one foot in front of the other. For health, for hope, for each other. To cherish, to protect – always.
Moments later, Anne crossed the finish line – first.
Yes, the woman who had signed up just eight days earlier had won. As she put her hands up and smiled, she embraced the joy – and tears – in crossing the finish line. Her long time dream had come true – it was her first marathon ‘first.’ And shortly thereafter, three more proud and happy Flowers finished. Their goal was reached – 13.1 glorious miles.
And the photo that Rebecca shared on the Fellow Flowers website (pictured here) was taken by none other than Anne’s husband, who spotted their flowers from a distance and asked if they’d like a photo. Yes, an impossible symbol to miss.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the first to cross the finish line or if you’re embarking on your first ever race. The flower cuts through all of it. It tears down barriers and shines a light in the places where we are all connected. It doesn’t care about your age, your body type, your goal, or your pace. It embraces the journey within each of us. It represents all fears and all celebrations. It honors all stories. There is no ranking. No order. There is just friendship. The flower reminds us – especially when our insecurities tempt us inward toward solitude – that we are not alone. That we, as women, need to rise up and find the courage to share our stories. To put ourselves out there, boldly, despite the fear. And in freeing that story within us, we may ignite the courage in another to share and let go.
It’s one orange flower – steeped in the essence of friendship – cheering for other flowers, whom she’s never met. THAT is Fellow Flowers.
And now…we leave you with Anne’s marathon reflections. Her beautiful description of our flowers. Her incredible talent as a runner. Her generous heart as a mother and wife. And her embodiment of Fellow Flowers. She sent this to a few of us just hours after her race, with a photo of her finish…
Yup…it’s a picture of me, hands up in the air as I cross the finish line. CELEBRATING, tears in my eyes….HOLY SHIT, I just won a f’in marathon. First female to cross the finish line – so many emotions.
So here it is…I needed a wardrobe (flower change) almost every mile. I identified with all the flowers throughout the race. I decided days before the race on the infamous orange. Because of all of you…fiercely united. Reading all of your stories of strength, courage, determination and dedication were what pushed me to run a couple long runs and ultimately register for this marathon (8 days before go time). Much love to all of you. 🙂
So my journey began on Saturday morning as I drove in the pouring rain and wind to the starting line thinking, “Where the F is my purple flower right now because I am doing this anyway. NO EXCUSES, bust it out, Anne.”
So I park and begin walking toward the starting line. The rain stops, and there is NO waiting for the porta-potty and I’m thinking, this is great – perfect temperature, no rain and no line – simply put, I am a happy runner in this very moment and feeling fantastic….hello yellow flower.
I approach the starting gate, and I begin to think of another Fellow Flower, Karen Prusi. Although I haven’t met her personally, we have connected through our running. She is running 26.2 this morning as well, with her green flower – and I know she is pounding the pavement at that very moment, miles away from me.
The race starts and we are off. For the first ten miles I am hanging with the three hour marathon pace group….all men, none of them interested in even acknowledging that I am comfortably hanging. Black flower, need you now, I AM A FORCE to be reckoned with dudes and I am rocking this right now.
After that, I slowed down a bit and ran by myself for quite awhile. I thought a lot about my life and coming to grips with just living in the moment and being content with how things shake out….less calculated (I am admittedly very type A) and being content with me…..my anthem is yet to come. Blue flower was very present in my thoughts during these miles.
At mile 15 I started to panic. I was feeling okay and knew I was winning, but I was scared. How was I going to feel at 18, 20, 22? Could I sustain this lead?I wanted to so badly. I needed my white flower but decided to reach up and touch my orange flower –knowing we are all fiercely united. And once again I thought of Karen and how she was feeling around now.
I made it to mile 19 feeling strong, then feel that inevitable pull to slow down. That’s when I see our minivan driving alongside the road, my husband honking the horn.
TEARS. My husband and three kids quickly park, jump out of the van and I stop and give every single one of them hugs and kisses.I leave them feeling incredibly grateful for the amazing support system….LIGHT PINK…..my favorite. I wear light pink so very often because I am so very, very grateful for my family and friends. That flower lives in my hair a couple to few times a week….for my family and for my ever-present hero who recently passed, my grandpa.
And suddenly, I am at mile 24 and I see some flowers from afar – dark pink flowers – two of them. As I neared them, I was cheering and so damn excited. As I was coming to the finish, they were completing their half marathon. They were very clearly fierce and owning those last couple miles, excited and so happy. 🙂
Hello dark pink. And with my orange flower in tow we remember that we are all united…whatever the journey.
And finally, mile 25, the race director rolls up on his bike and introduces himself. He then proceeds to tell me “You are our female winner, I am going to lead you in. There isn’t anyone else insight to beat you so your job is to muster up a smile within the next mile.” I thought of yellow, fitting. I thought of white because this has truly been a long time dream of mine, for sure.
As I ran, with the finish line insight, tears started to flow. I am SO very grateful for all of you and your stories because YES this is so much bigger than me. I believe that, and I embrace it. Shortly thereafter I crossed the finish line, hands up, orange flower in my hair, so incredibly happy and in shock. FIERCELY UNITED.
– Marathon reflections from Anne Tully, proud Fellow Flower, mother of three, rock star runner and 1st place female finisher in the Haunted Hustle Marathon, held in Middleton, Wisconsin.