Christa and Valerie at the I Am Second run in Nashville, TN (Photo source: John Humphrey)
“I never expected to live past 17. I was sure that I would kill myself before my 17th birthday.”
Christa Williams experienced many traumatic events in her childhood, which then followed her into her young adult life. Neglected by her father, and fighting depression and an eating disorder, Christa was tired. She wanted to give up. She counted the days until her death.
It wasn't until her college years when she finally started seeing a purpose to life. She found a supportive community that encouraged her to develop a relationship with God and taught her that her life mattered.
Fast-forward to April 2, 2016: Christa, age 25, participated in the I Am Second run in Nashville, Tennessee. After years of healing and placing her identity in God rather than her depression, she wanted to find a local run that celebrated the mere fact that she was still alive, and that every one has a story to tell.
Excited for the upcoming run, Christa shared her story of depression and restoration on her Facebook wall:
I run (or walk) because I can. Because I live. And because He lives in me and through me. And I am a witness and illustration of His healing love.
Enter Valerie Stinson.
Valerie, a new acquaintance of Christa’s, was inspired by Christa's courageous post and immediately reached out to her.
"I felt it very brave of her to put her struggle with wanting to harm herself out there for the world to see. Not only that, but her boldness to thank God for rescuing her from that life she once lived," Valerie told I Am Second.
"I started messaging her and asked her if anyone was going with her and she replied 'no.' Of course, I registered for the 10k right then and there, even though it would mean a two hour drive for me," she continued. "I felt it was important that I walk with her."
On the morning of the run, Christa and Valerie, barely friends, woke up at the crack of dawn and rode together to downtown Nashville. The run began, along with their unexpected journey.
Christa’s bronchitis starting kicking in. Short of breath, she felt as if she couldn’t continue and quickly became tired and discouraged. Valerie, knowing that the run symbolized victory and hope, began encouraging Christa. “I immediately felt so empowered by her and her joy,” she said.
Then, after accidentally overlooking a few directional signs, Christa and Valerie realized they had fallen off-course. They were lost in an unfamiliar area. But instead of getting down, they continued to feed each other with positivity.
They finally approached the finish line hours later, only to find that it was already torn down. No cheering, no dramatic finish, no pats on the back.
It wasn’t about the medal, or other people celebrating our accomplishment
“We were sad at first, but then the actual motivation settled in. It wasn’t about the medal, or other people celebrating our accomplishment," said Christa.
Christa and Valerie weren’t running for the approval of others, but for those who have lost hope and feel like giving up. They were running to celebrate the life they have been given. They were running for each other.
Two women, both from different lives, different stories, once acquaintances and now friends, live with the same motto: None of us are capable of doing life on our own. We need each other. And that's why it's important to live second.
Here's the irony: Even though they finished last, they finished second.