Look closely at this photo, taken during Sunday’s 3M Half Marathon.
It shows Makita Johnson, with two encouraging friends at her side, struggling to make it to the finish line of the 13.1-mile race.
The event marked her first half marathon, the longest distance she’d ever run. Johnson, a sales account manager at Dell Inc. and the single mother of three boys, had back surgery in 2013 and doctors told her she had to quit kick boxing. She joined the local chapter of a running group called Black Girls Run.
The race started off fine, and as she ticked off the first few miles, Johnson felt confident and strong. But at Mile 9, things turned tough. The last few miles, she began to doubt she could cross the finish line.That’s when friends came to her aid. Bianca Sias and Meighan Larbi had driven down from Dallas, promising to help her finish.
“I was hurting, on the verge of tears, and really just wanted to be off that course,” Johnson says. “Meighan was doing her best to keep me motivated, reminding me my boys were waiting for me, that I’d been through so much with surviving losing my father, surviving my divorce, being an awesome single mom and recovering from spine surgery.”
Sias, who had already finished her race but had gone back to check on her friends’ progress, saw Johnson’s look of distress, tore off her flip-flops and dashed onto the course to help.
“That’s when I buckled,” Johnson says. Her right foot burned, her calves shook and she just wanted to lie down. She burst into tears. “All I could think was, ‘I can’t do this, I don’t want the medal that bad,’” she says.
She cried partly because it hurt, but partly because she was so touched by her friends’ belief in her ability to finish.
“I was crying because there was just so much beauty in their friendship,” she says. “I was crying because I remembered various Black Girls Run sisters telling me I would get through it. The motto is ‘We leave no one behind, everyone will finish,’ and I felt them there with me in spirit, helping me cross that finish line.”
Her boys met her at the finish line. She hugged them tight, then went to brunch with her girlfriends to celebrate.
“I was so tired, but so happy,” she says. “I just felt incredibly proud of myself and in awe of myself, knowing I had spine surgery a year ago and now I’m running a half marathon.”
She’s already scheduled her next race, the 10-mile Austin 10/20. In the meantime, she’s wearing her race finisher’s medal everywhere she can, from the office to the grocery store.
“I earned this puppy,” she says.