Months ago I posted THIS blog. In it I openly shared my goal to run a marathon. Soon after I posted it I wished I hadn’t. If I hadn’t then I wouldn’t have felt obligated not to give up. So thankfully I did post it. Although, it wasn’t the only reason I kept going, if it had been I certainly would never have finished. And yes, one week ago today I did finish. I completed a full marathon and have now spent past week recovering and thinking over my experience. It dawned on me today that I hadn’t blogged about it, and that I should, so I am.
In my opinion the accomplishment of a marathon is much more than the day of the event. It is not just the 26.2 miles you set out to conquer but the accomplishment is found in the training you complete which brings you to the start line. It is in the miles and miles you spend your weeks running. It is in the dedication you put in to give up your lazy Saturday mornings in exchange for 3 hours of endless running. It is learning that your mind is stronger than your muscles. It is the realization of who is there to help you, to encourage you, to teach you, to believe in you, to run with you, to cheer you on, to love you and to rub your sore feet or legs when they ache. All of this will cross your mind as you run the race. All of it matters. Without any part of it the 26.2 miles would be unattainable, but when all the elements combine the impossible becomes possible.
On the morning of the race I was nervously excited. But, I felt like I had put in the time for training and I kept repeating in my mind, “I’ve got this.” The first 11 or 12 miles of the race I would call “fun.” I was running with a pacing group and easily keeping up. There were conversations, laughter, even singing. Around mile 12 I felt the pacing group slipping further and further ahead of me, even though I didn’t feel as though I was slowing down. But, obviously I was. But, I was still feeling good so I was in good spirits and I would just keep moving.
Around mile 14 I received a text from Anthony saying they were at the first part of the second turn around point. (we ran about 6.5 miles north along the St. John’s river and back,another approx. 6.5 to the start line – which became the halfway point, then 6.5 miles south along the river and back, the same 6.5, to the finish line. I figured I would see them somewhere in mile 18 or 19. Just 4 more miles. Around mile 17 those miles started seemingly really long and I started to feel pains I had never felt in my training. But, I kept pushing because I wanted to see my kids and I wanted them to see me running, to see me doing it – confidently accomplishing my goal.
After I saw them they boosted my spirits for about a mile. But mile 20 I was hurting so badly and it was really getting to me. I was now run/walking. I would choose a point of reference on the course and say okay I am going to walk to that point and then run twice that distance just to give my legs some relief, but I was always moving. At mile 22 I saw a friend who has run marathons. As soon as she saw me she walked onto the course towards me and said, “What is hurting?” I told her my thighs were in so much pain and she insisted I come to the side and she would help stretch me out. It was the most painful thing ever, but she and another sweet lady rubbed down my legs and then I could run again.
Then, there was mile 23. As the miles went on I SWEAR they became longer and longer. At this point 1 mile might as well have been 5. I received a text at that moment. It was from my sister. “You looked good at mile 19 (Anthony took a picture and posted it to FB), you must just have a few left. Keep going! You can do it!” I literally burst into tears. Yes, a few miles left, but it felt so far. It felt impossible. I honestly felt like I could die right there, and like maybe I’d rather do that than keep on moving. But as quickly as the tears came so did the resolve to suck it up and finish. After all, it was just a 5k in front of me and “I’ve got this.”
Coming into the final turns that were lined with friends and families cheering on their runner was a complete relief to me. And making the final turn and seeing Anthony and the kids cheering and giving me high fives was a sweet reward for a long and hard race. All along in my training I imagined me crying at the finish. But, in the end I didn’t. I left my tears at mile 23. The finish line was for smiles, hugs and relief. I had done it. I didn’t have to do it again.
So, in the past week when I have been asked, “How was your race?” I have answered truthfully, “It was horrible.” Because, it was! Those specific 26.2 miles took me through almost every emotion imaginable and, in the later miles was one of the most painful experiences of my life. However, in many years when I look back at this experience I will remember it as the entire journey. The friendships that were made and bettered as I trained, the way my body amazed me at its physical strength, the realization and understanding of my inner thoughts and how they affect my outward abilities, the consistent love and support from my husband who I think might be the only person who never doubted I could do it (I certainly doubted myself), and that horrible mile 23 – I will think of that anytime I am faced with some future trial in my life and remember, “I’ve got this.”