I ran 26.2 miles. Holy Crap! I actually did it.
Aren’t you glad, you won’t have to hear me complain about running anymore.
I have to admit, about 2 weeks before the race I was freaking out. I knew I could run 18 miles, but who knew what would happen when I stepped over that invisible line into the unknown. Another 8 miles, when you run a marathon, isn’t just 8 miles. You learn a lot about yourself and what you are capable of.
And I learned, I can do hard things when no one is making me.
The first 13.1, I ran for the times I couldn’t run. I wore the race day shirt from 2012, when I couldn’t run the Cleveland Half Marathon because I got strep. I enjoyed those 13.1 miles. And I told strep to suck it.
I crossed the river for something other than beer.
I saw parts of Cleveland I never see, and it made me love this city even more than I already do.
I even caught sight of the brewery that launched me into a lifelong love of craft beer.
The first half, I loved my mocha energy gels. I sucked them down happily.
The pictures the photographer caught of me those first 13.1 miles have me smiling like it’s prom. Those aren’t the endorphins shining through, that is all Chris Hardwick making me laugh like I love nothing better than punishing my body for 6 hours.
And the support. My awesome sisters greeted me throughout the race course with signs, hugs, high-fives and cheers. They caught me at my finer moments,
And not so fine moments.
Another friend came out with her baby and greeted me at the miles that hurt the most. I’m looking at you miles 14, 16 and 25. And I can’t ever thank her enough for knowing exactly when I would need to see a friendly face.
I passed my sister heading back into the city and we hugged. Really I was trying to hitch a ride back to the city. She’s a lot faster and she could totes carry me the rest of the way. I’m sure no one would have noticed.
Mile 16 I discovered how much I despise mocha gel shots. Instead of happily pushing the goo into my mouth, I swallowed it like I was forced to take a spoonful of medicine, thinking- Okay. I can’t actually print what I was thinking, because this is a family site. My only marathon advice for a newbie. Don’t take only one flavor of gel for 26 miles. You will hate it before the end of the race. (And find creative places to store the crapload of packets you need. BUT NEVER IN YOUR running belt. Made that mistake. Not sure I will ever get that goo off of my neoprene.)
At mile 18.69, my parents, my kids and my husband were there with a water bottle, a bag of pretzels and energy gels and a whole lotta hugs to get me through to the end. My dad said, “Now you’ll get your second wind.” As I ran off to chase mile 19.
And you know what. He was right.
Mile 20-24 I am sure stuff happened, but I was in zombie shuffle stage. Instead of running by my watch I set little goals like, run to that white thing sticking out of the ground. Oh, hey, that’s a pole. What are those poles called? Yep, I should be on Jeopardy at mile 20. Another time, I told myself I would run to those two women jumping up and down.
Those women were my sisters. I also lose site at mile 22. They walked with me and we talked. At least I think we did. I’m going to guess we did.
I saw a couple of kids playing on the lawn and I wanted to sink down on that grass with them and sleep. But I kept going.
I walked when I needed to, picked up the pace when I could. Just after mile 25, a guy I had been running with for most of the race turned to me and said. “I’m never running another marathon.”
“I hear ya.” I replied. And then I thought about taking a nap right there on route 2.
Then he told me he ran his first mile in October and signed up for the full. And I was glad I wasn’t as crazy as him. He looked at the hill in front of us and said, “I can’t run another hill.” And I almost agreed with him, but I looked at that hill in front of me, and all the miles behind me and I said, “I think I’m gonna run this one.”
And I did.
I came in only 4 minutes over my time goal. I only slowed 50 seconds over the race, and I accomplished my biggest goal of running my own race and having fun. Well as much fun as a person can have when they run for 5 hours and 49 minutes. I am not a serial marathoner. This
may be is my one and only. You will never see my Facebook status update say, “Boston Qualifier.”
I run because I can. And for so long I couldn’t. I said the first half of the race was for the one I didn’t finish. The last half of the race was for the night after they took out my thyroid. I sat in that hospital bed feeling the worst I have ever felt in my entire life. And I swore after the surgery, radiation, and tests were over, I would never be that sick again. I wouldn’t ever hurt as bad as I did right then. That was the lowest point in my life, and at age 28 I was grateful I had another 50 plus years to make it better.
The last 13.1 proved that I can feel worse than I did that night. And even though I felt worse, I have never been happier. The hard things don’t have to break us. They give us perspective.
I discovered during that 26.2 mile run how beautiful life is. Even when I felt like I couldn’t take another step, the sun still shone down, Cleveland beckoned me from the distance, and I knew I had friends and family waiting for me at the end of those miles. And beer. Lots and lots of beer.
I felt alive and grateful to be alive and healthy enough to try and kill myself with running.
I can’t really tell you about my splits, how I felt each mile of the race, because I stopped thinking around mile 14. When you are doing the impossible, you don’t have time to compare yourself to the past, you can only live in the moment. And that’s what I did.
I lived in the moment.
When I came down that last hill into the finishing chute, I saw my husband waving his arms wildly, and my mom and Isaac jogged down alongside me. Tears, if I could produce water at that point, would have streamed down my face.
I did it. I ran 26.2. I went from believing I couldn’t do it, to doing it.
I choose the hard path this time, the hard path didn’t choose me.
This time when I met the wall, I climbed over that bitch and jumped down to the other side.
A marathon can be about the race. It can be all about the training, the mileage, the pace, and the contest. Or it can be about a person discovering who they are. Digging deep down in the broken places and believing she can change. A person who dreams big, accomplishes what she needs to, instead of what people say she needs.
This marathon wasn’t about proving how fast I can be, it was proof that no matter how hard life gets, I’m going to have joy. It’s a process that started when I got cancer, and finally on May 18, 2014, I finally understand.
What an incredible gift. And now I wonder, how can I teach my kids this, without having them run a marathon.
I freaking hurt.