Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Marathon experience

Writing about my marathon experience is long overdue. It has been almost 2 months since finishing that race, so I should have written about this so long ago. But the memories of the event are still fresh, so I will put it down here to share with you all what that experience was for me.
  First of all, I didn't use my friend's name on purpose the entire training process because for her, it was a more personal event-not outright public, like mine. But now that we have finished, I am going to include her in this blog. My friend, Mindy, ran the race with me. We have been friends since the 4th grade. Life has taken us both on some incredibly painful journeys, as well as some good paths, too. Mindy and I reconnected again about a year ago when she moved back here, and we have been extremely close since then. I asked her in November if she would consider running  a full marathon with me, and she agreed. So we set out on our training.  We trained separately during the week and together on Saturdays.
 We shared a lot of laughter and ridiculous, runner-only, type experiences through our training runs. We had a lot of serious talks through the process as well. We held each other accountable and shared pretty much everything. Mindy was working through a divorce and I was still working deeply through my grief. It was quite a journey to run this event together. It was about conquering life, feeling confident, rediscovering a best friendship, attempting to lose weight, and completing an event together. The marathon journey held a lot of meaning for us both. Fast forward to race day.
 I slept so well the night before. I never have had that problem the night before a race usually. The week leading up to the race had been an emotional one for many reasons,so I had been exhausted. So I slept hard and was excited that the full marathon race day had finally arrived. We woke up at 3:30 am and had our coffee and pre race breakfast. It was almost unreal. My pre race rituals took place as usual, and I was ready by 4:30. The race didn't start until 6, but one needs time to wake up fully and be ready to go. It was a bit unreal that I (we) was about to endeavor into 26.2 miles. Was I ready? Ready or not...Here I went !
  We arrived and the reality became stronger. I have done several races....Mindy had not. So the whole experience was pretty new for her. But this race had a lot of different meaning for me, so we both were just sort of quiet . Taking in the scenes, the music, the journey of it all. The race was set to start at 6. The gun went off, and the kick off song was "Firework" by Katy Perry. We both drew in on the excitement and really just sang along to the song and laughed. Because we knew what our pace was going to be, we were in our pace group, which was towards the back of the group, so we did not cross the start line until almost 30 minutes after start time. That's ok....our timing chip didn't start until then either.
 We found our pace early in the first quarter mile and it felt good. We had a plan to take a brief walk break every so many miles and we were going to stick to it. It was hot, and we knew the temperatures were only going to climb. We hydrated at each station. At the mile 5 station, they had run out of cups, so we had to take the water in our hands. That was annoying and a bit disconcerting, if that was the outlook of the rest of the race. Luckily, it seemed to be just that water station where that happened. We never ran into that problem again. We both had our iPods, but didn't really want to listen to them until we reached a need for a little push with it. It was interesting-we'd spent our entire training runs talking and sharing and pushing each other, but on race day, it was different. We were both quiet. Maybe it was focus at times; but I really think it was more of an emotional response: we were taking in what was not only happening in the moment, but also what we had learned about life and about ourselves over the past 3 1/2 months of training leading up to this day.
 Sure, I've run many races. Each one is different. But this one was my longest distance ever. My marriae had been through some really really hard times through the process. My grief had been a roller coaster ride. I'd learned a lot about myself, and even more about God. Over the months of training, I'd learned about His desires for me, His grace, His love, His truth, how amazing He is! I'd begun to see my family in new ways, and as I came out my grief fog, my priorities came to change. It was a lot of what I'd learned through running.
 At mile 10 (or thereabouts) the half and the full marathon split and crowd thinned. Whether we liked it or not, we were not turning back. We had 16.2 miles to go! I felt really good at mile 13. But then again-that has been my typical distance. At hat point, we were still running long our normal time frame. We kept hydrating all throughout. At mile 17, we both began to hit a wall, so we popped in our headphones. That mile marker was just boring paved highway. There was no crowd and there were a few mini hills and we could see the sun reflecting heat off the pavement. Around mile 18.5 we came back into some city area and a screen read 85 degrees. The body tends to be about 20 degrees higher (give or take a little) when running, so we were pretty warm. It was the warmest we'd run in. Granted, we'd both been in warmer runs, but not for that long of a distance. It was wearing us out. We kept going, but by mile 20, it became even more about finishing and caring less about what our time was. She would say-"Have you ever run 6 miles? " " yes, " I'd answer. " Ok. so that's all we have to go.
We've done it before. We can do it again." And we'd go on. We had to begin taking a bit more walking breaks, but even though the crowd was thinner, those who were out , were extremely encouraging. "you're doing great! Keep going ! You've got this!" It was neat and here and there the push we needed.
 At mile 25 we kicked it back up a little. When we turned the corner and could actually see the finish line, tears came. A few feet further, was my friend Kristen, who'd waited the entire race for us (with her husband , Doug). When I saw her along the gate, cheering us on like crazy, I really started to cry. Not only could I see the finish line, but I had some really close friends there. I was almost finished.
 The emotions of the previous 4 months began to overtake me. I'd talked with my mom before she died about my doing a full marathon. "Mom-can you see me? I'm doing it!!!"  My family sacrificed a lot of time for my long runs. (michael was scheduled to work, so he wasn't there.) "Honey-Thank you for all you sacrificed in this process."  and to God-"I only did this with your strength. As you said in Isaaih 40:31-"You give strength to the weary, I will rise up on wings like eagle. I will run and not grow faint...." It held a lot of meaning. Mile 26 marker...there was Doug, screaming his encouragement at us. But my eyes weren't on Doug. I began literally sobbing as I found my husband at the 26.1 marker. He wasn't supposed to be there. And after all that the week had been, all that the race had taken out of me....there he was to cheer me on. I wasn't expecting him, and I cried for so many reasons when I saw him. He jumped out, kissed me,and I pulled him along...I had to finish and my muscles were telling me not to stop yet anyway. He followed me across the finish, embraced me, sweat and tears and all. we had finished!!!!!!
 26.2 done. This year she and I both turn 30, and I said we should do this every decade to celebrate. It was an incredible experience. Mindy also had her own cheering section there , who she went and met, while MIchael and I embraced and cried and I stretched and cooled down. Here are a few pictures.
Top: 4 am. Ready to go.

Below:  Here we are modeling off a map of the course the day before
 Below: Me finishing the last .1, dragging Michael with me.


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