It's been a couple of weeks since I ran my first marathon. Yes, that's right; I ran 26.2 miles. When I started my weight loss journey 5 years ago, I weighed 215#, never exercised, didn't care what I ate, was depressed and even though I was smiling on the outside, I was not happy on the inside.
I'm not sure of the exact day but, I realized that at 44, I couldn't continue down the path that I was going.
So I got serious, started exercising and started eating healthier. Notice I didn't say diet. I refuse to say that word. I've tried dieting in the past and knew that they didn't work. I needed something permanent. I needed a lifestyle overhaul. I started by switching my sugary cereal to oatmeal or a fruit smoothie for breakfast. Instead of a convenient store cappuccino, I switched to my own brewed coffee with vanilla creamer. I increased my water consumption and cut my diet soda habit. Small changes that over the course of time started making an impact on my calorie intake.
My exercise of choice was walking. Other than a good pair of shoes, that was the only thing I needed. So, I laced up and started down the road. What started out at one mile, soon became 3 miles, than 4 miles. I was a walking junkie. Along with my increase in exercise and healthy eating, the weight started coming off, slowly.
Around 4 years ago, I realized that I could run. I started running telephone pole to telephone pole. I certainly wasn't setting any land records but, my goodness I was running. It felt so liberating! The first time that I ran 3 miles continuously without walking, I will never forget. After that moment, I got the courage to enter my first 5K. I was so nervous at the start of the race, what was I thinking?
But, when I finished that race, I came to the realization that I was a runner. See, I had this preconceived notion that runners, could only be these super fit, less than 5% body fat super athletic people. I was wrong! So. wrong. Runners come in all shapes and sizes - from those super fit, less than 5% body fat, to people in their 80's and not the ideal body shape. We're all doing the same thing, the thing that we love with a passion, we run. We run for the pure joy of running.
So, after that first 5K, I entered more 5K's. I never won an award but, I was running, many times donating to a great cause and having a good time. The biggest thing was that I was amazing myself.
So, the summer of 2011, I decided that I was going to tackle an half-marathon. I trained following the Hal Higdon training chart. In order to get everything accomplished in running a household, I often would get up early on the weekends (4:30am!) and get my longer runs in while the rest of the household slept.
I accomplished my goal, the third weekend of August 2011. I ran my first half, the Cheesehead Half-Marathon, held in Hilbert, WI. What a fantastic time.
If I thought I was hooked on running before doing the half, I was wrong. OMG. I just ran a half! I hadn't set any land records but, I ran my race and I completed it with a smile on my face.
I continued to run 4 more half-marathons before this inner voice spoke up and suggested that I tackle a full-marathon. I was having no part of that, are you crazy? There is no way that I could possibly run 26.2 miles. But, over the course of this past spring, the voice was getting louder and a little more persistent. I had just finished the 2013 Green Bay Half-Marathon when I started listening to that voice. Maybe just maybe, I could do this. I had nothing to lose but, my pride. So, I told my DH and my two co-workers, I was signing up for a marathon! For, my first marathon I chose the Fox Cities Marathon. According the description, it was to be a flat course with lots of aid stations and crowd support. My type of race. So, I trained. And I trained. And, for grins and giggles, I trained some more! I was following Hal Higdon's training for Novice 2. It's a lot of running, the longest run being 20 miles. When I accomplished that long run of 20 miles, that in itself was an amazing feeling. Once you hit that long run of 20 miles, you start tapering to let your body rest before the big day. That day for me was Sept. 22nd.
The day couldn't have been better for running; it was cool, sunny with a light breeze. You can't tell by the pictures but, I was so nervous before the start. In fact, just before the starting gun went off, I was hugging my husband, crying, saying I can't do this. It truly felt like I was going to step off a cliff, not knowing what was going to happen. Ever the supporter, he said to just visualize that this is another long run; just that this time, I doing a long run with 1000+ other individuals and we have numbers on our shirts.
I will say this about the course, it's not flat. There are some hills and some of those hills were actually quite big, especially by the time you get to mile 24.5. To be honest, I don't remember each mile. I do remember crossing mile 13 and thinking, "Ok, I have just completed an half-marathon. I'll just continue running and I'll get another half-marathon done". I was crossing mile 20, I said to the cheering volunteers, "I'm just doing a 10K, now". Mile 24 and 25 were hard. By that time, my thighs were starting to cramp. I did some walking with a little running thrown in for good measure. I kept telling myself, "Going forward is a pace!". When I hit mile 25.5 I thought I was done. By this time, I was doing more walking than running, as my thighs were cramping so bad. As they say for inspiration, "When your legs give out, run with your heart". So that's what I did. As I rounded that last curve and could see the finish line, my legs suddenly found the strength and I ran.
Crossing that finish line was an accomplishment of a lifetime. It represented more than hard work and hours of training. For me, crossing that finish line was validation for all those people that said it couldn't be done.
I have come so far in my weight loss journey and I am a changed person because of it. I have discovered my body is more capable than what I thought it was. I have discovered a level of confidence that I didn't have before. I have discovered that if I put my mind to something, it can be accomplished.
Will I run another marathon? Most definitely. I already have my sights set on the Whistlestop Marathon for 2015, a point to point course that starts in Iron River, WI and ends in Ashland, WI. This run offers a half-marathon as well as a full. I'd like to do the half-marathon with my DH next year and do the full the following year.
For now, I'm enjoying the fact that I can call myself a marathoner. Something that five years ago, I never though possible.