As I say that to myself, 48 hours after the Chicago Marathon, I am still in disbelief. Me, a marathoner? Even the hours leading up to the marathon felt surreal. There I was, getting my picture taken with my bib, among thousands of others at the expo that would soon be marathoners, too. Perhaps more then once over.
Caitlin and I at the expo
See, I used to not be a runner. I used to be obese, morbidly so according to the charts. I used to hate running. I used to not be able to run a BLOCK.
I couldn't have just run 26.2. Could I?
Earlier this year I ran my first half marathon. Then I signed up for and ran another. I always said I would never run a full marathon. But, here I am.
I look back simply to see how far I've come. I remember that day in mommy boot camp where we had to run that block and I couldn't do it. A kind runner came by and encouraged me that I could. I wish she knew the impact she had on me, and could see me now. I don't want to forget who I was, I want to embrace who I am now and respect who I was then.
The block that beat me years ago
But as a song by Mandisa goes, I was made for much more than the sidelines. I was made for this.
As most of you know, I ran for a cause greater than myself, I ran for Team World Vision. I raised almost $2,000, enough for almost 40 people to have clean water for life! My team raised together almost $30,000 and will break ground on a project this January. To run for something bigger than myself is what got me through the hard miles.
Also running for Peyton is always an inspiration for me, and Caitlin and I had our prayer list going again.
We began the day at the Team World Vision tent for a pep rally. It was nice because we could check our gear right at the tent instead of waiting on the official gear check lines.
I can't remember a time in my life being more afraid. There was an eerie silence over the tent as it was many of our first marathons. I had the feeling of being on a roller coaster ride but it being too late to get off. I was going to have to ride this one out. It still didn't feel real to me yet. I couldn't imagine 26.2 miles. I didn't feel as mentally prepared as I would have liked. I hadn't memorized the course, and I just felt nervous.
There was dj playing music and that helped me get out of my head. I was starting to feel pumped. Then before we lined up to get into our corrals we had a rally clap.
Walking to the corral, Caitlin held my hand. I didn't want to let go. I knew this was going to change us both forever. I sort of wanted to hold that moment in time. The sun was starting to rise. It was a gorgeous day out, perfect running weather. It was a little chilly then, and a company was handing out gloves which was nice and kept us toasty.
Before the race
We had some time once we were by our corral so we took the time to stretch and make many visits to the bathrooms. It was starting to feel real.
Then we were all lined up and as we inched further we could see the start line. Chills can only describe this part. I called my sister Missy since she couldn't be there. She encouraged me.
And we were off! I swear the first 7 miles flew by. We were at a great pace, but faster than we've been. We wanted to slow down. At mile 7 in Lincoln park we saw my husband and two daughters and my sister Kara and brother in law Jan. The girls made a sign saying "run, run, run". Marlo, my 4 yr old, said it was for when I get all sweaty and tired, I could think that my daughter's made me a sign telling me to run, run, run, not stop, stop, stop ::-)
Then we hit mile 10 and when I heard Elvis I knew my friend Jenn was around the corner! She works for Fleet Feet and had to work that day, but had gotten permission to stand outside the store and wait for us! I ran up to her and said something like I was going to give her a big sweaty hug. It was so nice to see her, we have been on this journey together and she ran the marathon last year, and little did I know when I was watching her then that I would run it now (I remember thinking she was a little crazy and a lot of brave for doing it). She gave Caitlin a hug too and then we were off.
I don't remember much more until the halfway point when Caitlins' parents and god mother were and my amazing friend La Tannya!! She freaked out in the BEST possible way, she started running and I thought she was going to jump the fence and join in, but she was just shaping a picture. She kept screaming, "You are doing it, you are running a marathon!"
Picture La Tannya took
Friends from out of state were tracking me, too. Cheri, Blaize, Nancy, Cecilia to name a few. All of my Sunny Gals. It was really encouraging knowing that friends were cheering me on.
There also was a group of girls that we saw a few times that were there simply to encourage others. We saw them after the race and they said its their biggest holiday. They carried so many signs. One of my favorites said "motivational sayings and such".
Then this is where it got difficult. Mile 15 was hard because mentally you think, ok, I have over 10 miles left. That's a lot. We kept with our intervals and soon we were at mile 18. Throughout training and the race I kept hearing that one you get to mile 19, you will finish. So that was my goal.
Then once we hit 20 everything after that was new territory since in training you only go up to 20.
Miles 21 and 22 were rough.
But at mile 22 I saw my family! My sister Kris and my God daughter Stella, and my Mom and Dad and Kara and Jan had taken the el and met up with the family. It was awesome to see them. The smile from Stella was enough to keep me going. Caitlin had given me the idea to take my fuel belt off to lighten my load, so I took a few cliff shots, stuffed them down my shirt and we were off.
At mile 23 was a sign that said good job on the 23 mile warm up, now all that you have left is a 5k fun run, which I thought was funny.
Later on we saw Caitlin's boyfriend and friend. Throughout the Team World Vision cheer squad was cheering us on, including our teammare Karla, and since we had our names on our jerseys many strangers cheered us on, too. We also saw Laura from our team with a Bolingbrook 121 sign.
Throughout the marathon we continued to pray for others, as we had during our other long runs. It helped to take our minds off of ourselves. I thought of Peyton, too, and the strength and courage that she has.
Praying throughout the marathon
And then we saw it, a sign that said 1 mile left. We were going to finish.
As we ran up Roosevelt, I heard my name being called by a familiar voice. It was my sister Kara again! Her and Jan had gotten a text that I would finish soon and were going to meet us at the TWV tent so they got to see me at the end, it was so wonderful to see them!
Then we crossed the finish line, the sun was shining down on us and I could feel that the holy spirit was with us. We lifted our hands up and with one stride we became marathoners! We were met with space blankets, medals and beer. It was an amazing feeling! I will never forget it.
For a video of the course, click the link below:
Back at the TWV tent I saw my husband Jim first, I gave him a huge hug. I felt a little disoriented. He steered me in the right direction.
Caitlin as and I were both introduced as running out first marathon and as my name was called, there was La Tannya with a bouquet of flowers. She hugged me and I fell into her, sobbing (and I don't cry easily). She said she was so proud of me, and that I was her hero. I didn't want to let go.
Then I was reunited with my girls and my sister Kara and brother in law Jan were there, too. I felt very blessed and loved. I saw some of my team mates, Dave, Eileen and Jeff.
It meant so much to me to have my family and friends there, both in person and in spirit. After 26 weeks of training this was like a graduation day. A rebirth of sorts, too. I will never forget all of the support I received, prayers and donations, the outpouring was amazing. I thank God for each of you, and especially for my running partner and friend Caitlin. I had expected to go this journey alone, but God had other plans.
I thought at the end of these 26 weeks I would have some more clarity about why God drew me to do this, about who I am in Christ, about a lot of things. They say the person who starts the race isn't the same as the one who finishes, and I feel that is true. I feel that I don't need all the answers now, it's a journey after all. I can embrace who I am in progress. I know that I am changed forever, and that I have become closer to God through this journey. I have sacrificed, I have let go of things, things that weren't easy to let go. Things that have haunted me for years, pieces of my past and things I needed to forgive myself for. People that no longer served my role in this life. Running is healing. Running is prayer. I know I will return to running as part of my walk with God. I could not have done any of this without Him. I want to encourage those of you who maybe think you can't do it. You can, too. I am living proof. If I can do it, YOU can.
If you asked me if I would do it again? In a heart beat. I'm already thinking about 2014.
So, am I a marathoner? YES I AM.