It still hasn’t sunk in yet…I am a marathoner.
A little over a week ago, I ran my first marathon. To think, just 2 ½ years ago, I ran my first 5K. Holy cow. My only goal that day, in June of 2010, was to finish. Now I have finished 26.2 miles.
Saturday afternoon (October 5th) was the day of the Twin Cities Marathon Expo. My friend Erin (ERINBEAR1876) from Grand Forks was coming into town and I was going to meet her and her husband at the expo. I got there earlier than they did, as I wanted to listen to a few speakers. And I’m glad I did. I learned a lot in those 2 hours about running your first marathon. I felt very prepared after listening to the beginners question and answer session. A few hours after I had been there, Erin and her husband arrived. I had not seen Erin for a months, as she lives a very long way from me, but just as I suspected, it was as if we had just seen each other last week. She is an incredible person with a HUGE heart and a reassuring smile. We took a few minutes to chat and take a few pics and then made a plan to meet up at the Olive Garden to carb load.
After dinner (of which I ate half of my fettuccine alfredo), my girls and I headed home. I put them to bed and started getting everything prepared. I am pretty Type A when it comes to planning and list making, so I had to make sure everything was checked off my list. My husband and two daughters were planning to cheer me on on race day, so I had to make sure he had everything needed for the next day. The girls and I had made signs for them to hold when they cheered, we had stocked up on tissues (for them to hand to runners) and their shirts were all set to go. After I made sure their things were set, I had to make sure all my things were set. As the weather was supposed to be 28* and sunny at gun time, I dressed in layers. I decided on running capris, a tank, my long sleeve tech tee and my lightweight jacket. I was thankful I had bought some cheap throw away gloves and I had my new headband/ear warmer as a “freebie” with my race registration. After laying everything out (and of course taking a pic), I painted my nails. I know, totally crazy, but it’s a superstition that I just can’t quit. Race Day Pink for every race.
About 10pm, I shut off the lights and prayed for sleep. It didn’t come so easily, of course. I woke up several times. And when I woke at 3am, I decided to use the opportunity and an ate a piece of peanut butter toast (extra carbs??). Fell back to sleep quite easily and awoke from my alarm at 5:30am. I had my alarm set, my phone alarm and my husband’s alarm set. I wasn’t going to miss this race. Woke up, got dressed, got the family set and had my breakfast (always a protein bar and a banana, no matter the distance) and we set out for the Metrodome.
Once we arrived downtown, it was clear I wasn’t going to get a decent goodbye and good luck, so I quick kissed my husband and girls and jumped out of the car at stop sign. The plan was to meet Erin at Gate C and I was REALLY hoping that wouldn’t be too difficult. Thankfully, I found her right away. She was with her running group chatting and laughing. It was so nice to hear the excitement of seasoned runners and to hear their plans. It really put me at ease. After a few quick photos and a stop at the bathroom (INSIDE!! No porta-potty!), we decided to make our way to the start line. Thankfully we were starting in Coral 2, no idea how we got put there, but after the finish I was ever-so-grateful that we were put there……
We placed ourselves as close to the start line at we could so were huddled together with the 3:45-4:00 hour finishers. Again, so thankful for this. When the National Anthem started, the tears started. I couldn't believe that all this hard work was finally going to be put to use.
The gun went off promptly at 8:00am and we crossed the start line at about 8:05. The race starts in downtown Minneapolis surrounded by the skyscrapers and reflective buildings. It was a gorgeous way to start. After heading out of downtown, we had a few lakes to run around. The first few miles breezed by. I was preoccupied with finding family and friends along the way and the conversation between Erin and I was great. At mile 3 I could see my husband and girls and I was feeling very good. Then at mile 7, my mom, sister and brother were there holding signs, clapping and yelling. What a motivation. And to think we had just run 7 miles, practically effortlessly. Our pace was still a consistent 11:30 running pace (about 12:30 with our little walks and potty stops). We had made a plan early on to walk through ALL water stops, most hills and just when we needed it. As we did not have a time goal in mind, we simply wanted to finish, this allowed us to enjoy the marathon a whole lot more. At this point I still had not even turned my music on. That NEVER happens.
My DH (Rob) and my girlies were at mile 3 first, we ditched our jackets at this point.
Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, Lake Nokomis, they all just flew by us.
After Lake Nokomis, my mom, sister and brother were there to cheer us again. This was mile 12. I was feeling so good that before we even got to them, I did a cartwheel, yes, as in old school gymnastics cartwheel, as in hands to feet, flipping over, cartwheel. I was really feeling great and I told them that.
This energy really carried through until about mile 14. We had just passed the halfway mark, Erin and I high fived each other, the crowds of spectators thinned out and we settled in to finish the second half. That’s when Erin mentioned her right knee/hip was bothering her so I had to admit to her that my right knee had started to feel “not right” about mile 13. Thankfully, I was still feeling pretty strong mentally and was able to block out some of the pain. And I knew my DH (Rob) and my girls would be at mile 14-15 to hug again. When I saw them, I felt worried. I knew Rob was going to ask how I was, and he did. I had to admit to him that my knee was bothering me. He told me I was strong and I could push through it. At this point there weren't any tears, but about 1 mile later, my knee started to REALLY hurt, giving out and clicking when running.
My mom, sister and brother were at mile 17 with their signs again and when I saw my mom, I completely lost it. As in SOBBING. I had planned for many things to go wrong in this race (did I mention I am a little Type A/borderline OCD??). In fact I had prepared for nearly EVERYTHING to go wrong….what would I do if I forgot Glide? What would I do if I forgot my music? What would I do if the GU upset my stomach? What would I do if they were out of Powerade? What would I do if I cramped up? Got a side ache? Felt weak mentally? I thought of everything! Or so I thought….I had NOT prepared myself for “what happens if I am in pain? If I suffer and injury?”. UGH!!!!
My mom said a quick prayer with me and touched my knee. She looked me in the eyes and said, “YOU CAN DO THIS”. I believed her. Then my baby brother, who I had run my first half marathon last summer with, decided to run a few miles with us. In his jeans! Crazy 19 year old boy, but I was SO thankful to have him.
When we got to mile 19, Rob and my girls were there. Rob grabbed my face and said “You won’t regret this, you’ve got this! Just DO IT!!”. I was an emotional mess at this point. There were some pretty tough hills coming up and I didn’t feel mentally prepared for them. I was hurt and couldn’t focus. I was losing control and couldn't stop the negativity in my head. At this point my brother decided he was going to continue running with us. He was just what we needed to get us through.
Once we got to the bridge over the Mississippi, my mental weakness disappeared. The trees and the river were so beautiful, I prayed as we ran over that bridge. And at that moment I really felt His presence and calmness spread through me. We had to walk quite a bit, and my knee was KILLING me, but my mind was focused again and I was feeling stronger. I knew at mile 21 my mom and sister and my good friends and their 2 girlies would be there. This gave me the energy I needed to pull through. When we got to mile 20, just before the BIG hill (they call it the St. Thomas hill), they were all there. Their smiles and cheers helped move us forward. And so I decided on another cartwheel!! Erin and I were doing this and even though pain was really setting in, excitement was setting in too! We were still ahead of the sweep bus/sag wagon, and we. were. doing. this!!! When we got to mile 22 and the hills were nearly done, my baby brother had to say goodbye. He had run 5 miles with us. What a blessing he was/is.
At mile 23, my mother-in-law and father-in-law were there with my DH and girlies. It was nice to grab a quick hug as we walked through that water stop.
I decided that even though we only had 3 miles left, I needed another GU (I had had 5 previous to this). I am so glad I did because the last 3 miles were the HARDEST of the entire race.
At some point along the way, Erin grabbed my hand and looked at me. Words weren’t needed at that moment, I knew she was thinking and feeling what I was….”YES, we are doing this and YES, we are going to finish”.
And finish we did. We rounded a corner and saw the Cathedral on the left with it’s bells ringing and the finish line at bottom of the hill. We decided to just run from there, nonstop and to empty our tanks. In the last quarter mile, I felt no pain. The only thing I felt was pride.
And as I crossed the finish line and they said my name, I lost it. I turned around, saw Erin running through too and we collapsed into each other’s arms in victory. This race was written like a storybook for me. These words cannot even describe how incredibly proud I am of us, of myself. I worked very hard for 18+ weeks to finish this, and I did, with a terribly painful knee and all. I was so fortunate to be able to run with Erin and I could NOT have done it without her. What a blessing she is to me.
At the finish, we both got our medals and our funny space blankets wrapped around us. I kept saying “I can’t believe this is real!!!” and one of the volunteers looked at me and said “YES, it’s real! You just finished a marathon!”. WOW!!! We also both got our knees wrapped with ice and then we headed out to find our families.
This marathon was more than a physical victory. It was a personal victory and a testament to my hard work and dedication. Running has helped me beat depression and weight gain. I have maintained a weight loss of 40lbs and am working toward losing another 30. Running has provided me an outlet. Therapy if you will. And it has allowed me to grow, to discover who I am and what I’m made of.
To quote my favorite blogger and inspiration, Ben Davis, “If you want to do it, all you have to do is do it”. And I truly believe that. DO LIFE!
If you don’t know about Ben Davis, stop by his website (bendoeslife.tumblr.com) and check out his video (http://youtu.be/8SbXgQqbOoU).