Well….I FINISHED THE DAMN THING!!!
After a long training cycle, multiple curve balls and every feeling in the book I am officially a marathoner!!!
If you’ve followed along on my journey (HERE and HERE). You’ve been the gambit with me and on this roller coaster. I’ve smiled, cried and wanted to quit throughout so of course the race was no different. I have NEVER cried during a race until Sunday. I had 2 close calls and then when I saw my dad at around mile 19 I bawled. But before I get to that I guess I should back up a bit…….
The days leading up to the race I was weirdly calm. I felt as prepared as I could and wasn’t having trouble sleeping from the pre-race jitters. I was excited to just get to the start line and I was ready for it to be here. Normally I am a ball of nerves and can’t seem to focus on anything else but this time around I was able to do my day to day with very little marathon distraction (who am I?!?!?)
The night before I got all of my fuel Nuun packed up, race outfit laid out and everything charged. I even hit snooze the morning of the race for an extra 10 min before hopping out of bed. The whole vibe was chill and I took it as a good sign of things to come. Got to the start line with plenty of time and didn’t have to pee! I’m telling you it was a race morning out of a fairy tale and I couldn’t have been happier.
Getting into the racing fences though the omens started to change….
We were delayed about 11 minutes due to a police incident on the local bridge—I literally turned to the runner next to me and said well that’s not a good sign. I thought it was funnier than she did obviously but that’s ok, not everyone finds me as hilarious as I do *wink wink*
After that hiccup we were off and rolling right along. I actually felt really strong other than a side cramp around mile 8 that I couldn’t shake. After the 10k mark it got HOT. Like desert hot even by Florida standards. The temps went from a comfortable mid to lo 70’s and no sun to mid 80’s and full sun REAL QUICK. Coming up to the half marathon mark I was starting to feel it a bit but told myself to keep pushing and keep going.
Come mile 15/16 though the train fell off the track, the sun burned like a thousand fires and I cursed myself….ok maybe slightly dramatic but for real mile 15/16 was not a good time for me.
I had to slow down and walk while trying my hardest not to cry. It may sounds silly but I felt so defeated. All of the feelings that I’ve been fighting against since I got sick a few weeks ago just hit me. I told myself to keep going and continued to walk/run for the next few miles. I met a few ladies along the way that helped keep me going. We all commiserated how hot it was, I met a fellow RADRabbit and talked to a lady named Katy who was doing her SEVENTEENTH marathon. We would all play walk/run tag basically the rest of the race.
We all cheered each other on and told each other to just keep pushing through. I think it’s safe to say that everyone took solace in the fact that we were all struggling in the heat regardless of how fit we were or how hard we trained, the weather just wasn’t going to let up.
Now back to mile 19….I was lucky to have my dad there for support and texted him I was out of water and needed more. As soon as I saw him I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. I just continued to walk/run and cry. He told me I could do whatever I wanted and he would support me; I know it broke his heart to see me cry. Everything in me wanted to give up but I couldn’t bring myself to actually walk off the course. After everything I needed to prove to myself I could finish even if it looked absolutely nothing like I had planned.
(Prior to my meltdown when I actually felt decent!)
After releasing all my emotions on my poor father I grabbed the water, wiped my tears and ran on. Almost on cue one of my friends from high school who had done the half appeared after nowhere and ran with me for a bit and gave me a pep talk. It helped more than I think she even knew, just to have that someone who got the struggle made me feel like it was all ok even if that feeling only lasted for an eighth of a mile.
The rest of the miles were mixed with cursing, laughs and pure hard headedness to give up. I saw a pacer and ran with him on and off for a bit. His entire group fell apart and he said that pretty much all the pace groups fell apart in the heat. One runner and I started laughing at what we had planned for our goal times and what they would be instead because at that point everyone was delirious and ready for it to be over. If we didn’t laugh we would have cried again.
I took the time to just soak it all in, thank all the police and volunteers and cheer on everyone around me. At that moment I truly could feel the community around me. It didn’t matter about anything other than this race and getting to the finish line, I put on my coaching hat and just encouraged anyone I could to keep digging. It helped distract me from my own misery and put a smile on my face to realize no matter how this was going I was going to finish come hell or high water.
(Me thinking "Are we there yet?")
I also started thinking throughout the race about how true it is to have a “Why” for a marathon. I don’t believe just the want to do a marathon is a strong enough reason. Even if we may not be able to put our “Why” into words, we feel it and know why we want to do one deep deep down. That is what gets you through the weeks of training, the early mornings and the late nights—the nitty gritty WHY we do what we do.
I couldn’t have gotten through the race without thinking of my why’s. There wasn’t just one thing or one reason, I drew from every part of me : my daughter, my journey the past 7 years, my struggles with the pandemic, my parents, doing this for me, not quitting on something, and knowing that if I gave up on myself here and now I would always questioned if I could have finished. At the end of the day my body wasn’t giving up but my mind was and I am tougher than that—I wasn’t going to let my brain control me—Not this time.
With only .2 to go I came up on another runner walking, she looked down-trotted and tired just like the rest of us. The human, coach and people person in me couldn’t leave her. I asked her if she had it in her to jog it in, she gave me a weak smile and said I don’t know. I basically didn’t give her an option and told her we were jogging it in together, we came too far and we were finishing strong. I said out-loud multiple times that we got this and even though she probably thought I was crazy we continued and ran through that finish line together, sharing a congrats and grabbing our medals with big smiles all around. It was probably the proudest I’ve ever been of a complete stranger.
THAT is what running is about, not just yourself but lifting others up and getting everyone over the line.
This is our finish line picture and I can honestly say this is the proudest I’ve ever been of a finish line shot. THIS is why I do what I do and why I love to encourage others. I cried again looking at this photo and reliving that moment when she looked at me and said congrats and I was able to say it right back to her. Two runners, to strangers, and two strong women that didn’t give up and gave it everything we had. It didn’t matter who else we were in that moment—the photographer captured us as marathoners.
People have been asking me how it feels to be a marathoner and I’ve been answering with “It’s so weird!”.
The truth is I've had an entire mixed bag of emotions. On one hand I am SO dang proud of myself and then on the other hand I can’t lie and say that there wasn’t some disappointment and what if’s that lingered.
What if it hadn’t gotten hot?
What if I hadn’t gotten sick?
Am I still a marathoner even though I walked a ton?
Should I be embarrassed to admit I wanted to quit?
While I believe everyone who does a marathon is a marathoner I am definitely hard on myself. I think it’s only natural looking at yourself to be more critical because we can’t always see ourselves clearly. I can see undoubtedly how hard my athletes work, how much people put into their training and I am not clouded by anything—I can see the facts for what they are and have no problem telling them that there minds are lying to them and they should be PROUD as heck!!!! But when it comes to me I tend to let what I “think” overpower what I know to be true.
It took seeing that finish line photo to really let myself believe that I was a marathoner even though I didn’t race like I wanted. It didn’t matter that I cried, walked or cursed. All that mattered is I kept going. I hope everyone I cheered on made it to the finish line and got that moment of “heck yes!”.
I will always say this and forever preach it: It doesn’t matter our pace, our distance, or how we get over that finish line. It’s the resilience and faith that we have within ourselves that makes us runners.
I am practicing what I preach and letting myself feel darn proud of my marathon and I am excited to have another already on the books for 2023 (NYC I’m coming for you). For now I’m going to rest, recover and take it one day at a time. I have no firm plan on when I’ll lace up and head out for a run again and I’m not setting a limit on the time I take. Running will be waiting for me and when I’m ready the roads will welcome me back like I never left.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me through this whole thing: my friends (both real and Instagram ones!), my sister, my athletes for texting me and encouraging me, and most importantly my husband and my parents. Without them I couldn’t do what I do and I wouldn’t have made it through this cycle/race.
Cheers to all!
One Proud A$$ marathoner