The Little Marathoner that Could
January 27, 2013 § 1 Comment
Leaving the past behind me, this time around I was determined in a different way than the times before. No pressure. No stress. Just me, my running and 26.2 miles to conquer. Given my track record, this distance had become somewhat of a nightmare for me. A self-inflicted nightmare, but a nightmare nonetheless. Not this time. This time I owned my running. I took control of my training and stayed strong and happy.
Four months of running happiness…while training! This was a foreign feeling to me. In 2011, while in search of a new PR, I had lost myself and my passion for running. I had become so focused on improving that I actually did the opposite. I put so much pressure on myself that I crumbled. I was not going to let that happen again. I promised myself – and my concerned husband – that this time would be different. And boy, was it!
My training runs were so successful and strong. Week after week I continued to build my miles and strength, all while maintaining my focus on staying relaxed and happy. It sounds corny, but I found peace with myself and it helped guide me through my most successful marathon training yet.
The week of the race I was on cloud nine. Friends and family were all wishing me good luck and I took every opportunity I had to tell them how happy and excited I was. I didn’t know how much self-actualization could impact me, but words of affirmation from myself and others really made difference and provided me with an energy I hadn’t experienced before during a marathon.
The morning of the race I woke up feeling ready. I had purchased “warm zone” tickets, which came with priority parking so we didn’t have to leave the house super early. That meant I could take my time, cut up my pop tarts (which are now my long distance running fuel of choice) and get dressed before heading downtown to the start line of the marathon. (I like that the start lines for the full and half are in different locations now because there’s not as much traffic to navigate through.)
The warm zone was…interesting. Yes, it was warmer than being outside, but since it was held in the lobby of a hotel, the draft coming in from outside and the fact that the entire floor was made of cold tile, it was still quite chilly where we were. After finding a space to sit away from the doors, I only had a little bit of downtime before needing make my way to the corral I had been assigned to. Once I said goodbye to Jake and made it into the crowd of runners, I heard the announcer say that all of the runners were going to start at the same time. No wave starts?! It sounded crazy at the time, but it went smoother than I thought it would. And then…I was off!
I stayed focused, but kept my pace steady and relaxed. I was a little worried that my excitement would lead me to going too fast right out of the gate, but mile after mile, I felt great. At the very first support stop, a group of teenagers had come out to cheer everyone on. One girl in particular – or least what she said – stuck with me for the entire race. She held out her hand for a run-by high five and as I approached her and reached out my hand she said one thing to me: Oh yeah! Two small words, but it was the way she said it that made me laugh and then it was stamped in my mind for miles to come. It was almost like having the Kool-Aid Man cheering me on throughout the race.
Seeing Jake with his crazy “Mean Girls” reference sign made me laugh on numerous occasions on the course. Mile after mile, I kept smiling and relishing every moment of the event. I saw family and friends at mile 9, 13 and 19 which helped me keep that smile going. By mile 21 I was starting to slow down and I finally decided to take a couple of walk breaks. My body wasn’t too happy with the last pop tart that I kinda forced myself to eat, so to avoid getting sick, the walk breaks became necessary.
The last few miles were lonely. There wasn’t much to look at other than apartment complexes and asphalt. That, and some creepy dude taking pictures with his cell phone even though he wasn’t cheering anyone on. It was during these miles that my mantra “I’ve got this” came in handy. When I was in the final stretch, I saw Jake holding a sign with a picture of Ryan Gosling on it. (If you haven’t seen some of the absolutely ridiculous “Hey girl” memes, I encourage you to take a moment sometime to look it up.) I laughed so hard, I thought I was going to pee my pants – well, skirt if we’re being technical! That gave me the boost I needed to power through the last quarter mile. As I headed into the finish chute I felt like I had picked up my pace to end strong, but to be honest, my legs were so tired that I’m not really sure if they were moving any faster. Regardless, I felt myself smile as I crossed the finish line then I looked down at my watch. I had done it. Not only did I finish, but I had a new PR by 3:03! I had cut three minutes off my best time! After getting my medal I walked through the finisher’s area and I could feel the tears forming. Instead of the painful tears of disappointment, this time they were tears of elation. What a day!
And that, my friends, is the story of the little marathoner that could. After my DNF in January 2012, I wasn’t sure if I would ever try to run another marathon, but I am so glad I did. This was an amazing experience for me and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Even if I hadn’t earned a PR, I would be just as happy with how it ended. I am so thankful for everyone who has been there for me throughout my training. Your support was instrumental in getting me across that finish line.