Similar to all big things in life, my brain is all over the place about my marathon. This blog is going to be all over the place too. It will be a bit of a reflection, a bit of a narrative, and a bit of the lessons I learned.
Lining up for the race, it didn’t really hit me that I was running a marathon. I was lined up with two friends who were also running. We were all talking. My garmin froze. I panicked for a moment. I figured out how to reset it. Before it could come back on, corral 1 was off and running. A few minutes later I was on the race course. The conversation I started with my friends continued over the first few miles. They had different race plans. They both wanted to run the first 8 and then take a walk break. I figured I would stay with them for the first 8 miles. It made the first third of the race fly by, it kept me from going out too fast, and it made the big thing called a marathon feel like a social run.
Lesson Learned: None of my training runs have been social runs. I probably should have focused my brain a little more and trusted that I could run a marathon without being entertained for several miles. I slowed my pace around mile 5 to match their pace because I was so enjoying having company. I even considered for a moment staying with them the whole race. I just didn’t want to be by myself. I’m so glad they never mentioned sticking together the whole run. I might have said yes.
After the second bridge crossing, around mile 10, they stopped to use the bathroom. I hugged them both, and I headed off by myself. The next few miles were on the boardwalk. We were running north into some crazy headwind. It was freezing that day. The northeast wind off the ocean was filled with moisture, and it was cold. These miles are my favorite from the race. I love running with a purpose. I loved running beside the ocean. I was passing people on the boardwalk. I had found my running groove.
Lesson Learned: Embrace this place in running.
As I came to the half marathon mark, we moved off the boardwalk and onto the parallel road. Through the hotels, I could see the front-runner approaching the finish line. I’ve never seen someone win a marathon. What an amazing thing to witness! As I passed the half marathon marker, Bon Jovi was blasting through the loud speakers. I have spent many nights in my life with too much alcohol, too much dancing, too much Bon Jovi, and so many wonderful memories. Many of those memories include my aunt. I started crying. I think the people on the sidelines were worried about me. I was only half way, and I was crying. It finally hit me that I was running a marathon. I was doing it.
My husband was on his bike while I was running. He went up and down the course. I saw him so many times. He was prepared in case I needed anything. I saw him at mile 13. He asked if I needed anything. I quickly responded with I’m great. I was great at that moment, but I also knew I wasn’t going to see him for another 3 miles. He was moving up the course to sit with my mom, dad, and our boys.
Lesson Learned: I need solid food by mile 14. At mile 14, I was starving. By mile 15, my stomach wasn’t happy. I was kicking myself for not taking a banana from Christian at mile 13.
As my stomach started to cramp around mile 15, my friend Rachael also appeared. I was so happy to see her. I was sick of holding my water at this point. I was starving. My stomach hurt. Just seeing her helped refocus my brain. Rachael sent Christian a text to tell him I was ready for food. As we approached 81st street (mile 15.5ish), my family was there waving. Seeing their faces was amazing. My mom and dad both tried to add layers of clothes to my outfit. Christian handed off my banana, and he took my water bottle. Rachael was wearing her fuel belt so I wouldn’t need it.
Lesson Learned: My family is awesome.
Miles 16 – 23 are a big loop. I would see my family again in the final stretch. My stomach was really hurting at this point. It was all upper cramping. I had a hard time eating the banana. I walked for a while to make sure it stayed down. I knew I needed food. From here my race changed focus. I got nervous. I become timid. I quit caring about my time, and I focused on running comfortably. At one point, I told Rachael that I just wanted to stay in cruise control mode until my stomach figured out what it was doing. I got stuck in this mode. Christian biked next to me up until mile 19. I didn’t want him to go away.
Lesson Learned: It is easy look back and see what happened. It’s easy to look at this point in the race and realize I became intimidated by the distance of this race. I was nervous about my fueling. I didn’t want to crash and not finish. I was craving comfort. This list could go on and on. I comfortably cruised through these miles.
At mile 19, my friend Heidi was waiting for me. I was so happy to see her. She was waiting for me on the last turn before we started heading back towards the finish line. I hugged her twice when I saw her.
At mile 23, I found my family again. Cole was running along the course, yelling go mama. 3.2 more miles. 3.2 more miles. Chet started waving as soon as he saw me. My mom had tears in her eyes. My dad wanted to make sure I was okay. Christian, my rolling support team, had more supplies waiting for me.
Lesson Learned: Sometimes life isn’t about pushing yourself. It is about recognizing what you need most.
The final 3 miles coasted by. My legs felt fine. I had slowed my pace considerably. My stomach was still unhappy. My lower back and shoulders ached from coughing throughout the entire race.
Lesson Learned: Even if you convince yourself you are healthy, sometimes you aren’t. The cough I tried to ignore all week took my breath away on race day.
I made the last turn on to the boardwalk around mile 25. I said goodbye to Christian and Rachael. I had done it. As I was turning to leave, Rachael looked at me and said, “Christian won’t say it, but I will. Dig Deep!” I crossed the finish line at a 9:40 pace. A minute and a half faster than I had run the last half of the course.
Lesson Learned: Trust the unknown more. I didn’t know what it would feel like to run 26.2 miles. I took it easy. I played it safe out of fear.
As I crossed the finish line, it still felt surreal. I found Christian. I hugged him over the fence, and I cried a few happy tears. I was so happy. I was so content with what my race had just given me. I was so happy I had finally ran a marathon. As we made our way home, I realized that this race had a different story that it wanted me to hear than the story I wanted to tell myself. I had visions of myself running hard, digging deep, and crossing the finish line below 4:30. What happened that day wasn’t even close. I never ran hard. I didn’t dig deep. I crossed the finish line just over 4:40.
Once the race day high wore off, I had a hard time embracing my run. I would be a liar if I told you that I was just so happy for finishing. I was mad at myself for not pushing myself. My pace on race day was slower than ALL of my training runs (even the ones on trails). The negative self talk that can sometimes show up during a run showed up a day later for me. After talking with a few close friends about it and really allowing all my thoughts to soak in, I’m really at peace with my run. Do I wish I had pushed myself? Yes! Do I wish I had embraced what I didn’t know yet? Yes. But I am happy with my race story. It wasn’t all at what I expected it to be. I thought it would teach me that I’m strong and that I can push through anything….
…but here is the thing, I already know that about myself. I know I’m strong. I have no doubt that I can push through anything. What I’m not good at accepting is support. Where I struggle in life is embracing comfort. This race gave me that lesson. The highlight of this race for me was not in finishing. It wasn’t in putting a medal around my neck. It came to me in the smiling faces along the course.
My reward for running this race was my husband. I saw him more than I can count. He was ready to support me any way he could. He stayed with me when I needed him. He left when I told him to go away. He cheered. He juggled every aspect of this race for me – just so I could do something I have always wanted to do.
My reward for running this race was my family. My parents entertained my boys in terrible weather to see me twice. They kept them all day so I could run and recover on my own. They cried tears for me. Cole was so happy supporting me. Chet just loves his mama.
My reward for running this race was my friends. I started this race with two friends from the local running group I run with – Moms run this town. It has given me endless support. My friend Rachael, who I met through that running group, ran 16 miles that day to stay by my side because I didn’t want to do it alone. My friend Heidi, who wasn’t able to run that day, took time in her day to stand along the course for a hug and a few seconds of encouragement. My phone was filled with encouragement from my friends.
I thought I would walk away from this race amazed by how much I hurt and conquered. That is not my story. I am not even sore today (and it’s not because I’m hard core. It’s because I played it safe). My marathon story is this:
In the five months I trained for this race, I carried so much grief and heartache into each run. I struggled with being a working mom. I lost two people to cancer I love and adore more than life. Ever training run was a struggle to find contentment in my heart. Race day brought me everything I needed. It gave me so much comfort. It ended this chapter of my life with a huge embrace from the people who I love. Instead of pushing and conquering, I settled in and soaked in every step, every smile, and every word of support from those around me. Race day gave me a strong foundation, not just for my next marathon (Richmond in November), but also for the rest of my life. I do not have to be strong all the time. I don’t have to aggressively conquer every aspect of life. Comfort and support are things I need to embrace in my life.
I am ready for the next chapter. I am ready for spring. I am ready to settle in and soak up the life that is around me.