I know the Ogden marathon was nearly two months ago. I can't even tell you how many times I've constructed this post in my head. I'm pretty sure I was even writing it as I ran the dang thing. To say that running this marathon was THE hardest thing I've ever done would be an understatement. When I ran my first marathon (7 years ago), I cried when I crossed the finish line. I hurt. I was sore. I was relieved that those 26.2 miles were behind me. But crossing that finish line 7 years ago didn't hold a candle to how I felt crossing the finish line this time around. I didn't just shed a few tears. I completely broke down. After crossing the finish line, I stumbled to find my husband and kids, crumpled into my husbands proud arms, and told him that I am NEVER doing that again. As I cried those words, somewhere in the back of my mind even I knew they weren't true. But I've never pushed myself as hard mentally and physically as I did on May 21, 2011. And as I'm sitting here today, on July 11, 2011, I can finally wrap my brain around the thought of training for another.
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know a little about my personality. Tell me I should slow down, and you can bet I'll try to go faster. Tell me to stop running, and I'll run longer. Tell me I can't and I'll kill myself to prove that I can. When I FIRST started training, I let you all in on a little secret...that it was my goal to someday qualify for the Boston Marathon.
My training was full of bumps and bruises. I fell several times. I was forced to take a month off running to heal from a nasty injury. I was pretty sure there was NO way I could meet my goal pace. But without admitting anything out loud, I still hoped it was possible.
The day before the marathon, I didn't feel mentally prepared. A few friends and I headed up to Ogden, UT to pick up our packets. We ate dinner, we started getting pre-race jitters. And then the normal pre-race talk began. Are you ready? What's your goal pace? And without thinking, I started admitting out loud that I really hoped to qualify for the Boston Marathon. For me, admitting that I hoped it would happen was pretty much like signing a contract with myself. It was going to happen.
On the morning of the race, I was more than a little nervous. My body actually felt great. Better than it had in months. But I had new socks. A new shirt. New GU to try. An energy drink for mile 20. All things I'd NEVER tried in training (which is a big no-no for racing). But the only newbie I was really concerned about was my shoes. I'd bought my new Newton Running shoes only a few weeks before...not enough time to break in this kind of shoe.
Newton Running shoes are designed to force you to run on the forefoot/midfoot. Awesome shoes. After reading Born To Run , I wanted to find a shoe that forced me to run this way without going barefoot. But I really needed more time to break them in. I prayed that I'd be okay.
One thing I've learned with running is that things NEVER go as planned. We got to the start line, and I got my iPod ready. I stuck my ear buds in, pressed play, and waited. And waited. Silence. My music (that I'd charged and tested the night before) wasn't working. Looked like I'd be running 26.2 to the sound of my own thoughts. Not quite the motivation I'd hoped for.
The race started, and I felt great. I settled in to a good pace, and looked at my Garmin way more often than necessary to make sure I was fast enough. The first half flew by. I was pacing for a 3:30 finish at the halfway point. I tried to ignore the increasing burn in my calves (from running on the forefoot). I saw my brother-in-law and searched for my husband and kiddos. They'd gotten stopped on their way up the canyon and just missed me. Disappointed, I kept going.
I was so focused on running that I honestly don't remember noticing the beauty of the course. Later, my sis-in-law asked me if I remembered coming out of a canyon and running around a lake. I seriously had no idea I'd run by a lake. All I saw was my trusty Garmin, runners in front of me, and the road in front of me (although I didn't even see that very well...at one point I completely ran through a pot hole...one foot was soaked through, but luckily my new socks were smart wool running socks...it dried in no time)!
At mile 23, I finally saw the four faces I'd been dying to see. My kids (still in their jammies), and my husband, all with huge smiles and cheers. I stopped, I hugged and kissed my husband, and he pushed me back onto the course. At this point, I remembered why I was running. My kids were watching. They were so proud of their mama. In their minds, no matter what time I finished, I would be "the winner." But someday I would be able to tell them how hard I worked to finish that race. There were gallons of blood, sweat, and tears back home on the roads I'd trained on. The race was much more than race day.
Running has always been spiritual for me. Something about working hard in this life so that we can cross that eternal finish line knowing we gave it our all. Life has so many bumps in the road. But as with running, each bump and obstacle we overcome only makes us stronger. I knew that if I finished this marathon, I could do anything.
Right after passing my family, I hit a serious wall. I wanted nothing more than to walk. I wanted to be done. For a brief moment, I didn't care if I met my goal. I wanted to hop in the car with my husband and go home. And then a thought popped into my mind that my family was praying for me. I looked down at my watch (for the gazillionth time that day) and saw that I had 18 minutes to finish the last 2 miles if I wanted to make it in 3 hours 40 minutes. So I ran. Those 18 minutes were the most painful 18 minutes of my life. I crossed the finish line and broke down. 3 hours 39 minutes and 55 seconds. 5 seconds to spare.
I hope to run in the Boston Marathon next April. If I'm able to register I will...but since I BARELY qualified, I may not even get the chance. But I did it. And yes, I would do it that way again. The race left my calves severely injured (thanks to my new shoes which I will slowly build up to wearing next time around), and my body and mind exhausted. I realized that after child birth, it's not the sleep deprivation that makes you so tired. It's the physical exertion. I felt like I'd just given birth after the race.
When talking to my mom later, she told me that she'd prayed for me specifically several times during the race. I knew my family was praying for me, and those prayers are what got me through. Because at that point? My legs sure as heck couldn't. Another lesson learned. Prayer is real.
I know I'm probably giving myself more credit than I should. Some would laugh that a 3:40 marathon time is nothing to brag about. But I think I would feel the same way if I'd had the same experience finishing in 5 hours if that had been my goal. The mind is very powerful. If you set a goal to do something, work to achieve it, and never doubt yourself, you CAN do anything. I can do ANYTHING. I'm excited to see what the future holds. I will definitely run more marathons. And I think it's safe to say that I'll try to qualify for Boston each time. And I know it's also safe to assume that more things than having my music not work could go wrong next time. But like I've said before, obstacles only make us stronger and better the next time around. So here's to the future!
And as always, happy running!