26.2. I woke up Sunday morning confident and secure. After all, I was preparing for my very first marathon. While I could have trained harder, I felt strong, empowered, ALIVE. As we made our way to the start line, the excitement of the masses gathering intensified. The winners were all in the front in shorts and t-shirts while us mere mortals were all bundled up in tights, jackets, hats and gloves.
Gun goes off and the masses begin running. Some will have a great race, some will not, some will cry at the end as this will have been a first for them as it will be for me. I ran with heart - I was strong. As we came around the finish line for the half marathoners, everyone cheered. The announcers yelled and the crowds cried at seeing their loved ones come in.
It was at this time that I realized my journey was just beginning. I was able to share the first part of my journey with 2,000 runners, now I share my experience with less than 300. The roads were filled with half marathon runners leaving as their race was done. Embracing their family members, celebrating.
I went around my first bend after mile 13.1 and it was silent. No crowds, no cheers, no thumping or even the sound of breathing close by. I was alone and running for my life. I stayed strong and confident, until mile 17. I never expected "the wall" to find me there. It did. By mile 21 the stiffness in my lower back and hips was excruciating. I was in enough pain I had made peace with taking a do not finish and having someone drive me to the finish line. Just as I looked around for a police officer to help me, I found a convenience store. I stumbled in looking for some advil. I found a nearby bench to try to open the packet of pain relief and realized I was shaking uncontrollably.
The temperature had dropped more than 10 degrees and my body temp dropped further. I decided to begin walking until I found a police officer to drive me back. I was alone. Battling my demons. Wanting to quit. I was in so much pain and why. I was not certain.
I walked for about 20 minutes when the advil allowed me to begin to wobble to the next water stop where I had decided I would find a ride back to the race start. As I approached the water station with police officers, the fans that were standing out there handing us water were cheering me to go on. I was doing great they said. I knew I was not but felt I could not let them down now. They were standing there for me - to give me a glass of water - to support me and to cheer for me. They did not know me but for that one moment in time, they were my family.
I continued running and with every water stop and every word of encouragement I continued to wobble to the end. I came across a friend who was also not having a good race. She had decided she was walking to the finish. I could join her.
It was then that I realized I had signed up for the race with a close friend who at the 11th hour could not make the race. She had convinced me to sign up with her to help her get a PR of sub 5 hours. I looked down at my clock at the 24th mile and realized that if I gave it my all, I could make it - I could make it for her. I fought and struggled. I ran with others who were in as much pain as I was in. We brought each other in. I never knew that it was here that I would find my meaning of the race. The meaning of pain and endurance. It was at the end when finding not the winners of the race, but the strong fighters. The ones that will not quit.
I finished at 4 hours 59 minutes and 00 seconds. I did not meet my expectations to say the least (which was a 4h:30min race). My arrogance which I had mistaken for self confidence was broken. I was humbled and destroyed. I ran at the end for my friend in mind and spirit to break her PB but deep in me, I was shattered. That was not my race. It was not the race it was supposed to be.
I was flooded with what if's and decided to put those to rest. I have reflected over my experience over the last few days. In the spirit of one very wise friend, today, "March Forth" I will march forth and let these demons go. I will be proud. Proud that I have shown my children I am a strong mother, proud that through terrible pain I ran in the spirit of a friend and proud that I have found the strength to carry on. I will run again. I will climb that mountain again and again until its "my race".