Sweat, Tears, Sea
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Friedrich Nietzsche.
I did it. I ran my first full marathon. It was HARD. I’d do it again…. I will do it again.
To try to summarize a transformative experience like running your first full marathon using words is almost as hard as running a marathon itself. Since I’m still tired, I am just going to start and speak from my heart. One day before the race, my running group the L.A. Leggers had arranged for us to hear a talk from Jimmy Dean Freeman, a runner, coach, writer, and speaker who has done not just numerous marathons, but many 100 mile races. His talk was one of the most best I have ever heard. It was filled with practical advice which really helped, and it was unbelievably motivating as well.
We were probably over one hundred people in the room. He asked those of us who were doing their first marathon to stand up, and about 10 of us did. He said, “All of you are probably sitting here with people who think they know you. But the you they know today is different from the person you will be after you cross that finish line tomorrow. After tomorrow, you will no longer have an I can or I can’t. You will be a person who will choose to do something or choose not to.” He could not be more right. A few years ago, I couldn’t run a mile. I never imagined or contemplated running a full marathon until October 2014. Today, I know that in life, I will choose to dedicate the time and work required to any difficult task, athletic or not, if it means enough to me to accomplish it.
Exactly one week before the marathon on my run, I had an emotional breakdown over the decision to let my aunt go at mile 26. And then I realized that letting her go after over 10 years just meant letting go of all the sadness and regret over the circumstances of her tragic untimely death, but not letting go of her. I can still talk to her every time I’m on a run….I just had to let go of the sorrow. When I first started running, I would only hear her voice and contagious laughter after I had been running for over 1.5 hours….once I was getting depleted. Now, I’m able to see her and talk to her the second I step out of my front door for my run….I thank running for that gift. When my kids found out that I was dedicating a mile from my marathon to each person, I told them they were miles 9, 12, and 14 for their respective ages. My middle child later asked my husband if he was mile 26, and he said that no, he was mile 20. My husband then told my son about mile 26 being my aunt….that I had an aunt that passed away. I realized that I have never spoken to my kids about her. I have never shown them her picture. This person who was so impactful throughout my life from my childhood to now…. who gave me wings when I was 17 years old….. whose hands I can still feel cradling my face in the Frankfurt airport…tear-filled eyes locked on mine….. who gave me so much advice in confidence in my 20’s…. my kids don’t know her. One and half years after her death, on what would have been my aunt’s birthday…. I went into early labor in the middle of the night and my daughter was born…. this daughter who shares the same birthday as her….. I will sit her down over time and pass on the advice my aunt gave to me.
The race day….I picked up a friend from my running group and we rode the shuttle bus to the race together…. This run was probably even more emotional for her than for me for her own private reasons… and she also did an amazing job fundraising for Every Mother Counts. We met about 10 people from our L.A. Leggers pace group, and we all started together. I stayed with them until mile 16 when I saw my husband and 3 kids with a poster (picture to follow)… I gave them a quick hug and then was having a hard time keeping up with my pace group, so I decided to run the rest on my own…. My initial plan had been to try to stay with them until mile 20. I listened to music for not more than a mile…. the crowds cheering and the energy were much more motivating than any song on my playlist. At mile 18 it got harder…. by mile 20, every mile seemed exponentially harder than the last.
I had a few very generous friends offer to meet me for some miles, including the last 6, but in the end, I had decided that I wanted to do the last 6.2 on my own. Secretly, I wanted my oldest son to run the last 6 with me, but I never voiced this wish to anyone, not even my husband. I didn’t want my son to feel like he had to do this… I want him to be a teenager…. to live his own life and not his mom’s. And then about a week before the race, my 14-year-old son just out of the blue said, “Mom, I want to meet you at mile 20 and run the rest with you.” I can’t tell you what that meant to me. I don’t know how I’ve managed to raise these 3 incredible human beings… In the end, because my other kids wanted to see me at mile 16, and my husband would need time to then drop them off at home and get my oldest to me, we settled on my husband and son meeting me at mile 23.
From mile 20 – 23, it was incredibly hard…. there is no other word to describe it…not so much my legs, but having fatigue, headache, nausea… I played every mental game… I thought of the people I was dedicating those 3 miles to and kept saying I have to make it to the next dedication….I worried that I might pass out and not make it… I prayed that my husband and son would have made it to the 23 marker in the traffic….I was so happy to see them…. They ran on each side of me with my son carrying my water until just before the finish line when they had to leave the course. That last about 0.5 on my own felt like 5…I could see the finish line but it still seemed so far away….I wanted to sprint it but I couldn’t….so I just did my best to make it across one step at a time….crossing it pure exhilaration.
If you are a Facebook friend of mine, then you may know that half an hour before the race started, I GOT A TEXT WISHING ME LUCK FROM KRISTIN ARMSTRONG!!!!!! I screamed and jumped up and down and showed my friends. We had an entire text exchange pre and post marathon (screen shots to follow)…. She wished me luck…. I texted back, “This is amazing…. I’m dedicating a mile to each person and you are mile 10.” I texted her a picture of my mile 10 wristband with her name on it…. So how is it that I got a text from my guru that I have been stalking for 3 years?? Because my “heart-sharer” angel friend Jessica Patay knows her and sent her my number, asking if she would text me. What is incredible about this is NOT that Kristin Armstrong used her personal phone to text me and now I have her number (and I will not abuse it)…. What is incredible about this is that I have a friend like Jessica who knew what that would mean to me and arranged it. The text from Kristin is NOT the real gift…. having a friend like Jessica who thought to do that for me is the real gift. All the texts, messages, Facebook posts, Instagram comments from all of YOU… that is the real gift….The actual presents given to me by friends and family were not the real gift, but the WORDS that they used in the cards that went with them…. Having so many of you live track me, including some of you who don’t know me personally, but then let me know you were doing it, THAT is the real gift…. Having my virtual sole-sister Teresa run her first marathon on the same day in Austin, and then live track me for the last half mile of mine just after finishing hers and tweet me immediately saying that I “crushed it”…. THAT is the real gift….. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this, but you have touched my soul by following my journey… I am filled with gratitude.
***If you don’t know why this post is titled Sweat, Tears, Sea, then you will need to read the prior post Saltwater. My race time was 4:36:37, which is a 10:34 min/mile. My goal was under 5 or ideally 4:45, so I’m ecstatic….By the way, according to my Garmin, I ran 26.48 miles which makes it a 10:28/mile. Thank you to my angel Jessica….she has an incredible blog about motherhood and raising a special needs child with Prader-Willi Syndrome, and you can find her blog here: Confetti and Confessions. To all of you reading this…. Every person who writes a blog wants to be heard… You have heard me….I can not thank you enough.
*This post was initially published on 2/15/16.