Monday, March 25, 2013

Facing the impossible

It's been almost four months since I ran my first marathon, and practically that long since I've written a blog post. I know I never quite finished my marathon story here, but I've found it increasingly difficult to return to it. Just as I took a break from running to recover, I seemed to have also taken an unintentional break from writing and creating, too. I'm now slowly returning to everything. It is not only taking effort to build back up my running, but also my writing and creating. And even though it is challenging, these are all necessary activities for me that I hold dear to my heart. As I add them all back into my life, I'm feeling happier, less lost, and more alive.

The marathon was an incredible experience. As I've written before, the weather was crazy and my emotions overflowed. Once I started, the weather remained awful, but my emotions actually calmed. I may have been wet, and a little cold, but I had my music in one ear and I was running. I was happy.

As I ran, I was mindful to soak in the scenery and the experience, thanks to a reminder from a friend. I made sure to be present because I was running my very first marathon and this moment could never be relived. I had a strategically chosen playlist filled with songs to provide inspiration and motivation. I admired the beauty of the trees lining the road and the rolling hills ahead of me. I enjoyed the sensation of being out in the middle of the pouring rain, sheltered only by my baseball cap since my poncho didn't last long. It was quite freeing to be in the rain, not trying to rush out of it. There was no need. I was absolutely soaked.

When I reminded myself to be present (because my mind wanders quite a bit when I run), it was all a bit surreal. Especially when you get running and you find yourself forgetting that you're running. You just move through space, unaware of your legs and feet moving below you. It's magical. And I quickly found myself in that magical place. At least until mile 3.

At mile 3, my dreaded knee pain (from an over stretched IT Band) returned and I was faced with decisions that had to be made. How was I going to get through 23 more miles with this pain? Was it a sign? Did I need to quit? Would I cause irreparable damage if I continued? Tons of questions raced through my head, but I quickly felt the right decision was to keep on going. As long as I was still upright, I could keep going (wisdom collected and shared by my friend Paula). I was strong. I had battled through several unexpected setbacks and too many months of training to give up. It took courage just to line up in the face of such wild weather that morning and I wasn't about to let it all be for nothing. I was ready. I had loved ones rooting for me in that pouring rain and the support of many more in my heart. I pushed on.

From reading about and understanding my injury, I was safe to keep going. It was just going to hurt. But there were things I could do to help. Walking was less stressful on my over-stretched IT Band, so I walked up hills and through the water stations. That offered some relief, but all-in-all, the pain was always present. But I had come to far to give in to it. And I desperately wanted a 26.2 sticker for my car. So I kept going.

The time passed surprisingly quickly (not necessarily the miles). I had the obvious distractions like my music, other runners, and the rain. But I also feel the time passed more rapidly because I broke it into smaller segments as I kept track for refueling. A perfect reminder to break big tasks into smaller pieces. (When I stop to think about it, I learned a ton about life from training for and running a marathon. I definitely have more "life wisdom" to share). I drank plenty of water throughout the course even though I never felt thirsty as the sky pored buckets on us all. I even had to take two porta-potty breaks (one of which took 10 minutes because of the line).

I tried staying in touch with my husband, knowing my family would be cheering me on at both mile 10 and 20. With my iPhone tightly wrapped up under my jacket, I had to rely on Siri to dial. But I didn't have a lot of prior experience with Siri and the wind made it noisy, so ultimately I fought with Siri. At one point, I even thought I'd completely lost my music early in the race. But thankfully my music returned, but Siri did not. She actually abandoned me. I couldn't summon her and it was too wet to take out my phone. So it was difficult to let my family know my whereabouts on the course.

It was such a blessing to have my family out in that rain with me. I unfortunately don't have any pictures from my perspective during the race, but when I first saw them at mile 10, it was a magical moment. Daniel and my good friend, Michelle, were up front and cheering me on excitedly. And a little further up the road, in the middle of the grayness, I saw my mom and my two daughters with their brightly colored signs and umbrellas. Unintentionally, they all had different solid colored umbrellas (yellow, red, and green) like a bright bouquet of flowers just for me. One of my most cherished and vivid memories from the day.

I saw my family again at mile 20 at which point it was dry and sunny. The clouds broke up and the rain stopped around mile 18. At that point I was tired of being wet, but thankful the day hadn't been terribly cold. I will say that the rain did add to the experience. At one point, during one of the downpours, I couldn't help but laugh as the song "The Sound of Sunshine" played in my ear. I also remember wading through water at several flooded intersections, unable to avoid the excess water but realizing there being no need to avoid it. I was already soaked. And the rain took some pressure off the experience (although it added stress at the same time). If I didn't finish, I could blame the weather. If I did, I could be proud of overcoming yet another obstacle in my journey.

After I passed my family at mile 20, I stopped for my second/last porta-potty break, took a seat (which sounds like a good idea, but not when you have 6.2 more miles to go) and mentally prepared for the last 10K. I had run 10K before. No problem. In fact, once I got past mile 15--the furthest I'd gone in my training--I felt curious and eager to go further. On one hand, I'd never been past 15 miles, but on the other hand, I had run 11 miles before (just not after running 15 miles, but I didn't focus on that). Luckily I looked at just what I had left, and acknowledged that I had done those distances before and would be able to that day.

So at mile 20, I pushed on through my last 10K. It was the hardest. No surprise there. I was in a good amount of pain at that point, so I was walking quite a bit. The weather was clear and beautiful. The last pacer (5 hr, 30 min) was long gone, and the course was supposed to open up to traffic at 6 hours. This panicked me to no end before the race began, but not during. During the race, I was always surrounded by lots of runners. And at that point in the race, many looked "wounded" like me. But nothing was going to stop me from finishing. The final 10K course brought us to midtown/downtown Sacramento, so I had many blocks to pass before getting to the finish. It served as a very slow countdown.

In the final blocks before reaching the finish at the state capital, I rallied and found the energy to run. I wanted to do my best to finish running rather than walking. Soon after, my friend Paula came running along side me (she had already finished) and pointed out my family up ahead. I was at mile 26 and so was my beloved cheering section. The tears welled up in my eyes (as they are now) as I began to realize what I was about to accomplish. I was about to complete a marathon. 26.2 miles. Despite crazy weather, injury, and tons of self-doubt, I was going to do what I once thought was impossible. I was about to cross the finish of my very first marathon. It took me over 6 hours (6:10:38) but I ran across that finish and celebrated with the love of my family and friends, both near and far.

What started out as a crazy idea last March, turned into one of the most amazing experiences of my life. As Walt Disney has been quoted,

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible"


Janet said...

I am so very proud of you. I flirted with the idea after watching my daughter complete her marathon(well, more than flirted - actually started a training program, but never got passed 3 miles) but could never make myself do it, so I come from a place of understanding just how huge this is. Mega congratulations.

Kelly Warren said...

It's all about the finish, never about the time. Great job!

Eloisa said...

Congratulations on such an awesome accomplishment! You are an inspiration and blessing to all the lives you have touched!

Jacee said...

Finally!!! So proud of your accomplishment and your sticker! You are offically a badass! :)

Michele Bergh said...

congratulations on your accomplishment. It sounds like quite a journey and I bet it feels good to have accomplished all you did.