I am truly grateful for the GIFT of running. For my healthy body. For my strong heart. For the wonderful friends it has brought into my life. I am grateful to have such a passion – one that is not only essential to my well being and to my inner balance, but one that is also good for my physical health. No matter how much I struggled that day, and I was sure to struggle, I would come out on top. I would come out a stronger, happier, more alive version of myself. This is one of the most valuable lessons of the marathon. It is about the journey, not the destination. It is about how you appreciate the highs and grow through the lows. It’s about how you handle the toughest moments and celebrate your victories no matter how tiny they may seem in that moment. It’s about the people in your heart – the people who you love and who love you – your “pack.” It’s about so much more than crossing a finish line with a certain time on the clock.
I’ll be honest though, I wasn’t arriving at the start line that day feeling my very best at all. I was off emotionally – really off – and trying to collect myself, clear my head of the things that were bugging me, and cheer myself up before the race even started. Needless to say that wasn’t how I wanted to be feeling going into a 26.2 mile race I had trained so hard for. But it was what it was and right away I knew that the only person who was in control of me was me. So I stood there with my good friends so near to me and I reminded myself:
This is who I am.
This will not – and in fact cannot – go badly.
This is my passion and a privilege.
And then it was time to go.
The first 8 miles of this race are pretty much all hills. I didn’t tell myself to run a particular pace on them. My plan was to have it feel easy through the hills and really through the first 10 miles. It just needed to feel SO easy. I didn’t look at my watch much at all. I wanted to dial into myself, to not lose myself, and for it to feel effortless. I was just “going for a run” at that point – no racing, no pushing, no hurting. As I ran along it was just how I wanted it to be – I felt like I was holding myself back. I felt completely in control. I was having fun and soaking it all in.
7:37, 7:50, 7:19, 7:06, 7:28, 7:20, 7:46, 7:18, 7:24, 7:10
Miles 9 and 10 bring us into and through Georgetown, which is a really special part of the city for me. This was my 4th time running MCM and this is absolutely always a favorite part of the race for me. I have a lot of great life memories in and around Georgetown (I went to high school there, I lived and worked there, my husband proposed to me there…) and it always just brings a smile to my face when I arrive there. From here we loop around by the Kennedy Center and then make our way towards Haines Point, which is a very dreaded part of the course for most people because it can be extremely windy even on the nicest of days. Suffice it to say, the day before a hurricane the winds were INSANE on Haines Point this year. Once I realized just how strong they were, I decided that I would not fight it. I was not going to spend a ton of energy pushing against the wind. I decided I would rather slow down and let it feel easy than suffer so soon in the race. Ducking behind people when I could, I eased up and did not worry about my pace. I would need the energy for later, when things would likely be even tougher than this.
Miles 11-17 (Haines Point)
7:28, 7:28, 7:29, 7:41, 7:43, 7:37, 7:26
When I finally turned out of Haines Point I was relieved – I could turn my jets on in just two more miles. I was excited because my legs felt amazing. I had survived a really tough 7 miles and my pace hadn’t slowed all that much through there even though I wasn’t pushing to hold it. About halfway through the 18th mile though a wave of nausea washed over me. It was the strangest feeling – one I had never before experienced while running. I was very aware of it but it went away as quickly as it came so I decided not to worry about it.
And then, about 10 seconds later, I knew I was in trouble. I needed a bathroom IMMEDIATELY. There was a water stop ahead and I was so grateful because that meant there would be porta potties and I could make it quick. But there were no bathrooms to be found. None. I stopped running and walked, feeling so worried but knowing there was nothing I could do except move forward. My awesome friend Maddie was spectating the course and had hopped in with me to see how I was doing. I told her I was really worried – I really COULD NOT RUN in the situation I was in. She helped me stay focused and I tried to run again. Nope, not happening. Finally I just got desperate. I crossed the 18 mile marker and saw a tree off to the side of the road. I cannot believe I did this – but I literally ran behind that tree on the downtown mall of DC and took care of business in broad day light in the middle of the marathon. I have no idea if anyone could see me, but I didn’t care. I knew I lost time but I tried not to worry about it. I hoped my stomach would feel better and tried to find my pace again. The next few miles were a major struggle for me. My stomach did not feel better, in many ways it felt worse, but it was okay enough to keep running. My pace didn’t feel natural and my breathing was way off and LOUD. I got back into the 7s for miles 20-21 over the not-so-fun bridge but towards the end of the bridge I felt really off again. My stomach was really unhappy with me. I couldn’t believe it but as I neared the end of the bridge I literally stopped – dead in my tracks. I stood there and said out loud to myself:
Hold it together, J.
Do not give up.
You have a marathon to finish today.
7:52, 8:41, 7:49, 7:50, 8:07
I willed myself, out loud, to keep going. I told myself that if I needed a bathroom again, I would deal with it. I mean heck I had already done pretty much the most embarrassing thing possible on the downtown mall, how much worse could it be!?! I would take it one step at a time and deal with it if and when I had to.
I came into Crystal City and heard the cheering of my lululemon wonderfuls. The sound of their energy and music and support from up ahead brought tears to my eyes in the best way possible. I had been looking forward to this moment – to seeing them and hearing them and feeling them. It was an amazing moment. Their awesomeness lifted my spirits and helped me find my wings again. They helped me remember why I was there. Because I love it. Because I am strong. Because I am passionate. Because I am blessed. Because I am not a quitter.
|Mile 23 Rejuvenation ~ Photo by Bobby Gill|
I felt like I soared through there, and when that mile was completed I only had 3 more to go. And then my stomach lurched on me again. I scanned my body and knew my legs had so much more in them than they were giving. My legs felt amazing. They were not cramping or exhausted at all. The trouble was with my stomach. It felt so very off. I felt like I was jogging the last three miles of the race, and though I knew I was coming through triumphant and strong with a new PR on a tough day, it was a strange feeling to finish with so much more to give in so many ways. I have now had GI issues at mile 17/18 for three out of my last four marathons! It is embarrassing but it is a reality for me. One that I have to figure out how to correct. Soon.
As I ran those last 3.2 miles, I began to reflect on the day already – on the race and on how I had handled all of it. I felt proud of myself – there were so many moments during those last 8 miles when I really could have thrown in the towel. Goodness knows so much of me wanted to quit – GI issues are zero fun to deal with and losing so much time because of it was mentally SO HARD for me to deal with. I wanted to hold my head up high though. I told myself – just keep running – who cares how fast or how slow you have to go – just keep running.
8:22, 8:28, 8:40
When I crossed the finish and made it up past the medals, I saw Dorothy right away. She gave me a huge hug and told me she was so proud of me. It could not be a bad day, no matter how hard it was. I PR’d on a tough day – I toughed it out – and I should be proud. And I was.
|friends in running & in life|
No marathon is ever easy. They are ALL hard. Harder than hard. But no matter how you do – no matter what the time on the clock is when you cross the finish line – you are triumphant. You come out of it a stronger person. You learn things about yourself and about your character.
On Sunday I learned that I can endure pretty much anything. That perspective matters more than you realize most days. Reality is always going to be whatever it is going to be, but we make choices every day about how we see it and about how we deal with it.
I am proud of the way that I handled things on Sunday. I finished the race in 3:25:20. This was a 9 minute PR for me and 16 minutes faster than I ran the same course one year ago. It was my 10th marathon. I was the 115th female to cross the finish and 13th in my age group.
I am grateful for and proud of those stats, but MUCH more than that I am beyond grateful for my journey in life, and for the fact that running marathons is a part of the path I am choosing to take.