Sunday, July 24, 2011

Why a Marathon? Another Reminder...

At 6:00a.m. this morning, I began my quest to complete marathon #3, a challenge that I thought I would never be able to conquer. The past two weeks preceding this marathon were no different than the others, unfortunately, as I was plagued with knee pain. This time it was accompanied with some hip and lower back pain. Thus, I vowed to take it easy after my 10k last weekend. I allowed myself to rest as needed this week which meant no running for three days while enjoying a massage and sleeping late in the mornings. However, the pain continued just one day before the marathon and I was uncertain of my racing future. (I am starting to wonder if this pain is a sign for me to slow down to physically and mentally prepare myself for race day because I think otherwise I would just keep going.)

The Carrollton Marathon was over a two-hour drive from our house so we spent the night in a hotel and woke up at 4:00a.m. to head over to the race. I was following my usual pre-race routine of stretching, meditating, multiple bathroom breaks, and kisses from Sylvester when I realized I forgot to put on deodorant. Epic fail!! I told my husband that there was no way that I was running 26.2 miles in the heat without it. (I get funky on 5-mile runs in 20 degree weather!!) It was 20 minutes from start time but I begged my husband to take me to look for some. After two failed attempts at gas stations, we decided to get back to the race. While in the car, we searched for anything remotely close to deodorant. We found some hand sanitizer and my husband told me to use it since it kills bacteria and bacteria is what makes you get stinky. (My husband's theory, not mine, but I heeded the advice.)

We arrived back at the start line at 5:58a.m. WHEW, close call!! I began the race feeling nervous about my knee and the fact that I didn't get to use the restroom at least one last time. (I usually go at least five times before the race, this time I only went twice.) However, I knew that the show must go on! I started out running the first four miles close to an 8:00 minute pace. My knee was feeling good so I went with it and ran a pace that felt comfortable. I started running 7:35-7:45 miles and at mile 13, I realized that I was on pace to run under 3:30. I continued with that pace despite my stops at mile 6 and 15 to drop some "kids" off. My stomach seemed queasy for some strange reason. I also realized that my husband's theory of hand sanitizer as deodorant might be working after all, so I used more at the restroom stops! = ) Around mile 19, I started to lose my thunder and my pace was dropping to 8:15, 8:40, and it kept going down. The heat was exhausting. I was so hot and dehydrated, I just couldn't seem to drink enough. This constant flow of water and Gatorade made my belly feel like it was going to bust! Not to mention, my legs were fatigued and I started to feel pain in my legs and on the top of my foot. At one point, I remembered thinking that every muscle in my lower body ached...(well, at least that is what I told myself.) At mile 19, 20, 21, and 22, I asked myself why a marathon wasn't 20 miles, or 21 or 22 or 23 for that matter. I just wanted it to be over with. I was miserable and I kept asking myself why I even wanted to run this damn thing. (Note: Around mile 14, I was telling myself how much I love marathons and I couldn't believe how fast the time was going by. I was enjoying the scenery and just happy to be there. Funny, how my tune changed.) I had to make one final stop at mile 24 to drop more "kids" off and I struggled the last couple of miles. A fellow runner reminded me that we had just 2 miles to go and that I had to finish strong, words that I needed to hear!!

As I pushed myself those last miles, I began to fall in love with the marathon all over again. I thought about the physical and mental challenges that a marathon brings. I recalled the months of training and preparation that lead up to that day and the sense of accomplishment when you finish. I also remembered the camaraderie and support from fellow runners on the course which is remarkable.

As I came closer to the finish line and I saw my husband and our, dog Sylvester, I was ecstatic! When I was about 200-300 meters from the finish line, I realized that I was just seconds from my previous marathon time. So, I pushed it, and ended up finishing at the exact same time as my last marathon (at least unofficially according to my Garmin and the race clock, the official results have yet to be posted.) As I crossed the line, I felt so humble, yet so proud. (However, I won't lie, after that initial rush, I felt HOT, SWEATY, NAUSEOUS, TIRED, and THIRSTY! I just wanted to sit down and eat my Popsicle!)

Overall, it was a great small race with awesome volunteers and runners. I was originally leery about the 3 loops for the course. However, I became fond of it because it allowed me to count down loops rather than miles, well, at least initially! = ) I also appreciated the fact that I knew what to expect after the first loop and I could anticipate the course!!

At the end of the day, my husband and I share our highs and lows for the day. In response to my husband, I stated that the marathon was both my high and low. With tears in my eyes, I told him that it was my high because I remember those days when I yearned to run a marathon but that voice inside me told me that I wasn't strong enough, fast enough, brave enough, or determined enough. Years would pass by when I simply looked at marathon registrations, never having the tenacity, courage, or determination to fill out the form and begin my training. Now, here I am with three marathons under my belt in the past nine months and I can't help but be thankful and proud. I explained to my husband the physical and mental challenges that one must endure to complete a marathon. There is a point in the race, where you have to tell yourself, that you can, that you are strong enough, fast enough, brave enough, and determined enough!! There is a point where you push yourself to go farther than you ever thought was possible!! Cliche, I know but these words hold so true to my heart and soul!! Running provides me with the self-confidence and reassurance that I can tackle whatever obstacle that comes my way. It encourages and inspires this small town girl who often feels lost in such a crazy, big world. It reminds this girl who is often full of self-doubt, fear, and anxiety that I can do whatever I set my mind to, an irreplaceable feeling. I feel as though we all seek those challenges and experiences in life that allow us to self-examine, reflect, grow, find meaning, and validate our existence. Running fulfills this role in my life.

While sharing my high, I also noted to my husband that running another marathon was such a blessing. I feel so blessed and fortunate to be able to run 26.2 miles and I am so grateful for my physical health and strength that allows me to put one foot in front of the other.

When I discussed my low for today, I also reflected on my marathon. While I made it to the finish line and I conquered some obstacles, I recognize the places for growth. I still battle that voice that tells me that I can't do it, that I am not worthy. That voice that tells me to give up because it is just too difficult, often telling me that it is absolutely impossible. You know, that voice that immobilizes your faith, hope, and perserverance and feels you with fear and doubt. At times during the race, I allowed this voice to prohibit me from continuing. It was nearly unfeasible to find the mental strength that I needed to endure and to push on. There were several points towards the end of the race where I knew that I was still close to reaching my goal of 3:30-3:35 but I couldn't find the inner strength to push myself slightly further...disappointing as I reflect back on those moments.

At the end of the day, when I ponder on the total experience, I am merely thankful to have finished another marathon. I am so thankful to possess the physical and mental health and strength to run 26.2 miles. I am so grateful to have the love, support, and encouragement from my husband, family, friends (including DM) that help me to achieve my goals. I am reminded that I do love marathons!! (I have been secretly planning for marathon #4 for the past month, contemplating the Monumental Marathon in Indy in November!)

Ultimately, I am reminded to live, love, and be happy; seizing every moment and believing in myself!!