13.1 miles, 26.2 miles, both are distances I have completed on foot in one long stretch. Many people ask me why I would make the conscious decision to pay money to run a long distance and put my body through something that physically hurts. The answer is simple: I don’t know!
A few years ago I thought that all the running I was doing at the time should go towards something: a marathon seemed a good choice. Never having run a race beyond a 5k, you would think that I’d pick a half marathon to start. Nope! I decided to go for the whole thing and run the 26.2 miles. I made this decision about 10 months before the race so figured I’d have plenty of time to condition. Guess what… I didn’t train. The smart thing to do would have been to forget the race and aim for the next year, but that’s so not my personality. Well, come race day, with a mere two months of training, there I was at the start line. My dad wished me luck and off I went. Everything was going really well until about mile 13 when I started to get runners knee. At about mile 17, I could barely walk. Lucky for me around that same time I saw another woman whom I had conversed with before the race that had run into the same issue. We ended up finishing the race together, walking the last 9 miles (me without being able to bend my left knee) and crossing that finish line. If you saw me after that race you would have thought there was no way on earth I would ever try again. I could barely walk to the car. I had to hold onto my dad when stepping up and down curbs, had to stop every few minutes and try to sit down, could barely move my ankles, bend my knees, etc. When I got back to my house my neighbors saw me practically pulling myself up the stairs because I could hardly move any joints in my lower body. They asked me, “Are you going to ever do that again?” My response, “Of course, I didn’t do it right this time.” About five months later I ran a half marathon and did really well: no cramps, no pain, life was good. I immediately started training for the next marathon and come race day, I was ready! You know what I realized after that race… people who run marathons are nuts! Me included.
I never realized that running a marathon has hardly anything to do with the physical ability (you know what I mean) – but that it’s the mental aspect that is most difficult. Again at that mile 17 mark, things started getting to me. Though I was completely pain free at this point, my mind started becoming annoyed with myself for deciding to do this again. At mile 21.5, I was so tired and so done with running, that every time a sideline cheerleader called my name and said, “Good Job! Way to go!” I envisioned myself reaching out and slapping them. At mile 23 people started telling me I was almost there… I hated those people. A woman next to me, who I’m guessing was in the same mental state, looked at me and said, “Don’t you just want to scream at them!” Why yes friend, I did. At mile 24 I was almost in tears because I just wanted to sit down; the cheerleaders were now more annoying by the second. At mile 25 ¾ someone said, “The finish is right around the corner!” You know what, that corner moved further away every time I took a step, taunting me and laughing at me as I wished to draw closer. Finally, as I crossed the finish line, cheered on by my dad, I was so glad to be done. I grabbed my medal, a space blanket, and some grub. I should also mention that I was completely soaked since it down poured from the first mile to about the 22nd. I was now shivering so much since stopping that I’m sure people could visibly see it as I walked by. I went to the meet and greet area trying to find my dad (who also had my dry clothes) and holding back every tear of the last few miles. Finally I found him and gave him a hug and that’s when the water works started. When my dad asked what was wrong, my reply was simple, “I’m just so tired.” I should also note, that this effectively meant that I was one of those people I can’t stand… the ones who cry after finishing a race. After I stopped crying I was asked, “Are you going to do it again?” My answer, “Yes.” I’m pretty sure my dad laughed at me at that point, but only in the, “That’s my daughter” way.
I have yet to run another full marathon; some days I think I want to and some days I’m not so sure. I have done another half (I should blog about that someday – wow) and look forward to doing more some more half marathons in the future. My ultimate goal would be to run a half marathon in 2 hours or less, preferably before my 30th birthday, but that’s coming up soon and I have yet to run as much as I did in the days of running the full marathons. I can safely say that I enjoy running marathons, even though it’s a little bit nuts. For me, it’s not about accomplishing something big because I really don’t think 26.2 miles is that far, and it’s not about pride or doing something others might not do. Instead, it’s purely because I have been given the ability to push myself so I might as well try.
Ok, who am I kidding – you get a medal when you finish, and that my friends, is clearly why you run a marathon. Don’t forget the T-shirt.