my marathon story

The Marathon

San Diego Rock N Roll – 2009

This is a long and embarrassing story. Sharing it kind of makes me cringe, but I know I’ve learned and grown from living it and remembering it. Hopefully it will help someone else out there feel less silly.

For the record: I did not want to sign up for this race. Someone, who may or may not be my husband now, thought that it would be a great motivator, you know, something to get me running more consistently. He had run the Marine Corps the year before and was convinced that if he could run a marathon, basically anyone could. I was opposed from the beginning, but once the confirmation showed up in my email, I felt like I had no choice but to start training.

I had only been running for a few weeks really. I had sort of sworn off any kind of recreational running since the pain and torment of the cherry blossom 10 miler (yes, another race I was voluntarily signed up for). I wanted to learn to love running, but it was happening very, very slowly. I didn’t want to put in the hard work, I just wanted to wake up one morning able to go for hour long runs like it was no big deal. Even though I was absolutely terrified of the marathon, I figured if I prepared and followed my training plan that I would at least end up that beautiful skinny runner of my dreams.

I started training 6 months out since I had basically no base. I followed a run/walk program that came with my registration and, honestly, the first few weeks went really well. I still remember how elated I was to finish my first 5 mile run. I think I talked about it for days, “Yeah, I ran 5 miles, on the treadmill, oh yeah, it was no big deal.”  I was running 4-5 days a week and starting to get a little tired of running, but I just kept my goal in mind.

I read books about marathon running, I read every article I could find about marathon running, I read blogs about marathon running. I basically became obsessed with the marathon, the only problem was: I wasn’t obsessed with running. After about 7-8 weeks of training and a particularly gruesome 10 mile run in the heat, I really started to burn out. I started to regularly miss runs and even started skipping longs runs.

A little over a month out from the race Brad dragged me out of the house to do a 15 mile run. He figured we still had enough time to get in a 16, 18, and 20 miler and still have time to taper for the race. It wouldn’t be ideal, but we’d make it.

That 15 mile run was torture. I made it about 10 just feeling miserable, but those last 5 were indescribable. I’m talking laying down on the side of a busy road crying and yelling miserable. I don’t know how to describe the intense pain that was radiating from every bone in my lower body. It probably took 2 hours to walk/hobble/jog those last 5 miles home. And yes, I cried a lot.

After that I was just beyond terrified. I shut down and just avoided training all together. I knew rationally that not running at all would just make matters worse, but I just could not motivate myself to live through that pain every weekend for the next month.

I tried every single thing in my power to convince Brad that I wasn’t going to run the race. It was just insane. The thing is, this crazy guy managed to finish his first marathon after not doing any real training so he was just convinced that I could do. Looking back on it, it was probably one of the stupidest things I’ve done, but he believed in me so much I just couldn’t help but believe in myself too. We talked and talked and talked about it and eventually came up with a plan to just run half a mile at a time. We’d run half a mile, walk half a mile. I was sure I could run half a mile no matter what and if worse came to worse, we’d just walk the rest or get picked up by the bus. We had to at least try.

On the morning of the marathon I was surprisingly calm. We had our plan and by the end of the day it would all be over. The first 13 miles were actually a blast. I made it to the half way point right around 3 hours and thought 2 things: 1. Man I bet running half marathons is a blast! That was so much fun and if I was actually running this whole thing I’d be able to finish well under 3 hours that would be awesome. 2. Ok, first half wasn’t so bad. I’m not in pain, just keep this up and we’ll be done in 3 hours.

In the end, that first thought would end up becoming true, the second would not. Not too long after the halfway point I started getting tired and cranky. At mile 17 I ran face first into  The Wall. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My body was starting to seize up, everything started aching, and mentally I began to crack. I openly cried as I hobbled.

I wanted to stop so bad. Just sit on the side of the road and let the bus pick me up. If this story wasn’t already incredibly embarrassing, this is where it gets the most cringeworthy. Brad stood by my side. He had gotten me into this mess and he never doubted me for a second (looking back on husband blame, the intense pain, and never ending love and encouragement I can’t help but wonder if this is similar to labor in anyway). I honestly don’t think I would have made it if he didn’t believe in me. I started running just a quarter of a mile at a time, if you can even call it running. The last 7 miles of the race are just a total blur, I honestly don’t remember anything but the pain radiating from deep within every part of my lower body. I don’t know how to describe it other than it felt like my bones were literally crumbling within my legs. The memory of that pain has not left me, but neither has the feeling of seeing that finish line. That glorious finish line. 6 hours and 40 some odd minutes later, I made it to the finish line. I’m pretty sure I cried. again.

It was a long, embarrassing, and incredibly humbling experience and I am incredibly blessed that my body didn’t suffer any injuries in the process. My respect for the marathon and marathon runners has grown exponentially. But more than anything, I respect the training process for the marathon. I mean sure, almost anyone can physically finish 26.2 miles, but it really is only a select population of people who can dedicate those 16 weeks of their lives to marathon training. Running long runs in the teens for weeks on end. Running multiple 20 miler training runs. It is just incredible. It really is no joke.

Since this whole debacle I really have learned to love running. I may not always be as consistent as I’d like, I’m sure as heck not as fast as I’d like, but at least I like running. I’ve completed 21 races of different lengths, including 3 half marathons. It’s true, the half seriously is a great distance to run.

The marathon still sort of hangs over my head, though. Should I make another attempt, redeem myself? Should I just keep it on the back of the shelf, at least I tried, sort of crossed it off my bucket list deal? I’d love to be able to share the next chapter of the story. The “I learned and overcame and conquered the marathon” but right now, 3 years later, I’m still not convinced if I can really do it.

For now I’ll just settle for half.

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