There’s a single item on my Life List that I’m not certain will ever be successfully completed.
Run a marathon.
26.2 miles? That just seems like some crazy shit to try to attempt. I remember last Spring, while running my first ever HALF marathon, at about mile 10 I started questioning my own sanity. More accurately, my mind was screaming, “JEEZUS.H.IS THIS OVER YET?!?!”. Even though my finishing time was not pretty to my self-critical mind, I was proud to have gotten through it. But I highly doubted I’d do another one.
And then January rolled around. I was re-reading my Life List to choose what my 2014 Top Five should be. And there it was. #13. Run a marathon.
It taunted me. But I knew in my heart that this was not the year to attempt it. I was already neck-deep in studying for a professional certification and there were two weddings on the horizon… one of which is my own. The amount of time required to solidly acquire miles on the tread of my beloved Brooks running shoes was simply more than my current life was going to allow. So I decided that no, 2014 wasn’t the year for my marathon. But I could manage a half marathon. Looking back, I’m glad I opted to do so.
My training was much more focused this year on actual running. Which may sound odd, but last year I relied heavily on the efforts of CrossFit more than I did of actual mile accrual. This year? I ran. I did flat trail runs, hilly runs, long/slow runs and pushed myself to do shorter, speedier runs that left me gasping with side stitches. I re-trained my breathing. I set goals for each week and minus one off weekend when I missed an 11-miler, I accomplished them. Mostly.
When race morning came around, I was more nervous than I’d ever been before a race. I feared the worst: that I would finish slower than last year. What if I had screwed up by cutting back on heavy weights and high-intensity body
torture movements? How embarrassing it would be if I didn’t even match my time from last year!?!?! The doubts kept hollering. Loudly. I fought my tummy and my bladder, who wanted to revolt against my will as I battled the crush of humanity moving towards our starting corrals.
It was chilly and I feared my choice of tank and crops wasn’t a smart one, but there was little I could do about it by then. I rubbed my goosebumped arms and started up my race mix on my phone. Double checked for my Sport Beans and adjusted my new headphones in my ears. And then we were off.
The funny thing about races is that they just become a blur in your mind once they are finished. For me they do, anyway. I remember a few specific things about the race itself – the army guy running in full fatigues and boots stands out in my mind. I gave him a fist bump. I remember the awful hills at Piedmont Park and then immediately after on Juniper. I gave them both a double-bird. I remember seeing volunteers handing out oranges with the rind on it and thinking, that slice is bigger than my face and I’d probably inhale half of it into my windpipe if I try to eat it while running. NO, THANK YOU. I remember running past the Atlanta icon, Baton Bob and hollering breathlessly at him/her how fabulous he/she was.
The miles went. I passed some people. More passed me. But I kept going. I knew my pace was pretty good and that I was walking less than I did last year. My body was holding up decently, with only a few pangs in the knee or calf, and when my form started to go in Mile 11 it was expected. I can tell you there is nothing graceful about running once you know you’re reaching your physical limitations. However, this is where the mental toughness kicks in.
You. just. keep. running.
Despite the fact that the marathon leaders are finishing at the same time you are struggling with half that distance, you draw on whatever inspiration you need to draw on. You focus on ANYTHING other than how fucking hard this is. And then you see the finish line.
The mixture of feelings once you cross the finisher mark is varied: satisfaction, RELIEF, euphoria, joy, dizzy, HUNGRY, THIRSTY, and even a tiny bit of sads that it’s over. But the overwhelming feeling is just happy.
Can you see my happy? I did it. Again!
Who knows what my next race goals will be. Perhaps I’ll shoot for getting speedier. Maybe I’ll go for the full marathon next year. Or maybe not. We’ll see where this year and these legs take me.
Till next time, y’all.