Sunday, October 11, 2015

My first marathon-part 1

Running has been my oasis for a bit over five years. When life is harried and my well is dry, I lace up my shoes and run. Maybe that sounds dramatic and overreaching, but I sincerely hope that everyone reading this has something equivalent. Whether it's knitting or genealogy, gardening or reading, I hope you have your thing, your sweet spot, your oasis.  As my feet pounded, my mind cleared, my heart soared, my well filled. Now, of course, not all runs are great and some are absolutely miserable, but my overall relationship with running was freeing and affirming. I have run through injury and stress, from anger and depression, toward friendship and wellness.

This summer has challenged me in many ways. I won't get into all of the details because waaah, waaaah, but suffice it to say, I have felt knocked down more than once. Usually, running would soothe me and pull me out of my head. Being stuck in my head is not a great place. I tend to rumble and ruminate and a nice, long, steady run can generally fix what ails me.
basking in the difficult awesomeness of my firs 16 mile run

As luck would have it, I couldn't run much this summer. By luck, I mean really bad luck because not only did I need running for its free therapy contribution, but I was also training for a marathon, my first attempt at 26.2 miles. My training plans were already cramped by Jim's intense travel schedule when I started having some breathing issues during my 20 mile run in August. I tried to will it to go away and visited doctors, asthma and allergy specialists, and chiropractors, but I just could not get a solid handle on breathing, which, as you may understand, is an integral part of living and, therefore, running.

So I stopped. I just stopped running. I felt like I was failing at so many pieces of life and the one thing that usually brought me joy and comfort was bringing additional stress, pain, and sadness. I could not handle feeling like I was horrible at one more stinking thing, so I stopped. Prior to running 26.2 miles on October 4, I had run about eight miles in the previous eight weeks. (For the non-runners in the group, this is a colossally horrendous idea. Don't do that.)

I thought about not running the race a few times when I thought about how much I would slow my two friends down. They were properly trained and healthy and I was limping along. At the same time, I knew I had to run because I was raising money for a cause that means so much to me, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, so I offered to run on my own so they could run their own race. Being the kind, gracious, and wonderful friends that they are, Shaun and Kristen ignored my many pleas and committed to running with me. I didn't tell them just how poorly training had gone until after the race, but they knew it was bad. They supported me from across the miles, tried to talk me out of my funk, and encouraged positive self talk. In short, they were the rockstar friends I have always known them to be.

On Thursday, Jim and I loaded up four kids, a 5 1/2 month old puppy, and all the necessary stuff to start the drive to MN. We arrived on Friday afternoon, just in time for the gang to drop me off at the expo. First off, expos are cool. They are filled with all kinds of things that make runners really happy and, if that's the case, then Shaun left that expo overjoyed because she "bought everything she touched." She may have been exaggerating a wee bit with that statement, but not by much.
Meeting up with my moms on the run friends

My insanely awesome friends
It was so wonderful to see so many people I know and who love and support me when life is rotten. There was squealing and hugging and smiles so big my cheeks ached. I walked through the expo having fun with my friends, but feeling like I didn't truly belong there. When things got really, really hard with training, I gave up. I had one really bad run that involved much dramatic crying and wailing and gnashing of the teeth and I could not get past that feeling of failure. That was the tape playing in my head. I support others and talk them through hard times and bad races and sadness, but when the going got tough for me, I quit. Sometimes I am intensely frustrated by that and other times I realize that self-preservation ruled and I needed to just stop for a while.

Either way, we stayed with friends, visited with family, and made the most of our Saturday. Jim worked from 5:30 pm on Saturday to 6 am on Sunday, so things got a little complicated with Asher, but we sorted it out and Isaac and Sarah took care of him from the time I had to leave for the race until Jim got back from work with enough time for a quick one-hour nap before bringing the kids to cheer at the marathon. (Did I mention his travel and work schedule has been wild?!) Kristen, Shaun, and I drove downtown and took the light rail to the start line. We hung around, stayed mostly warm, and appreciated the many rows of porta potties. Then, just like that, it was go time.
Staying warm as we wait for the race

A beautiful sunrise, porta potties, and light rail. What an interesting combination
We found our spots, cracked jokes with the people around us to use some of that nervous energy, and I tried to soak in this beautiful moment. We were in Corral 2, so the first corral got going and then we began walking toward the start line. This was really and truly about to happen. In truth, it wasn't what I'd hoped. When I signed up for the marathon, my goal was to run around a 4:15 marathon. I had to throw all goals out of the window and spin it from a race I wanted to do well at to a running party I would finish. That was a hard pill for me to swallow, but I didn't have much choice.
Ready to go at the start line. EEEKKK!
To recap, I was physically undertrained and mentally defeated. Twenty six point two miles is a long run in the best of circumstances, and these circumstances were far from ideal. *spoiler alert* The race is over for me. I finished. I will forever be a marathoner. I am trying to just be happy and proud and not place a personal * next to my  marathon. * for injured or undertrained or disappointed.

I got to run that race. I got to spend time with my friends. I got to raise over $2,200 for Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in memory of my friend, Jenna, and to honor the lives of many others who have died from pancreatic cancer. There are so many positives and quite frankly I annoy myself with all of my second guessing and waffling about this marathon. Because, at the end of the day, I AM a marathoner!

Now you know the lead-up to the race. Next time, you get the story of the race.


  1. Good for you! I did the 10 mile and was not I'm not sure if I'm done with running, or if I want to properly train so I have a better race experience next time.

    1. No, no! You can't be done with running. I mean, of course you can be, but it just seems like running has brought you fun and joy in the past. I know you are in a really busy season right now and finding time to run is tough! Good luck and sorry the race was so tough.

  2. Can't wait for the race story. Inn the meantime, let me say again I am so darn proud of you. Be proud of yourself.