I ran my very first marathon this weekend. Yep, 26.2 miles of non-stop forward movement.
It. Was. Brutal.
I was feeling great at mile 12, when I first saw my husband, James, and baby, Mae, mother-in-law and her fiance. “9 miles in 99 minutes!” I promised the family as I dashed away.
I was on track for a sub-5 hour marathon by the half-way point, having reached it just under 2 1/2 hours
Then I started to get a little tired, then my hips were aching and my feet were killing me. My back started hurting. I tanked around mile 17. Everything hurt. Running was a struggle. Walking was even more painful. I knew there was a drop out point less than a mile ahead of me since I had come across it on the way out of this out-and-back section.
I remembered that James and Mae would be waiting for me at mile 21. If I dropped out, it would probably take quite a while for the news to reach them. They would be there, waiting for me, worried about me. My mom was at the finish line, waiting. My dad was on his way back down the course looking for me to finish with me. I knew I couldn’t stop. At least not until 21. Four agonizing miles to go.
I walked a bit. Hobbled is probably more accurate. It was so painful, so I ran, or more accurately, shuffled. I had no energy to run, but I had even less energy to deal with the pain of walking. I heaved my body. My breath was short a few times. I wondered if I should stop at that ambulance up there and ask if I was okay.
I finally made it back into my neighborhood, where I knew mile 21 was just ahead. I looked and looked for family. I saw a friend first. Amy started walking toward me as soon as she saw me coming up the block. I shook my head at her and burst into tears. “I hurt so much!”
She rode her bike with me as I continued along. Finally, a few blocks up, I saw James and Mae. There people were in the street, blocking my path to them, wanting high-fives. I begrudgingly obliged and then swung around them and flung my arms around James’ neck and burst into tears again.
“Are you in pain?” he asked.
I nodded on his shoulder and sobbed.
“Where?” he asked.
He gave me a kiss and I forced myself to keep going. I wanted to quit so bad, but seeing them gave me just enough hope that I could actually finish, that I continued. I asked him to meet me at the finish line. He said he would.
Amy and I continued along, very slowly. I stopped to walk when I couldn’t take another step running. I forced myself painfully to start running again when I couldn’t take the pain of walking anymore.
We crossed the bridge in Minnesota and I saw my county sheriff friend who took my picture and encouraged me along the course. I told Amy who she was and how I knew her. I chatted every so often about nothing just to help keep my own spirits up. It was hard to not think “If I had only done the half, I’d be done by now” or some similar thought. It was hard to push the thoughts of giving up out of my head. A pair of women and I kept passing and re-passing each other. They encouraged me to keep going, I just nodded. I gratefully said thanks to anyone along the road who gave me a bit of encouragement. I gave people thumbs up and told them good job.
Finally, I saw my dad at about 2 miles to go.
“I’ve been looking for you!” I exclaimed, having expected to see him much sooner.
“I’ve been looking for you, too.” He said. He got a blister and couldn’t run as far down the course to find me as he wanted. He walked alongside while I shuffled, now more determined than ever to finish. The longest 2 miles of my life.
We got back into downtown and I knew I was almost done. Amy peeled off to go to the finish line, leaving my dad and I just a few blocks to go by ourselves.
“Holy crap, dad. I just ran a marathon.” I said with two blocks to go. I was going to finish now, unless I dropped dead at that moment. I saw my mom as we rounded the corner. I saw James and Mae. My dad dropped off, and I headed straight for my little baby. We walked the last 20 or so feet and crossed the finish line together. I cried and clung to her, kissing her head. “We did it!” I told her. 5:55:54.
We tried walking home, but walking hurt for me. My dad went ahead home, got the van and picked us up. I couldn’t do much more than hobble the rest of the night. I discovered that in my six hours on the road, I got a nasty sunburn – on my face, my legs, my arms.
There is no way in the world that I could have finished that race without the support of my friends and family. They are the ones that gave me the strength to keep going when I wanted to quit. To persevere when I wanted to give up.
That’s life. That’s why God gives us friends and family. To help us when we don’t have the strength to carry on. That’s why there are times when we have to throw our hands up and say “God, it’s yours. I can’t do this.”
I was reminded of that this weekend. I was reminded that I need to let go and let God much more often than I do. I need to remember once again what my priorities are and live by that. If my faith is a priority, then I have to give it priority. I have to take the time to read my Bible and absorb what it’s saying. I have to take the time to pray. If my family is my priority, then I need to rearrange my life so that they get the best of me and not what’s left of me. If my friends are my priority, I have to make the time to hang out more than once a quarter. I have to make the effort to connect. I know what’s important to me. It’s why I quit my job to stay home. Sometimes, I forget that. I get so caught up in the day to day, the interruptions in the schedule I’m trying to create, the frustrations of a little one who doesn’t do exactly what I want when I want her to do it, the annoyance the UPS or FedEx people come during nap time – I have to remember grace in the minute, patience with my circumstances, and always treat my priorities as though they actually are my priorities.
This marathon was terrible. It was hard. It was long. Giving birth without pain meds was easier than this, I think. However, through it all, I got some clarity that I needed. I’m finally walking like a normal person. My sunburn still stings. My name is sunburned into my arms because we wrote my name on my arms so people could encourage me during the race. My big toes still hurt a little bit. My back is still a little sore. My head is much clearer.
And I’m already thinking about when my next marathon will be.