Where did the time go? I thought I had more time. How can I be running a marathon tomorrow? I don't know if I'm nervous or excited. Excited would be good, nervous will make me constipated. Oh God I hope I'm excited. These thoughts ran through my mind the night before my first marathon. That night when you want to sleep but you can't. Everything runs through your mind and try as you might, you can't keep any of it out. Self doubt knocks on your door. I look over to the sofa and see my running gear laid out just waiting for me. I take comfort in that. They are like Harry Potters wand to me. Remember that moment in the movie when he gets his wand? The room glows, wind blows, and we all know the wand is a perfect match, exactly the one he needs. He will do great things with that wand. My choice of running gear was similar. Not that the room glowed and the wind blew when I pulled on my underwear, but my last long run was perfect. As soon as I got home I stripped down, washed everything, and set it aside for marathon day. I knew I had my "wand". Weird but it gave me a sense of comfort.
I knew I was well trained. As with all my previous attempts at a new distance, I had leaned on Sharon for a training plan. All of them had been hard but this one actually freaked me out a little. The mileage was daunting. I knew two things. The first being that if I followed this plan I would be able to complete the marathon. The second was that it would kick my ass and push me beyond anything I had ever done. I wondered at 54 if it too late to attempt this, too late to try and push my body and ask it yet again to give me a little more. With some anxiety I decided to go for it. I'm proud to say that I only missed one workout the entire 5+ months. At the same time there were plenty of runs I thought would never end, many I didn't want to do, all I was glad to finish. My finishers medal belongs as much to her as it does to me.
The alarm wakens me. 3:30am. We get up and slowly get coffee and oatmeal going. Tripping over each other in a hotel room the size of a prison cell. It didn't help that Sharon brought multiple bags and her own latte machine, nor the dozen donuts, bags of chips, and candy bars we bought the night before somehow thinking that we'd eat it. Food and drink down, we heading to the shuttle. Rain was pouring down and by the time we arrived at the shuttle we were soaked. We were dropped off at an unheated airplane hangar where we waited for 90 minutes for the marathon to start. Nerves required more pee trips than I wanted but it was what it was. Before I knew it we were heading out to the starting line.
3....2....1...and we were off. I remember looking up at the huge inflatable start sign as we ran under and then past it. I was running a marathon! It felt amazing. Every sacrifice, every mile, every minute of training was now in the past and I was actually doing this. It's impossible to describe the feeling.
Five miles or so in Sharon says we'll keep our pace and catch the 4 hour pace group at the mid way point and see how it goes from there. If felt effortless at this point so I gave her a "cool" and on we ran. By the time we hit mile 8 Sharon had stopped twice to work on her IT band. That fricker was acting up on her and we begin to worry it was going to be a show stopper. By mile 11 she was done. Her knee had gone out. At that moment she did what few athletes who have trained six months for a single event do, she decided to pull out. I know it was the hardest yet smartest decision she could have made. Six months of training, a life saving surgery, and she was running a marathon. Kind of makes you want to put that bag of chips back in the cupboard. We walked to a couple police officers explained the situation and asked if one would drive her back to the hotel. They agreed and she looked at me and said run, you can do this. I slowly ran off as she stepped into the car. I felt like shit.
I was now running with strangers, alone yet people around me. My pace was good, fueling on target, and now passing mile marker 12, next thing I knew I passed the 17 mile marker. My hip was getting sore and I couldn't seem to pass a honey bucket without having to pee but all was good. That is until my left calf begin to cramp. I ran though as much as I could but it became clear that I needed to stop and work it out. Unfortunately that became routine throughout the rest of the race. Mile 23 was new territory and my body knew it. Maybe it was mental but the road became like quicksand. Each step hurt and it begin to feel like I was running up a down escalator. I focused on running to a point on the road, the next telephone pole. One at a time. Each one seemed to pull away from me yet I was moving forward. By mile 24 I honestly thought I'd never make it. I had been insane and now I knew it to be true. Up another hill and then marker 25 was going by and I knew I was close. Rounding the corner and looking down the road I saw Sharon and her family out there waiting for me. They were so excited their energy revived me and soon I was rounding the corner, passing mile maker 26 and the finish line was dead ahead. Spectators sticking their hands out for high fives and screaming encouragement. What a feeling to run across that line. I had done it. I was a marathoner. I am a marathoner.
Shortly after finishing my phone was buzzing with folks wondering what my time was. I learned a lot during this marathon. I witnessed many a runner struggling to put one foot in front of another yet always moving forward, runners helping other runners rub out a cramp, runners giving encouragement when passed or passing. Not all that started finished. I learned that time is not important. The journey is what's important and I wouldn't trade my journey or my partner for the world. To my family and friends, I thank you for the support and encouragement you shared. Your words helped carry me forward on many a day I didn't think I could or would. Finally to answer the question will I run another, I simply share that I am happily looking for future race dates....for 5k's...