No, not in terms of time. In fact, technically, it was the worst race I’ve ever run. I’m sure you’d have to scroll though thousands of pages to even find my finish time. But that was never what it was about. I completed the 26.2 miles while having an amazing time running (and walking) through a beautiful city on a gorgeous day with awesome people and (mostly) good music and I crossed the finish line into the arms of an unbelievable man. I’d say I won the race:)
When I got into the car (very) early yesterday morning, my boyfriend handed me several folded notes, each with a mileage indicator. I was to open the notes along my run. It was like an advent calendar of marathon motivation. Unbelievable. That gesture and those notes set the tone for the whole day.
I spent the drive to the start line arranging Gu, chapstick, and the above mentioned notes. I applied Glide wherever skin met fabric and I double-checked my shoe laces. I was ready.
I had over two hours to wait at the corrals before the race. It was chilly, but bearable, and I loved the look of historic Savannah under the almost-full moon. I met a woman in her 60’s who was working on running 100 marathons (this was 94). I asked her what her favorite one had been. Number two on her list blew me away: The Great Wall of China. What an amazing experience that would be!
We finally took off. I was feeling great and enjoying the music (especially the bagpipes around mile 6!) and the amazing support from the spectators. The local people were amazing – dancing, singing, and even blessing us as we ran by. The energy was infectious. And so was the motivation. Every person there had a reason for running marathons or that race in particular. As the Rock n Roll series raises money for cancer, there were thousands of runners with signs on their backs of loved ones they had lost. Others ran for different losses. I met many recent divorcees, people who ran to celebrate their recovery, and one woman who runs a marathon a year to maintain and celebrate her 160 lb weight loss. It was impossible to not be inspired.
Mile 7 was my game-changer. I injured my IT band almost two years doing Tough Mudder (and a 1/2 marathon the next weekend). I rehabed it and it hasn’t bothered me much in the past year or so. Until yesterday, that is. I felt the familiar pain and pull along the outside of my left leg. I spent a few miles using anything at my disposal to try to coax the fascia into loosening. I repeatedly used traffic cones to dig into the soft tissue and I even borrowed a broom from a volunteer so that I could roll my IT band with the handle. It wasn’t helping, nor was the Tylenol, ice, and wrap from the medical tent. By about mile 12, I had given up on this being the race I wanted. I realized that the leg would not get better and that my ability to run was severely hindered. Those were the tough miles. I gripped the 15 mile note from my boyfriend from mile 12 until it was time to open it. At that point, the course took us through the Savannah State campus and even around their track where the dance team and cheerleaders encouraged us on. That was great timing. As my pace slowed, I found myself amongst the running wounded and the more mature marathoners. That was okay with me. There is a spirit there in the back of the pack that felt right to me. I met a great man, Dennis, at the 24 mile marker. He was also hurting and, like me, was slowly giving up running in favor of walking. He said he would pull me across the finish line if I did the same for him. We both made it, limping and grinning.
Going into this race, I knew that it was going to be a mental game. I think it’s impossible to tackle that kind of distance and not have to dig into to your mental reserves. What surprised me; however, is that the race was very emotional. I first teared up at mile 5 at the kind words of a volunteer. From that point on, the tears hit every mile or so for just a few moments. The waterworks continued into the afternoon and evening as I recounted pieces of the race to my boyfriend and they even sit near the surface today. I’m not a crier and not prone to over-emotion, so this has been a surprise.
The marathon was more symbolic of life and its struggles than I expected, as well. I went into the race expecting to run. I didn’t plan on the injury, but once it occurred, I had no choice but to accept it. I could have given up. In fact, there were times when the pain was so bad, I wanted to simply collapse where I was. But instead, I chose to continue. It wasn’t the journey I planned for, but it was a beautiful experience nonetheless. In my life, I never expected to be divorced. I didn’t plan for that injury either. But just like yesterday, I had a choice. And I chose to continue and even though it is not the life I anticipated, it is beautiful. Yup, I’d say I won:)
And, on a related note, I was happy to hear on Friday evening that mayor Bloomberg decided to cancel the New York marathon for this weekend. I understand the frustration of planning (and training, in the case of the runners) for so long and having to cancel at the last minute, but it was the right thing to do. And, as I’ve learned, marathoners understand that you can plan and prepare all you want, but that ultimately, you cannot control the outcome. I have the utmost respect for the runners who are using their pre-purchased trips to NY to assist in storm relief. You may not have run your race, but you certainly deserve a medal in my eyes.