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The Day I Became A Marathoner

Posted Dec 30 2012 12:06am
"You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have." -Anonymous

Okay. So it's been a while since the marathon - approximately 10 lbs and 7 weeks ago to be exact. In some ways, it feels like years have gone by since that day. Enough time that much of the emotion surrounding my first marathon experience has worn off. Luckily, the pride is still there.

Buckle your seat belts, kids. This is going to be a long one.

When I left off, I expressed the torn emotions I was swimming through in the beginning of November. It didn't get any better the week following the cancelation (and leading up to the Richmond Marathon).  
On NYC's "Marathon Sunday" I volunteered my time and able body to the Hurricane Relief effort, and I saw for the first time what areas of my hometown had succumbed to. I won't say that it was like a "third world country," which is the analogy that many media outlets used. (I don't even understand that analogy... so you think a third world country just has piles and piles of rubble houses everywhere?) But there was a lot of devastation and newly homeless people. Anand, my brothers, and I did what little we could by cleaning out homes. But I still returned to the city with a heavy heart.
The rest of the work week was a whirlwind. I had a crazy week at work, and could only get a half day on the Friday before the marathon. This meant that I would have to drive 6 hours to Richmond by myself, and only arrive 12 hours before I was to toe the line of a 26.2 mile race. This obviously made me nervous, but I was just happy to be toeing the line of any marathon at that point. Unfortunately, the drive ended up being closer to 8 hours and I didn't sit down to dinner till after 9pm. Not exactly the ideal pre-race night, but I think I rolled with it well. Anand may argue otherwise.
And then it was race day... and another hiccup. I woke up before our alarm and looked at my phone to see a couple of missed calls from my family. This immediately made me nervous. A phone call in the middle of the night is hardly ever a good thing. And I was right. I listened to my Uncle's voicemail telling me that my grandmother's brother - who we called our grandfather - had passed away in the middle of the night. I didn't know what to do or say, so I just let Anand sleep and took a really long hot shower to figure out my emotions. When I processed everything, I told Anand and called my mother at 6am, who gave encouraging words & wished us luck on our journey. It was exactly what I needed. There was no turning back. All I could do was run, with the memory of my grandfather and grandmother with me, and the realization that there will be a day where I wouldn't be able to run anymore. 
November 10th, 2012 was not going to be that day. 
After some stressful parking situations and (literally) running to the start line, Anand and I began our 26.2 mile journey. 
The "I'm tired, stressed out, sad, and totally faking this" face.

Miles 1-10 The first 10 miles were fairly flat from what I can remember and wove through beautiful residential areas. I could not stop grinning these first miles. What really stuck out in my memory was how friendly everyone was. Anand and I wore our NYC bibs on our backs, and so many Virginians ran up to us to say "Hello," and to tell us how glad they were that we were there. 

We kept right on pace for the first 10 miles. It felt like it went by so fast. Our race strategy was to run a couple of seconds slower than MGP for the first 10 miles, a couple of seconds faster than MGP for the second 10 miles, and give everything we had for the last 10K. Okay, fine. This wasn't exactly our strategy - it was the strategy our lovely Coach told us to do. And it sounded fabulous in theory. 
Miles 11-20I'm not sure if it was being mentally stressed out, having a strange taper schedule, not getting in a long run before the marathon, or all of the above, but my body was not ready to follow through on our strategy for the 2nd 10 mile run. My knee was actually bothering me by Mile 10, and the second half brought in some rolling hills which only aggravated aches and pains. 
I do remember there were more people out during this part, and many people called my name. I did my best to always say "Thank You," with a smile. Take my advice if you're running your first marathon - WEAR YOUR NAME ON YOUR SHIRT! I was scared it would annoy me to have people shouting my name when I felt like shit. But it always brought a smile to my face and pushed me forward. At one point, around Mile 18, a large crowd of people in front of a bar chanted my name while I fist pumped. I mean, who wouldn't want that?!
At Mile 20, I was ecstatic! I still felt fairly okay, and was confident that we would finish. We crossed the 20 mile mark at around 3 hours 45 minutes, and I figured that a sub 5 hour marathon would be in our reach if we pushed hard for the last 10K. Or we would miss it be a couple of minutes... which was still okay with me.
Oh, how naive. 
Miles 21-26.2At this point, crowd support was sparse and people were dropping like flies. Most people were walking. Anand turned to me and said, "If we're still feeling good, we should still be running." So that's what we did. And then Mile 22 happened. The Wall.
As we got later into the race, the temperatures started soaring. At that point it was about 70 degrees (I don't have much luck with race weather), and I was getting dehydrated. I started feeling nauseated and lightheaded. My mind was fuzzy, and I imagined that this is what it must feel like right before you faint. I shuffled as much as I could before I felt like vomiting. I saw a row of port-a-potties in the distance and figured I would duck in there and re-group for a little before moving. The only problem was, as we grew closer, I realized there were no port-a-potties. There was only a fence. I was 'effing hallucinating.
You don't have to be in the medical field to know that nausea, lightheadedness, and hallucinations after sweating for over 4 hours in 70 degree weather would call for some IV fluids. So I did what any rational person would do. I didn't tell my husband (because he would have certainly brought me to a medical tent) and kept going. I know. I'm an asshole. I did, however, grab onto him and tell him that I wasn't feeling right and needed to walk. So that's what we did. 
And like a God send, volunteers were handing out cold wet towels. Best. Thing. Ever. It cooled down my temperature quickly while I tried some oral rehydration. 
We did a shuffle/walk for most of Mile 22-24. Most of the last 2 miles were in the shade, so I ran the 2 miles with some new found energy. At Mile 25, the volunteers cheered with shouts of "Only 1 more mile!!" Tears welled in my eyes. I had hit a wall and pushed through. 
When we hit the Mile 26 marker, Anand and I turned to each other, amazed. I don't really remember what we said to each other, but I can still feel the awe I had in myself, my body, my marriage, for bringing me to that mile marker. 
The final stretch to the finish line was a HUGE downhill, which was almost scary, but made for a great last sprint. 

And just like that, we were marathoners. Official time: 5:19:10
One of the top 10 happiest moments of my life thus far.
So many people say that running marathons is a great metaphor for life. And I finally understand why. There are times in long distance running/endurance sports when you have absolutely nothing left. But it's during these times, where if you just try to dig a little deeper, you'll find strength that you didn't think was imaginable. 
It's a lesson that can easily be translated to other aspects of life. And even if I never run another marathon again, I'll always know that if I just dig deeper, I'll find that part of me than can endure. 

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