Before I knew it, I was at mile 20. A glance at my watch told me I was 12 minutes ahead of pace from my 20 mile training run and I made a quick mental calcuation of what my potential finishing time could be if I could keep up that pace. Though my ultimate goal all along was just to finish, I knew what I was capable of doing and the thought of beating that time was all the motivation I needed. I saved my last energy gel specifically for mile 20 and when I finished it and felt the subsequent "kick", it was time to kick my heart into gear and finish this thing off. I'd wanted to run the last 10K without walking and I did for the most part. Except for the last few aid stations through which I walked shortly, I kept running. As it reached miles 22, then 23 and 24 my pace slowed more and more. My body ached top to bottom, but I was still running. And amazingly, I still felt really good doing it. Finally, the last mile point two-- the homestretch!-- and I think I was just a tiny bit delirious. This stretch was on mainstreet in downtown with traffic on both sides, and even with people honking and cheering from their cars, all I could concentrate on was taking the small, slow steps needed toward the finish line. The last 300 yards were a blur, but when I heard the crowd start to cheer and I saw the finish line, I snapped to attention and picked up my pace. I heard my name called and held up my arms to cheer for myself when I crossed the gate. I did it!! My final time was 4:26:54... a time I didn't think I would even come near to achieving (and which was good enough to place me in the top half of the overall runners and 7th place out of 23 women). I felt utterly exhausted but absolutely triumphant. Once out of the way of the crowd, I fell to my knees, held my head in my hands and sobbed, knowing I had just accomplished something extraordinary by all standards.
I'll never be a speedster and will probably always place somewhere in the middle of the pack, but whether it's a local 5K or another marathon, I'm always planning my next race. To date, I've finished 13 half-marathons and 4 full marathons... with many more to come!
My family and friends are a huge support, of which I couldn't do without. But truth be known, I don't run for anyone but myself. I run to test my body. I run to clear my mind. I run to embrace my emotions. I run to celebrate my life. It's what I do. It's what I am. I am a runner!
Be Sure to check out Angie's blog, Tall Girl Running .