Route 66: My First Marathon Subtitled - A Very Effusive and Mushy Love Letter to My Fellow Runners
By Diana Snyder 11/22/06
“Why all this lovely hoopla for ME, of all people?” That was the question in my head as I started out running the Route 66 Inaugural Marathon. I mean, I’d trained and sacrificed and bled and sweated to get ready to run my first marathon, but so had all the other people there. I didn't deserve the extra special attention, support, and affection I was getting any more than anyone else. Though I loved it and ate up every blessed second of it, I still had that question in my heart as I ran, “Why me?” I've since decided that, whatever the reason, I NEEDED every bit of that encouragement and support that I received. So, I’m just chalking it up to the Grace of God and feeling VERY appreciative!
Let me back up. When I first mused out loud about training for this marathon way back in May, Ken Childress had said that he’d run it with me and pace me. Honestly, I didn’t really think he would. He was a nice enough guy, but was just an acquaintance to me and I honestly (arrogantly) didn't think I’d have NEED of anyone to run next to me, then. Well, the ensuing months brought me closer to Ken and his wife Dana and they became good friends to Mike and me. We went through a lot together. They’ve been there for us through some good and bad times this year and we look forward to many more. Ken recently mentioned again that he’d be running with me, and this time I warmed up to the idea a little more, as I was getting a little anxious as the race date neared.
Then, at the Tatur Aid Station at the Mother Road 100 a week before the Route 66, Johnny Spriggs (another nice-enough acquaintance-type person to me) said he was going to run with me, too. EEEP! Now I was really nervous! These 100-mile-race ultra-runners made it look so easy! What if I wimped out and couldn't do it? The furthest I’d ever run before was 21 miles!
Well, race day, Ken showed up with these signs that said, in giant red block letters - “CLAP FOR DIANA!” and “THIS IS HER FIRST MARATHON!” and, “ DOESN'T SHE LOOK GREAT!” This tickled me to death and TERRIFIED ME TO DEATH at the same time! I’d had nightmares the night before about not being able to finish. Public humiliation loomed! Oh no! I was afraid that my two super-studly escorts would either push me too hard or fail to understand how a mere mortal like me might DNF, if it was just too difficult for me. For example, they’d BOTH run The Oklahoma Marathon the day before, and Ken had run a 100-miler the weekend previous, with Johnny pacing him the last 22 miles. Well, I worried needlessly, because though they could (and DID) both teach me a LOT about mental and physical toughness, I saw that they are also so incredibly much more kind and gracious than I’d given them credit for. They really demonstrated this to me that day, as you will see if you keep reading.
So, running with my two lovely cheerleaders holding those signs (which, BTW, had arrows pointing right at me) I started to really get into it! I think I cheered back to every single runner who clapped or cheered for me, and thanked every single spectator who did. It was probably one of THE MOST fun things I ever did in my life! I WHOOPED and HOLLERED and ran way too fast for the first six miles….
Well, I’d already had this weird, crampy pain in my left calf since my three mile run the Thursday before. So when it started to really make itself felt, that day, at about mile six - I decided to ignore it and just run right on through that sucker. BAD, BAD MOVE!!!! The resulting Charley Horse in my calf was one of the most painful things I've ever felt. It scared me and almost made me vomit (carbo-unload) because it hurt so badly. Johnny rubbed the actual spasm out for me, but the pain itself only really lessened a little bit.
I was forced to slow way the heck down (which I should’ve done way before that – DUH!). Ken had given me an Electrolyte Capsule Thingy to take and I just wonder now how much worse it might’ve been if he hadn’t. I could easily have wound up in the medical tent with a DNF, if it hadn’t been for those two guardian angels ministering to me then. So much for my earlier attitude of not needing anyone with me!
So I whimpered some, and gimped through the last 20 or so miles of physical agony, but spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, I’ve never felt better in my life! We’d walk when nobody was around, BUT when people cheered me or when Mike (who was riding his bike around filming people) would stick that dang video camera in my face I’d have to run and smile again. About mile 16 or so I realized that running felt better than walking did, so I was reluctant to stop running once I would get into a groove. Unfortunately, but wisely, Johnny decided to walk and let us go on ahead of him to avoid re-injuring his ligament. I kissed and hugged him good-bye. No longer was he just a nice-enough acquaintance, but a true hero to me, and a friend with a special place in my heart. Still not sure WHY he was there for me like he was, but I’m so grateful he was.
Ken and I talked some about things that inspired us, about sermons, about my sister (in whose memory I ran), about food, about beer, and I don’t remember what else. Mostly I listened to (and sang with) military cadences and songs on my mp3 player and tried to think on lovely things, to block out some pain (Johnny’s good advice). I was really happy when Ken’s shin pain seemed to go away at around mile 19(?) or so. Unfortunately, the nerve damage in my right foot from Morton’s Neuroma had (as usual after a certain number of miles) started to feel like a red-hot poker was jabbing into it with each step, since back at about mile 14. So I was hurting pretty terribly at that point, but still mostly running.
It was about that time when I almost had the thought that I couldn't continue. I was praying and as the thought just barely began to form itself in mind, about wanting to quit, something supernatural occurred. Believe it or not, all my pain went away then, almost instantly. It felt as if someone had placed the softest comforter over me and it just gently blocked all pain. I was so relieved it made me giggle aloud! It only lasted a brief moment, but it was enough to get me through. Though the calf and foot pains returned as severely as ever, I honestly never had the slightest thought of quitting again after that point. God is good and I’m grateful.
Lovely people encouraged me from the sidelines and so did the other runners during the out and back portions. I wonder if they have any idea how much that helped me… I’m tearing up now, just thinking of all that goodwill and encouragement. Did they know how hard it was for me? Could they see the pain I was in, or just my smile and my enthusiasm? Did they think I made it look easy, as I’ve often thought of others? Yet another lesson for me to remember…. Those who SEEM TO BE gliding along may be struggling or suffering in ways I can’t see or understand.
Steve and Sarah Huhn’s support (like so many others’) also falls into the category of “more than I deserved, but JUST what I absolutely needed,” to get through that race. They dressed up as slightly scary-looking hillbillies (PLEASE tell me someone got a picture of them!) and held signs to cheer me from the side of the road, not once, but three separate times in three different places. Sarah gave me some BADLY needed pain reliever the last time I passed them. And so… two more former, “nice-enough acquaintances” transformed into true friends in my mind.
I got tired and lost my breath at about mile 22 or 23 (amazing to me that I really didn't feel tired AT ALL before then, I just hurt). Oh man…. - I can really see why they call it “hitting the wall,” as it just comes on so suddenly and threatens to stop you in your tracks! Ken played various mind-games with me then to keep me going forward, some with better results than others. For instance, “Okay, three more miles! This is just like a little run on Riverside on a Tuesday or a Thursday, only you've had a really hard day with the kiddos first.” To which I replied, “Ok. Right. I’m running on Riverside now…” Then later, “Who the HELL put all these hills on Riverside!?!”
Ken helped me to run some, but still to save enough juice to sprint at the end (Well, it seemed like sprinting to ME anyway)! Crossing that finish line to see my friends’ beautiful, proud faces there, and then crying like a baby in Mike’s arms (while laughing and feeling giddy simultaneously)… I mean - this is the STUFF!!!
Rest, food, huge super-salty margaritas, and much laughter rounded out a perfect day and I went home all smiley and after-glowy! I wish everybody could have a day like that one! Though it was painful (BTW -did I mention that IT REALLY DID HURT?), I can’t wait to start training for The OKC Memorial Marathon in April, and am seriously considering attempting at least one twenty mile loop of the Rocky Raccoon 100-Miler with Dana Childress in February (Mike’s first planned 100-miler).
I just want to say a huge, teary, slobbery “Thank You!” to Kathy and to Brian for their work in “Newbies,” and “Tatur.” I’m incredibly, undeservedly, blessed by the support and friendship of the people who I've been lucky enough to get to know through these groups. I couldn't and wouldn't have ever done anything like this on my own. Whether you know it or not, God’s love is constantly ministered to me in many ways (to Mike, too, I know) through you. I can’t imagine a more encouraging group and I love all y’all!
And finally, to the best Husband in the world – Dana had better hold on tight to you! No, No, No – just kidding! To Mike – You ARE the best and I’m grateful for EVERYthing you do for me, Honey. Talk about undeserved blessings…. Over twenty years and I still can’t believe how lucky I am sometimes. You’re my best friend.