It’s been quite a while since I wrote a Throwback Thursday post. I made that realization as I was finally categorizing past posts today. Note to bloggers: Categorize as you go. That was a huge pain.
Anyway, I also realized that I’ve never written about my first marathon, Rock ‘n Roll Seattle in 2010 — the one that infected me with this desire to keep running them. So here’s the story. Enjoy!
I shuffle around the start line in the predawn light, shaking out my legs, straightening my bib, and exchanging nervous smiles and small talk with the other runners. Eighteen weeks of training have gotten me here– eighteen weeks of hard runs and ice baths, of early bedtimes and even earlier alarm clocks, of avoiding refined sugars and alcohol. Eighteen weeks, and it all comes down to this moment. In just a few minutes, the anthem will play and the gun will go off, and I’ll have 26.2 miles to test my training, to see if I have the endurance – mental and physical –for this task.
I don’t have much time to stress, thankfully. Before I know it, the gun has fired and I’m shuffling forward, anxious for the pack to thin so I can find my stride. The first few miles pass quickly, and soon the sun is high and the spectators are out, ringing cowbells, playing music, and cheering enthusiastically as we run by. I bypass several aid stations, thinking I’ll avoid the crowds and catch a drink at the next one – a mistake, I realize just before mile 10. I’m lightheaded and dizzy, and I have to slow to a walk. At the aid station, I grab and gulp several cups of water; by the time I’m done, I feel like a new woman. I run the next few miles with a silly grin on my face, exchanging high-fives with spectators and jokes with fellow racers.
After mile 20, though, I hit the metaphorical wall I’d read about on all the training websites– the wall I’d hoped to avoid. My legs throb, my lungs burn, and I look down to make sure my feet are still attached. I keep pushing, praying that I’ll break through that wall and feel fresh again. Along with not hydrating, I haven’t taken in any nutrition. I promise myself that I’ll avoid that rookie mistake IF I ever run another marathon… which is not looking likely at this point.
Eventually, I feel a little better, but some sadist of a course-planner threw in a hill at mile 25. My legs refuse to carry me up. Defeated, I slow to a walk. Another runner pulls up alongside me just as I slow. “Don’t walk now!” he urges. “Just top this hill, and you’ll hear the crowd. They’ll carry you to the finish line.” Encouraged, I start running again. Every step hurts and I want to quit, but I can’t stop now. My new friend runs with me for perhaps a quarter mile, adding valuable seconds to his own time to ensure that I’ll make it. I thank him between gasps and urge him to go on. He smiles, wishes me good luck, and disappears over the top of the hill.
Eventually I top the hill, too, and see that he was right. The road to the finish is lined with screaming spectators three-deep, and I can hear the finish-line band blaring. I pass the mile-26 sign, and then the finish line is in sight. The clock says 3:29:13– I’m seconds away from my goal time. My legs scream, but from somewhere deep inside me comes one final kick. I push hard, hearing Jordan’s shouted, “THAT’S MY WIFE!” as I glimpse his grinning face from the corner of my eye.
I cross the finish line as the clock flashes 3:30:07. I made it! I slow to a walk—a shuffle, really– and gratefully accept water from a smiling volunteer. Another volunteer slides a medal over my head, and a third directs me to the end of the chute, where my grinning husband envelopes my aching, sweat-soaked body in his arms and tells me how proud he is.
I missed the volunteer with space blankets, but I have to sit down. I sink onto the fender of a semi, gulping Cytomax and loosening my shoes, while Jordan stands beside me, swinging my medal and beaming. I’m exhausted, I stink, and every inch of me hurts, but I’m also proud of myself like I have never been before.
I look up at Jordan and grin. “When can I run another?”
Tell me about your first race!