Yesterday I stepped up to the plate to take on the Marine Corp Marathon. 26.2 miles through VA into DC and back again. And it is with some rather bittersweet feelings that I am writing this post.
I won’t give a mile by mile recap, but I will simply say this…running this race was the singular most difficult thing I have ever done. Physically, mentally, and emotionally I was just tapped out. I felt like I really put myself through the ringer in running this race. And the icing on the cake?
Technically, I didn’t even finish.
Did I cross the finish line? Yes.
Did I get a finisher’s medal? Yes.
But I did not run 26.2 miles. I ran 23.2. What wound up happening was rather simple – I was moving too slow to be able to keep up with the course time limit.
Right after I hit mile 17 they were going to re-open the roads. Instead of the sweep van coming to get us stragglers, the Marines directed us to a shortcut that allowed us to catch up with folks at mile 20 and cross the 14th st bridge in time to finish with everyone else. So, that’s what I did. And I finished the race with a strange feeling…one that still kinda sits with me. I feel like I didn’t earn the medal…that I didn’t finish a marathon, because in all actuality I didn’t. I wouldn’t have been able to within the mandated time frame given. It’s hard for me now to even look at photos of get the praise and admiration from friends and family about yesterday because I don’t think I deserve it. I set a goal, and I failed at accomplishing it. Yes, the 26.2 got me good…but in spite of not being able to finish the way I wanted, I will say that I learned a lot about myself, running, and other people yesterday.
I have such respect and admiration for those who run marathons. I always have, but now as one who gave it a shot herself…it is a daunting task to cover that many miles. It takes a lot of heart, guts, and physical ability to be able to conquer 26.2. Now having been in a marathon, I can say with certainty that I am in no way interested in running for that length of time (my unofficial time was 6:51:09). I love running, believe me I do, but I have zero interest in running for that long. If you were to ask me yesterday, would I ever participate in a marathon again I would have given you a resounding NO. But really, what I am saying is that I would never want to be running for that long of an amount of time again. As I continue to run, I am sure I will continue to improve, and should I ever reach the point where my half marathon time is somewhere close to the 2 hr mark, then yes, I would be open to the idea of attempting a marathon again. Running for about 4.5 – 5 hrs doesn’t bother me that much…but yesterday I learned that anything beyond that is beyond anything I am willing to mentally tolerate.
A marathon can be a very lonely race to run, especially if you are a back of the pack kinda runner. There weren’t many people out to cheer for us slow pokes as we made our way through the race. I didn’t have family in the stands to cheer for me or waiting for me at the finish line. And even the finish line itself was being disassembled as I made my way across it. But…strangely enough, yesterday I felt as though I was never alone at any point during that race. I truly believe that sometimes people can be angels too…and that sometimes as we go through various things in life you have to keep an eye out for the angels that tend to cross your path. At several points throughout my run yesterday I felt like quitting and giving up. And at those times an angel met me.
The first one’s name was Leigh and she was a participant who, like myself was experiencing some serious leg pains very early on in the race. I slowed my run down to walk with her and talk to her about races she’s run in the past, where we were both from, and just regular chit chat. Just when I was beginning to really feel alone – there she was. We walked for about 2-3 miles together before her leg pain got the best of her and she had to seek care at a medical aid station.
The next angel that crossed my path was actually one of my lovely blog readers and fellow BGR sisters. I didn’t get her name, but she knew mine and shouted out to me as I was trudging along. Her timing was so divinely perfect, because at that moment I really needed some kind of encouragement, so much so that I had to stop running and go give her a hug. And to that woman, if you’re reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there to encourage runners like me on. It really meant a lot.
Shortly after that I met another angel whose name I didn’t get. She was keeping a mean walking pace, so mean that it was hard for me to keep up with her. With her I was able to talk a little about why I run and what got me into running in the first place. It was nice to be able to share that with someone, and talking about it aloud really helped to remind myself of why I was there in the first place. Eventually she got ahead of me, but I was very thankful of the reminder that came my way via meeting her.
Then there was the elderly gentleman I met along mile 16 or so. We were hobbling together, side by side, keeping one another company. Even when I would start to fall behind a little, he would look back to see if I was there – that gave me all the more reason to dig a little deeper and stay with him. We kept up with each other through the rest of mile 16 through 17, and even the redirection to get to the bridge. I stayed with him for a good while until I caught a second wind and began to tear across the bridge. Having a buddy to navigate through the course when there was no clear direction really helped me to feel grounded and kept me from panicking or falling into despair. And for that I am thankful.
In the last 2 miles…when I really had no run left in me…as I was cursing the idea of a marathon, and in immense pain, I came across an angel named Nancy. A local woman form the area who has used running to transform her life, much like I am trying to do, she and I conversed about our love for running and the challenges that sometimes come from making a positive lifestyle change when those around you are not the most supportive. Talking to her made me feel very thankful for the people that I have in my life – all of whom have celebrated and congratulated and otherwise support me in my efforts to be a better me. It also made me thankful to know that I have so many personal angels in my life on a daily basis that push and challenge me to continue to do more and go further, like the ladies of my running group Black Girls Run, who were also angels all along the course at much needed points to encourage and support me as I tried my hardest to push through. *smile*
Then, in between meeting all of those great people…I had an outpouring of support, love, and encouragement coming by way of FaceBook, text messages, and phone calls. From friends, family, my awesome readers, and other members of the running community. Whenever I was feeling alone…whenever I started to feel a little down…or began to tear up…seeing those messages from all of you kept me going. You were all my life lines, and I am truly humbled by the amount of love and support I have found coming from all of you.
Yesterday was hard…one of the hardest things I have ever done. But it was so beautiful and I feel so very much blessed to know that in all things we are never alone. There is never a time when you have to walk (or run) the marathon that is life by yourself. Be ever on the lookout for the smallest of blessings that may come your way in the form of other people. The Marine Corps Marathon was as much a spiritual experience for me as it was a physical one. And I will proudly sport the 26.2 bumper sticker on my car and the medal on my wall as a reminder that…sometimes in life we are faced with obstacles that seem greater than us, but the amazing thing about it all is that we are and will always be supported, uplifted, and encouraged by the Divine.
And to always be on the lookout for the angels in our midst.
Till next time. 🙂