I don’t even know where to begin. This goal has been 2 years in the making and it has finally been achieved. I really didn’t blog much about my training this year, partly due to not wanting to over share and jinx anything and partly due to burnout. That being said I am so excited to be able to just run for fun for a while and not have to be responsible for training runs every week. However, since this has been such an important goal, I want to take some time to recap the day!
The day started around 4:00am when I got up to get ready… oatmeal for breakfast, put on my running clothes, Vaseline on my toes, compression socks, etc. Mom and I left the house around 5:00am to go pick up Val. Mom dropped us off at the start of the race and we had plenty of time to use the bathrooms, take pictures and get ready for the big moment.
The gun went off shortly after 7:30am and I’d say it took about 15 minutes for our coral to get to the starting line. I ended up hanging back to run with one of my group members Martha and little did I know she would be the one getting me to the finish line. The first few miles flew by. The next thing I know we are arriving at Mile 4 where I remember the pain starting last year. This year, no problems (yet!). Mile 6 put us at the entrance to the beach with the next 2.5 miles on the sand. It wasn’t as flat as I remembered from last year so the tide must have been in a little closer. We exited the beach and I was still feeling good. We had been keeping a good pace and were still going strong.
We felt good running through the beginning of Atlantic Beach. There were tons of spectators out and lots of good music along the way. We wound through the neighborhoods of Atlantic Beach and I was starting to lose some steam around Mile 11. I managed to keep it going though and we got to the half way point still strong. After that, I was really starting to not feel well. It was warm and humid and I think I was losing more salt than I was aware because by Mile 15 I felt like I could pass out. I was grabbing every cold sponge that they were passing out and squeezing them over my head and we stopped for a bathroom break. Martha offered up some salt pills she had on her and what a life saver those were.
The next 3 miles went much better and we gained some energy and momentum. We thought about changing up our run/walk ratio at Mile 18 but decided to wait until Mile 20. By then my legs were starting to cramp pretty bad so we stopped briefly so I could put some BioFreeze on my calves and shins. That felt great and it also started to rain a little bit which felt very refreshing at first. We decided to try a 1:1 run/walk ratio but that was not helping me. It was too much start and stop and was making me cramp worse. So we switched to a 2:30/1 ratio which got us to the ramp to get on JTB. We were exhausted and not caring much about our finish time and at this point it was raining harder so we walked up the ramp.
Once we got up the hill we went back to the run/walk and made it to Mile 24. Here I stopped to use the bathroom and Martha stopped by first aid for some last minute pain reliever spray. We ran again until we got to the hill going up the bridge and then walked up. It was really raining at this point, windy, cold, thundering and lightning and I heard something on someone’s radio about calling the race but no one stopped us. A little ways up the hill we saw school buses coming in the opposite direction and wondered if they were going to pick people up. As we approached the top of the hill I told Martha to run ahead since we were close to the finish and I would be right behind her. I was still cramping pretty bad but was shuffling along as best I could.
When I got to the straightaway to the finish, I looked down and saw my shoe was untied. So I knelt down to tie it and it felt like my whole leg seized up. But as I was trying to get up, I looked up and saw my parents standing under the overpass. As soon as I saw them, they saw me too and started cheering for me as I hobbled toward them and gave them hugs. I then shuffled into the finish line where Martha was waiting for me and gave me a hug. I was almost in tears, both from pain and emotion but somehow held it in. I was so incredibly happy to have made it to the finish line. Martha and I hobbled into the Runner’s Village, stopping for a quick photo, and picked up our medals. My parents met us at the entrance to Mayo Clinic where they had moved everyone inside due to the weather.
We sat in a crowded hallway for a while so I could rest and try to warm up. I had a dry shirt in a bag my mom had been carrying so I changed and they covered me with their coats as blankets. I saw others in hospital gowns and nurses passing out blankets to those who really needed them. Friends Barbara and Ted, who had also been standing in the rain waiting for me to finish, found us at the hospital to say hi. I am so blessed to have friends and family that brave the weather to support me! It turns out that the race was called and several hundred people were unable to finish. Along with the thunder and lightning, there were apparently also tornado warnings. I had made it past the cut-off point in the nick of time. Eventually we headed back out into the rain to walk back to the car and headed home. What a day!
In all the hard moments, I just kept repeating to myself “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Despite the leg cramping and exhausted body, I never once felt the pain I had felt the year before with actual injury and I never once thought I wouldn’t finish. By the time I hit Mile 20, I knew for sure I was almost there and would make it. I wish the second half had gone a little smoother but in the long run it didn’t matter. All I wanted to do was finish and that’s exactly what I did. And while I don’t plan on running another full marathon for a while, I don’t think it’s my last. There will be plenty of time to improve on my time if I ever get that desire. Otherwise I look at the marathon as an accomplishment in and of itself, no matter my finishing time. And I am so incredibly thankful for Martha. She stuck by my side, she kept me going, and she made sure I was going to make it to the end. By the grace of God and her support (and the support of everyone along the way) I finally achieved this goal. And I’ve never been prouder of myself!