Two years ago when I was training for my first marathon, I had never actually been to a marathon. Yes, I knew that it was a race and that it was a total of 26.2 miles, but I never knew what it was all about. I thought it was a personal experience, but once the weekend approached, this view quickly changed.
I had injured my calcaneus just six weeks before the marathon- I refused to wear the boot that they suggested for healing and even continued to run for a few weeks- hoping that the fracture would “magically” disappear. I had begged for it to disappear- I felt my three months of training went down the toilet within the time period of a nineteen mile run. But my friend continued to run and I decided that I would watch her children during the big race.
All I can remember from that morning was hurrying down the street, in the rain, with four young children (one less than a year old) to find their mom at the starting line. We all took the time to write a message on her legs and arms to motivate her along the way- mine being “everyone can eat an elephant, one bite at a time.” I looked at her and connected with her as the countdown began- she was terrified to go it alone, excited for the challenge and nervous about getting a decent time. The crowd was intense- thousands of runners, family, friends, members of the community all sharing the same emotions. Once the shot went off, tears were welling up in my eyes- excited for her and disappointed because I was supposed to be running by her side.
The five of us stood in the rain for the entire four hours and fifteen minutes that it took her to run and complete the race. We shimmied through the crowd to cheer her on, rushed to the next location to catch a glimpse and waited at the finish line with our cowbells to see her add this item to the list of her accomplishments. And we saw her. And she did it with an amazing first marathon pace. But that day my life changed as well. I was hooked. I didn’t have to be running to catch the marathon bug- if anything, it made me more motivated to get back into training.
And that’s just what I’m doing, slowly but surely. I have to first work on getting back into six to seven miles comfortably before I take the leap to begin training once again. And I have to be prepared to do it alone- I no longer have a trainer or friend who is willing to run each day’s run with me. Nor should I need one. Although I can admit that I am a very social runner- always looking to catch up with a friend to make the miles go by faster, I need to be able to get out there and mentally rack up the miles. Alone. But at the same time, can’t imagine not having the support of seeing a loved one along the course or seeing a sign with my name on it.
And I know someone, a loyal reader, who did this exactly. Who trained not only alone, but on a dreaded treadmill during the winter months in a gym. This person traveled to the marathon site, a state over two thousand miles away. They picked up their bib alone, checked into the hotel alone, and woke up alone the morning of the race. This runner didn’t have a familiar face to pick out in the crowd nor did they have someone to hug at the finish line. And she finished, without walking and with an amazing finishing time. She has been an inspiration to me. She will be sharing her personal story… in the next post. Stay tuned!