I wrote this post ages ago, but couldn't get up the courage and strength to post it. But now that some time has passed, I am ready and I think you should know what really fueled my marathon.
An strong sense of self empowerment develops when training for a marathon. I am strong enough to persevere; I have run a thousand miles this year; I am running a marathon. I did this. I am strong enough to do this. I am awesome.
It’s a very selfish, decidedly narcissistic journey.
Indeed, through much of my marathon training I have thought little but of myself. Too many people in my life, have heard some variation of an excuse on why I am tired, particular about plans or just plain old missing in action.
Armed with that singular sense of determination and confidence in my training, I packed my bags and headed off to Philadelphia to run my very first marathon.
But the thing that you can never know about running a marathon until you actually do, is what running a marathon is like. It’s a curious thing. But aren’t all the great moments like that? Weddings, child birth, tests, death, LIFE. You just don’t know until you do and then it’s really too late, because you are already two hours and thirteen miles away from home and the only way to dig yourself out of the mess is to just keep on going.
The marathon was hard. There is no other way to describe it. At mile nine, I thought to myself, this is it, I am running the marathon, but inside I didn’t feel like I thought I would. I didn’t feel excited nor did I hurt in any sort of serious way. I just felt like I was running and running and running and running….with no end in sight.
Around that ninth mile, I started asking myself what I was doing. Self-doubt settled in, and I thought about the impending holidays when I would have to go home and explain why I ran a marathon so slowly. The 5:30 pace group passed me and I tried to keep up with them for a minute but my legs, no my heart, was not in it, and so I fell behind.
Still I kept on going because after all via Facebook and this blog, I had told the whole world that I was running a marathon and goshdarnit, if I was going to quit, I sure as hell wasn’t going to quit the race when I wasn’t even half way done. Who does that? I had just run a half marathon in October, surely single digit miles weren’t going to break me now.
So I just kept on going, because I could. My feet were still moving. But secretly, I was hoping that I would faint or throw-up or strain a hamstring. Yes, I was wishing for my own demise. While I felt a little tired, what I really felt was disheartened about how much more was left to go and I was embarrassed about how slow I was running.
I wanted to be able to stamp on this race and its dismal showing an awesome excuse. I wanted to quit and then come home and regal everyone with stories of how I tried to run a marathon but then ended up convulsing and heaving at mile twelve and was forced to quit by the race regulators. Or I wanted a severe limp for a few weeks, that would grant me bragging rights and office chatter about my valiant attempts to run a marathon, and the vain excuse to tell the whole world, “oh yeah, I tried to run a marathon and look how hard I tried. I injured myself in the process.”
Yet, my dreams of self sabotage were not to be. After all, I did train for this thing. And for my body to give out before the half way mark, nothing short of a Christmas miracle would have had to occur. I don’t want to brag, but at this point, running thirteen miles isn’t that hard anymore.
There I go again. I’m letting my ego take over.
At mile thirteen there is a point in the race where the half marathoners and full marathoners split off. I thought seriously about splitting off to the left and taking the short way home. But I knew that my friends ,who were in Philadelphia for the sole reason to cheer me on, were waiting for me just beyond mile thirteen and when I reached the literal and figurative fork in the road I took the long road because I couldn’t make their trip to Philadelphia for nothing. If nothing else, I was going to cross that finish line because they had crossed state lines, rearranged work schedules and made the best posters ever…FOR ME.
And so I kept on running.
And walking and running and walking and running and walking and running.
Because in the craziest twist of fate ever, finishing a marathon had nothing to do with how much I had trained or how determined I was.
When I passed my friends at the halfway mark, I still struggled. I almost broke down and had a good cry. In my head, I rehearsed a speech I would give to my family at Thanksgiving about how despite my snail pace, I had still managed to achieve my goal and that there was pride in that.
As the miles crept towards twenty and the fast runners passed me (after the 13th mile mark in the Philadelphia marathon it’s an out and back course where you run 6.5 miles out and run around a orange cone and come back the way you came), I questioned my will to run the marathon. It was especially tempting to just fake a stretch and then cut across to the other side and pretend that I had run the whole distance.
So why didn’t I quit? Or why didn’t I cheat? Because, I wasn’t running the marathon alone. Far from it. My friends had travelled to another city to visit me, my family stalked the website, and for every person who has ever read a post of my blog EVER, you were all with me, powering my legs, lungs, and will.
Yes, I am admitting that if I had run this marathon and told no one, I would have quit.
But I finished.
And I finished because you were there, even if you weren’t. You were, in my head and in my heart.
Maybe you have already learned this lesson, but I hadn’t. I always thought that I was smart or strong or creative enough to work my way out of any situation. But what I didn’t know was that, when times get rough, when you want to quit, when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, that we pull ourselves up from the end of earth because of someone else. I didn’t finish that marathon because I had trained so hard or because I wanted to, but because of my readers, cheerleaders, and family.
So thank you for reading my blog and most importantly, thank you for believing in me. I know you might not think that your good wishes matter but even if you didn’t say it, even if you didn’t think it, even if you didn’t come to Philly to cheer me on, I felt the weight of announcing to the whole world (ok, my whole world) that I was running a marathon, and so I ran a marathon.
And that’s all that matters. Thank you for thinking, reading, watching, hoping, wishing, and wanting for me.
Because I only ran for you.
Thanks to Lisa Torrieri for the great pictures!