Sunday, July 12, 2009
My inspiration to run a marathon came from my sister Carrie that passed away a few years ago. After she passed away I desperately wanted to find some way to memorialize her. She had always been an avid runner and accomplished 2 marathons and numerous other runs. So what better way to remember her than to run a marathon in her honor.
When I heard our town (Missoula) was going to have its second annual marathon July 12, 2009, I decided that was going to be the one. And I wanted to do this before I turned 33. It was February and I figured that was enough time to train. I hadn't ran much in a long time though I had always been a runner myself. At this point in my life I didn't think I could muster 1 mile without walking so I knew I was in for some serious training. My other obstacle is that I suffer from Ulcerative Colitis (similar to Crohn's) which is quite debilitating at times. So I wasn't sure how this was going to work out. But I wasn't going to let this stop me. I figured as long as I finished that would be wonderful.
I began training in February of 2009 and only did 20 minutes of running and walking. Every week I increased the running and time until by the end I was running 20 miles. I look back now and it seems crazy that I could hardly run a mile when I started.
It wasn't easy though. Because of the Colitis I dehydrate easily and I cannot have any dairy, gluten, wheat, corn, barley, oats, and so much more that it was getting hard to find things to refuel my body. Sports drinks were out of the question so I started doing some research and found coconut water as my electrolyte replacer. It worked perfectly. I also could not take the gels or power bars so I replaced those with honey packets.
As marathon day grew nearer I could feel my nerves taking over which in turn resulted in a minor colitis attack. Attack or not I was determined this would not stop me whether I had to drag my body across the finish line 10 hours and 100 bathroom visits later. I was going to finish for my sister.
Marathon day came. The race was to start at 6 a.m. so I got up in plenty of time, dressed, affixed my number to my shirt, put on my timer tag, drank some water and coconut water, ate a gluten free caramel rice cake, and headed to the start with my husband and son.
There weren’t enough bathrooms to accommodate all of us so I didn't get to use the "facilities" before the race which I knew would cost me a "pit stop" along the course. So I lined up by the pacer with the 4 hour sign (which was my "secret" goal) although I new it was probably a long shot seeing my limitations, and waited for the cannon to go off signaling the start.
My nerves were a mess when I heard the cannon go but I mustered my courage and began a comfortable pace. I felt really good and was settling in when it hit me that I had to use the bathroom. Oh, well. I wasn't running for time necessarily anyway. At mile 9 I still felt awesome and was passing quite a few people until I tried to pass one guy who didn’t like the idea of me passing so every time I tried he sped up. How rude! Otherwise, everybody was so cheerful and encouraging and there were soooo many people along the route cheering us on. I felt adrenaline from this and it kept me going. At mile 11 I hit the "hill". It wasn't a very big hill but it was about 3 miles long so an energy sapper nonetheless. I expected to get a honey packet from my mom along the course at mile 14 after the hill so I had a motivation to keep going. I was still feeling good. Yes! Mom was there and I got my honey packet and downed it with enthusiasm and was off again. I figured this would get me to mile 20 as I was carrying coconut water in my camelbak pack as well. Big mistake, I hit the "wall" at mile 18 and had to walk a little to gather my strength and wits. Attached to my shirt along with my race number was a picture of Carrie to give me strength when I was feeling week. Feeling better I slowly made it to mile 20 where my husband and son were waiting for me with more honey. They also had signs for me saying "For Carrie" which renewed my adrenaline and reminded me why I needed to keep going. Just looking at my son and wanting to show him what you can do when you work hard for something also gave me the surge I needed. Only 6.2 miles to go. So I chugged some more coconut water and headed off. I was really running on pure determination at this point as my body was shutting down and cramping badly. I did walk a few times but only for maybe 30 seconds at a time. As I neared mile 24 I saw my mom again with more honey and I headed for her and gulped a mouthful and was off again.
By mile 25 I was in a ton of pain but knew I would finish so I picked up my speed seeing as I would be in pain either way and began passing people. All of a sudden, I felt amazing. I hardly felt the pain and I felt like I was running on air. One more mile to go. I just let it all go. I just ran as fast as I could almost crying as finishing this for Carrie was so important to me. I turned the final corner to run over the bridge across the Clark Fork river into downtown Missoula and gave it everything I had. I saw my family on the bridge encouraging me as I crossed the finish line. When I crossed the finish I looked up and said "I did it Carrie, I did it". I saw my other sister Heidi and the tears fell. Then I saw my mom who had helped me so much and was so happy I was doing this for Carrie. Of course the tears came again. It meant the world to me to do this and I learned so much along the way. Not only did I finish for Carrie but I also proved to myself that a chronic disease did not have to stop me from living my life. Running a marathon changed me and I am so much stronger for it. I still run almost daily and am part of a running group in my town. I know I will do another marathon someday but for now I am doing ½ marathons or 10ks. I feel stronger than I ever have and want to keep that going. Next time I will take more honey packets. I hugely underestimated how many I would need. My time was 4:23 which I am very proud of for my first marathon.
to the First Marathons page