Sunday, March 18, 2012
Endurance by definition means to withstand hardship or stress, the state or fact of persevering, and continuing existence. If there is anything a marathon tests, its a person's endurance.
More than a month before my first marathon (Quintles Wrightsville Beach NC Marathon), my ability to withstand hardship was put to the test with a visit to the podiatrist for a cortisone shot in my ankle. Somehow during my training, some of the nerves in my ankle became agitated resulting in severe pain. The ankle issue also meant not running for two weeks leaving me only two weeks to train.
Despite the set back, I was determined to win!
Training for a marathon is more than just running 26.2 miles. Over the past year I had learned to manage my issues with runner's diarrhea, chafing, breathing, blisters, black toes, and it seemed every other common side-effect that runners encounter.
Not to mention, the constant, "You're going to die!" "Did you know people have heart attacks doing this?", or "You're going to suffer a stroke in that heat!" quotes from those around me including my own mother who seemed to recite at least one of these weekly.
I remember back to my 7th grade year in school. It was the first year that we were required to dress out and participate in P.E. The teacher divided the class into two teams, blue and red. To insure each team had students of equal abilities, the teacher required us to each run laps and then hit a softball. I didn't do either well!
He later informed me that I was "not athletic" and since I was one of the more studious ones he assigned me to be his "helper" for the next three years. Instead of P.E., I graded papers, prepared report cards, and even kept inventory of the school's athletic gear.
The idea that I was "not athletic" stuck with me for years. When I started running in my 30s, I realized running was a battle against myself and not about competition or whether or not I was athletic. It was all about the battle against my own body and mind. A test of wills! Who will be triumphant? The weak ankle, the irritable stomach, or the man who was able to overcome himself to achieve something great?
It really had nothing to do with the red or blue team!
The night before my marathon I tossed and turned in bed, work up sweating, and even dreamt that I couldn't find the finish line.
I woke up nervous but ready to prove something to myself.
John, who has been my running partner for a year, is the ultimate optimist. He assured me that we were both more than prepared for the hours ahead.
Shortly after crossing the start line, my shoe laces became untied. So we both stopped to readjust. Not the start we wanted!
I remember reading in Runner's World the story of a marathoner who was quoted as saying that he just took it one mile at a time. Not thinking about the overall distance, but just living in the moment.
At mile 3, I passed a church sign that read, "Welcome Runners! Keep Your Eyes on the Prize!".
Another reminder of what this experience has taught me; to stay focused, persevere, and to not grow weary in trying.
As the miles slowly clicked off, every thought imaginable came to mind: "I'm really running 26 miles?", "This is the moment I've trained for!, "I'm going to die!", "This is awesome!".
I thought so many times how I've wished my life away saying to myself that I'll be happy if I make more money, move to a different city, or reach a certain goal. Life is full of twists and turns. It's in those times that I believe we have to find the mental fortitude to move forward, rely on our faith to keep going, and enjoy the journey.
By mile 17 overwhelming fatigue and leg cramps started to settle in. I remember feeling this way during our training runs. Nevertheless, I stayed the course walking a bit and then running again.
As I approached mile 23 I could see my wife in the distance waving a sign. I knew at this point I only had 5k left. If there is anyone who has believed in me during this journey, it has been her. She never complained about the alarm clock sounding at 4 a.m. as I got up to meet John for our runs, or questioned my endless list of expenses like new running shoes, cold weather gear, or even the cost of race registration. No doubt she is my biggest fan!
By mile 25, I was starving! Proper nutrition during my long runs is definitely an area that needs perfecting.
The finish line was sort of anti-climatic. I was one of the final runners to finish so the clean-up had begun. The bands had packed up. There were a few high school cheerleaders left to hand out the medals. But I finished!
In fact, I got the same medal that the guy who came in first place had around his neck.
Did I win? Of course I did!
I only had myself to beat!
26.2 miles of life changing excitement, months of disciplined training, deep determination, faith, and encouragement from those around me, saw me to the finish line.
Determined to be myself, move forward boldly with confidence, free of shame and worldly labels,
I can now call myself a "marathon winner".
to the First Marathons page