Sunday, July 10, 2011
"...But what if you can?" The answer to a question from a potential Biggest Loser contestant when she asked, "what if I can't do it?"
What if you can?
I was scared. I couldn't even fathom running more than the 13.1 mile half marathon that I had already done and struggled mightily with. But I was going to face my fear, I was going to conquer the beast. I was going to train for and finish the 2011 Missoula marathon. At 46 years old how was I ever going to do this? Simple. By digging deeper, pushing harder and running farther than I ever had before. I had to look deep inside myself and find the person I knew existed in there.
I think the hardest part of a marathon isn't getting to the finish line, it's getting to the starting line. The thing about a marathon (or any race) is you really don't know if you can finish until you cross that line. If you train well, follow your plan you have a good idea but a lot of things can go wrong in 26.2 miles.
Sometimes, most times, it was the only thing on my mind; for days, weeks, months. Holy crap! What have I gotten myself into? But every day I pushed a little harder. I went a little farther. I pushed, I hurt, I ran, for 6 months.
Many days when the alarm went off at 4 a.m. I could've easily talked myself into staying in bed. I have my wife, Jody to thank for dragging my carcass down to the gym or outside for a cold morning run. Her dedication to her own fitness regimen shamed me into getting up. Thanks, honey!
Along my journey I remembered many quotes that I used for inspiration, some of which I have taped to my bathroom mirror to read every morning and night. Among them: "Sine up, so the work, finish it!" "You only have to beat the voice in your head that tells you to quit!" "Realize your dream." "Unleash your potential. Never give up! RUN!!"
One of my favorites was from Jillian from The Biggest Loser: You have four choices; puke, pass out, die, or just keep going!"
But the one that brought the most inspiration and more than one much needed chuckle was when I could hear my daughter Amanda as clear as if she were right next to me saying "Suck it up, buttercup!" Thanks, Manda Bear!
Race Day: Up until now this marathon has just been a goal, something to work towards but it didn't seem real. It was just something in the future to talk about and dream about. Now, walking around in the dark at the starting area it starts to become very real. I have to do this thing now! This moment is frozen in time. Bonding with other runners (most of whom look a whole lot more prepared than I feel), total strangers yet all of us have something in common. You can sense the excitement, the fear the apprehension, or maybe it's all just emanating from me. Finally the cannon booms, the fireworks go off! I can feel feet start moving all around me. The entire mob begins inching toward the start. My journey is over and yet it has only just begun...I'm doing this. I am running a marathon!
They say that one tenth of one percent of all Americans will ever finish a marathon. But how many of those can say that they ran the first mile of their first marathon with a former Olympian? Jeff Galloway and his wife were among the runners at the back of the pack (for a while, anyway) offering all of us personal words of encouragement. Nice folks! Already this was shaping up to be a very eventful day!
The first five miles were going pretty much as planned except that I couldn't seem to shake the five hour pace group. It became clear that I was going too fast for my hoped-for finish time of five and a half hours. So I forced myself to slow down and by mile eight or so they were completely out of sight. I began to relax and find my groove. "I've got a brand new pair of roller skates..." What the...? My son, Kyle planted this song in my head the night before knowing it would pop in there sooner or later. It was good for a few chuckles along the way and provided a much needed distraction! Thanks, Kyle!
At mile thirteen I felt great and was happy with my split time(2 hrs. 33 mins.). At mile seventeen I was starting to fatigue. That was when I started running with one of the Marathon maniacs. She was from Atlanta and just wanted to meet and talk with as many people as possible. "Only nine more miles to go" she cheerfully encouraged me. ONLY nine more miles? "That was quite possibly the sickest thing I've ever heard" I thought to myself.
The race was full of Marathon Maniacs, 50-50 club members, cancer survivors, charity runners and just plain back-of-the-packers like myself. Miles eighteen through twenty-two were like a vast no-man's land. Nothing there but pain and distance. Getting close and yet SO FAR to go. Suck it up, buttercup!!!
Mile twenty-three. Only a 5k to go! How many of these had I run in the past two years? I'm really starting to think that I've got this. I started to think about my family waiting for me at the finish line. Jody, Amanda, Kyle and April. My daughter, Jennifer will be there also. Jenny, who chauffered me to and from the Veteran's Day race and then hung around with me while I waited to get my twelfth place ribbon an a very cold November morning. Thanks, Jen!
I don't know if they know how much their support and encouragement has meant to me over these last six months. I'm so glad they will all be there to share this with me! Oh, I'm getting closer!
By miles twenty-four and twenty-five I sometimes couldn't tell if I was running or walking except my knees hurt more when I ran and my hips hurt more when I walked. I kept telling myself, "Forward! Just keep moving forward!" The crowd was getting larger and more vocal, even if you were walking they kept cheering for you. You didn't dare stop.
At this point I really started to notice the human drama unfolding before me: people cramping, tending to blisters and other maladies, some vomiting or sitting the shade on the side of the road. Others being helped to the medical stations, the seemingly hopeless desperation on some faces. But I also witnessed the human spirit, the desire, the determination, the courage and the sheer guts it takes to just keep going forward!
Mile twenty-six! Only 365 yards to go! My legs seemed to be mired in cement! Why wouldn't they move faster? There it was! The Finish Line Banner! The hundreds of people cheering, the announcer calling my name, I MADE IT!! I threw my arms in the air, pumped my fists and prayed that I didn't cramp up or trip.
This feeling was way more than I ever imagined it could be. I saw my family and the emotions and the exhaustion came crashing over me at the same time and I could feel the tears starting to flood my eyes. SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP!!!
Overall it was an amazing journey of self- evaluation, discovery and realization. Six months of training. I ran over 350 miles and tallied twice that on my bike. Getting up at 4:00 a.m. when it's zero degrees outside, running twenty milers in the rain, wind, and snow really seems insane. But it really lets you know who you are. I found out who I am. It's a feeling I really don't know how to describe. I have never been so utterly and completely exhausted. I have never hurt so bad, and yet I have never felt so good!
I finished what I started. I conquered the beast. I AM A MARATHONER!!!
to the First Marathons page