Runners, yea, we're different. I started running almost two years ago . I've never been a runner; I've always preferred sitting inside reading a book to being outside in the sun. But, when I weighed in at 165 at 5'2" in March of 1999, I knew I needed to do something. I love food too much to give it up, so exercise had to be the answer! Thus my running career was born. I began by running short distances, half-a-mile here, half-a-mile there, until eventually I could run a 5K, then a 10K. My motivation was growing and I'd dropped 35 pounds, so in February of 2000, I chose to run the half marathon in Austin, TX where I lived. The half marathon was so uplifting, I decided to challenge myself further. Why not a marathon? And why not Chicago, where I was born? So I did it. I am a school counselor in Austin, and I work with kids of whom most have never heard of a marathon. After explaining what marathon running was about, I had the 850 students in my school sign a shirt for me to wear at the race. After 18 weeks of hard training in the heat of the Texas summer sun, knee injuries, and manic moods about running, I flew to Chicago.
The day was fabulous for running; 60 degrees beats 100 any day. The route was phenomenal. Where I had trained on hills in Austin, TX, the Chicago Marathon course was straight as an arrow. I was able to see various areas of town that I didn't remember as a child. I even ran by the barbershop where "the blind barber" used to cut my father's hair and give me gum when I was four years old. The spectators made the race great. I wore Texas flag shorts and when I heard "go Texas, don't quit now," I felt encouraged, almost as if I knew each person who called out to me by name. They were all my personal cheerleaders. From mile one, I knew that choosing to do the marathon was the right thing for me. Energized, blood pumping, a smile from ear to ear, there I was, cheering right back at the crowds.
By mile 22 my smile had faded, and I was moving on determination alone. But I was going to finish. The last four miles felt like a marathon themselves. My body was in pain. I needed more than Gatorade, Power gels, Powerbars. Even the cheering was coming through a fog. Where I had taken pictures along the run during the first 13 miles, I didn't think about pictures the last four miles. I just looked for the next marker to come. And when I spotted the finish line, I choked back tears, I was going to do it. A girl beside me was sobbing, and when I looked at her to see if she was O.K, she was smiling. She felt as I did. I only stopped at the 26-mile-marker to take a final picture of what I saw; a sea of faces, a mixture of pain and pleasure, people reaching out to their final destination, the finish line. I wanted my kids at my school to see what I saw. Although the blisters had worn through three layers of skin and my toes were raw, and my back, shoulders, knees and thighs hurt, and a bruise was developing on my left calf, as I finished, I didn't cry out of pain. Instead, I cried out from joy, the joy that filled my heart and my mind, the joy that I had completed my first marathon. People ask me, "will you do it again?" My answer is, "of course....not tomorrow...but of course." It has become a part of who I am.