I ran the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville last Saturday. I completed the full marathon. I ran 26.2 miles. I am included in an elite group of people that comprises less than 1% of the population. I did it. I am a marathon runner. All of these statements are almost unbelievable to me, yet they are true. Although I put in the many, many miles of training it took to do it and I was the one actually running the race.....it still seems unreal that it's over.
I have thought about writing this blog entry since Saturday, yet I somehow struggle with how to put the experience into words. The whole day was such an emotional roller coaster ride that I can't even begin to explain what the experience was like for me. Yet, I want to have it documented, so I am going to give it a whirl.
I suppose the best place to start the story of the marathon is the start line.....although, the story actually started months before then. I won't back track into all the details of the training, the foot injury, the time constraints, and the diagnosis of the flu just a week before race day. Nope, I won't go back that far. I will just start with the starting line.
At 7:56am on Saturday, December 8th, I stood among 1,650 strangers listening to welcome speeches and various "good luck" messages over the loud speaker. We were all crammed together in the starting corral with nervous energy awaiting the gun shot and permission to begin the race. The adjoining sidewalks were crammed with families and friends of the marathon runners.....all of them craning their necks to see their loved one start their journey of 26.2 miles on foot. I had my own crew of family and friends just past the starting line waiting to see me cross that line.
I had dreamed of completing a marathon since 1997, when my Daddy did it. I cheered for him with pride as he crossed the finish line 15 years ago. Now, it was my turn. He was there, along with my Mom, to cheer me on.
As my family walked with me to the start line, my Daddy gave me his support and words of wisdom. He said to me,
"Don't start out too fast. Stay on your own pace. No matter how long it takes you to finish, I will be proud of you."
With a bit of raw emotions coming out in my voice, I replied,
"I hope that I am making you proud by stepping up to the start line."
He and Mom gave me a hug and kiss and I made my way over to my other awesome supporters. My three little guys came to the race equipped with tons of motivational signs for me and were so proud to be there.
All of my little guys and hubby have been so ridiculously supportive through my entire training period. Never once complaining about the time it took me to train and always asking me when I returned home from a run about how my run went. I was so elated that they all came with me to cheer me on.
I gave each one of my boys a kiss on the forehead and they all wished me good luck. Bradley gave me a kiss and told me how proud he was of me. I left them behind and made my way to my pace group in the starting corral. I situated myself between the 4:10 pacers and the 4:15 pacers.
Many of the runners had stood at the start line of a marathon before and were veteran runners, but were still showing signs of nervousness for what was about to take place. Others, like me, were about to attempt their first full marathon. I felt like everyone around me could tell how nervous I was. I retied both of my shoes, even though they didn't need it. I adjusted every article of clothing I was wearing. I checked my "Pace Tattoo" that I had applied to my left forearm to keep me on my race pace of 4 hours and 15 minutes.
I glanced at my "Prayer Band" that I wore to remind me what to pray for at each mile marker. My mouth felt like cotton, and my heart was beating out of my chest. I was so excited that this day had finally arrived, yet I was so nervous that something might go wrong and I wouldn't be able to finish it. I had put in the grueling hours of training and I was ready to start the 26 mile journey.
The clock ticked.
The runners fidgeted.
Spectators clicked cameras.
The gun fired.
I approached the start line with a grin on my face....
And crossed the start line with a huge smile and a wave.
I was doing it. I was crossing the starting line of a marathon.
This was the start of fulfilling a dream.
"You should run your first marathon for the right reasons, because you'll never be the same person again."
---Bill Wenmack, Running Coach
.....to be continued.