I am not a runner. I have never been a runner. In fact, using the word “run” to describe my physical action is doing a major disservice to actual runners. The truth is I shuffled a marathon.
In school I was the kid in gym who dreaded the mile run day, and would often find some way to cheat the system. But then I turned 29, and I thought, I could do that. Shuffling a marathon sounds like a good idea. I now recognize that making the decision to train for and complete a marathon was simply my brilliant consciousness preparing my mind and body for pregnancy and childbirth ten years later.
Most training programs take 18 weeks, assuming the participant has some running experience. Not me. I had to work up to the level of basic runner before starting actual marathon training. This took about 40 weeks. (Sound familiar?) I began in the fall, with my starry eyes set for a July marathon It was a magical time in the beginning. Those first weeks were blissfully spent taking energizing walks in the crisp autumn weather.
And then, at about week nine, my body started to protest (morning sickness.) There were barriers at every turn. Nausea, exhaustion, odd eating habits, and aching body parts I didn’t even know existed. Sometimes I felt I couldn’t possibly go on. In those early days I had to negotiate every movement carefully to keep my body going, but then something amazing happened.
I was a runner. I was actually doing this. Several months into training I was finishing five-mile runs, and feeling like I could conquer the world. I found that elusive runner’s high I had heard so much about. No wonder people do this! This is AWESOME! I started telling people I was training for a marathon, and I loved getting the smiles, support, and well-wishes, but most of all I was proud of what I was doing. I kept going, and by eight months my daily runs were basically 5k or 10k ventures.
As I neared the end, the long days of training runs grew more time-consuming and exhausting; aches and pains had to be tended so I wouldn’t blow out too early. I was ready for everything to be over, to be done with it; but thinking of the end also terrified me. Sometimes I felt I needed more time. Race day drew nearer, and I worried I hadn’t done everything to fully prepare. I worried if I could make it the whole way. I had a really great support team who assured me they would be with me through the end, but on that precipice it still felt lonely. Few people understand unless they’ve been there themselves.
The big race day came. I hadn’t looked at the course online so it was a total surprise to me what terrain I might be covering. But I couldn’t change the plan now, and pretty soon, without much ceremony, I was off and running.
About one third of the way through the event, I hit gravel, and I was almost brought to a complete stop. I was not advancing the way I knew I could be, and the frustration was infuriating! I heard others pass me, saw their progress, and began to doubt myself. Who did I think I was, that I could do this? Reluctantly, and mostly out of spite, I got back into a rhythm. I just kept panting and pushing through it until I looked up and there was no more gravel. I was back on the road again.
People were cheering, and my determination was back. I was making real, honest-to-goodness, progress. I hit mile 15 with renewed hope. It was here that I met up with my partner. He had been there all along but somehow I had forgotten. He brought me my smile, and walked with me for a few miles. Getting this outside perspective reminded me why I had chosen this journey in the first place. When we forget ourselves or get lost, that is when our partner steps in to remind us how strong we really are. He had absolutely no doubt that I could make those last ten miles, and his confidence became mine.
After many hours that felt like days, I saw the finish line. I crossed it, and was finally done. Everyone was there, and excited for me. I was so overwhelmed I cried. I don’t know if was because of relief, or exhaustion, or pride, or love; I just cried. It was my first marathon, and later, my first baby. I’m pretty sure I will never do one of them again. Guess which one?