May 8th, 2011 marks my first completed marathon. It was absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done.
All of the warnings in the world about "when you'll hit the wall", or how overwhelming the entire experience is, or how "going out to fast" will affect you in mile 21 can not really prepare you for just the massive and epic feelings I faced Sunday morning. Elation and misery both come to mind first. Then pain. Then defeat. Then success.
I remember at 6 miles, I turned to a friend and joked, "Ok, we just ran the last 10k. Now we just have to run a 20-miler." I wish that would have worked!
But I had a very solid 20k. Hell, I had a very solid 17 miles. I believe it was the bottom of Bronson Blvd where I started wondering if I could finish this. I was less than 10 miles away from my finish, but I struggled. Both mentally and physically. My legs felt heavy. My mind felt exhausted. I smiled and waved to the people I passed, high-fived the little ones on the sidewalks, just trying to push myself along any way I could. Thank God for the crowds. They were outstanding.
I walked some. Walking in a marathon is like "breaking the seal" at the bar. You do it once, you're screwed. You do it once, and your mind makes you think you need to keep doing it over and over.
When I met my friends on Park Ave in mile 22, I had some serious doubts about how much running I'd be doing in the last 4 miles. One of my best friends met me at the top of the hill, ready to run those last four with me. I told him we'd be walking for a bit. I'm so thankful he was there, ready to walk or run with me until I found the end of the course. I literally was concentrating on the next tree. The next orange cone.
Mile 24. Never in my life would I imagine that two miles, a distance I usually run as a cool-down or a recovery jog, would be the hardest two miles I'd ever run. They felt like they took forever. We ran through the park, walked up Brook Drive Hill. I didn't feel the need to run on the hills anymore. I just had to keep moving.
At that point, my boyfriend jogged down to meet my friend and I, with just one mile to go (even though he had already run 26.2 miles himself!). We jogged down the never-ending street, with the last leg of the course in my sight.
The last bit was a blur. Cheering spectators. Photos. Friends waving and hollering. A sense of pride, of accomplishment that pushed my legs faster. I smiled. I beamed! I could see the finish, I heard my name called out as I crossed the mats. I had pushed through the despair, and finished strong despite it.
I stared those fears and doubts right in the face, and I conquered them. I couldn't be prouder of my achievement.
"It's a long, hard road and it's going to have its bumps; there are going to be times when you fall and times when you don't feel like going on anymore, times when you're just crazy tired but it takes focusing on that one step you're taking. That's what I'm trying to do with the marathon; I don't think about the miles that are coming down the road, I don't think about the mile I'm on right now, I don't think about the miles I've already covered. I think about what I'm doing right now, just being lost in the moment." ~Ryan Hall