I started the race a little worried. My knee had been sore for a few days, and I was concerned about durability. The adrenaline started pumping early, and I was feeling pretty good while waiting to toe the line. I got started and everything was great. My legs felt good and I thought “I got this.”
That changed quickly. Just about a mile into the race I felt a small pop followed by a searing pain in my calf. It brought me to a complete stand still in the middle of a few thousand other runners. I limped my way to the edge of the road and stood there trying to rub and stretch. I was trying everything I could to get it to stop hurting. It wouldn’t. I thought I was done, but I couldn’t quit, so I got back out on the road and started running with a pretty pronounced limp.
Around mile 2, I felt the tears starting to come out. I was thinking to myself “could I really have to pull out this early?” I started talking to God. Asking why this would happen. Why would he let me do all this training and build up only to fail. I heard this tiny voice in my head say, “this is going to hurt, but you can keep going.” I thought as long as my legs were working, I would trudge forward.
About mile 5 one of my Team coaches saw me. She ran with me for a bit trying to offer solutions. She gave me some biofreeze packets, and suggested I take the cutoff for the half instead of the whole. It was probably 10 minutes or less she ran with me, but it was exactly what I needed. Coach Kim distracted me from the pain, from thinking about the limp and from those thoughts of quitting. It was enough to let me know that I could keep pushing. I could keep moving forward.
I did move forward. By the time I got to the ½ marathon cut off, my calf had gone numb and my gait was getting back to normal. I had a decision to make. I thought about that deal I had made with God. My legs were still working. I thought about my dad and those years he spent fighting to live. Neither one of my fathers had given up, and I decided neither would I. I turned left and headed towards the remaining 15 miles.
At this point I was feeling ok. My quads were sore from the limping through the first 10 miles, but my gait was more normal and I was on pace to do under 6 hours. I was excited about the probability of my finishing. Once again, my good feelings would come to a halt. Around mile 15 or so I started getting severe cramps in my upper legs.
I had been steadily hydrating, fueling and taking salt. I’ve never had cramps during training. It was a shocker and when they would hit it would bring me to a slow walk. The cramps would follow me through the next 10 miles. Sometimes I’d go a mile without them sometimes they would happen 3 or 4 times over the course of a mile. I did the only thing I could, I trudged forward. I walked when I had to and ran when I could.
I had the company of a few more Team coaches. Ed ran with me between mile 16 and 17. He kept me moving and encouraged me. Wendi was the checking on me at mile 21 and 22. Dan walked with me at mile 23. I’m not sure how he was walking because I was running as fast as I could. That man must be a speed walker 🙂 Beyond the coaches, I had a huge network of support. I never went more than ½ a mile without hearing a chant of “GO TEAM”.
Kim was there again at mile 25. She walked the last mile with me and kept going. When we hit the 26 mile marker, I said “The finish chute is just ahead. I can’t walk it, I have to run through it.” She wished me luck and turned back to go find the next Team member that was needing help. I picked up my feet and ran that last little bit. I crossed that finish line got my medal and at that point the world kind of disappeared.
I trudged forward. Randomly picking up fruit, cookies, and water. By the time I got to the end of the chute, my hands were full and I was just standing there. I had spent the last 6 hours focusing so hard on just moving forward. I was done now and neither my body nor mind was sure what to do next. Eventually the numbness subsided and I finally realized I had completed my marathon. It took me over 6 hours, but I had pushed forward and completed it.