My marathon story actually begins with my husband’s marathon story. I watched Bill train for months for the Kona Marathon and marveled at his dedication, his determination, how far he could go, and how good he looked! I had done a couple of 10Ks and decided to try to go further. With his support and guidance, we signed up for a half marathon and trained for that. When I finished I was so proud of myself, but I still felt the desire to “do what Bill did.” (Did I mention that I’m competitive?)
We signed up for the Greater Hartford Marathon on October 13, 2007 and started our training. Getting a plan online, we followed it loosely and tried to at least reach the “long run” mileage goals. We mapped out routes, strategically placed waters and GUs, and ran, ran, ran for the entire summer. I enjoyed our time together, away from the kids, able to talk about grown-up things without interruption. It was time I cherished. Except for hot and humid days, as they proved to be the hardest. Once the humidity turned our planned 18-miler into an eight-miler. Defeat set in that day, and I questioned my entire plan. Why was I doing this to my body? Just to say I did it? Just to “do what Bill did”? Luckily Bill doesn’t quit easily and he motivated me to get back into the right mindset. He kept reminding me that running is 90% mental and only 10% physical (fuzzy math to be sure, but it worked for me). In early October we tapered our runs and prepared for the race.
October 13 was a cold, crisp, fall morning, perfect for running. I was nervous, but I felt well prepared. My mom, sister, and brother-in-law were going to be there at the end to support us, and they would be bringing along our four-year-old son, Mason. The beginning of the race started off slow, as is typical of bigger races, but once we were able to get into the rhythm of our usual pace I felt great. We passed through the Hartford suburbs filled with shops and spectators and quaint towns with beautiful houses and fall foliage. I tried to use a portapotty once but couldn’t wait in the line, so I used a bush instead (hey, when a girl’s gotta go, a girl’s gotta go). I thought we were doing fine, but at mile 17 Bill started to have some trouble. He had been getting over a cold and just didn’t “feel right.” At mile 18 he told me to go on without him and he’d meet me at the end. I didn’t want to leave him; I didn’t want to abandon him if he was feeling bad and wonder for the rest of the race if he was ok. I also had never run a race by myself before. Bill had always been my companion, my motivator, my rock. He insisted, and seeing that he really didn’t want to keep up with our planned pace, I very reluctantly kissed him goodbye and went off to brave the remaining eight miles by myself, without my rock (or an iPod).
The city of Hartford itself, with its diverse communities, beautiful buildings, and cheering crowds, supplied me with enough visual stimulation to keep going. But on my way I saw people screaming in pain with leg cramps and worried for my own aching body. Would that soon be me? I sure hoped not. By mile 20 I was hungry, tired, sore, and lonely. I cursed whoever the person was who advertised the race as “flat” since there was a fairly significant hill every mile for the last six miles of the race. “ ‘Flat as a pancake’ my a**!” I yelled angrily under my breath as I stopped to walk up a hill that I just couldn’t conquer. I felt like I did on that hot and humid day that defeated me mentally. Then I briefly talked to a man who had replaced his addiction to drugs with an addiction to running marathons. He encouraged me to keep going when all I wanted to do was stop. I thought about all the training I had done, all the miles I had logged, and of my husband struggling, who knew how far, behind me. I thanked the man for the support, congratulated him on conquering his addiction, and started running the rest of the way up the hill.
When I finally got to mile 25 I felt no pain, no discomfort, no tiredness. I felt great, energized, and excited that I was actually going to complete my goal. I ran as fast as my legs would carry me and could feel my body going faster and faster with each cheer. I started picking runners ahead of me to pass: the girl with the pony-tail, got her; the guy with the orange shirt, got him; one after the other I selected them and successfully picked them off. I rounded the corner and saw the finish line. The time had finally come; I was going to finish my first marathon! Then I saw my mom, my sister, my brother-in-law, my son. My excitement was almost overwhelming. Then, NOOOOO! They were lifting Mason over the barrier so he could come congratulate me…before the finish line! He ran to me and I gathered him up in my arms. You know that guy in the orange shirt who I worked so hard to pass? Yeah, he passed me and Mason. I shook off my competitiveness and realized that it didn’t matter if I finished ahead of that guy; I was finishing with something so much more important, my son. We crossed the finish line together, hand in hand, and he yelled, “Mommy, we won! We won the race!”
Bill finished soon after, with Mason, who got to win twice that day, and congratulated me on accomplishing my goal. I was proud of both of us, and I promised myself I would do another. We received our medals and put them around Mason’s neck. Again he told us with such pride and excitement, “We won guys! We actually won the race!” Yeah, we did Buddy, we won.