It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I don't think I fully realized the committment it takes to train for and run a marathon. Do we ever though? I don't regret any part of it, I learned so much and I encourage anyone who's considering taking on the challenge to DO IT and stick with it. However, after completing this feat and earning a (heavy) medal, I've "hung up my shoes" and won't be running any more full marathons in my lifetime. (Jen laughs when I say that, she seems to think I'll change my mind.)
It's one thing to commit to do something huge like this, but with the added pressure of committing before nearly 700,000 KSBJ listeners that I was going to follow through with it, I knew I couldn't slack. Having Jen, Coach Michael and Nikki razz me anytime I did slack was good for me too because come 5 a.m. on Saturday mornings, it was easy to justify how hard my week had been, thinking of course I'll make up the 16 mile long run tomorrow... or something. Yaaa right!! Oh how I need accountability in my life...
I never was a runner. I started running 5K's a few years ago because I met cool people, got a t-shirt for bragging rights and loved the feel of accomplishment. Then I met David Anderson who was training for his first marathon. He was a friend of a friend who came to help me move one Saturday morning after just running 18 miles. I figured he was a strange breed, an advanced human specimen with bonus pockets of endurance and strength, just hovering above the rest of us normal weaklings. Though I still believe this to be true (haha) I learned about his training group In Flight Running and watched as David qualified for Boston in his first attempt. What an accomplishment. And it was contagious.
One month later I ran my first half marathon in Austin. I trained on my own when 6 months earlier I'd had reconstructive surgery on both my feet but was so determined to get that medal. I remember at mile 9 seeing a sign held by a spectator that said "Go Marathoners! Only 17 More Miles To Go!" and made up my mind right then and there I was ok with never running a full. But wow, what a rush. The next year in Austin, my brother David completed his first marathon, I ran too but only the half. This time when I finished I said to my dad, "I wish I could keep going, I feel like I could keep running!" And with the adrenaline and ability channeling through David, I decided for sure to run Houston 2009.
That's when I connected with Coach Michael at In Flight, Jen and Nikki committed with me and my roommate Stacey (she's run 3 marathons, definitely not human either) cheered on my decision without any doubt. We gathered a team of listeners, forming the first ever KSBJ Marathon Team and training began.
I am so grateful to In Flight Running, Fleet Feet, Dr. Haasenbank with Spine and Sports, Christian Bros. Automotive and the KSBJ listeners for all the generousity, support and prayer throughout training.
January 17th, I was ready to go. I don't know what I'd have done without DK, my friends and family encouraging, cheering, and praying in the days leading up to the marathon. DK and I went to the Expo at GRB and the feeling in the air was so energizing from all those who were going to run too. It was exciting to enter the "Marathon" packet pick-up line, to do the "I'm running the Full Marathon tomorrow" strut and to feel so confident about it. And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was nothing about me or my physical ability, but through Him and only Him was I able to be here now. For His glory.
The next morning I woke up early feeling rested and at peace! I got dressed, praying all the while and loaded up to head to GRB. DK and Kenai dropped me off and I realized the next time I saw him, I would be running in a freaking marathon. WHAT?!
Near the start line at the KSBJ tent I found Nikki and Jen with the rest of the team. We were like giddy teenagers talking, hugging and eeeee!!! but I didn't sense any nervousness from others. The gun time was nearing and because I run so slow, I was in the second wave of marathon runners, so I found my pace rep and hung out until it was time for the gun!
The gun went off. The first wave of runners (Jen was in this group) left and the rest of us moved closer to the start line. 10 minutes later, a gun/cannon boomed and we were on our way. I saw DK in front of Minute Maid as we passed under the official start line and beep! beep! beepbeepbeep! went the racer's time chips. "I love you!" I yelled to DK and then put in my headphones to focus and run.
I call this run the Tour De Houston because of the variety of locations we run through in our great city. Just north of downtown up and over Elysian as the sun was rising, we passed a group of Elvis impersonators. Left on Quitman and towards the Heights, SO. MANY. PEOPLE. came out of their houses to cheer us on, one group enjoying mimosas, yum! Around mile 4 I saw Bill Ingram at the KSBJ broadcast van booming our music and we continued down Michaux to 11th Street. The Heights and Montrose had the best representation and spectators, no doubt. The first 8 miles seemed to pass so quickly and everything was going really well. I felt like all of Houston was cheering us on!! It was at Montrose and Fairview that I saw DK again and Stacey and Jeff were there too!! I will never underestimate the power of encouragement and just showing up. It's what got me through this whole thing, I know it. I love my Montrose!!
Around mile 13 my legs started cramping up because my stride was so short so I began doing some long stride power walking. It really helped... We ran down University all the way to Wesleyan and I was already feeling shock and disbelief of how far we'd come. Left on Westpark, over the bridge, the crowd was thinning and I began to make runner friends. Over to Post Oak, I started hurting bad. I was feeling discouraged and was hoping even though it wasn't part of the plan that somehow DK would appear along the route to help me along. I stopped at a medic station for some icy hot and met some KSBJ listeners who really helped lift my spirits. We passed the Galleria, crossed Westheimer and I knew the turn at San Felipe was not far off.
And then I saw my dad.
He held a sign above his head with my name on it and was cheering so loud for me. I got pretty emotional and really lost it when I saw (AND HEARD) Domenica, Kristen, Mary, Ma Olden, and DK. It was all I could do to keep from losing it and bawling. But it was the boost I needed to keep going and not only did I ace the next 3 miles but was also able to help others bounce out of their funk and pain. I'm crying now as I write this, just remembering what it meant to me.
All through Tanglewood and up to Woodway I was feeling GREAT! We passed mile 20 and I wondered if I was going to hit my "wall" anytime soon. I felt prepared for it and though I didn't allow myself to expect it, I started to worry that it would affect my time once I hit it. Memorial was a blur and felt like it was taking forever but passed really quick. I saw DK and Domenica closer to Shepherd and again felt encouraged and like I needed to speed it up.
I turned right onto Shepherd then left on Allen Parkway. This part of the story makes me cry even more because that's when I saw Stacey and Jeff again. She yelled "Just up ahead you can see the skyline!! You can do this!!" Then they'd ride ahead and wait for me to pass again. They did this over and over again until I made it into downtown. Before that though, I saw Coach Michael, more of DK, Domenica and also Chiara and I was getting so tired. I somehow crossed under I-45 and decided it was time to cue up my finish line song.
I still hadn't hit my wall and was feeling homefree, I was in downtown!! I could smell it, feel it, I knew the finish line was close. Then I turned onto Rusk, the home stretch with .3 miles (ish?) to run and then I was done. DONE! Complete! But I wanted to stop and suddenly didn't care anymore. I couldn't finish. I didn't want to, I was so over it. But wouldn't you know it, God sent an angel to carry me to the finish line... Stacey was there again, this time she left her bike with Jeff and started to run me in. She prayed out loud over me, she prayed and she prayed some more. We got to the point she wasn't allowed to run with me anymore and said "You can do this, you are THERE." And she tailed off to my left.
I was so tired but started to recognize the faces of my best friends, Heather, my dear friend from college was there! my boyfriend, these people who believed in me. And I crossed that finish line.
My chip time was 5:47 and I received my medal. The feeling was overwhelming and I cried hard for about 30 seconds. And I know from start to finish it was God within me, carrying me through.
I can't think of a more perfect way to compare life in Christ. Striving for greatness, feeling exhilaration, experiencing defeat knowing there is hope, clinging to Him, celebrating with the people who love and know you, knowing there is victory waiting at the finish line.
I ran the good race and am proof you CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens you.