*Disclaimer* There is profanity in this post. Don’t read if you’re offended by bad words. I find that running marathons brings out the occasional F-bomb. Staying true to myself, I decided to keep them in the post:)
In the days leading up to the Livestrong Austin Marathon, I decided that I wasn’t going to play it safe. I wasn’t going to take it easy and then negative split the last 6 miles of the marathon like I’ve done for the four marathons I’ve completed over the past 10 years. Inspired by a TEDx event I attended a few weeks ago (you can read more here), I was curious about my limits. I thought I had a good idea about where they lie with my running abilities but I’ve never completed a marathon feeling like I’d given it everything I had. I’ve always had more left in the tank, so to speak, and have been able to sprint to the finish line with a smile on my face. I’ve never finished a marathon and wondered if I could take another step or question if I’d be able to finish. I did yesterday.
I approached this marathon wanting to find out where my limits are, and if I could run a sub 3:45. Meghan (an awesome person and runner who’s been training for the marathon with Rogue Running as well) and I started running at a decent clip and after a few miles, were right on pace to run a 3:45. I’m not a rookie marathoner so I knew this could be dangerous so early on, but I went with it and wanted to see how long I could keep it up. Who knows, maybe it was going to be for 26.2 miles? Maybe I could actually run a sub 3:45?!? I wasn’t going to know unless I tried. What if my limits aren’t where I think they are?
The old familiar creeping pain of lactic acid in my legs, which I know all too well from my rowing days and now running days, begin to knock on my cellular door around the 1/2 marathon mark. I decided to welcome it, respect it, and told the throbbing nature of its presence to just be gentle, at least for a little while longer. Around the 17 mile mark, the farthest point from downtown Austin, fewest spectators, and steady headwind, was where I really started to feel it. I started talking to myself a lot at this point. I told myself to just take in the experience, to take it one mile at at time, and take in the energy from the people around me.
Somewhere around mile 23, I started hearing spectators cheer for the 3:55 pace group. I knew they were behind me. I knew they were creeping up and about to fucking pass me. I tried so hard to envision myself pulling away from them. But alas, my legs were done. My quads and calves were absolutely destroyed from the 8:30′s I put in during the first half, and from the delightful hills that are a constant challenge during the Austin course. At this point I knew I could finish under 4 hours, but it wasn’t going to happen ahead of the 3:55 group and 3:45 was for sure not going to happen.
The last 2 miles of this race is a blur. Amy, another awesome Rogue runner, came out of the crowd to help ‘run me in’. All I could do was grunt at her as acknowledgement. I could tell that she was a bit concerned about my wellbeing because I was looking rough. All I could do was put one foot in front of another. Then, Bobby, Rogue Running coach extraordinaire, started running with me as I came to the final fucking hill of the course. My legs started buckling beneath me. I was done. I walked, something I’ve never done in a marathon before, and had to muster up one more morsel of energy to run the final 800 meters. I took a deep breath. I tried to tap into his energy. I somehow started running again, feeling as if my legs were detached from my body, and made the final turn to the finish line. Matt, the most amazing boyfriend in the world, hopped over the barricade for the spectators to stand behind, and started running with me down the final stretch to the finish line.
I did it. 3:57.22 of pure grit, determination, of finally reaching my limit. I did it. I found out where that limit was for me yesterday. Yes, I could have played it safe and I could have run smarter. Maybe my time would have been faster with a slower first 1/2, but sometimes you need to let go of strategy and race plans. Sometimes you just need to see what you’re made of, throw the elevation charts to the wind, and just fucking run.
I want to write a special thank you to my friends who were out there cheering. Drew, thank you for waking up so early and for making me such a pretty sign. I love that I get to be friends with such a brilliant and funny guy who is always there for me. Jenny, thank you for flying in from Miami to cheer me and your other friends on. Your cute smiling face lit me up as I saw you throughout the course. Lauren, you saw me at one of the roughest parts of that race. Thank you for being there cheering me along, along with everything else you have going on right now, love you Minuch! Mary, I love that we got to share another marathon experience! You will be my running buddy forever:) Matt, my amazing Love and man of my dreams, thank you for not just supporting me for the last 23 weeks of training, early mornings, early bedtimes, and weird eating habits. Thank you for being there throughout the entire race yesterday. You helped me find out where my limits are, and made it so much more bearable. I love that we get to experience our accomplishments and life challenges together with partnership.
I also want to give a HUGE thank you to my fellow Rogue Running Sole Survivors. Ya’ll are a blast to run with and so inspiring. What’s our next race? Finally, I want to thank Coach Bobby for being such an incredible person. You are someone who exudes love and excitement for life. Thank you for all that you’ve done and mostly, for the person you are. Your team of Sole Survivors could not have done this without you. You didn’t just help us run a marathon, you helped us form friendships, community, fitness, and a deeper love for running.