The Marathon

Spoiler Alert: I finished AND I'm still alive to tell you about it.

Spoiler Alert: I finished AND I'm still alive to tell you about it.

I knew from the start that I would want to document my experience as I trained for and - I'm happy to announce - COMPLETED a 26.2 mile marathon, but now sitting here and reflecting on the past four and a half months, I have no idea where to even begin!

For the sake of my brainstorming and your insight, a few alternate titles that I came up with for this piece include:

Marathon Training: chafing in obscene places

Marathon Training: gaining muscle, losing social life

Marathon Training: I drink beer now

Marathon Training: an 18 mile run is only two 9 mile runs or three 6 mile runs or four 4.5 mile runs or...

Marathon Training: a prequel to 7 a.m. physical therapy appointments

It's crazy, the amount of time, effort, sweat, tears, stress, gel packets, and exhaustion went into my training. It's crazy how high and happy I could feel after a great run, how running exponentially changed my mood for the better, and how the few great runs always seemed to outweigh the frequent not-so-great runs. I wasn't sure beforehand, but I can confidently say now that it all paid off. 

I don't think I'll forget anything about that morning (except most of the running part). I woke up at 4:56 a.m. (4 minutes before my alarm because my  internal clock is whack). I got dressed in solitude, I redid my hair no less than four times, I tied my shoes and tried not to show how nervous I was, because then my mom would worry, and that would make me worry, and someone would start crying, and then everyone would be crying and

I held my mom's hand as we walked to the shuttle buses around 5:15 a.m. (because you're never too old to hold your mom's hand). The sun was just rising and that purple-blue-pink-ish sunrise light shimmered over the lake. It was so serene and if it weren't for the school buses and the hundreds or jittery runners bouncing up and down and shaking out there nerves next to me, I would have totally forgotten that I had 4 hours of running ahead of me.

I left my mom to hop on a school bus that would take me presumably 26.2 miles north to the starting line. A young girl with braces and a poofy ponytail sat down next to me. I learned that her name was Ana, she was 17 years old, this was her first marathon too, and that she was trying to qualify for Boston. 

My mouth DROPPED. To qualify for the Boston Marathon for women ages 18-34 (she would fall into this group), your time must be equal to or under 3 hours and 35 minutes. That means that every mile would have to be at least 8 minutes and 12 seconds or LESS. That's FAST. We talked about school and cross country and out personal lives. I didn't catch her last name so I'm not sure how she did, but qualifying or not I know she killed it!

When we finally got off the bus, it was about 6:15 a.m., cloudy and drizzling. Lovely. We had over an hour before we were supposed to line up, so we stood under a tent and did our best to shake out the nerves. FINALLY, time sped up and after I popped a few ibuprofen, two cups of water, three gel squares, and found my squad (a friend and his two brothers), we lined up with the other 6,441 runners/crazy people. 

I honestly don't remember much besides the start and finish, the pine trees and the lake, and a few of the little cities we ran few. I do remember every time I saw my mom and sister or my boyfriend, Cavy, because I would get a huge burst of adrenaline. I wasn't sure I could finish it until I got to mile 18; I was still feeling okay, and I thought that I got this far so there was no way I was going to stop now. 

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The last four miles were absolutely brutal, I won't lie. The only significant hill was exactly at mile 22. How cruel!!! We ran straight down Canal St., Duluth's downtown central from what I gathered, and both sides of the street were lined with people cheering, bands playing, and Cavy and friends! I was not expecting them to be there and got a burst of adrenaline. I blew them a kiss and kept running!!! There were only two miles left and two miles is nothing, compared to the 24 I just ran, right?

WRONG. So wrong. The finish was a huge tease, and I'm still upset about it. The very last mile had about 4 turns and I expected the finish line to be just around each one, so I ended up "sprinting" (or as close to sprinting as one can get after 25 miles), and FINALLY, I saw the finish. I dragged my legs across the line and gasped a sigh of relief/ for air. A volunteer asked me if I was okay. I politely glared at her. I finished in 4 hours and 13 minutes, which was WAY better than I anticipated! I was so happy, slightly delusional, and extremely sweaty. 

Looking back, the training and the anticipation and build-up of running the course was way more physically, mentally, and emotionally exerting than the marathon itself. I was too nervous and skeptical to admit it before, but I was well prepared. I put in the time and effort, and the outcome, not just my time, but the pride and joy, and having all my body parts and limbs in-tact, was more than I could have ever hoped for.  It's been a month since the "race" (it is NOT a race do NOT call it a race), and I'm actually considering running another one! If I, the queen of all things lazy and Netflix, will do another marathon, it must be something worth running for.