"Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one'."

Monday, June 27, 2011

"That's not sweat, it's your fat cells crying."

I ran my first marathon on Saturday.  Immediately after the race, I might have been tempted to call it my one and only marathon.  But today I can tell you with certainty that I will do it again. 

I ran with a very dear friend, and for her company along the course I will never be able to fully express my gratitude.  She could have finished faster but stayed with me every step of the race.  She had dozens of inspirational running quotes that she doled out along the way, wisdom from other marathoners and elite runners, and stories from random folks she'd met at other races who had all left an impression on her.  She has so much HEART.  She only let on that she was hurting one time that I can remember, as opposed to me constantly assessing which new body part was feeling searing pain.  God bless that woman and her sweet Midwestern accent; without her I might have veered to the left when the half-mary runners split from the full. 

Thank goodness for our support crew (my husband and her dad) who tracked us down at three separate places along the course carrying a bright yellow sunshine balloon so we could find them easily.  Thank goodness for my mama, who kept the girls Friday and Saturday so I could enjoy the weekend worry-free.  Thank goodness for the spectators and volunteers who showed up at the crack of dawn to cheer us on.  All along the course they held hand-written signs with memorable one-liners:

"In our minds, you're all Kenyans!"
"That's not sweat, it's your fat cells crying!"
"Chuck Norris never ran a marathon!"
"There's beer at the finish line!"
"This 26.2 is for all the girls picked last in gym class!"

I loved the sense of community all throughout the race: 26,000 strangers and throngs of supporters, united by a common goal and shared passion.

At mile 7, we reached the tribute to our nation's veterans and those lost in combat.  There were volunteers holding photos of service men and women who didn't make it home, and a long line of American flags, and the sight of it all quite literally took my breath away.  Talk about perspective.

At mile 12, I started having what I call 'big thoughts,' as in:  We've already been running for two hours and we aren't even halfway done yet, and My God What Have I Gotten Myself Into???  Then we came across a table full of snack food for the race volunteers.  Doughnuts....and grapes and broccoli.  The doughnuts proved to be too large a temptation--I made off with half an old-fashioned glazed and popped it in my mouth with two broccoli florets.  Mmm.

I am not a natural runner, it doesn't come easily to me.  At mile 19, I remember saying, "This is harder than childbirth!"  Maybe I was being melodramatic.  Maybe I had freakishly mild labor and delivery experiences.  (The girls all came out in 1 or 2 pushes so I certainly don't have the perspective of a woman who had to push for hours.)  26.2 miles of pavement pounding is grueling and there is no mid-race epidural.  (If you've done both and still disagree and want to call me names that's totally your prerogative. ;)

The last mile of the race felt like at least three miles; the anticipation of the finish line was palpable and painful.  But crossing it, hand in hand with my sweet friend, was an amazing rush.  I came home to bone-crushing hugs from my girls and peonies on my porch from lovely Lindsay.

I think Saturday was the beginning of a journey for me: a lifetime of marathons, hopefully some faster and probably some slower, but each with it's own unique set of experiences.  I will cross the starting line for my next 26.2 armed with the knowledge that I absolutely CAN do it.  And if I can do it, anyone can.


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