Last weekend I tackled the adventurous task of running my first (and only) full marathon. The experience was incredible, so much so, that I have had trouble finding adequate words to describe the abundance of feelings that I felt both physically and emotionally. The unique course through various neighborhoods and districts of Charlotte North Carolina was immensely challenging, yet, incredibly fulfilling!
When I got to the expo and picked up my race packet I was feeling confident, prepared and excited for race day to finally be here! In the past 7 months I had ran over 700 miles in preparation and needless to say, I was slightly burnt out and ready to get it over with. My bubble of excitement was quickly burst when I stumbled upon a shirt with the slogan across the chest that said, “flat is for sissies.” Confused, I stared at the shirt. WHAT does this mean?! Then, I glanced at the shirt adjacent on the rack and immediately felt my heart sink as I studied the picture. Hills. Lots of hills. Elevation Change every mile, sometimes several hills in a single mile. Over 1100 total feet to “climb.” The information was shocking considering I had assumed the course was relatively flat (note to self: future races READ the elevation charts attached.)
I turned to my husband, flustered and held the shirt up. A picture is worth a thousand words. He laughed. I nearly cried as I whined, “I didn’t train for hills, oh my gosh, I may not finish….” For the next hour I studied the shirt; doubting my training, doubting my abilities and feeling completely unprepared. We left the expo and headed to Nothing But Noodles for a carbo load pasta dinner. I continued to mentally slam into the wall of self doubt, how could I have not known this course was full of hills I wondered.
Before returning to the hotel I asked Curtis if he would mind driving by the first few miles of the course so that I could get an idea of how bad the hills were. Turn by turn, we followed the course, up and down the constant rolling hills. My calm confidence was long gone and replaced with overwhelming anxiety, dread, and uncertainity. My perscription before bed was reading the bible on my iPhone and eating chocolate. I found a verse I liked and decided to claim it as my mantra, “Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. Psalsm 37:5”
As I arrived at the start line in the morning I was ready to go. Hydration pack attached to my waste. Extra pouch stocked with energy boosting gummies and salt tablets. Headphones on. Shoes laced. Race bib pinned. The first few miles felt fantastic, the energy of a running crowd combined with the beauty of tree lined neighborhoods in fall was a real treat! The hills rolled on with every mile almost unnoticed. I actually had to intentionally force myself to slow down because the immediate surge of adrenaline had me wanting to charge up them. I kept reminding myself, this is a marathon.
“26 miles, girlfriend. Slow it down.”
At the halfway point (13.1miles) I was still feeling great. I stopped to briefly chat with my husband, take off a layer because it had warmed up, and to update my Facebook status just for fun! Within about a minute, I was on course again, headed onwards towards the last half of the race.
One thing about a marathon that is so different then other races is that you can feel good physically for the first half, or even 2/3rd of the race and still not finish due to injury or just physical depletion. Because the training never covers the full marathon distance, the last 6-7 miles of the race are literally a bit of a gamble. You honestly don’t know how it will end, and have nothing to gauge what to expect, other then what you may have read in a book, or heard from more experienced marathoners.
When I arrived at mile 19, I was still feeling relatively strong and moving at a steady pace. For the first time I felt a true confidence that I would actually finish! The hills on the last few miles of the course were frequent, steeper and more stretched out then previous ones. My knee joints were throbbing from the pressure of the elevation changes and my quad muscles burned. Oddly enough, as I pressed ambitiously towards the finish line I actually felt stronger with each mile. At mile 23, I smiled with the knowledge that in less then 30 minutes I would be finished. Done. Almost there.
As I neared the finish line, I sped up. My last mile I ran in an unbelievable 8:43 pace! My body was tired, but my spirit had never felt so alive. I charged up the hills, anxiously pursuing the finish. I smiled as I envisioned being handed the medal I’d worked so hard for. I thought about the food, plentiful tables filled with bananas, bagels, cookies, and granola bars that would be waiting to replenish my weary body.
I cannot adequately express what crossing the finish line felt like, but perhaps the video of my finish in the link below will give you an idea. Absolutely exhilarating!
Video of finish: http://www2.brightroom.com/105440/1032
If you’ve read my blog before, you are well aware that I often parallel the similarities between Christianity and running a race. Experiencing the momentum that propelled me to the finish line tangibly in an event as rigorous and long as the marathon was such a reminder for me of how, as Christians, we should long for heaven. How much greater of a prize it is! Ours spirits should be alive, hungry, desiring and constantly focused not on things of this world, but on eternity thereafter.