Yes, I can now say I have completed a marathon. While it was hotter than I had hoped and therefore finished in a much slower time than I had expected, still I have a shiny new medal to add to my collection, along with a lot of memories.
As I often do with this blog, I am going to put the main ones down here so that I can hopefully remember as much as possible.
Top Ten(ish) T-Shirts Seen on the Course
10. This was a bad idea. (on the back of a less-than-perfectly fit, middle-aged man)
9. Where’s the finish line?
8. Running is a mental sport. We are all insane.
7. Find your happy pace.
6. Imagine how big my @ss would be if I didn’t run marathons. (worn by a rubenesque woman)
5. My Last Marathon (followed by a list of 6+ marathons)
4. Cheer up, you’re about to pass a Kenyan. (sported by a heavier-set African (American?) man)
3. Yes, I run like a girl. Try to keep up.
2. Does this shirt make my butt look fast? (I actually saw this one at the expo but I loved it!)
1. I’m going to finish this f***ing marathon. (This one became one of my mantras by the end!)
Top Ten (ish) Signs Seen on Course
10. Hurry up so we can go drink.
10. Don’t s*** yourself. (uncensored on the sign!)
9. You PAID for this?/ Where are you going?
8. Come on honey, it’s not as bad as childbirth. By the way, you have laundry to do.
7. Worst Parade Ever.
6. Only 3.6 more miles to BEER.
5. Pain is temporary. Bragging rights are forever.
4. I thought you said 2.62 miles?! (at about 2 1/2 miles in!)
4. 26.2 miles...because 26.3 would be CRAZY.
3. Someday you will not be able to do this anymore. Today is not that day.
2. Running takes balls. Other sports just play with them.
1. It’s long and hard, so do it fast. That’s what she said.
Top 5 Things I Learned Running a Marathon
5. It hurts. A lot. And You feel tired sooner than you think, at least if it's a warm day. I started feeling tired a little less than halfway through, but managed to feel a little bit better for a few more miles at least before I started wondering if body parts would fall off before the end.
4. Forget planning. I could have saved myself a lot of unnecessary worry if I had let go of any hopes of any particular time. I knew from about five days prior that it was likely to be a bit warmer than I had hoped. I knew with at least part of my mind that I should just focus on finishing as soon as they raised the alert level to yellow for the race. Even the first half of the race, I was hopeful seeing all the people still within sight with "5:15" and "5:30" on their backs. But then I kind of ran out of gas around mile 15.
3. Enjoy the run. As much as it hurt, there were a lot of cool things to see. There were several runners and speedwalkers I saw who were over 65 years young and still going strong. There were cancer survivors and fellow charity runners. There was a man running with a full-size American flag on a pole. There was Endorphin Dude, complete with bedazzled blue cape. There was a man who ran and juggled four small bean bags. My favorite, though, had to be the blind runner. He had a retinue of helpers to prevent any mishaps; a few out to the sides, and one guide next to him holding one end of a small piece of rope, the other end of which he held. I didn't even know it was possible for a blind runner to complete any kind of race, and here was one running a marathon.
2. It gets emotional. I was a bit surprised when, right around Mile 23, I started to tear up. I suddenly thought of my dad, how much I missed him and how proud he'd be that I even made it that far. I could really strongly feel his presence, so I knew he was there. I was already so tired but I was determined to finish if I could just dig deep enough to get the last ounces of energy out. I asked Dad to help me, and I believe he did. It's hard to run with tears streaming down your face and a lump in your throat.
1. Having support makes all the difference. Running 26 miles was not even on my bucket list until a few years ago when I started running. The person who first inspired me to run was my brother, who ran his first marathon over 10 years ago. He has always encouraged me, from running my first 5K in 2007 to yesterday, when he ran with me despite my painfully slow pace. He cheered me on, insisting that he would just make sure I could finish the race. He even managed to make me laugh: in the last quarter mile there is a small hill, after which you turn and see the finish line. He said, "If you run up this hill, they give you a medal." I think it was in large part due to him that I found the wherewithal to pull out a slightly faster run for the last 400 yards of the race.
I am also grateful to all of the generous donors who contributed to my fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Your kind wishes and words as well as knowing that together we raised such a significant contribution lifted my spirits when the fatigue was trying to crush me. Knowing that we helped others in the situation I lived through as a teenager made my relatively small accomplishment that much more meaningful. Thank you; your generosity means more to me than I can accurately express. Each of you had a hand in both helping me cross the finish line and bringing a cure for blood cancers that much closer.