I started running when I turned 30. Ran my first 5K in 2003. Ran my first half marathon in 2005. I have an obession. Or maybe it's a passion. Either way, I love to run. I love to participate in races. I love the challenge. This past September, I ran my 11th half marathon and not even sure how many 5K's. For the past 3 years, I have been toying with the idea of running a full marathon. I wasn't sure I could do it, or even how to do it. All I knew was, if I ever did one, I wanted it to be big. I wanted the experience to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. So the idea remained in my head for 3 years. I was afraid to take the step...call me chicken. But one day I woke up and realized that my life here on earth is so short, especially in the grand scheme of our days. I didn't want to wait any longer...I wanted to take on the challenge. And I knew my 40th birthday was coming up and I really wanted to accomplish this one goal before that day.
So I started searching for marathons. It had to be held at the right time of year, it had to be big and it had to feel right to me. It wasn't more than a week later and my best friend since 3rd grade called out of the blue. Oh it was so nice to talk to her. She lives a mere 30 minutes from the big city of Chicago. We talked about the city, about how I should come see her, about the marathon....marathon....marathon. One thing lead to another. The pieces fell into place and we verbally decided we would run the 2010 Chicago Marathon together. I'd have a place to stay and get to see my bestest friend for life again. Couldn't be more perfect. After researching the marathon, I found out it wasn't only big, it was huge. It takes about 51 days for the maximum amount of runners to fill. 45,000. It opened in February. I knew that once I paid the entry fee, there was no backing out. That was my committment to fulfilling my goal. I hit send and my whole mindset changed. I started on this whole training plan which I ultimately made up my own along the way.
All summer long, I ran, ran, ran. I ran 3 half marathons and about 10 5K's for training and all the while, I hoped it would be enough. I really didn't know what I was doing. I just kept running and kept trying to get faster. It got to be a few weeks before the marathon and I prayed and prayed I wouldn't get sick, I wouldn't get hurt, anything to hinder this experience. God listened. I flew for the first time without anyone else, all by myself. It was kind of fun. I was a bit worried about getting around the O'Hare airport but was relieved to see Angie's familiar face greeting me at the gate!
The expo to pick up our packets was amazing. My first subway ride to boot! So many people all running the same race, all with the same goal. That was just mind boggling to me. Everything was catering to the runners...the people, the booths, the volunteers, photographers. So cool. We were there for 4 hours. We ate carbs all weekend long, just to be sure we had enough. It was fun to eat whatever we wanted and not worry about it! We just ate and ate and ate. Both Friday and Saturday nights were full blown pasta nights. Mmmmm, nothing better. I hoped it would carry me thru 26 miles.
The night before I couldn't sleep. Angie and I stayed up together talking, laughing, catching up. It was just like in high school. Finally, bedtime came at 1 a.m. We had to get up at 4:15 to catch the train into the city. Morning came fast but adreline took over.
The weather was the most beautiful weather you could ever ask for. No wind, no rain, no humidity. Perfect. God was listening. Angie and I made our way to the start line amongst 45,000 other people from 109 different countries. Amazing. We found the Nike pacing team at 4:45 to finish the race and decided we would gather in that area. The race started at 7:30 a.m. sharp but we didn't cross the start line until 8:00. It took that long to get there. Once we started running, the crowd got louder and louder. It instantly brought tears to my eyes. I couldn't believe I was actually doing this, after so many years of it being a dream and so many months of training.
I lost Angie at about mile 3 just because it was too hard to stick together with all the people. So I was on my own. I stayed with the pacing team for awhile and decided to venture ahead on my own. I soaked everything in along the way. The 1.5 million spectators, the 29 different neighborhoods, Wrigley Field, Millenium Park...I loved all the signs people were holding up. I loved how everyone was cheering us on. Complete strangers. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who high fived me or who gave me a special cheer along the way.
Everything was going well until about mile 21. The wall hit. And in a big way. My legs tightened up and they hurt. My mental state started going. I was watching people around me breaking down. Guess they were hitting the wall too. I couldn't believe I still had 5 more miles to go. That's a long way after 2o miles. I started to panic. Then I said to myself, "No...you are not going to quit. You have some so far. Think of all the people back in Yankton cheering you on. Think of Brody, Madison and Emerson tracking you along the way. You can do this, you can do this..." Then out of nowhere, a runner in front of me had a bright yellow tshirt. He was an older man and the message on the back was "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil. 4:3. That was all I needed. God was with me. Even amongst all these millions of people, God will help me get to the end. My mental state improved and I took the last 4 miles and cut them down into one gatorade station at a time. Once I got to one, I ran to get to get to the next one. Before I knew it, I was at mile 25 and it was loud! The crowd was incredible. It gave me goosebumps. It was at this time that I literally felt my muscles relax. I had no pain. My adreline kicked in, I picked up my pace and ran for everyone who couldn't run. It was the best feeling I have ever had. The picture is me coming into the finish line. The crowd was roaring. I crossed at a time that I never thought I would do.
4:24:38. I did it. And I survived to tell the story. The 27th mile post race party was awesome although it took me about 45 min. to get there. I had to sit down quite a bit along the way. Angie and I finally reunited a couple hours later and we hugged and cryed. We were blessed to do this incredible feat together. I will never ever forget it. And I will especially never, ever forget the man with bright yellow shirt who ultimately reminded me who was with me the whole way. I wish I knew who he was.
Will I ever do it again? The competitive side in me would love to again to improve my time. But if I don't, I am completely satisfied. My life is changed personally since the marathon and in so many good ways. God is good and I'm so glad He lead me to this race and to this sport that has only brought me closer to Him.
"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."
I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me. Phil. 4:3