So one of my favorite stories to tell is that of my very first marathon. It was 11 years ago, the St. George Marathon. I followed a training plan religiously that I got from runnersworld.com. I know that I had a couple bad long runs towards the end of training but all that I had read said if you get up to between 18 and 20 miles you'll be fine. I did that, so yeah I'll be fine. Mmhmm.
Like all newbies the excitement of the big race was pretty overwhelming. Hardly slept the night before and a million butterflies as I sat at the start line. But I was there, part of the experience. I even ran into a few people I knew that I didn't know were runners. Bonus.
As I started the race I felt really good. I probably started a little faster than I should have, but adrenaline and all. I think I settled into a 10 minute pace after a few miles which was my goal. I talked to people every so often but mostly stayed by myself. So I did pretty well til mile 17. I started slowing down. By mile 22 I was done. My body literally started falling apart. Pain in my back, pain in my legs and it was now 90 degrees out and just breathing was hard. I was that person you see at a race and you say 'You ok? Do you need some help? You're not lookin so good.' Which when these kind people say these things I'm ready to break into tears. The mental game had begun. At mile 24 they had sprinklers and also a nurses station. A nurse actually came out to me, asked me if I was ok, and I didn't have enough oxygen to speak. Sounds would not come out of my mouth. I actually pushed her away and whispered, 'If I stop, I won't be able to start again.' And I kept going. I'm sure the nurse thought, 'This stupid runner..."
I was a bit of a mess. I get to around mile 25, you know that point when all the spectators along the course say, " You're almost there!" Really, you think so? I'm at 16 minute miles right now, I'm limping, and tears are disguised as sweat running down my face. Really, almost there you say. So at this point I begin my angry phase. Angry at myself that I thought I was gonna rock this marathon, angry that I didn't do more in training, angry at that guy with the beer belly that just passed me. And then something happened. It's something that many runners have experienced. The inner battle.
Let me paint the picture... Just passing mile 25 marker. I'm concentrating to put one foot in front of the other and notice that lots of clumps of people are now lining the course. I get a few claps here and there as I pass and about 20 seconds after I pass I hear a roar of applause from behind. Aww, that group must have seen who they were waiting for. And again, a roar 20 sec after I pass a crowd. After this happening about 6 or 7 times in a row I look back to see who is behind me. Does this person know everyone in St. George? No... this person is a silver-haired, lavender 80's sweatsuit wearing, closing in on 80, runnin grama. And she's closing in on me. Now obviously at this point I'm not winning any races but there's no way in my dilapidated, 24 yr old state that she is going to pass me. Hence, the inner battle. I had to mentally will myself to not let her pass me. The roars kept getting closer behind me as I came down the final .2 chute to the finish. I dug deep and pulled out my 15min/mi sprint. I won. She didn't pass me! In your face grama. I come around the gate and see my husband, still trying to be strong, I make it over to him. He says to me, "You did it! You made it! Hey did you see that grama behind you? Pretty awesome, huh?" Yeah, pretty awesome.
I still to this day feel justified in pouting the 4 hr car ride home.... : )
P.S. To all you runnin' gramas out there - you really are my heros! Much love and respect. I hope to be you someday! Until then, watch out... game on! ; )