Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lessons from Others

I think that this may be close to the end of the marathon momma posts for a while (you know, until next year) but I felt that there were still two things left to record of this journey. One is completely humbling, the other totally pragmatic.
First we'll start with humbling. I have been humbled by the outpouring of love given to me for completing this race. I never knew--and on those days when I feel that the whole world is against me, I will do my best to remember all the people who called, sent cards, asked and listened to me repeat my experience. And even more humbling and eye opening to me has been the lessons and experiences that other people have related to me about their lives in following my marathon goal in my life. And although I may not say your names, know that I am deeply grateful to each of you for sharing your hearts about my journey.

  • A dear friend of mine spent the last three weeks of my training on her own journey--traveling to and working in an orphanage in Lesthoto, Africa. The trip was life changing and heart rending and she will never be the same for that experience. But on her return home, she told me it was my journey that brought tears to my eyes--the determination and inner strength that it took to complete a hard task. I am humbled.
  • Another friend mentioned that this was inspiring because I am "every woman" in that I honestly had to juggle home, kids, husband's job and life in general. There were days when I didn't want to run, when I had to make myself. I am not a super athlete, like my brother or sister-in-law or my dad. This kind of endurance is not natural to me. Yet, I did it. Hmm, I wonder if there is some sort of life lesson in that?
  • A homeschool mom related a lot of my marathon day experience to the Christian walk (and even talked with her kids about it). She talked with them about how hard it was for me to be alone on the journey--how much harder the effort was, but also how much burden was relieved when I traveled with others of like mind and like goal. How true that is for the Christ-following life. It really is easier to follow Christ when you are surrounded by people who are also striving towards the same goal, it is also much easier to fail if you are depended mostly on your own strength.
  • And yes, the marathon closely mirrors the pregnancy/birth experience. You wait and work and get excited for a long time leading up to the main event. And then it comes and you are excited and nervous and anxious. But your preparation has paid off, you are aware of the route, the pain, the highs and lows, even though you haven't yet experienced them . And then there is the moment you cross the finish line and all the pain and work of the previous 26.2 miles is forgotten in mind and you savor the victory. There are two places where the two experiences depart, however. First, the drugs available for childbirth are much better than those suggested for running a marathon. Second although your whole body hurts after both childbirth and a marathon, you only get a free pass to sit on the couch for more than a day with childbirth. Despite the need to recoup your muscle health and strength, you have to be up and hobbling pretty quick.
  • And finally, life is much better when I don't focus on me. God's call to service extends beyond my home and family and shows up in unexpected places--mile 25. And when I can focus on helping others succeed and manage their own feelings and pain, I am much better at dealing with my own issues, they aren't nearly as important as others. Even when I think I am in a race just for me.

Monday, October 19, 2009


So I did it! Can you believe it? Well, I can, but it is a little surreal--I worked very hard for an event that lasted 5 hours and 15 minutes for me and now it is done. I guess that I would feel differently at this moment. . .

Yesterday was a great day. Most of the time was pretty fun. I actually enjoyed myself for 22.2 out of 26.2 miles. Not bad for the first time out. The day started early as I saw a friend who "runs" with Team Triumph off for an early start at 7:30. The marathon started quite promptly at 8:00 a.m. and I decided to run with a pace team (a group led by experienced marathoners who keep a specific pace in order to allow you to reach your goal time)--The Inconvenient Pace Team whose goal was to come in ahead of Al Gore's marathon time of 4:58. It was great for me--good pace, not too fast, sometimes it felt too slow. But there was a lot of energy. At the beginning of the marathon there were 6pacers and about 30 runners with this group. Lots of chatting and fun. Encouragement from everyone along the way. I ran most of it, not needing many of my usual walking breaks. When the Half marathoners made their turn, out group was pretty demolished--suddenly there were only 3 pacers and maybe 8 runners. For part of the run, along the backside of the Millenium Park Lake, it was great--we were exchanging stories about our first marathons, how we came to this marathon, starts and stops we had along the way with our training. It felt really, really good. But I digress. . .
The day was great--and after much thought, I was dressed perfectly. I was comfortable for almost the entire race (except when it suddenly got sunny for about 20 minutes) I had my "Marathon Momma" shirt on and was proud to be out there, feeling strong and capable. Eric and the kids (and wonderful Yoli) were there to see me off at 8:00 a.m.--and then they caught me again at mile 8, they tried and barely missed me at mile 10, met me again at about mile 12 1/2 (where we finished the very meager hills--seriously!) and again at mile 17. Of course they were there to see me in at the end. But it was a long time between mile 17 and mile 26.2 and of course, a lot happened then.
I was going great for a while--I had to make a quick stop around mile 6--it set me back a few minutes, but over the next mile or two I was able to make it back and run with the pace team again. Phew. Things were good for a while. We crossed an old converted railway over the grand river and began the long stretch (at least that's what I'm calling it). And Although I wasn't super excited to see all the turn arounds on the map, I sure was glad to see all the runners on the course. We ran all the way to Wilson and back and as we were travelling those first few miles, we saw others returning. That was encouraging. I saw a friend of mine who was running his second marathon in 3 weeks (crazy, but inspired).

Then, DOOOM! I had to make a second pit stop, this time in the woods (remember people, at this point I have been running for 15 miles--just about 3 hours and drinking water--I've had three babies, I don't have super bladder anymore!) Even thought this stop was shorter, I didn't have the extra that it took to catch all the way back up. I got very, very close--by that time at about 19 miles. I managed to stay close for the next while--trying to run for 10 minutes before walking, but I started getting slower and slower and my feet started to hurt more and more and I needed to walk a little bit more than I wanted to and at about mile 22 I lost sight of the Pace team. And that really bummed me out.

The back stretch of the marathon felt like it had some long lonely miles and although I was not all the way at the end of the racers, I was pretty alone. And there was no one around to cheer me one or give me a needed boost of encouragement. Those were some pretty tough miles. Honestly, I never wanted to quit. I never stopped moving. And sometimes my walk or run did not feel like it was very fast. However, I was starting to get very tired and I just wanted to take a nap. Then I got to the point where slowing down to a walk hurt--my muscles needed to keep moving, but my motivation to keep running was waning.

As I headed back into the city, about mile 24--I knew I was almost there and my resolve picked up--there were more people around, I could see more runners (who were also struggling). Just after mile 25 I came across Michelle who started the race with me and when I had previously last seen her, was running strongly ahead of me with the pace team. She is a 42 year old woman running her first marathon. But when I saw her, she definitely wasn't running, in fact she was barely walking. Turns out around mile 22, her knee gave out on her, completely buckled, but she was absolutely determined to finish this race. She saw a volunteer who offered her help, but then she saw and recognized me--and said she wanted to finish the race with me. So I put my arm around her and she around me and we hobbled off. She jogged as she was able (with tears streaming down her face) She was so disappointed, but she wanted to make it in, so we did--she told me not to let medical pull her from the race, so that didn't happen. We walked a while and jogged the last 1/3 mile in--down winter street, from the time you turned the corner and could see the Start/Finish line. From time to time her knee would give out and we would hobble along some more.

Lest you think that I was some super great Samaritan, I later realized that I needed her too. I was feeling pretty crummy about myself--I hurt, I was not completing as strongly as I wanted to. If I was very honest I would say I really wanted to come in under 5 hours, but was prepared for a time around 5:15--ohh, but I wanted 5 hours. I was excited for the first 2/3 of the race that that was actually a possibility. Since I had figured out that wasn't going to happen, I started to be disappointed in me, in my ability to withstand the pain that comes with long miles. And then there was Michelle--something else to focus my attention on. A goal of helping her in was far more worthy than any pity party I could have for myself. So although she called me her angel, I think it was the opposite that was true.
As we neared the start finish I saw my fantastic family waiting for me, all bundled up with signs and love. Josh and Olivia started to run in with me. Olivia did a pretty good job of keeping up--but Josh crossed the Finish line with me and Michelle. I received my hug from Marathon Don and my sweet medal. And wiped away my own tears. I did it. I am a marathoner!

Last night, Eric was a sweetheart and did most everything, including making me a steak dinner. We had a ceremony to add the 26.2 magnet to the van (i am marathon momma, after all!) I drank my celebratory beer and slept soundly all night (thanks, pain meds!). Today, I walk like an old woman who has aches in her knees, feet and hips. The stairs are a beast and I cringe at the thought of walking up and down them.

But you know what? I am already planning on coming in faster than Al Gore next year. Bring it 2010!

Hmmm, could this be this year's Christmas card?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thoughts for this journey

Forgive me if I think too much, but. . .

In a couple days I will run and complete my first (of hopefully many) marathon. While I am looking forward to that moment, of finishing, of completion, I don't want to gloss over what the journey that has brought me to this point has taught me.

Even if I am not successful in finishing, I have learned so much in training for this marathon that I would consider this and valuable exercise--just the training and learning of the whole process.

So what have I learned? Glad you asked.
  • The journey has been instructive. I have learned that I can rise to the challenge of a difficult task.
  • I will no longer feel bad if my goals make someone else uncomfortable--whether they don't like it or it makes them feel bad or don't understand it. This is my goal and I can be proud of it.
  • I have a horrible time trying to decide what to wear for cool weather runs.
  • Lots of runners make pit stops in the woods. Some even carry extra toilet paper for such stops. A bathroom is not always accessible. This is called Runner's Trots--a lot of runners have them. Get used to it.
  • However, don't expect that people really can't see you in the woods if you are wearing a day-glo orange/pink/white runner shirt. They probably can.
  • There is no shame in walking during the duration of your run. Don't believe me--in a 3.5 hour run, I walked for a total of 23 minutes, which means that I "only" ran for 3 hours and 7 minutes. That still counts in my book!
  • I can run that far by myself.
  • However, I shouldn't spend too much time running without some sort of noise to think on--my own thoughts will get me into trouble. Hence, the love I have developed for NPR podcasts!
  • And after running for that long, food, Tylenol and a nap on a couch are definitely things you need.
  • I have a ton of people behind me and I am incredibly grateful and humbled by that.
  • I like to run--slowly, to be sure--but I like the feeling and the rhythm of a run, the strength that I feel in my muscles and body, and the way I feel for accomplishing something.
  • This has been hard work, but very good work. It has taken time, dedication, effort, patience, a financial commitment, and the support of many people. The work has been hard, but so worth it.
  • I can hit a stumbling block, respond rationally and take the appropriate steps, and then bounce back. Case in point--I hurt my foot, didn't quit, and am up and running again. I think I would have regretted not getting back out on the road.
  • The 9 a.m. hour is busy around Reed's Lake on a Saturday morning.
  • I can run mileage. Already I know I can travel 18 miles on my own two feet. I will never again balk at the the sound of difficulty of a distance.
  • Perspective has come to my forefront--although this marathon and all the things around it have been important to me, it is not more important than so many other worthy things, like my friend who just spent three weeks serving orphans in Africa. That is a worthy goal.
  • God has been a part of this journey. He has answered direct, specific prayers, as well as general prayers. He has given me strength and desire. I hope I have already made Him proud. I hope He is proud of me on Sunday.

I think I could go on. But I wanted to record these before I am overcome with the feelings that come with finishing this journey. The past 20 weeks have been important for me. For the first time I have set a hard goal and worked hard towards it. Have I worked hard enough? I suspect that I could have done more, been better, but although it is important, this marathon is not my whole life--I still have a fantastic husband and wonderful kids and a home to care for. For that I am truly grateful

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In one week. . .

I will be sitting on my couch
being waited on hand and foot
loaded up with tylenol and perhaps a special drink
to commemorate and celebrate

My first marathon
Run and Completed!

Sunday, October 18th at 8 a.m. is start time!
I finish with my head held high no matter my time!

Good Luck me!\

(Don't I just look like a runner with fantastic form?)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Injury, what injury?

Yep, you read right. In a glorious answer to prayers for an explicitly clear answer--all my tests came back negative and my first real run in 2 1/2 weeks was done with no pain or injury! Yipee!!

All in all, I visited my primary doc and then a sports doctor (who was fantastic and got me into the office in less than 24 hours). My x-rays came back clear, but Dr. K was still concerned about the foot. ( i think he suspected a stress fracture, for the way that he spoke and handled the foot). He ordered and MRI that happened on Sunday (another answer to a specific prayer). He called me with the results this morning, after I returned from my first real run since my foot started to hurt. It was completely clear. No marks of anything. Whatever was ailing me is gone! God is so good!

And now, in the next 10 days, its time to get ready for the Grand Rapids Marathon--I need to try and regain some shape--I lost lung capacity with my cold and fine toning with the layoff and also to start preparing mentally, to tell myself and believe that I can run 26.2 miles next week Sunday. And I think I can. Many of my running friends have encouraged me by saying if I can get to the 18 miles that I did, I absolutely have the ability to complete 26.

If you said a prayer for me in the past few weeks, thanks. I appreciate your support.

Now, I'll see you at the finish line. . .