“How can you tell somebody has run a marathon? Don’t worry, they’ll TELL YOU!”
On March 1st, I did it. I finished my second marathon and beat my previous time by more than 30 minutes. A few days before the race the National Weather Service predicted a start temperature of 40 and a daily high of 55. Sounded like perfect running weather. As the race neared, the predictions grew gloomier. At 6:30 a.m. the morning of the race, the current conditions were freezing rain, 30 degrees and a wind chill of 23. Now for some people this isn’t a big deal, but I’m a true Texan. I love sunshine and prefer sweat to chill bumps any day of the year. As sleet pelted the windshield, I honestly considered leaving – – – nobody would blame me, right? But I knew I’d regret it the rest of my life, so I stepped out, shivering and muttering obscenities under my breath.
I shuffled off into the sleet, determined to make my goal time and prove to myself I could do better than I did in October.
One of the problems I had with my first marathon was pacing. I was so concerned with the finish line, that I didn’t run a steady, slow pace. During a recent yoga class, my instructor explained that one of the problems beginners have with yoga is trying to hurry into the final pose. Instead of concentrating on creating a strong base for a headstand, they start kicking their feet into the air,wanting to get UP…NOW. It doesn’t work out well. So I focused on my base…I concentrated on my steady pace.
Around mile 6 I saw a sign on the back of a man’s shirt so I ran a little faster to catch up and read it. The sign read “Running off the chemo one mile at a time: 26.2” I ask him about the chemo. Last year he ran the Army Marathon. Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed and had been receiving chemo all year. And there he was – out in the icy rain – running. His courage took away every excuse I had for not finishing. In Harker Heights the sidewalks were crowded with Harker Heights firefighters cheering him on. I remarked that he had quite the fan club and he told me he was a firefighter. What a motivation!!!
I trotted along, still at my pace (give or take). I rewarded myself at certain points by eating gels and drinking sports drinks. I had failed to take adequate nutrition at the first marathon. The lesson here is that self-care is vital! We can try to be brave and tough and unselfish but the bottom line is unless we feed our bodies and souls, we’ll end up pretty useless to everybody around us (and we’ll post a terrible performance).
I also focused on running one mile at a time. I didn’t think about how far I had to go or how far I’d gone. I tried to concentrate on that single mile under my feet. Step…step…step…focus on the step. Live in the moment. I reminded myself I can’t go back and run the last mile any differently and I can’t be at the finish until I’m at the finish. I tried to be mindful, living the race foot by foot, mile by mile.
Smiling…I smiled as much as possible. I thanked volunteers along the way. I made a game out of trying not to miss a single volunteer. Of course, when there were 15 folks at a water stop, I had to yell out a general THANK YOU. But I wanted my heart filled with gratitude and joy on this run. As I remarked to some of the law enforcement officers, I chose to be out there running in the ice. I’d actually even paid money to participate. But these men and women were there out of duty. I felt gratitude and compassion.
I was affected by the positive attitude of those around me too. Somewhere between mile 18 and 20, I ran with a wonderful woman from Killeen. She was so full of energy that I felt revived talking to her. We laughed and shared for several miles. I thought about how such exuberant energy is contagious…what a gift to the universe!
PURPOSE and REAL HEROES
Then I hit my wall…it started on the dam when the cold wind picked up and slapped me in the face. By mile 22 I was doing a lot of walking. Then I remembered why I was running . . .
When I signed up for the marathon, I was given the option of setting up a fundraiser page for one of several designated charities. After reading and studying, I chose Team Red White and Blue. Team RWB works with veterans to reintegrate them into the civilian world. From the website: “Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.”
Every day 22 veterans commit suicide…that’s one human life lost every 65 minutes. Involvement in sports and physical activities has been shown to alleviate the despair in which these veterans find themselves hopelessly lost.
(A good article to read: http://teamrwb.org/in-the-media/two-teams-unite-to-better-veteran-community)
As I ran, I started thinking about how so many of our veterans are living in darkness – in sadness, grief and despair so thick I can’t even imagine. I was just running 26.2 miles. I was smiling and happy. I felt some pain but it would be over in a few hours. These men and women can’t see an end to their pain so they opt for the most radical of solutions.
I could endure for them…I only raised $1,420 on my fundraising page, but just maybe that would change the life of even one veteran somewhere. Just maybe he or she would wear the Eagle (the Team RWB logo) and find hope.
Thinking of these heroes, I finished my race….I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t decide if I wanted to laugh or cry so I did both.
And just as the Army Marathon promises, I did run with heroes…and I ran for heroes. May God bless them ALL!