I wrote this about 3 years ago, after I finished the Chicago marathon in 2005...
October 9, 2005. 7:55 AM. As I stood at the starting line my heart raced as I tried to stay warm amid masses of other runners. I wondered what I had been thinking when I registered for the Chicago Marathon. 26.2 miles! Was that even possible, and who in their right mind would want to undergo such torture? As my adrenaline was pumping, I realized that I could do this. I had trained for this. I knew this would be a true test of physical and mental stamina. Running was something I had come to enjoy and thrive on, and I was determined to run the entire 26.2 mile course, without stopping to walk. It would be something to show for myself, for all the shin splints and knee pains I had over the years, all the running shoes I went through, all the hours spent at track and cross-country meets, and the heaps of running shirts I had acquired that now overflowed my closet.
I started out running with friends as an after school activity in 7th grade. At the time, running was far from enjoyable. I dreaded even running a mile. I finished last at my first meet and many meets following. I am still not sure what brought me to practice everyday. Thinking about those days gives me shudders as I hated it so much. Who knew that years later I would complete the Chicago Marathon? It was definitely something I could never have conceived of doing. Somewhere between the speed workouts, track meets, team bonding, and spaghetti dinners, I came to enjoy the company of other runners. On our runs, we shared stories, sang, laughed, schemed how to cut runs short, and often lost ourselves in thought. Running became a nice release and time of solace. In time, I learned to concentrate my mind on how my body felt, run for distance and not worry about time. I focused on endurance and found that I could go for long runs lost in my thoughts or lost in a conversation with a friend. Running was something positive I added to my life. It kept me in shape and allowed my mind to think clearly. This enabled me to perform better with day to day activities.
Training for the marathon became an all encompassing activity. It invoked a lot of time and determination above anything else. I had to prepare myself both physically and mentally. The foods I ate, and didn’t eat, the way I had to adjust my weekends so I could set aside a large chunk of time to go on a long run, the way my body felt throughout the week, the way my mood was affected by a run all became a part of the marathon training. My first long run started out with 9 miles and continued to increase. I reached a point where quitting was just not an option. I had told myself and too many others that I was running the marathon and quitting would have been a cop out and disappointment. Luckily, people believed that I could do it when I doubted my own abilities and this provided the encouragement I needed.
On race day, I was blessed to have so many friends and family members come out and cheer me on. It was great seeing all the fans and the energy and excitement in the city of Chicago was truly remarkable. The first 13 miles went by like a breeze. I was enjoying the outstanding running weather we had for the day and the crowd did an excellent job keeping us all pumped. It was an amazing feeling to be running through the city with so many people gathered to celebrate running. It was around the half-way point that I realized I still had to keep running for another two-plus hours. My mind seemed to be turning on me, and I had to remind myself that running was mental and I would slow down as soon as my mind started giving up. At the 18th mile mark, I was running out of fuel fast, so it was great to see people I recognized cheer me on. I put on a smile as I ran by. This kept me going for a bit. At 23, I wanted to do nothing other than collapse. At 25.2, I saw my sister and friend holding up signs with my name and shouting that I had just another mile to go and that I was so close. As much pain as I felt, I gave it my all and wanted to finish strong. When I finally reached the 26th mile mark, I could not believe that I had another point two miles to go and that point two was the longest point two miles I have ever run. Right before I crossed the finish line, I saw six of my friends that were waving their arms in the air for me.
Crossing the finish was glorious. I had just finished 26.2 miles of constant running in 4 hours and 50 minutes. My legs felt like rubber and all I could think about was how I never wanted to run again. As I was walked through the shoot, I heard an announcement blaring next year’s marathon date; October 22, 2006. I looked to the girl who finished next to me and we scoffed at that. I remember absent-mindedly putting my shoe up on a ledge for someone to remove my chip, which was used to keep track of runners throughout the course and keep track of time. As I kept walking someone put a big piece of foil around me and the other runners to help us stay warm. I was greeted by someone who gave me a hug and put a medal around my neck for finishing. When I finally found my friends and family among the thousands of other people, I was greeted with so many hugs. It was such a great feeling to have had so many people come and cheer me on. It was then that I realized how blessed I was for being able to have completed such a feat and to have had so much love and support.