October 21, 2011

I just want to run. I ran four miles today. Hoping to run at least six tomorrow—maybe eight. I need to allow my body to rest, but I just want to run!

Today is my last day of my first cycle of Clomid. My husband is ready. He just can’t resist me! Ha, what can I say?

I’m not one to really talk about myself, not because I don’t struggle with selfish or narcissistic thoughts—I just conclude, “Who cares?” And … to me … words mean very little. Actions are more valuable—more factual.

But, indeed, I would like to share (make record) of my first marathon experience. I would say I struggled with post-marathon blues one to two days post my 26.2-mile journey. I can’t wait to do it again. I feel so blessed that—in the time being—I get to walk out of my home and RUN any time I want.

When I was a freshman in high school, I joined the cross-country team for absolutely no reason at all except for the fact that many people in my family ran/run cross-country. I was undeniably horrible at running. I was so out-of-shape, and running was the absolute most painful and agonizing activity I’d ever participated in. I was the slowest. Honestly, it’s hilarious to think about how bad of a runner I was. Yet, two or three weeks later, upon goal-making for my first high school, 5k race, what I wanted to accomplish was running the entire race without stopping. From start to finish, just running. I ran those painful 3.1 miles in the 39-minute realm.

I worked my butt off. My teammates encouraged me. Everyone knew I was the slowest—that’s the thing about running: you can’t deny who’s what, just look at the clock—but they celebrated PRs with me and cheered me on. They encouraged me, didn’t judge, kept me going. On “easy” days, I worked at a “tempo” pace to keep up with the girls just so I wouldn’t get lost. On “hard” days, I worked harder. At every race, I never stopped running. Start to finish. I ran and ran and ran all throughout high school. I watched documentaries about Steve Prefontaine with my teammates and just yearned to be faster—to be the best runner I could be. I gave every single race my all. From mile one to the finish line, I ran the fastest I could.

The summer before my junior year, my teammate (one of the fastest and most passionate runners on the men’s team) told me that I was going to make varsity that season. I did not believe him. I just kept running. During the season, my coach (one heck of a runner—an elite in the U.S.) told me, “You’ve got some wheels!” after our fartlek—meaning, I was actually beginning to establish an easy pace and race pace. That was encouraging. I kept working hard. Half-way through the season, on a gloomy, Colorado fall Thursday, I ran a race that didn’t place me in the seventh slot on the varsity team—I earned myself the sixth varsity spot for the next race. I was on varsity. At this point, though, anything could happen. Each race was also a team time trial—top seven finishers on the team run varsity next week. No opinions, no favorites, no excuses—just look at the clock and you know where you stand. For the rest of the season I continued to fight for a varsity spot, moving anywhere from sixth to ninth place on my team. I kept running, kept working as hard as I could.

During my senior year, I earned (by default: one of the varsity runners got injured the day before our second race of the season) and kept my varsity spot throughout the season. I ran “varsity” races. I began racing beside and passing familiar-looking girls from opposing teams who—for the last three years—I considered to be fast. My PR for the season was 21:41, earning me a varsity letter based on time by about one minute. I ran through the winter. I ran my first sub 6:00 (5:59 literally) mile during my senior year in track. I ran and ran and ran. I gave my everything for every single race.

I decided I didn’t want to stop—I wanted to see how fast I could get. I trained the summer after graduation for the college cross-country team. I worked my butt off that summer, anticipating a spot at the bottom again.

Among all the girls who were star runners, team captains, state competitors in cross-country and track, I ran number five of eight girls on the all-freshmen cross-country team. God really blessed me. I learned more about running. I lived and breathed it. I ran in my sleep. My stride became effortless. I perfected paces. I became faster. I ran my first sub 20:00 5k during my freshman year of track. I ran my first 10k, on the track, 25 laps, at night at sub 40:00 (39:43)—arguably my most beautiful race.

I kept running. I trained that summer. I found my husband. I kept running. I fell in love. I kept working hard.

And the fire began to die.

I competed in the cross-country season of my sophomore year, but after that I was done. I had lost it.

I kept running. I tried to stay in decent shape. I ran a half-marathon, kept the miles going about five days a week, contemplated a marathon. It wasn’t the same, though. That time had passed. I never thought it would, but it did.

Summer 2011, I found a running buddy—now a dear friend. She was beginning her training for the Baltimore Marathon. I was infertile and sad. We started running together every Saturday. Was I ready to commit to the marathon? Now was the time. There was no other time. I was ready. Took on the miles day-by-day. Built up my base, realized I was getting faster—stronger. It was a great summer of training. I was excited for the marathon. I was scared, too.

The night before the race, my husband noticed my pre-race tendencies that were very familiar to him. He hadn’t witnessed them in three years, but he knew exactly what was going on. I had my plan. Italian dinner (for tradition, not a realistic attempt at “fueling” my body); race bib pinned to racing top night before; clothes laid out; easy, low maintenance breakfast about two hours before the gun goes off; never-ending potty breaks; nerves; jitters; fire.

The first few miles felt like I was floating. The taper definitely worked. It was absolutely effortless. I had to keep telling myself, “Relax. No faster than this. Save it for the second half.” The hills were familiar: “Use your arms, relax your breathing, one foot in front of the other. And on the inevitable downhill: “Just relax, let gravity guide you down.”

I started feeling my familiar pains—tight hips, back—and was anticipating the half-marathon mark, for at that point I was well on my way toward the finish line. Over the hump. I ate my gel, drank water and Gatorade. My goal was the same as always: Run the whole race without stopping. Well, that was engrained in my mind, because stopping didn’t even cross it. It started to hurt, and the hills were never-ending. I kept going. I kept praying, “Jesus, please help me.” He did. Prior to the race, I thanked Him for the opportunity to run a marathon. Before every race, I thanked Him for the opportunity to run. I prayed time and time again. It was painful, but every step was one step closer. The mile markers kept passing by. The crowds were encouraging. I kept daydreaming about the finish line. After passing mile 25 I felt a little pep in my step. Actually, I felt nothing at all. Runner’s high: something I have NEVER experienced in my whole life. I’ve felt fast, unstoppable—but never had I ever felt nothing. No pain, no restrain. I was ready for that finish line. I saw mile 26, knowing that I was practically there. I couldn’t believe what was in front of me, couldn’t believe that the pain was gone. I saw the clock and thanked the Lord. I crossed the finish line, received my medal, grabbed two bottles of water and left the finishing chute.

That set me on fire again.

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