Reflections on a Marathon

Running a marathon is no easy feat. It takes a lot of time training, preparing for, and executing. It takes a toll on the body and mind, and is very humbling. When I crossed the finish line of the Chicago Marathon on October 11th, I celebrated the fact I did what I set out to do, as well as all of the many hours I invested into training. It was rewarding crossing the finish line. I saw the free beers sitting there, and I walked away with two. I deserved it; and, I needed to refuel.

Beers

Chicago Marathon was my one main goal for the year. My friend and I both entered on a whim, and neither of us said anything to each other. We were talking on the phone and I told her I had done something pretty stupid. It’s not uncommon to laugh when you tell your endurance friends what you’ve done. I told her and she bursted out with, “ME TOO!!!” I wanted to run it so badly because it fell on my one year, one month, one day anniversary of my surgeries. What better way to celebrate than by running a marathon…I know what you’re thinking…totally irrational, illogical and twisted thinking…I know! I agree.

Since surgeries, running has been one of the many difficulties I’ve had to push through. It’s hard to explain the toll the surgery has had on my body. To put it into perspective, imagine that killer upper body workout you did at the gym. Take that and magnify it by 50% and that’s my new normal for days after running. My upper body hurts. Running activates something in me that causes my chest to spasm out of control, and continues spasm-ing for the next 24-48 hours. Running causes my cording issues to flare up leaving my right side in shooting pain or leaves my arm and armpit numb. Sometimes it gets so bad that it feels like someone is stabbing me in my armpit, similar to someone pushing down on one of your pressure point spots.

I have my good and bad days; that’s life! What better way to push through the new normal and face those issues in hopes it makes it easier some day? Yup, make it into the lottery and hand over the credit card…

…irrational, illogical and twisted thinking…

Well, I ran the Chicago Marathon in 5 hours and 11 minutes. It was 11 minutes beyond my anticipated goal time, but I’m over it now. I really wanted to be under 5 hours and somewhere between 4:45-5:00 hours. Things don’t go as planned and that’s the beauty of life. Gives me something to chase after with my next marathon. Yup, I said it.

I vowed after finishing that I was one and done, and never doing it again. After time away from running, I’m anxious to sign up for the next one and have been figuring out which ones I want to commit to in 2016. I liked what all that running was doing for my mind and body. I enjoyed running and chasing sunrises and sunsets. I enjoyed seeing the beauty all around me, and having that time to completely clear my head.

So…

I could tell you the obvious lessons of 1) don’t start off too fast. Pace yourself. 2) Don’t run in new shoes (cough, cough…not me…never…). 3) Fuel properly. 4) No pain, no gain. 5) Be on the lookout for photographers….

Chicago Marathon

Busted at mile 23…think I was changing my playlist or maybe texting my mom…

What I want to share is what I took away from the marathon:

  1. I can do more than I think I can. When I first started running, completing a marathon was never on my radar. I had no desire to ever do one. But, then again, running a half marathon was never on my bucket list. Completing a 5K was enough for me. When that no longer was a “challenge”, I needed something else. I told people the only marathon I’d ever run was in an Ironman. After upping my game and completing several half marathons the past two years, I knew I wanted to do a marathon. I knew I could do it, just wasn’t sure when I’d commit. Well, no better time than doing it on the one year, one month, one day anniversary. I touched on it earlier, some may think it’s crazy, but I celebrate life and have a “me” celebration on the 10th of every month. It may not be a big celebration, but I’ll treat myself to a new bottle of wine or nice dinner, or do a race that falls around that time (see! irrational logic – ha!), or whatever floats my boat. October’s celebration was running Chicago Marathon. I doubted myself a lot during training and if my body was truly going to be able to do it. I can do more than I think I can, sometimes I need that push or encouragement; that voice within me saying I should take that leap. Trust myself. Trust the journey. I can do it.
  2. Run with your head up. Enjoying the scenery around me and soaking things up was awesome. I got to see parts and pieces of Chicago I normally would not have noticed or seen. The details on some of the buildings, the beauty in the different “cultural” parts, etc. Run with your head up; not just literally but figuratively. Yes, running with your head up is important for form and technique. However, it’s also a metaphor for life. Look where you’re going and soak it all up. Even in the ugly parts of the marathon, still had to keep the head up, smile and put one foot in front of the other. Eventually, I would cross that finish line even if that meant taking my shoes off and running/walking barefoot. Yes, I almost did that…a story for another day. Ha!
  3. Marathon training (and everything good in life) requires a lot of patience. It takes a lot of time and energy to invest in the training. I learned I had to enjoy the journey and be patient with myself and body. I had goals going into the race, and by the end that all changed; my perspective changed. Time went out the window and my goal was do whatever it took to finish. Rome wasn’t built overnight. I’ve learned through the surgeries to be patient with myself and . Be patient with the results and outcomes. Be patient with the ups and downs. Be patient with my body and it’s responses to my new normal and ways I push it physically. I was able to channel all of that into marathon training. In life, a lot of the good things take patience. Sometimes we’re so quick to want to get there, see the results, or whatever else, we forget to enjoy the process it took to even get there.
  4. Relish in the accomplishment. Take pride in it. I wasn’t too happy the last mile and was in a lot of pain. I didn’t tell many people that I was doing the marathon. When I turned the corner and saw the finish line, I started tearing up. When people asked me how things went or what I thought…I caught myself saying…”I just ran a marathon”… “I just wasn’t happy with my time, but it’s okay…”…”I just wish…”… “it was just a (fill in the blank)… I have to stop saying, “I just…” In other words what I’m doing is discrediting myself and the accomplishment and telling myself not to be proud of it. Why do I sell myself short?! Why am I not celebrating in the accomplishment? Don’t underestimate the power of “just” running a marathon or whatever it is that you’ve accomplished. I’m not here to “just” do ordinary things and “just” be another person in this world. I’m here to show others you can have obstacles thrown your way and can overcome them. You can have your breasts removed, not have any feelings in them, have setbacks and issues; but, there’s still a life worth living and barriers to break. Challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone. Great things happen there! I didn’t “just run” a marathon three weeks ago. I FREAKING RAN A MARATHON!! I celebrated the finish line with two beers. After some thought, it wasn’t about celebrating the race, but also the culmination of hours and months spent on training.
  5. You know that term “the wall”? It really does exist! During my training runs, I never experienced hitting that wall, so I was honestly confused what people were talking about. I have bad runs, but it comes with the territory of my new normal. I had a lot of runs that left me on that known “Runners High”. Like I said earlier, since my surgeries, running “performance” has been hot and cold. One day I have a fabulous run, and the next day my body HATES me.  I’ve learned to push through the pain and frustrations, and fight through it the next run or day. I was frustrated with my 20-miler, but that was my own stupidity running it all on the trails. Who does that?!? This clown – ha!I hit “the wall” at about mile 19-20 and just wanted to be done. It was hard mentally and physically. I was doing well up until about mile 16; But, after an aid station, I decided to take a walk break which was the dumbest thing I could have done. At about mile 20 I was texting my mom at that point telling her how much my body hurt, how I was never going to do this again, and I wanted to find the next aid station and curl up in a ball and take a nap. I was done. She kept encouraging me to keep going. She started making signs, putting them in front of Lexi (my dog), and sending them to me.

    I really wanted to be done when the pace group I was wanting to beat blew passed me and acted like I was standing still! This guy offered me a beer. I so badly wanted to take it, crack it open, kick off my shoes, call it a day, and start spectating/cheering for everyone! I didn’t, though. I signed up for the misery and pain, and was going to freaking finish. The last hour of the race felt like the longest period of time, ever. I had some pretty dark moments mentally and beat myself up. Running is very mental. I asked myself numerous times WHY?!? Why did I put myself through this? Why beat my body up? Why, why WHY???

    My why? 1) Because I can 2) I wanted this. It was a way to celebrate in a HUGE way my one year, one month, one day anniversary of the hardest thing I ever had to do. 3) The satisfaction of accomplishing the goal and what I set out to do…I kept repeating that to myself from miles 20-26.2! And my mom kept reminding me in texts my why’s! She was my voice of reason and encouragement when I was struggling badly.

    Why do you make commitments, build and sustain relationships, take on a particular responsibility, or whatever you do? Why do you do what you do? Do you do it because it’s fun or challenging? Do you do it for the competition? There a sense of accomplishment. Just like in life, a sense of purpose helps you reach the goal you’ve set up for yourself no matter what struggles or obstacles are thrown in the mix.

    I have found that no matter what I’ve done in life or what I’ve gone through, I’ve hit that wall and there will be dark places at times. However, I’ve learned I cannot allow myself to stay in those dark places. It’s okay to feel what I’m feeling, accept/deal with it, and move on. It’s scary to stay in that place. In any difficulty, I’ve learned to simply put one foot in front of the other until I reach that finish line of whatever I’m going through. I’m sure I’ll have plenty many more finish lines and obstacles to go through in my life time (figuratively and literally), and that’s okay. I’m ready. Game on. I’m sure I’ll hit plenty more walls. I will come out a fighter and stronger. My track record proves that. I’ll continue with my life motto of winging things, living life to the fullest, and living one day, one week, one month, and one year at a time. I pulled my head out of my arse, and pulled it together…Own Chicago? Heck yes! Own Life? H-E-Double L YESS!!!!

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Can’t wait for 2016 when I can do another marathon 🙂 

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The Finish Line!

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The engine!

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