So I have been doing so much running that its taken me quite a while to finish this story!! Hartford Marathon day – what an amazing, awesome day it was!!! Weather was perfect, I was feeling strong, and I couldn’t WAIT to get out on the course. Waiting in the corral for the gun to go off was the absolute longest half hour of my life!! After tapering for 2 weeks and running barely any mileage in the days leading up to the marathon, I was exploding with barely containable energy. Luckily the crowds kept me from going out too fast, and after the first couple of miles I settled into a nice, easy, 10:30 pace. My ankle felt perfectly fine. So far, so good.
Before I realized it, I was 10 miles into the marathon and still feeling pretty damn amazing. Realizing that this race might very well not have happened for me, I took some time to thank the powers that be for allowing me this incredible experience. I savored it all after that – the bands, the spectators, and the incredible residents of South Windsor who were out in full force as we basically shut down part of their town. Instead of being irritated, these angels were out on their lawns with music, coffee, bagels, bananas – everything a runner needs at miles 14-21 of a marathon. I stopped to thank one sweet little girl who, with her mom, was handing out orange slices. I wonder if they realized how much we appreciated their thoughtfulness and support. I was reduced to tears several times on that stretch of road.
And then – mile 21. Ohshit. So THAT’S what they mean by the wall. All of a sudden my legs just wouldn’t move any more. My 10:30 pace became more like 13:00 or 14:00 as I struggled to keep going by run/walking. Every time I started walking, this kind stranger (who was a relay runner and fresh as a daisy) encouraged me to keep going with him. He did that with everyone around us, and we all kept going because he was so intent on us all getting to the finish line. What an incredible, selfless act. Yep, I had to keep running.
At last Founder’s Bridge came into view, followed by Bushnell Park. As soon as I rounded the corner at mile 26 and saw the streets were lined with cheering spectators, I lost it. I mean I REALLY lost it. I started sobbing so hard I could barely run. And of course, that made everyone cheer louder. Which made me cry harder. It was a wonderful ride of support and emotion that I didn’t want to get off of, and I’ll never forget the bonds that were forged between myself and hundreds of total strangers as they encouraged me to go that last two tenths of a mile. Running up the chute with tears streaming down my face was a moment that I will cherish forever. I had done it. My first marathon. Four months after breaking my ankle. 26.2 hard-earned miles. And I loved every single minute of it – the elation, the pain, the crowds, the exhaustion – the most amazing 4 hours and 41 minutes of my life. And I couldn’t wait to do it again (which I did just 3 short months later, with a 4:13 finish in Charleston, SC). I am currently registered for 3 more marathons this year – Cox Marathon in Providence, Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon in South Dakota, and of course – the Hartford Marathon, where I hope to turn in a sub 4-hour marathon (and thus qualifying me for THE BIG ONE – Boston). I promise to keep you all updated on my journey, and I thank every one of you who has read my story, given me words of support, and helped me find my way back from “the dark side”.