26.2. A few years ago this was just a random number to me. Today it represents a major life experience. I can feel the confidence, joy, laughter, friendship, tears, pain and sense of determination that I lived during training. The meaning of this number peaked Sunday, October 7,2012 in Chicago with one adrenaline-charged feeling of achievement when I crossed the finish line at one of the world’s top five marathons.
It was the finale of months of training and preparation. Miles and miles of training runs; 579 miles to be exact. For the first time since I have started running, I logged every single training run. If I went for a run, I wrote in down. In hindsight, I am very glad I did. It now represents a tangible number that is attached to a lofty goal. It helped give the training perspective for me. I Google mapped Little Falls to Chicago. It comes up 505 miles. So I literally ran to Chicago over the course of my training. When you do it a little at a time, the numbers have a way of sneaking up on you and amounting a lot more than you expect.
Adding up those miles confirmed for me I was physically prepared. I had two; twenty mile training runs in, so I knew it was physically possible. In my mind, once I hit 20, I just knew that I could do another 6. Even though I had heard from several experienced marathon runners about the proverbial “wall”, I was ready. There is always the chance you can have an off day, you just never know what you will feel like, but you can’t let that stop you. I was not going to let the wall hinder my first marathon finish. There are times willpower comes in handy and this was one of them. How well I would feel or how fast it would happen was yet to be determined.
That left the mental wall. My previous running experiences told me that while some races are easier than others, I needed to be prepared to push through. One thing I knew I had in my corner is my black belt experience. I learned the day that I broke a brick with my hand that anything is possible. I learned that if I want something, if I can visualize it, and truly believe it can be done, it can be done. There is not room for doubt. I had spent months visualizing the finish line, that one last long, strong stride as my body crossed over that piece of finish line rubber. I never once doubted my finish.
The finish line became reality at mile 20. From that point on, it was a race for me. 6.2 miles to the grand finale. Approximately one more hour left of this experience. Me against my body. I knew it was do-able. The last bit of adrenaline kicked in and my steps became lighter and my stride stronger. The finish was going to happen and soon. I ran those last 6.2 miles with strength and determination. I felt energy from the thousands of people cheering us on. This was a special energy that lifted and carried you and made your feet lighter. I could also feel the support from friends and family who were back in Minnesota cheering for me. Many times I had heard the last part of the race is the most difficult. For me, it was by far, the easiest and my favorite part.
I crossed the finish line with a feeling of success and relief. Realizing once again that life is an amazing journey that is meant to be lived, to make us feel alive inside.
A few years earlier, running a marathon wasn’t even on my radar. At the time, it didn’t even seem physically possible to me (OK, even a little crazy), yet here I stood at the finish line, feeling more alive than I have most of my life. If someone would have told me 2 years ago that I would successfully run the Chicago Marathon, I wouldn’t have believed them, yet here I stood at the finish line. Life has presented me a lot of opportunities. I’ve learned I can embrace them or ignore them. I’ve learned it sure is a lot more exhilarating to embrace them!