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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Marathon Lessons: Pain is Temporary....

...but pride is forever. That's the sign I see a race volunteer holding around mile 21 as I circled around Lake Merced in San Francisco. That's also the moment in the Nike Women's Marathon when I read it and nearly came to tears because the 5 miles before that had been so painful that it now had become impossible to run. My running partner-in-crime, Carol, (who I've trained with since May) and I have succumbed to walking, both our knees in serious trouble (sympathy pains?). The wind, rain and cold off the Pacific have also made it challenging, numbing our hands and chilling our water-logged bodies to the bone. But we keep going. We see Team in Training chapter names on the backs of TNTers' race shirts from across the country - there goes Arizona, Delaware, Oklahoma, even Hawaii and Canada. It feels like every state in the darn country is passing us. And there was Georgia...plodding along. Frustrating. For the last 10 miles we have roller coastered through every emotion from delrious laughing to cursing as if we had a condition. So, the sign makes me want to cry.

Carol and I see it as a moment to refocus for the last 5.2 miles. Ok. It's not long now, we think to ourselves, The rain hasn't let up and neither has the stabbing pain in my knee, but so help me there was no way I was NOT going to complete this marathon, even if I had to crawl on my hands and knees and drag my sorry, sore butt to the finish.

We set our next thoughts on looking for our beloved TNT Coach Ed around mile 24. We knew he was going to be stationed around this stretch of the course helping the hunredreds of TNT participants with that last little push. This was a critical point -- a few miles before the finish. It's impossible to miss Ed because he's so incredibly tall and gazelle-like, and sure enough, like a beacon of purple light, he's there running toward us. Only now, I feel even worse. He sees the looks on our faces. We are at least an hour behind where we should have been at this point. Strangely, I feel like I have let him down when I see him. I still don't think he knows that, but in some weird way that's how I feel. I had great training runs and know I was capable of finishing this race strong. Ed and Carol were there with me on every long training run - helping me get to 16, 18, and 20 mile runs. The miles were challenging, but I got stronger as the weeks went by. So why was this happening to me now? Ed tries to comfort me as I hobble along, but my internal questioning fuels my anger and this Georgia girl was not a happy camper. Here's a pic my TNT friend Bruce snapped at this point. I'm on the left, beside me is Ed and Carol. It's probably good that my lips were blurred so you can't make out some choice words!:
Well, the finish did come and plunging through huge puddles of water, Carol grabs my hand and thrusts it upward with hers. We did it!! It didn't take long before I took my second step past the finish line and my elation turned to uncontrollable sobs (I'm not a cryer except in unusual circumstances) Yes, I had myself an ugly cry. It was a cry of exhaustion and the feeling that I made it. I was so lucky that my awesome hubby Brian was there along the race course, but especially at the finish. I stumbled toward him as he snapped the progression of my emotions with his professional grade camera - all caught on digital memory forever. It sure made for a great laugh when I saw the series of these photos later. Here's me walking toward Brian:

This post may indicate that physically and mentally I had a terrible experience at the Nike Marathon the weekend of Oct. 17, 2010. But in fact, I actually didn't. Of course there are many things I wish were different about my race day and my first marathon experience. It just wasn't my day - that's for darn sure - but there were many great moments of inspiration that entire weekend in San Fransisco with my Team in Training partners. That weekend, I was surrounded by stories of preserverance through sickness, moments of courage, laughter and rememberance of loved ones who've passed from a blood cancer, and strength from those who continue to endure. This entire training season was a journey and lesson in gratitude for the good things in my life. There are those people who will never have the chance to have another "race day;" another do-over. There are those who will never attempt run an endurance race. I will.

...And now for a moment of cleansing.
A pic with Carol and the SF firemen greeting us at the finish. I just wish I had been a little more coherent to fully enjoy it!

jumping for joy, brief moment of elation at mile 3. Clearly, early on in the race!:

1 comment:

  1. Karen, you are a winner! You did it, and I so admire your strength and perserverance. It is awful when your body doesn't keep up with where you mind wants it to be, but you didn't let that stop you. I am so proud of you!! I've been thinking a lot about you and your next challenges with your knee. Here's me sending lots of healing love your way.