Time for Reflection

So it is now over a month since the marathon and I’m FINALLY getting to the point of finishing this entry.  I’ve had it started since a few days after the marathon, but have been going back and forth to it ever since trying to find a way to summarize all of the emotions that I experienced through the 4 month journey of training and then at the moment of finishing the Boston Marathon.  You’d think that with such prolonged contemplation I’d have come up with an incredibly deep and thought provoking entry.  Alas, I feel that this post will not quite meet such standards.  But that said, I don’t think that’s really all that important because the best decision I made was chronicling my entire experience via this blog.  The amazing feedback and Facebook “likes” was such a wonderful feeling and I truly appreciate everyone’s support and enthusiasm for joining me on this undertaking.  For the print version of this blog I have even included some of the awesome posts my friends and families added on my Facebook wall because I didn’t want those to ever be lost.  So truly, all of the love  and support meant so very much to me and is a big reason why I was able to keep running on.   

The training experience itself was not a straight trajectory of success but I ultimately hit my main goal: finish the marathon.  Looking back now I was not perfect throughout my preparation.  Heck, I even knew that as I was going along!  Training for a marathon and maintaining some semblance of a social life is a very difficult balance. Choices were made, and ultimately not every single run was run and not every meal was a platter of perfectly balanced nutrients.  And you know what, that’s ok.  As someone who likes to do something and do it right, this imperfection was a constant struggle for me during training.  But as much as doing this process was important to me, so was keeping a fun life full of time with friends and family.  I couldn’t avoid making some sacrifices, and I think there’s a lot to be said for what is gained when you do make some sacrifices for training, but I didn’t let myself totally succumb to marathon training at the cost of everything else in my life.  I’m glad I took this approach because it doesn’t take being a newbie marathon runner to know that training for a marathon is going to have it’s demands.  Despite the unavoidable difficulties, I went into taking this on wanting the process to be fun and one that would not totally deter me from taking on future races, and maybe even future marathons.  

Despite some concessions on the midweek runs, throughout training I tackled all of my long runs and generally felt good with most of those.  I didn’t have to walk any of my training runs (though there was one that I had to cut short due to injury/pain).  I got to the start line on April 21st feeling about as ready as I could which is why I was even more surprised to learn on the actual big day that running a marathon was a lot harder than I expected.  Feeling defeated played a tough mental game with me for about 22 of the 26.2 miles on April 21st.  This fairly persistent and unshakeable negative self talk while I was running was really the only bad part of the day for me.  It was very tough in the moment feeling as if I wanted to stop, or that I needed to stop, because my body was feeling so awful.  Whether it’s the full reason or not, the weather on marathon day was a lot hotter than I had been used to during training and I felt that right away.  Despite the sufficient hydrating I thought I had done the week prior and the morning of, I felt dehydrated and heaviness starting at about mile 4 and then all the way to the finish.  I took water and/or Gatorade at every mile and struggled with feeling physiologically inefficient way sooner than usual.  I expected these feelings maybe around mile 20, so when I started feeling like this before I was even a quarter of the way through the race I immediately felt discouraged. 

I’m beyond thrilled to say that my mental resilience won out, however, and I kept on going despite considering every single medic tent as a possible “out.”  Fortunately, I just could not bring myself to pull over and tell anyone “hi, I stopped here because this is kind of hard.” I also did not want to report back to everyone who had been supporting me for months that I just wasn’t able to do this.  So, despite not mentally or physically wanting to, I kept on running. I am incredibly proud of my ability to overcome this mental wall.  I think this accomplishment, above all else, has helped me realize that I really can do anything I set my mind to.  Winning the mental game during my first marathon provides me with a concrete time I can always reflect back on for the rest of my life.  Feeling what I felt that day and being able to still reach my goal makes me feel as if anything is possible if you just commit to it and keep on pushing forward.  Running my first marathon has helped me find my mental, emotional and physical strength.  Prior to starting all of this, I knew people claim that running your first marathon is life changing. Now I totally get it.  And for me, there was no better reward.  

I don’t want to minimize everything I just said about my own strength, however, I derive a lot of strength from those around me and I still believe the final kick in the butt to get me through my negative wall and to the finish line came from the friends who were cheering me on and who started to appear around mile 22.   Hearing my name screamed by people I knew (no offense strangers, thank you all too!) provided such an adrenaline rush.  They snapped me into the reality of the situation: even though I’m on this course alone, I’m not actually doing this alone.  It was around the time of my first friend sighting that I truly recognized I can actually do this, I can actually finish a marathon! 

I ran the final 4 miles, not including a few quick stops for ussies, feeling pretty great.  I still remember my final turn on to Boylston Street and thinking back on it now even brings tears to my eyes.  The emotion overcame me at the moment I made that turn.  I had done it.  I had gotten all the way to the end and this was the final stretch to finishing something that had been feeling so impossible for the past few hours.  I was able to turn and take a smiley and overjoyed selfie on Boylston (please refer to my previous entry for this pic) but then I saw my parents on the sidewalk street level.  They were screaming and cheering and smiling and I ran over to them and burst into tears.  The realization that I could not have done any of this without them completely overtook me at that moment.  All of their various means of support for the arduous training and fundraising was given to me unselfishly and unconditionally for months.  Seeing them that day, at that exact moment of the race, is one of the most important moments and memories of my life.

Since the Boston Marathon I have now also run the Run to Remember Half Marathon, a Color Run and the Freedom Run 5K which is part of the Cambridge 5K series.  I have the BAA 10K in June, the Finish at the 50 10K in July (running on to the Patriots’ field!!) and the BAA Half Marathon in October all also scheduled.  It’s likely I’ll throw a few more in there for the summer and fall and then it will be time to plan a winter schedule!  I guess you can say I’ve caught the running bug. I think some have found my current race schedule a bit excessive, but the sense of community, health and strength running has given to me is not something I want to lose anytime soon.  I am now, literally, running into the future, and it seems to be brighter than ever.  Who knows, I think I might even have Kirby’s Boston Marathon Adventure 2.0 in me 😉
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