So you want to run a marathon, but you’re nervous to try? A marathon does take courage. But what I’ve found is that courage is being afraid and doing it anyways.
March 18, 2017: Starting line of the Sand Hollow Marathon in Hurricane, UT.
I actually feel calm. I know this marathon is going to hurt. I'm standing at the start line on exhausted legs from a heavy week of training. Last night, I experimented with some new food hoping for more sustained energy throughout the race. Now any marathoner knows I've just committed two BIG sins. Tired legs and new fuel is never a good thing. But this truly is a 26.2-mile training run!
My main goal here is to test my mind and push it to failure. I need to feel defeat out on the course so I can practice pulling it back together and running strong to the finish. I've got big plans this year. I'm training for a full IRONMAN® 70.3® race in June. That's a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and then to finish off the day . . . a 26.2-mile run. Yeah, now that's a marathon on tired legs.
Courage is Trying Something New
Starting out, I have my music up, and I'm chanting my mantras: don't go out fast, nice and easy, stay strong. Then I notice a girl on my left keeping my pace. She's not listening to music, so I take a leap of faith and pull out my headphones and start talking with her (granted I seldom talk with random runners because they can end up talking your ear off). She's in her twenties from Texas and says, “Good job y'all!” to the others runners that pass. She's also running in 5-toed shoes carrying no nutrition, no salt, no water, no watch, and no music! She casually says, "I hear there is a big hill on this course?" which can only mean she doesn't know the course. I'm thinking, girl you have no idea. But I just say, "Well, it's an out and back course, so you get to run down the hill first" I leave out the fact that the hill is at mile 18. No need to freak her out since we are already running. Conversation ebbs and flows. We are coming up on mile twelve, and I realize that as green as this girl is, she can teach me something about courage.
Courage is to Keep Going When You Feel Defeated
About this time, the food I ate the night before was letting me know it was not a good idea. My legs felt strong, but my stomach was not on board. My friend from Texas surged ahead, and the Porta Potty became my new best friend. The day was unseasonably hot with no breeze, and the course offered no shade. By mile eighteen, I was starting up Goliath. A brutal hill that we bike up in the IRONMAN 70.3 course but that I now had to run up. My one step at a time, don't look up, one step at a time mantra was all I was trying to think. My goal in this race was to mentally break, and if I wasn’t breaking before, I definitely was now. By mile nineteen, I was dumping water over my head to deal with the heat and telling myself mantras be damned! You never have to run a marathon again. By mile twenty, I was screaming in my head, “This is the stupidest idea you have ever had! Why didn't anyone try to talk me out of this? I hate running, I hate this road, and I should not have worn compression socks. I am freaking HOT HOT HOT. Oh, wait; the road is going downhill a little while. That helps. Okay. I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay.”
Courage is Giving to Others
I start thinking back over the last few miles and realize I've actually been passing the runners who passed me before. That was odd; maybe I'm stronger than I realize. At mile twenty-three, the last aid station, I came upon a fellow runner who had been keeping roughly the same pace as me. He smiled and said, "We've got this; only three more miles.” I offered a high five and said, "Yes we do!" I can feel the finish line now, and my feet begin picking up the pace, and I can feel myself smiling. The hardest part is over, and now it's time to fly to the finish. I keep passing runners from mile twenty-three to twenty-six. I'm telling everyone "Almost done, almost done; you've got this!" Just before the finish, at mile twenty-six, I see a random man standing on the corner cheering me on and saying, "Just one more turn and you can see the finish, and I love your socks!" I smile and say, “Ha! Really? You love my socks? Well, they made me hot!” But I like hot pink socks, too, so I give him a mental high five as I pass because my arms are too tired for a real one. I only have one more turn, and I think, “There's no stopping me now!”
I cross the finish line, pick up my medal and roll my eyes at my finish time. Then I think, “Wow, I did it! There are a lot of firsts in this race, but I did it.” I was terrified to fail and to feel the pain, but I did it anyways. Courage is a lot of things, but today courage is finding the silver lining in my race. I experimented, I learned, I struggled, and I smiled. Life is a gift, and we should go for it! Sometimes in life, we are rewarded in the most unexpected ways. I actually took first in my age group. As an award, I received a plaque that simply says "WINNER." I smile whenever I look at it. It's not my time or my placement that I value in this race. It was having the courage to struggle.
So what are you waiting for? Lace up those running shoes and let’s go!