I started running around May of 2010. By the following March I had completed a half marathon, a marathon, and a 10k. In that order.
I jumped into the marathoning part feet first.
Within a year of completing my first in March 2011, I had completed 4—my 4th was a year to the day of the first one.
Running in general, but training more specifically, gives me discipline and confidence I didn’t know I lacked, a sense of belonging to a group that isn’t family or even friend but kin anyway, and emotional and physical wellness.
My fifth marathon last weekend was on target to be my fastest. But something happened that had not happened to me a single time in training—my blood sugar crashed. I’m hypoglycemic but have learned to manage it well over the years and have never had a problem with it in the past 2.5 years of running.
Yet after being on target to reach my goal for the first 20 miles of the race, there it went—down, down, down forcing me to re-evaluate all that I had done over the 6 months to get to where I was (around Brook Road) and whether to keep going (to the finish on Tredegar).
I cried. Then I chose, and choose, to keep going (after being forced to accept dread of all dreads: a chocolate gu from a concerned passing runner).
Thanks Random Stranger for not coming to a full stop thus making me feel like the dud I thought I looked like sitting on the curb about to fall asleep—that’s how sugar crashes affect me.
And thanks to the DJ on Lombardy who always plays that good get-them-last-miles-done music. He called my name as I shuffled up the hill, dejected, and I was able to do something I’d always wanted to do but had never done because I was so focused on whatever goal I had. In the middle of the street and in the middle of the race I danced.
Thank you Mr. DJ, for being a great dance partner and making me smile on what still kind of feels like the worst pain of my life. I know it will subside over time, but for now it still hurts.
If the race reminded me of nothing else, it is that the end of the story is not as important or fun, even, as getting there.
So there are several other thank yous from the middle of the story that deserve mentioning too. There are plenty more; these are just some.
Like, thanks Legs for getting faster;
for Cullen and Rob, and Rob’s 80s soundtrack pushing us on in the early miles;
to Cullen who found out that I was running my hills alone in the morning and looked me up and emailed me to join their group;
for Beth—we’re both loners really and needed to learn to be social for the longer miles. It worked. One weekend, chatting and running, we got caught up with the half marathon training team and made our own route—with an extra mile for good measure;
for my unofficial pacers Dan (in your famous green shirt) and the “lady with the ponytail”—she was so fast I never caught her to get her name;
for Jackie telling me that she was excited for me; because it feels good to think that someone, a veteran no less, was watching and supporting my progress;
for those runs with Chris, especially on the day we said we were gonna take it easy. We didn’t;
and the day Tracy and I secretly planned a “takedown” of faster runners on Hermitage hill. He did it. I couldn’t;
for my coach Greg inviting me to run with him and his friends from the downtown Y—I was so sure I’d never keep up but was excited that he believed I could;
and for the morning my other coach Elliot called me “Speedy”—what an ego boost! For one thing, my dad’s handle is Speedracer and he used to be a track star. I try to channel him, but I think endurance is more of my thing than speed;
for mini boxes of raisins and coconut water; pepper spray;
and for the small voice that said, “Don’t let them see you walking all wonky or else they won’t let you finish the race.” (So I sat on the curb lest I get “caught” about to pass the eff out).
Then I finished, smiling: