Running Reflections Part 2: The Marathon

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

Folks have asked how the race went, and with so many people praying for me and encouraging me, I thought I’d share some reflections about the race itself.

I picked up my race packet the day before, and my husband asked why I was shaking – was I freezing or was I nervous? The honest answer was that I was a little chilly and a lot nervous! I hadn’t slept well at all the night before, telling myself that it was the most important night sleep and I was missing it!

10329307_10152516165998755_5242211062645353461_nBut, I was trying to relax. I had finished the training plan. I had read up and followed suggestions for nutrition. I had carb-loaded like it was my job and drank like I was a camel headed for the dessert. My friend running it said that she felt like she was pregnant with a little “carb baby” and my tummy felt the same way. I could physically see the difference of the weight I had put on.

More importantly, I had asked people to pray for me. Every single mile was covered by at least one person. Several other people promised to pray in general for the race. One friend sent me some excerpts from Psalm 18:

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
      my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge…
For by you I can run against a troop,
      and by my God I can leap over a wall.
For who is God, but the LORD?
      And who is a rock, except our God?–
the God who equipped me with strength
      and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
      and set me secure on the heights.
You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
      and my feet did not slip.
For you equipped me with strength for the battle…
For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations,
      and sing to your name.

While I wasn’t sleeping well (and I obviously was shaking on the outside), I was honestly feeling a deep sense of peace. I knew on my own I couldn’t do it, but I felt that God was with me. And if He is, what else did I truly need?

I loved all the messages from friends and words of encouragement. The morning of the race, I woke up at 3 am. My amazing husband woke up at the same time and got a shower. He’s NOT a morning person but stuck by my side the entire race, even wearing this shirt.

IMG_1516Reading my Bible that morning like I do each day, my devotions included the following verse: 1 Chronicles28:20a “Then David continued, ‘Be strong and courageous and DO THE WORK. Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you…'” (emphasis mine). I felt like God was saying He’d be with me, don’t be intimidated by the distance, but work hard!

I decided to forgo the original outfit I bought for the race because the cute running skirt could cause potential chaffing issues. Instead I went with a pair of running capris that were called “Race With Grace Crops” and thought the name was probably appropriate. I had bought the shirt I wore a couple weeks before because it was 50% off and then there was a mark on it (which came out in the wash) so it was an additional 50% the sale price. In other words, it was so cheap I simply couldn’t pass it up. I thought it was meant to be! I realized that I couldn’t let my pride in desiring to look good get in the way of finishing the task set before me. This was another way that I felt God was telling me to let go of any pride I had. This run was for HIS glory alone!

MeAnd one of the main prayer requests I had asked people to cover was my need to “go” during a run. In shorter runs, this can be a helpful part of running for me. In long runs, I can get the runs, unfortunately. (TMI? Simply skip this paragraph then…) I was so afraid that I’d spend the entire race in the bathroom and miss the friend that I was running with. I asked everyone I knew to pray for it (much to my husband’s dismay). But, I needed it! Again, it wasn’t about my pride, it was about God’s glory. And may I give a huge shout out to God that this wasn’t an issue at all? I didn’t hit a single porta potty on the race course, which is a MIRACLE!

I was literally shocked to see my friend Rebecca and her Mom at the race before we lined up at 5:30 am. Literally, the sun hadn’t even risen and they were there to encourage and support me. I was blown away!

Rebecca Me

I was grateful to see my friend Crissy there, ready to race. I was so glad to have a friend to start with! She’s able to chat as we go and make the time go by quickly. Since we hadn’t gotten a picture of us earlier, we took the time to get one at the line up. Her cousin Amy and her Uncle Rich were there to support her as well. We were blessed with family and friends cheering us on even from the start!

Crissy MeThe gun went off and I was feeling great! We didn’t shoot out too quickly and we weren’t behind anyone too slow. Our pace was nearly perfect for what we had trained for.

Running 2I saw my husband very early on in the course and gave him a shout out. Several runners around me commented on his shirt and how cute it was or how blessed I was to have him. Indeed! I had given him spare water bottles and we had mapped out the course of where I’d trade my empty water for his full ones. He also saw me several points along the course and I would smile and wave. It was great!

Running 4Crissy and I chatted as we went, and I was really enjoying the first several miles. I fueled every 3-4 miles and tried to drink some water at those points as well. I was more used to my own bottles from training, so I opted to stick with them rather than the water station cups. But, we thanked the volunteers. We waved to the crowd. We were enjoying a nice long run together, we told each other. And it was great that so many people could be there with us! 🙂 🙂 🙂 I remember the first time seeing Rebecca and her Mom, and they were holding up a beautifully made sign with my name on it. It was GREAT! I smiled and cheered!!!

Running 2BUnfortunately around the 10th mile, I noticed that my hamstrings were ungodly tight. They had been tight the entire time, actually, but I noticed the actual pain from them at that point. I reminded myself that I hold tension in my back and lower legs when I’m nervous, so I told myself that this really wasn’t a big deal. Let it go – try to relax and enjoy the run! About two miles later, I realized that my hamstrings weren’t really working very well. It’s like they got tired and shut down. I can’t really explain it, but I definitely felt it. [On a side note, my massage therapist said that this is exactly what happens at times – muscle groups will simply stop working from fatigue. I hadn’t slept well and my body was tired!] I could no longer keep the pace – and this was a very comfortable and normal pace for us! We still hit the half way point of the race at two hours, right where we wanted to be. We didn’t want to shoot off too quickly and flounder in the last half and we didn’t want to start the first half too slow. We were doing exactly what we had planned.

Running 3The only problem was that my body wasn’t responding to our plan. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run more than 10 miles and been absolutely fine. On our 16-mile run, I felt like I could totally keep going. On our 20-mile run, I felt great! Why was my body feeling so awful on this one? I reminded myself that running is one of those sports that every day can be a little different. Some days are great, some aren’t so great. I was so thrilled that my belly wasn’t bothering me!!! But, I had never even thought to pray for my muscles because I had never had these issues previously! Unfortunately, I could tell I was slowing my friend down. She’d run ahead for a while and then stop to walk and stretch and wait for me to catch up. I threw my headphones on, knowing that she was there to race and get her best time. I didn’t want her to stay behind with me. I wanted her to press on and reach her goal.

SIGN 1 LMRTTThis is where I’ll interject that God knows what we need and when we’ll need it long before we do! A group of moms that are part of a running “club” (for lack of a better word) came to support those of us running in this marathon. One of those moms, Jen, had even agreed to pray for two miles of my marathon and also gave me tips from when she ran her first last year. She was at one of the spectator viewing points right when I felt like I could already collapse from pain. It was mile 16 and my legs were SO tight. I was also feeling the salt on my skin and felt like even the water and fuel I was taking wasn’t touching my energy level. I had seen Shawn, who jumped in to run with me a few yards and I told him to go back to the car and get me pretzels ASAP! But, as I continued on around the corner there was a beautiful sign with my name on it, along with a group of Moms ready to go with all sorts of stuff for us runners. Jen asked what I needed and I said, “Pretzels!” which Becky handed to me. (So funny that these two gals are named what my older sisters are!) I also looked at them and confessed that I was sore all over. Jen jogged with me and started to pray right then and there as were running and I was choking down some pretzels. I don’t remember what she prayed, but I know I felt so much better having her there for a few minutes. She saw another mom coming the other way – still heading toward the turnaround – and ran back with her. I love this group of moms! I had already high-fived or shouted out to the other running mamas we had passed as we were heading back and they were heading up. This is such a group of inspiring women! It was great that we could all be there together! And I loved the signs that they made for us (a picture of mine is coming up…)

Christine Me RUNNINGMy best friend (since second grade!) had offered to come and be a support that day. Her older sister had just completed her first marathon the month before and had called and encouraged me to do my best and also offered to jump in for a few miles. I asked her to come for miles 17-21 for two reasons. The first was that I feared I might spend too much time in the bathroom and lose my friend Crissy. The second was that I had asked another friend to run with me from mile 21 to the end of the race. I thought if I had small segments, it wouldn’t be such an overwhelming task for anyone to jump in and run a couple miles. God knew I’d need help at mile 17! By the time I hit there, I was ready to quit. Honestly, I had never experienced pain shooting all around my body like I felt then. As much as I’ve run, I’ve NEVER experienced anything quite this awful. Sure, my Achilles has been aching almost constantly. Yes, my feet have been blistered and my toe nails have come off. Yes, I’ve had minor aches and pains. But, this was INTENSE!!!10383015_10203994005400853_3066668597426953483_nMile 17 was one of my favorite miles, though, because while my friend Crissy was long gone (which I was so glad for – I felt bad for the time I had already cost her in this race!), I saw all my supporters together in the same place. (Suzanne took the picture above, and I look a little like death, but trust me when I say that I felt worse!) Rebecca and her Mom were both there with their sign, I saw my Dad at this point for the first time, Suzanne had her youngest daughter Emily strapped to her and held up her sign, Shawn was there, and Christine was there to run with me, etc. I gave them each a high five – realizing that my time was already shot, I might as well take in the moment!

I was more than upset with myself that I couldn’t get my pace back up to where it should be. First, when I run slower, I feel it’s harder on my joints. Second, I knew that I would be done faster (and back home, where I wanted to be!) if I could just get done and get off the course. But, as much as I mentally wanted to go faster, my hamstrings wouldn’t move and my quads that had taken over weren’t really up for the task. In fact, right around mile 18 my left quad got so tight I cried out in pain. It continues to be the most painful part of my body even days later.Sign 2

Poor Christine! I don’t feel like I’m normally quite so whiny, especially to someone who I don’t know all that well. But, I cried and fussed and whined and told her over and over again just how bad I was feeling (YIKES! Sorry!!!). I told her I was trying to get it out of my mind and just couldn’t shake it! She told me the story of them getting there and how Ian had signed the sign that Suzanne was holding and how even her Sunday School class had prayed for me. Her words were so sweet! I loved listening. I was trying so hard to get my body to cooperate, and I was so frustrated that it just wasn’t happening.

10402646_10203313907515709_7530375613913503096_n(1)Then I ran out of water. I hadn’t seen Shawn to switch back bottles for the third time or so, and we didn’t see an aid station. I was so dry! And then around the corner on the sidelines there was my friend Rebecca drinking her own bottle of water that I grabbed from her and drank. It was SO sweet! (Again, God knew what I needed and when!) The gals from the LMRTT group (pictured above) were just ahead and also offered me a water bottle to fill up mine and more pretzels to eat. They also asked if I needed anything else and told me that I was doing great. I saw my Dad right around there and he walked with us. I had run 21 miles on sore legs but was feeling absolutely positively DONE! He said “She’s got this.” Then Shawn came and he gave me my new filled water bottles. I wanted to cry and go home, but I didn’t.

10419626_10152022483825870_926548107424959110_nEventually my friend Chris jumped in with me around the 22 mile or so. I was between Chris and Christine (or Chris)! Too funny! At mile 23, I thought “This is just a 5K left, let’s go!” And I started running again with what I had left in me. I thought of how Jesus endured so much pain and torture on the cross – this was a walk in the park compared to what He had to go through for my sin! I needed to finish. But, I kept stopping to walk and tried to stretch my muscles. My husband had changed into shorts (still wearing that awesome shirt, though!) and ran with me the last half mile along with both Chris and Chris (hee hee). In the above picture, we’re walking. The last part of the course was uphill, so I decided to walk and couldn’t stand the thought of running again even when it sloped down hill. But, I heard the loud speaker announcing my name as coming around the corner.

FINISH (2)In Mark Remy’s Rulebook of Running (a serious MUST READ for any runner! Soooo funny! Thanks for the suggestion, Crissy!), it says that every runner must run at least one race that ends on a track. I agree. There was something about finishing on this soft surface with the crowds cheering in the stand that felt awesome! I saw my support group and waved as I ran to the finish line. I seriously almost kissed the volunteer who put the medal around my neck.

The next volunteer saw how bad I looked and told me to go to the medical tent immediately. I sat down while the man there put ice on my (screaming!) quad and then got three more soaking wet towels (that were ice cold) and put one on my back, one literally on top of my head, and one to towel off with. He said not to try to stretch my quad back because I would probably tear my hamstrings. It was good advice! He asked me to go lay down and try to flatten out my legs, but I just wanted to go with my family and friends. So, I thanked him and hobbled (literally hobbled!) out of the medical area to greet my Dad and friends who were there. The last tip the guy gave me was to walk around the corner and immediately drink a regular soda to get my sugar level up and eat some food. But there wasn’t any soda anywhere! My friend Suzanne (pictured below) went and got me a pretzel and later went and grabbed me a slice of pizza. I also ate half an apple, which tasted SO good!

suzanne me (2)I loved the sign and the fact that she’d driven there (waking up early and bringing her baby) to see me. She also brought her sister along to run with me! Christine not only ran with me the miles I asked her to, she continued until the end. I think she realized how bad I felt (I had made it more than clear! Ugh!) and knew that I wouldn’t make it alone.

Christine MeChris came prepared with his phone and “clubbing tunes” as I had asked him to. He and his wife got the music ready the night before so I’d have a beat to try and finish with. While I had to walk during some of it anyway, I was glad to have something to listen to that I didn’t need to mess with. I had ditched my earphones clear back at mile 16 when I saw Shawn and asked him for help and Jen started praying for me, etc.

Chris MeI was also glad to see my Dad there. I laughed at this picture because I had already started eating when I thought about getting pictures with my support group. I was so hungry and feeling so shaky that I realized the advice I had gotten in the medical tent wasn’t just advice – he was afraid I might pass out. I was too! I really felt strange and downright awful.

Dad Me

I wish I had gotten another picture with Rebecca and her Mom and their sign. I was so mentally done by that point that I didn’t think of everything. 😦 But it was amazing that they were there for the entire race.

And, I was also so impressed with my husband. I know he has pain typically from when he blew out his knee and broke his foot and had ankle surgery. I know he doesn’t run. But I also know he would have ran the entire way back with me if I would have asked because he knew I was struggling. He watched the kids for me to train, he kept encouraging me to try my best, and he told me he wouldn’t take me home until after I crossed that finish line. I almost gave up at mile 21, but I thought about his joking that his car wouldn’t be available until after mile 26.2. He deserved this medal more than me!

Shawn Me FINISHED

My real shout out, though, is to God. I was worried about one specific set of problems, but worry really does nothing! Prayer does, however! Each item I was concerned about was covered in prayer and God answered in a huge way! The weather was beautiful, my stomach was more calm than it’s been in weeks/months, my Achilles pain wasn’t bothering me, and even though my feet are blistered, bloody and more than grotesque I only barely felt them during the actual run. More than that, I’m not seriously injured. Sure, I’m sore, but I’ll survive and be able to run again. I was worried that I may have a permanent problem after the race, and I’m so thankful I don’t. God also knew that I’d need help and support and provided His hands and feet on earth to care for me. The people who prayed, the people who took time to email and write encouraging notes, the people who came and made signs, the people who brought supplies, the people who came and ran and encouraged me… I could just cry thinking of how loved I felt crossing that finish line and knowing how many had been encouraging and supporting me as I did. I truly felt God’s love and the love of His people.

1 FINISHMy finish time wasn’t what I wanted. I knew that finishing in less than four hours was unrealistic compared to what I had trained at. The rule of thumb is to double your half marathon time and add 10 minutes. So, if I did that, taking my worst half and doubling it, I still should have finished in less than 4 hours and 15 minutes. If I took my best, I’d be just over 4 hours. I hoped I would have a really good day and pull in just around 4 hours. But, I told myself that anything under 4 and a half hours was awesome. It wasn’t under. I finished at 4:36:32 according to the official record keeper (which is a second later than the picture shows me above, but who really cares at this point?!?! Ha!). I was slooooowww compared to what my training was. But, I’m realizing that it’s so I can’t boast. I can’t brag. I can’t be proud. That’s not why I was supposed to run this race. It simply wasn’t about me. I’m thrilled that I finished. Truly, for how bad I felt, I wanted to quit and would have had it not been for the support I had. Even getting to that finish line was a huge victory. And it wasn’t my victory – it was God’s strength that carried me.

Crissy Me FINISHERSWhile I was on the course, I saw a man pass me (groan!) with a t-shirt that said on the back the exact verse that has carried me since I signed up for this marathon “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13. Truly, to God be the glory! I honestly can’t do all things, no matter how hard I train. But I believe that God can. I KNOW He can do anything He desires.

My friend Rebecca shared this verse today, and it rings true to my heart (thanks for sharing it!):

“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given to me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” — Acts 20:24

The race is over. May God receive the honor and glory that He’s due! If you’re still reading (and I realize that this was a long post), please give Him a hearty thank you and praise Him! HE is awesome!

Thank You, Lord, for caring about even the birds of the air. You know us, Your people. You know our needs. You know our tendencies. I’m so thankful that You are with us! Forgive me where I’ve experienced the desire for pride. May You alone receive the honor that You’re due. Thank You for helping us finish the race of life… we are grateful for the journey. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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