Goal: Don’t Die (My First Marathon)

When I signed up for my first marathon I set two goals for myself:

  1. Don’t die.

  2. Don’t have a poop-related incident in front of anyone.

Looking back at it, these are good goals for life in general. However I chose to attempt to achieve these goals while also asking my body to maneuver 26.2 miles between two “cities” in central New York State. Cool.

The day before the marathon the weatherman had predicted that it would be crisp and mild, no adverse weather in sight. Ever the optimist I donned a pair of blue Lululemon leggings (a gift from a friend after a severe car accident where I had been rear-ended while I was waiting at a red light) and a white Lululemon shirt (because why not?) I had bought myself for my birthday. The answer is yes, I was going for basic.

I drove myself to the shuttle pick up the morning of at 6:00am and anxiously followed a pacer in the dark with a sign marked “4:00.” I stared at this glowing white square, fighting the urge to vomit, and thinking about the people who would be finishing at this pace. We got to the shuttle bus pick up and I found myself seated next to a cancer survivor who was completing her first marathon since undergoing chemo and radiation. I fought back tears thinking about her struggle, ashamed that I was nervous about putting my body through 26.2 miles, without having experienced chemo and radiation. This wonderful woman saw how I kept tearing up and gently reminded me “the first is the worst” thus confirming every stupid playground rhyme from elementary school. I almost expected her to say “I’m rubber…” She never did.

When we arrived at the start we all huddled in a barn. That’s right New York CIty Marathoners, who had a forking BARN to wait in. Jealous? As the minutes drew closer to start, the horde of people in this barn began to migrate toward the starting line. Before I knew it my drop bag was checked in, I had done the obligatory port-a-potty visit and was anxiously shaking to the dulcet sounds of Pitbull blasting through my headphones when the gun sounded and the throng of people at the start began to slowly creep forward. After what seemed like minutes (and probably was) I saw the timer cords on the ground and stepped over them, starting the longest trip back to my car I have experienced to date. And the longest and most difficult wet t-shirt contest I have ever participated in because as my luck would have it, the weatherman was a forking liar and it began to rain (see above re: white shirt).

Full flashback disclosure – I never grew up a runner. Which I’m sure you’ll find weird when I say that I was on the Varsity Track Team when I was in high school. May I remind you that these teams are Track and Field teams. I was a delicate little flower who was lucky enough to throw the shot and the discus. Any instances of running made me anxious. I was the tortoise, even when I was trying to be the hare. I had an intense jealousy for the other members of my team who could so easily sprint, and hurdle, and run for miles. I could barely run for minutes. Ouch.

Fast forward to the first mile of my first marathon. I knew that after years of challenging my lack of running past and running 5Ks and half marathons that this was my next step (both figuratively, and lit…well you know) and the first mile felt like nothing. I was honestly pretty comfortable through the first 13.1 miles. For you non-runners out there that would be a half marathon. It was at mile 17 that I found myself struggling to move forward, losing momentum and continuously checking behind me to see if:

  1. My legs hadn’t fallen off behind me and were still actually attached to my body. I also prayed to God little nothings such as “God, if my legs do fall off, please let them go to someone who will treat them well and who will be able to use them.”)

  2. There wasn’t a little old lady behind me and getting ready to pass me (there often was).

The true blessing was that strollers were not allowed in this race so I could rest assured that no one in the age group of 0-2 would be posting a time better than mine.  Suck it infants of iron-moms.

In those last miles of that race I found myself thinking about my patients. I mean, I had 9 miles until the finish line, it’s not like I had much else to do. But in reality, I was thinking about the struggles that they go through. For those of you who don’t know, I work with patients who are seeking to recover from eating disorders. (It may seem odd to compare a marathon to eating disorder recovery, but hey this is my blog and my life and I can do what I want.) My patients work hard to overcome their fears, overcome voices and thoughts that tell them that they “can’t” and to continue asking their bodies to do things they don’t feel confident about. I was thinking about what I ask of them on a daily basis as their dietitian and how they let me challenge them. I thought of A. and M. and E. and all the other patients who have let me speak into their lives (wish I could shout these friends’ full names out, but HIPAA rules my life). I made it to mile 25 thinking about them and all they have accomplished. I told myself the very same words I have told patients “you’ve come too far to turn back now.”

That last mile was for me. I thought of all of the people in my life who have told me I can’t, myself included. I thought of times I had given up and wished I hadn’t. I thought of how far I had come and how, even if they had closed the finish line by the time my slow butt got there, I would be able to say that I had completed 26.2 miles. I made it to a beautiful bridge overlooking the river, misty with rain, a shimmering rainbow overhead aaaaaaaand one of the race volunteers told me that the finish line was “around the corner.” I could have strangled him with my cold, wet, frozen hands.

Finally, I saw the finish line. I saw it. I couldn’t will my body to move any faster, but I pushed that smile on my face. I was going to have a non-resting-bitch-face when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. The announcer said my name, called me a “first time marathon finisher”, I crossed the finish line and before I knew it the medal was around my neck…and I began to cry. I was cold. I was wet. I couldn’t feel my legs. And I wanted bread.

A nice race volunteer congratulated me, gave me a hug, and let me exhaustively sob on her shoulder. I was so proud and so embarrassed at the same time. She laughed and told me I couldn’t possibly get her shoulder any wetter than it already was. She took a picture for me, documenting my true marathon completion in all its rainy glory. Friends who had been following my journey online began to text me congratulations on my accomplishment as I hobbled back to my car, elated and defeated simultaneously. Where the fork was that runners’ high?

That same day a friend asked me if I would ever run another marathon again. Shoving a bread-stick in my mouth I almost choked from laughing and finally coughed out an emphatic “NO.” It’s only been a month and I may have just closed a browser about the Honolulu Marathon (SPONSOR ME PLEASE!) in 2019. It’s not that I loved all 26.2 miles, because in case you skipped to the end of this blog like an artichoke-hole, I obviously didn’t. I instead love thinking about how I was able to push myself mentally and physically. I was able to recognize the accomplishments of others. I spent time in prayer and God did indeed spare my legs. I proved to high school me that not only could I run one mile, I could finish 26.2 of them, and I’m pretty sure not many people on that Varsity Track & Field Team can say today that they’re a marathon finisher. I have so much pride in what I pushed through and celebrated and experienced.

The main takeaway? Let’s be real. I accomplished quite a feat in completing a marathon, but the real win was hitting those first two goals:

  1. Don’t die.

  2. Don’t have a poop-related incident in front of anyone.

Mission accomplished.

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