Running a marathon: My story

I’m sore, stiff, a bit sunburned, and I lost my pinky toe nail. Yet, I still can not shake the fact that yesterday I completed something that for years I had told myself and everyone else I was incapable of finishing or even starting.

In October I started working out after years of neglect. Then I had a dream one night. I posted an update on facebook about it on October 30, 2009 ”

Dreamt I ran a marathon last night. Well I ran/walked it with my friend KMac in Ft Lauderdale for a charity event. I feel strangely inspired to attempt running for 26.2 miles… but something tells me I won’t.

A few days later I decided to start running. When I stared I couldn’t jog a block without becoming winded, feeling as though I was going to die of exhaustion! I found a program for beginners called “From the couch to a 5K” and started on the trek. I posted a second posting, “I’ve decided to run/walk the San Diego Rock N Roll marathon in June anyone want to join me?” And it began, a journey that started in November of 2009 and continues through the marathon I completed yesterday.

Yesterday: I arrived at the starting line. There were thousands and thousands of people. Every person looked more experienced than me yet, I knew I could do it. I got in my corral, 33, and tried to soak it all in. I was filled with a sense of excitement, curiosity, adrenaline, and joy. I was at the starting line of a marathon!

My two friends showed up. They are incredible women and incredible athletes. They both came simply to be my cheerleaders for the event! That they were. The first runners took off. It took us about 35 minutes to get to the starting line. So we started the race around 6:50 or so. We had a great pace. Much faster than I usually run and it felt good and easy. People lined the streets cheering us on and holding up posters for people they loved. By mile 3 I was feeling good. I had a great pace and was thinking I could totally keep this up. There were people I knew and loved scattered through out the city as we ran through down town San Diego. I smiled and chatted. (it was hard not to stop) We kept going. The first 7 miles were the fastest 7 miles I’d ever completed.

Then we came to the hill. There was a slow and steady climb from mile 7 to mile 10.5 and my body felt it, it also felt the fast pace of my start. I was suddenly filled with fear. How was I going to make it? I knew quitting was not an option and it never for one time entered my mind, but I was locking up and fear swept over me. By this time it was sunny and my sun glasses were on, so the tears were not easily seen. My two cheerleaders pushed and encouraged and challenged!

By this time the miles seemed to grow in feet. I put my head down and just kept going. I saw a sign quoting Dori from “Finding Nemo” Just keep swimming. I just kept jogging. We made our next turn and I knew I’d have some friends on this stretch of road. It gave me something to look forward to and something to distract me from the pain I was feeling. There they were! Damian and Marc and about a mile later Sarah and her friends! It was so so good. I needed to see them at this point. I was steadily feeling stronger with each person that was there to cheer me on. I continued.

A friend had told me of this wonderful street where people hand out oranges. We got to the street, but all that was left, were orange peels lining the streets. I was sad. I wished I had been there earlier. I pressed on. We turned a corner and there at about mile 17.5 were my friends Sylvia and Adam. Sylvia is about ready to have a baby and she came beside me, encouraging me and pressing me on. Adam was like a proud papa, taking pictures and encouraging us to smile. I could smile, which in some ways surprised me. Their encouragement and love seeped into me and swept over me. Instead of feeling fear I was feeling more strength.

By this time, my jog became a walk. And, it was actually faster than my jog for my jogging stride is rather short. My two cheerleaders pressed forward. They pushed and cheered and loved on me. With every passing moment their encouragement pulled me forward. I sang songs, asked God for strength in my mind and put one foot in front of the other. We knew we had to finish and our time was not looking good. My hopes of finishing with a 5:59:59 were far from gone and Deborah and Danielle were beginning to fear that we wouldn’t receive our medals at all. (there was a stated 7 hour time limit to finish) They had the goal in mind and they pushed and pulled, distracted and encouraged, cheered and loved me through the next portion of the race. Fiesta Island is the most dreadful place in all of San Diego. It is the island that would never end and it was the last big hurdle to cross before we crossed the finish line.

We rounded corner after corner. People were injured along the road. People were tired. People were at the ends of their rope and I just put my head down and kept on going and going and going. The time continued to tick away and Deborah and Danielle, continued to push. They wanted me to get that medal so badly. They knew, to finish under 7 that we had to finish the last two miles as 12 minute miles and I just didn’t have it in me. They pushed, I wanted to be able to muster up the strength to run again so I stepped to begin a jogging pace. With that step at mile 24.5 a wave of electric pain shot up my body. I had felt the mole skin around my pinky toe growing steadily over the past mile, and when I stepped, the entire blister burst and pain shot up my leg. Each step was laced with a pain so great I was crying as I continued to press on.

Mile 25… I kept going… then I saw Danielle take off in a sprint. I knew we were close to the 7 hour limit and I resigned myself to simply finishing, that would be prize enough for me. But not for Danielle, she had run ahead to assure one medal. Her plan was to put it around my neck when I crossed, but when she got there she was told I’d get one. So she waited.

Mile 26 was here… and I started to muster up a sort of jog and I headed to the finish. I saw the faces of Eric and Stephanie, then Stina and Mary and my heart burst. I crossed that line and it felt like a scene in a movie. Instantly tears flowed from my eyes. I was exhausted, over come with gratitude, amazed at how far I’ve come and astounded by the grace of God. Then I became happy, I couldn’t keep from smiling. It is a feeling I continue to soak in.

Even as I type now, I get teary. I don’t know how to describe it really. These two women loved me enough to push me to the finish, other friends and family were there to cheer me on and I continued to trust in the strength of Jesus to just keep me going one step at a time. I’m astounded and I know that the experience will continue to sink in over the weeks and months ahead.

It all began with a dream and a facebook status update, that turned into a real desire, which led to training, a friend paying my entry fee, updating the world through facebook and receiving tips and encouragement along the way, a partnership with Cristy who was my training buddy who ended up not being able to run the race last minute, (she was missed), and a stick to itness that I’ve never experienced. When I couple those things with all who prayed for and cheered me on either in person or from a distance… I was set up to finish!

We need each other. That is one thing for sure I learned from this experience. I’ll write more on that later along with a few other lessons. But for today, soak in the fact that we were created to need each other and it is such an honor and a privilege to be a part of such a community.

Thanks for jogging, walking, running, dreaming, praying and living with me!

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6 thoughts on “Running a marathon: My story

  1. Cari, I cried over and over when I read this. Having been a runner for years, I know the emotions involved. Your experience is too familiar to me. I have never managed to complete a marathon. But at one time I could’ve. A year ago I was in shape to have finished. I completed my half marathon. And then I did another. And then I did another. And then I gave up. And then life happened. Here I am today, 2 weeks in to training, able to run only about 3 miles at best. I’ve got a ways to go! But you give me the inspiration to do it! I ran this morning in the POURING RAIN because your story gave me the strength to get out there and do it. THANK YOU, CARI!

  2. Cari, big tears in my eyes reading this. I dreamt of you the other night (maybe the night before the race?) and just now I am remembering it. You are in my thoughts, my prayers, and I am humbled by your amazing story of overcoming fear and embracing the strength God gives us through loving community. What would we do without God’s faithful stewards of grace, strength, encouragement and love? Way to go, Cari and way to go, God!!

  3. Cari you have brought tears to my eyes as i am overwhelmed with pride and joy for you. You never cease to amaze me. Love you dearly.

    • thanks so much for visiting and reading and for you comment. It was an incredible journey for sure and made me realize we are capable of much more than we know. I hope you are finding the things you once thought impossible, possible as you dream forward.

  4. So, I totally teared up reading this post and I had to stop myself from crying bc I am at work. I just signed up for my first 5k & I have dreamed of running the San Diego Marathon for years. I was actually training before I gave birth to my son over 6 years ago…. I am using the couch to the 5K training and I have wondered if this dream is possible. Reading your post has totally inspired me & I am excited to see it through this next year. Thank you for sharing your journey. Blessings, Ronel (P.S. I got your info from Tracie Sullivan)

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