Monday, October 10, 2011

Mission Completion!

The last couple of weeks, I've been in "re-coup" mode. Aside from giving birth, running 13.1 miles and the journey it took to get to the start line, was most likely the hardest thing I've physically had to do. Not only was my body tired, but I had a lot of catching up to do. Reconnecting with my husband, bedtime stories with my children, spending the weekend as a family rather than scheduling things around my training- I was ready to cross the finish line and so was my family. I haven't had much time for blogging since I finished the race, as any time not spent sleeping has been spent reconnecting with my loved ones and catching up on house work neglected for 12 weeks.

The week of the marathon started out kind of crummy. My right knee was in considerable amount of pain. Jonah brought home a bad cold, which everyone in the house caught. Reluctantly, I took the entire week off from training. I ran 7 miles the sunday before the race, and then not again until race day.

On Friday, the day before the race, I went to see a sports medicine specialist. I had a gait analysis run. Basically I ran on the treadmill for about five minutes while being video taped. The doctor reviewed the tape for about 20 minutes. I got to watch it in slow motion with her while she explained to me how I could be injuring myself with the strides I was taking. She told me that everything about my form looks perfect, good posture, good stride length, nice and relaxed, but the problem seemed to be that I come down too hard into the ground. She examined my knee briefly and said that the kind of pain and popping I am experiencing is commonly referred to as "runner's knee" and can be fixed simply by correcting my heavy stride. "Think propel forward, not drive into the ground." She told me "spring off your toes." You would think that after years of training for my black belt in karate, and even more years spent "propelling from my toes" as a dancer, that I would have that down by now. She also gave me a ton of handouts for various core exercises, and told me that a lot of times coming down too hard is indicative of a poor core. Which I believe, I've been feeling a major need to do corework the last few months!

On race morning, we all had to wake up much earlier than we liked. We were running late. Daryl dropped me off as close to the road closures as he could get, as traffic was really bad and not a parking spot was to be found. He and the kids did not make it to the start until after I had already crossed. The tail end of the group was just heading out. The yellow arch at the end of the road is the start line.

Within the first mile, I came to the Y bridge. It's a bridge that's shaped like a Y. I've driven over this bridge a million times, but running across it, I just felt like everything was so much clearer and beautiful about it. The trees in the valley below the bridge were just beginning to change their color. The sun was rising, and I could tell it was going to be a beautiful day for running. Cool, but not cold. Cloudy, but no rain. Then the winner of the marathon came running the opposite direction on the bridge. Now he was a site to see! I had run 1/2 a mile in the same time that he had run nearly 3. It was incredible. I wish I had taken a camera with me to get a picture of this moment in the race- all of the runners crossing the y bridge, the forerunners meeting us on the opposite side. It was beautiful.

After being routed back around to the opposite side of the bridge and going back into downtown Akron, I finally caught the first glimpse of my cheering squad. My "team" as I called them.
I'm in the middle waving, wearing a pink top. Although wouldn't it be great to tell everyone that I'm the girl closest to the camera!? I knew Daryl was going to get her into a picture at some point...

It was really refreshing to see them. I had expected Daryl to take them to the children's area. He was recieving text messages to update him on when I was crossing check points in the race. I had only asked him to be at the ten mile mark and the finish line, so seeing him at three miles with the kids was nice.

Between mile three and eight was not notable. There were great spectators, wonderful people there supporting the runners. I ran into a couple of my running friends. Not literally, thank goodness, but it was nice to see familiar faces in the sea of 1700 runners.

Then came mile eight. Well, it was actually just before mile nine. I really wish I had a camera coming into this site! One of my high school besties, "B" was standing there waiting for me with her wife. With a marvelous gift of ibuprofen and water. Coming around the curve to their house, I see her standing there, with her belly pregnant with twins. She had tied her shirt up around her waist so that I could see her beautiful baby bump, And she had drawn a smiley face. Her belly was SMILING at me. As soon as I saw her I couldn't stop laughing and smiling. I came in to give her a hug. What a wonderful friend. I don't think any one else would have done that for me. She waddled/ran with me for about a block, giving me words of encouragement, and finally letting me rub the smiling belly for good luck and strength. B, I love you!

It wasn't long after when I was at the point where Daryl was supposed to be waiting for me with the kids. I was a little disappointed that there were gates all along the road at this point, crowded with people. I caught sight of Daryl and the kids, but could not give them five or a hug. All I could do was tell Daryl that Jonah looked like he needed a tissue. I heard a woman behind me chuckle and say "a mother's job pauses for NOTHING." I had really wanted to give the kids a high five, I was disappointed. But I only had three miles left and I was feeling GREAT. No knee pain, very little fatigue, fairly comfortable. Not bad for taking a week off.

It was then that I found myself in a large group, running right along side a man holding the 10:20 pacer sign. Basically he was there to run with individuals wanting to finish the marathon at an average pace of 10 minutes, 20 seconds per mile. I was surprised to find myself in this group and stayed with them for quite a while. He handed me the sign. I said "I have no clue what I'm doing!" He said "Just run, there's nothing to it!" So I did. I carried the sign until it was almost time to break from the marathoners to follow the half marathon course back to the finish. He told me that I ought to consider being in his pace group next year for the full. I laughed and said "no thanks" but I can't deny that he didn't plant some seeds of ambition.
Jonah Cheering Mama in his "Don't Give Up" shirt

I then met a mom who was running her second half marathon. She also has two children and like me, never dreamed of finding herself in this place. We chatted for a bit about the challenges of training with two young ones. Then we came to the hardest part of the course. A very long and steep uphill run. We were so close, we didn't talk to eachother, but we were there with each other, pushing. I kept repeating something I had heard one of the spectators singing to cheer runners on. He had a guitar and a small microphone. He sang "manifest yourself in exquisiteness." I repeated it. Over and over. Those last two miles, my mind was filled with nothing else. Exquisiteness. I will not quit. I will not walk up this hill. I am made for exquisitness.

And we made it.

Running down the street, into canal park where the finish line was. I can't describe what it was like. I was tired. I wanted to quit but knew that I couldn't. One last push- the winner of the marathon then came past. He ran alongside all of us half marathoners. We moved to the side to let him through. I ran with him for less than a fraction of a second. He was moving so quickly, so elegantly. He had run twice the distance I had just run. This *is* possible.

 Coming into the finish was exhilarating. I could not have stopped running if I wanted to. I felt myself speed up. I saw the mom I had met cross the finish line. I felt my legs propelling forward faster and faster. I could have collapsed in a frenzy of emotions as my sneakers hit the red and black rubber check in point. I had always wondered how someone could cry after doing such a thing. But I did, I cried. I cried and laughed at the same time as I was handed food, water, and a medal hung around my neck.

crossing the finish
My phone started ringing in my armband. I fumbled to get it out of the sleeve as I saw it was B. B and her smiling belly. My phone was too dead from clocking me during the race. It would not pick up the call. I later heard her message, a celebratory B and wife, cheering about my time. Way under what I had projected for myself. She had also been receiving text alerts about my progress in the race.

This was more than an achievement for me. This was a realization that I can do big things if I really want to and if I have the support of those who love me. This wasn't just a trial for me, but this journey required sacrifices and support from many, many people in my family. Yes, I ran 13.1 miles in 16 minutes under my projected time. I lost 15 lbs and dropped several pants sizes. *I* did that. But my family helped me in ways that were crucial.

Running is something I recommend to many of my mom friends who want to get fit. I know it is not everyone's "style" but it fits most moms' schedules and our budget. It is something your kids and family can see you do, so you can be a great example to them. You certainly don't have to run a marathon or half marathon, or even a 5k race to see the benefits of this exercise. I really do urge other mothers who are thinking about running to give it a try. Check out the couch to 5k plan or something similar. I don't recommend their half marathon or marathon program for Moms. It was too intense and took too much away from my family. I ended up dropping the program halfway through and using it as a mere guide along with other more "family friendly" training programs. I do, however, HIGHLY recommend the 5k program. It is great because most of the first couple of weeks is walking and building up to running. Everyone I know who has used the program has had success. The workouts only require 45 minutes of your Mommy time. I love it.

A year ago, I ran my first 5k under the program. This year, I was wearing a half marathon finisher's medal around my neck.

Will I continue on to do a full marathon next year? That I don't know. I am content with the half marathon for now. I am content with the idea of doing a few more years of half marathons. But a mom at Jonah's Little Gym class, who has two children the same ages as my kids, ran this as her first marathon this year. Several of my running friends are also urging me. Time will see. I will most likely get back to that in May. For now, don't be surprised if you don't see a running post most of the winter. It's the off season!

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad to hear that your race was all you wanted it to be. Congratulations, and you can do a marathon, or maybe a triathlon. You are a strong woman.