Is there something that, in the back of your mind, you’ve aspired to do for some time? Though it just seems a little too big, a little too overwhelming, a little too something … to actually make it happen?
For me, that itch was running a marathon. Was it because I had always loved running? That I had passed the age of 40? That I wanted to challenge myself to something I wasn’t really sure I could do?
I don’t know the answer. Probably a combination of all of those reasons and more. However, the obstacles: I began my career at 22, straight out of college. I worked hard and studied to pass my exams to become a Certified Public Accountant. Within just over three years, I had my first child. Then shortly thereafter my second. I continued to work. And became a single mother. Divorced. Remarried. Major relocation. And child #3. And the marathon fantasy fits in where?
HERE. My youngest was on the cusp of turning 10. I was not working but dedicated to raising our three children. Our older two were in high school. A friend approached me and asked me to train with him for a marathon that raises money for APLA – Aids Project Los Angeles. That was all the incentive I needed. Oh, and the marathon was in Florence, Italy. Over Thanksgiving.
Did I know what I was getting myself into? Not really. But it was for a very good cause (near and dear to my heart) and I couldn’t otherwise justify the time it would take me away from my family. So, I jumped in. To around eight months of dedicated training. To pushing me physically, mentally and emotionally. To meeting some amazing people along the way …. my running partners: Sissie and Ryan in Florence before the big day!
Part of the biggest challenge for me was to ask for HELP. That is a required part of this program. We are raising money for AIDS PROJECT LA. This was more painful to me than the thought of running 26.2 miles but I pushed myself to do it. I grew incredibly from the experience.
Here we are the morning of the race … smiling because we don’t realize what’s ahead of us!
To summarize, here’s what happened: I trained religiously for the months leading up to the big day. This meant increasingly long runs on the weekends with my team and individual runs regularly during the week. My friend had a knee injury early on and had to drop out. I was sad but kept going.
At the point in our training where we were running 20+ miles, my right knee decided to quit. Pain that I can’t describe, crippled me to the side of the road. I hobbled back to the start, determined to overcome this minor setback. Doctors later, I was told to stop training for the last 30 days before the marathon in hopes I might recover and compete. This meant that the certainty that most of my team would have of completing a marathon distance in training before they went to the real challenge, would elude me. I vowed to do everything within my power to ensure I could still compete.
Loaded with medications, knee injections, physical therapies and anything else I could get my hands on – I went to the marathon untested. My knee had been consistently giving out at 7 miles, but I was hoping the miracle shot by the “best sports medicine doctor in LA ….” would work a miracle. As you can see in the picture, I was optimistic!
Here I am running through the streets of Florence on the Friday after Thanksgiving, before mile 7. I know that because I am still smiling. Shortly thereafter, everything breaks down ….
Mile 7: searing pain, cripple …. my mind keeps telling me, “I can’t quit. I can’t quit.” Here’s what I did (and I do not recommend this to anyone): I had my brother’s pain medication for his back in case of dire emergency. Apparently I am an extremely competitive person and this constituted an emergency. I used a bare minimum of said medication and pressed on.
Somehow I made it to mile 15. Amazing as I had fallen well behind, and the food and water stands seemed to keep closing up just before I got there. Running on fumes, I was pacing with another APLA runner from San Francisco who had a similar injury and we were grinning and bearing it together. Unfortunately she broke down at mile 15 and I went on alone. That’s when my wonderful husband showed up.
He was not in running clothes, or shoes, or any such appropriate attire. But he wore a worried look. I was really far behind, though trying hard to keep pace with completing within the 6 hour window, after which it was all shut down. It had started to rain and the chalk lines were disappearing. He, armed with the marathon map, and me – gritting my teeth with steely force, completed the remaining 10+ miles together. It was a physical, logistical and mental challenge, but one I will never forget.
Here I am. Medal and all. Crossed the finish line just in time. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it.
What did I learn?
That I can do what I set out to do.
That I am fiercely strong and capable.
That my husband is a really great guy. So are my kids who supported me the whole way. And my friends and all who supported me in this endeavor.
That running a marathon in Florence, Italy is a pretty awesome place to choose to run a marathon.
That APLA is an amazing organization and gave me the little bit of incentive I needed to push me to meet my goal.
That I’m so glad I finished this marathon, because if I hadn’t, I know it would still be bothering me and I would still be trying to finish it.
That I met some really great people along the way. Love you, Ryan xoxooxo