Monday, October 29, 2012

My first marathon: moments of inspiration

Well, it's been broadcast all over Twitter and Facebook, but I figured I'd do a different kind of race recap here. In case you haven't heard, I finished my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, yesterday. Victory tasted pretty sweet:

My dad and I finished in 5:30:41. Considering he ran the whole thing with a broken toe, I would consider this time a success! Plus, we crossed the finish line hand in hand, smiling. They've started to load the official race photos, and I have to say, I look like I am genuinely enjoying the race in each photo.

For me, this marathon was about finishing. It was about pushing myself to achieve something I had never achieved, and proving to myself that I was capable of accomplishing something this big. And I have to tell you, this may be my greatest personal accomplishment.

Today, as I try to foam roll out the stiffness in my legs that is a constant reminder of yesterday, I wanted to take the time to blog about my experience, and about moments of inspiration from the race.

My race started at 7:55am. We placed ourselves in the 5:00 finish corral, which was silly because our strategy was to run the first 15 miles and then alternate walking and running (walk one mile, run two) to the finish. In retrospect, we should have placed ourselves in the 4:30 finish corral, which would align more with our running time. Instead, we ended up trying to make our way through the pack of people running at a pace 2-3 minutes per mile slower than us for the first three miles.

Being in this grouping brought our first pop of inspiration, when around mile four, we ran past a blind woman running the Marine Corps Marathon, guided by three guide runners. If that doesn't inspire you to be limitless, I don't know what will.

Somewhere around mile four or five, we also found a group whose shirts read "The journey is the reward, the marathon is the victory lap." Reflecting on my own journey, from where/who I was when I signed up for the marathon in March to where/who I am now is a pretty powerful thing. And they're right, the marathon was my celebration - a celebration of living a life that I love and getting a little bit closer to exactly what I want my life to look like.

Mile 11 brought us to our first views of the national mall, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The roundabout we went around was lined with spectators, cheering for friends and family members and random strangers. It was one of two times that I started tearing up, and really only out of sheer inspiration. Here I was, in a sea of 20,000+ runners, all achieving a goal - whether just to finish or to beat a time.

We then made our way to Haynes' Point, which was the most challenging part of the race for me. For miles 13-16, we were spectatorless, and I was hurting. I was pretty excited to cross the 13.1 mile marker at 2:15, which is a whole 15 minutes faster than the half marathon I ran in April, but other than that, I was just ready to start walking. Then, right when I was getting frustrated, I started seeing pictures of fallen soldiers. About 25-30 pictures of young men in their uniforms, smiling, with their names and dates of birth and death along the bottom. Following their pictures was a line of people, each bearing an American flag with a black ribbon, embroidered with a name. It was moving and humbling, and I found myself pretty emotional again. The Marine Corps Marathon is special in this way -- you are inspired by the hundreds (thousands?) of Marines cheering you on from the sidelines, as well as by the countless young men and women who never made it home.

The last ten miles were a blur. I know that my little Miss Greater Springfield princess, Hannah (who loves to run), was my inspiration during mile 21, and that my Girls on the Run girls were my inspiration when my knee started hurting during mile 22. I know there were donut holes at mile 24, and that I ran the last 6.2 miles (after "beating the bridge") with a huge smile on my face after seeing a sign that said "Smile and wave if this is your first marathon -- you are now a marathoner."

And at 26.2, they announced my name, and I crossed the finish line hand-in-hand with my dad, a huge smile on my face. Because my journey has been my reward, and the marathon truly was the victory lap.

I hope that if you're reading, you take away this: you are capable of anything you set your mind to. You are in charge -- of what you accomplish, of how you feel, of your life. It is never too late to decide what you want out of your life and to determine how you are going to go after it. Let the blind woman running the Marine Corps Marathon be your inspiration too -- the only limits you have are the ones that you create for yourself.

Can't wait for the next one.

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