Monday, May 25, 2015

Running Flashback

Since I'm in my current state of recovery, I know I haven't written a lot of happy things about running.

SO. Here's a running flashback to my first marathon! I wrote a very lengthy recap a looong time ago, and here are some excerpts. Enjoy!

"[...] and make my oatmeal sprinkled with pretzels. I re-pin my bib 800 times, wrap myself in a blanket, and get in the car. It’s freezing. Well, it’s not actually freezing, but the sun hasn’t come up yet, and it’s in the low 40s.

We get to the course around 6:30, so I have about 45 minutes to wait before lining up.


The deafening silence of the pre-gun hesitation threatens to overwhelm me, but then the gun (air horn) goes off, and so do we. My toes are numb, and I still have goosebumps, but I’m smiling as I pass the cheering crowd and see Mom, Dad, and Joe. A combination of “Mary Katherine,” “Kak,” and “MK” are screamed at me, which makes my smile grow larger; I’m a lot of different things balled into one.

We pass the first mile marker, and I look at my watch. 7:52. Wait. Did we start at 7:42 or 7:44? Am I clocking a 10 minute mile? [...] Oh well, I’ll call it 10 just to be sure I run sub-4. The numbers consume me.

The sun is shining, and it feels wonderful until the wind blows. Suddenly, the course takes a turn, and we’re running a 50 degree incline. The second mile marker comes around, and my Garmin tells me mile 2 took 9 minutes. It’s okay, I was running uphill. I’ll make up for it later.

I pass a runner in a green shirt and black leggings. She looks at me and chokes, “I thought the hard stuff came later!” We all knew about the hill from mile 14 to 17. “Me too…” The corresponding downhill begins, and she plows ahead.

[...] I’m uneasy though. I want to enjoy this race. I want to run for the love of running. My legs feel fresh thanks to the unbearable taper, I’m well hydrated, my breathing is perfect. [Screw] this time thing. I’m running to run.

I decide then I’m going to play tag. There’s a girl in a sports bra a few yards in front of me. You’re mine. Thinking about nothing except matching my foot falls to her shoulder swings, I zero in. Momentarily, I glide to her side and pass. I have no idea what my time was for that mile.

Basking in the glow of my successful tag, I get hungry for another. I pick off a few more, and all of a sudden I see green shirt/black leggings. I stride out a bit to catch up to her. When I do, she calls out, “Awesome job!” “You too!” I say back.


I trek along, looking around at the scenery. On my right, the sparkling New River, and on my left, beautifully cut lawns and giant mountain homes. I continue smiling and feeling strong, and soon I begin to recognize street signs and landmarks; I know we’re closing in on the first loop, and we’ll pass the start soon.


“Coast upwards” is a bit of an understatement. The roads we are running on are literally vertical – the ups slow you to a crawl, and the downs almost barrel you into Hell. This marathon is so small and so difficult, we’ve all spread out and are all basically running by ourselves now. I see the mile 13 marker up ahead and realize I haven’t checked my watch since mile 3. 


There’s a tiny neon green speck in the distance that I follow. I want him to be my next tag, but all my focus is now on getting over these hills. A few more minutes pass, and two more runners come into view. As I gaze ahead, to my horror I see a gradual incline flowing ominously into the horizon. Here goes everything. Instead of focusing on the hill, I focus on playing tag. Suddenly, the runners ahead take a sharp right, leaving the path defined by the outstretching ascent. For about a millisecond, I’m relieved. No more hill! Then reality hits. As I take the turn myself, I’m suddenly faced with the steepest terrain I’ve ever attempted to shuffle over. Not only are we running up a mountain, but the course has changed from a paved paradise to a gravelly monster.


This is so hard. I’m barely running; no one could call this running. No, this is running. This is definitely running. I’m running up a freaking mountain. I’m amazing. I’m so strong. Look at what I’m doing!

“You beasted that hill!” A few spectators have perched at the crest. I smile, but from viewing the map, I know this peak has an identical twin. Down I go, trying not to land my previously pained foot on any rocks. The path curves left and right and left again, and then I see the beginning of the second hill. No thoughts, just do.

This hill goes by more easily than the last, probably because I know from here on out it’s downhill and flat; however, the downhill poses the biggest problem. My breathing unfocused and shallow, I develop a side stitch. [...] The stitch fades, but now my toe starts paining me. Well, that toenail is a goner.

Thinking about form, breathing, toenails and the lack of them, climbs, and strides, I don’t realize how many miles have gone by. Suddenly, a big “20” is staring me in the face.

Disclaimer: in all honesty, miles 20 to 24 kind of blur. A lot of spectators, a lot of aid stations, and lot of “thank yous” from me as I wave my personal water bottle at the offerings. I do remember getting giddy at mile 22 and thinking, “This is uncharted territory! I’ve never run this distance before!” Throughout these four miles, however, I do know that I am happy. Perfectly, completely, undeniably happy.

After I run through the aid station at mile 22, I see a female runner who is clearly in pain. As I pass her, she tells me she’s dying. Quickly, I morph into sports psychologist MK and remind her we have less than 4 miles to go at this point. I try to get her to envision the finish line. She tells me I look good, and I take this as a hint to run along.


Minutes later I’m approaching what can only be the makeshift field-parking lot and the finish. I’m beaming as bikers fly by. “She looked so happy,” one says, astonished. I see cars, hear cheers, and finally make out the numbers on the 26th mile marker. Of course, I start to cry. I hear my name and pick out my mom on the sidelines. “I’m so proud of you! Your Dad and Joe ran to the finish! I couldn’t, but I wanted to be here…” I laugh as she recites a novel to me while I pass.

Suddenly, I’m at a loss for where to go. Do I cut in the grass? I mean, I know where the chute is. I SWEAR, IF MY PERFECT MARATHON ENDS IN CONFUSION…

“Great job! Now you’ll follow the road and turn!”

Thank God for race officials.

Then I see another official standing where I’m pretty sure I need to book it. I give him a concerned look, and he leaps out of the way. I finish with long strides – no need to sprint, I’m going to be strong, not hurried.

Nothing could have been bigger than my smile when I stepped on the mats and grabbed my finisher’s medal.

[...] [T]his was one of the best days of my life."

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