The day of the marathon, I woke up in normal pre-race fashion feeling nauseous and making multiple trips to the bathroom. I was beyond nervous.
My marathon plan seemed simple enough. I would find the 9:00 min (3 hours and 55 mins finish) pace group and stick with them as long as I could. When I found them (a brother and sister team), they told me that they were the ONLY pacers at the event. (And yes, I did take that as a sign!) I introduced myself and explained that my goal was to finish in under 4 hours, but I was worried because I hadn’t trained at that pace and my previous PR was 4:21. Then I showed them my arm and explained my mile dedications. (Each mile of the race was dedicated to someone fighting a battle of some sort or someone who had lost their battle.)
I felt pretty good for the first 9-10 miles. At each mile marker I would check my arm and see whose mile it was. I was just taking it one mile at a time, not really having a hard time keeping up with the pace group.
By mile 15, I was feeling pretty rough. And I had to pee. There were port-a-potties throughout the course, but I was just sure if I stopped, I would never catch back up with my pacers and that would be the end of me meeting my goal. But really, I had to go. So, the next port-a-potty I saw I let me group know that I had my eye on it, and I sprinted as fast as I could to get to it, in it, and back out. Unbelievably, I was able to catch back up. But I was hurting.
It was at about that time that my mind-set changed for my mile dedications. For the first half of the race, I was spending time thinking about each person and lifting them up in prayer. I was trying to send positive energy their way, but now, it seemed that I was trying to seek energy from the people I was thinking about. My desire to walk and take a break was growing stronger and stronger, but I didn’t want to “give up” on anyone’s mile. So, I was making deals with each mile dedication. Thinking things like:
“Ok. If I don’t give up, you can’t give up either.”
“I know you hurt this much every day, so I know I can feel this pain for one more mile. If you can stand the pain, I can stand the pain.”
“Please, just help me through this mile. If you help me get through this mile, I promise I won’t quit.”
“We can do this. I can do this. We can do this. I can do this.”
Yup, those are the thoughts that consumed me from miles 16 – 26.2. (My husband told me I shouldn’t tell anyone that because it makes me sound like I’m a little crazy. HA! I probably am.) But, I just couldn’t let anyone down. So I kept going. And going.
After mile 22, I lost sight of my pace group. I just couldn’t keep up anymore. If I wouldn’t have had those names on my arm, there is no doubt in my mind that I would not have met my goal. Focusing solely on my own pain and discomfort wouldn’t have resulted in a happy ending. But I kept putting one foot in front of the other and ended up crossing that line in 3:58:08.
I don’t think I will ever run another marathon without dedicating the miles to people who need it. The truth is, I needed them as much as they needed me…probably more.