I did it. I ran 26.2 miles. I’m a marathoner!

As I wrote in June, until very recently I revered marathon runners with a sense of awe. Even as a seasoned competitive runner, I feared the marathon. I enjoyed my sweet spot – the half marathon – along with 5ks, 10ks, and even 15ks. But, a marathon? For many years, my gut reaction was “No, thanks.”

I’m about to drop some history here. The marathon commemorates the run of a soldier from a battlefield at the town of Marathon, Greece to Athens in 490 BC. Legend has it that he delivered the message “Victory!”, then collapsed and died. Died! And he was a fit Grecian dude. Not sure who had the brilliant idea to model that unfortunate event into a modern day race, but it is. And it’s the motherlode.

If you know me, you know I cannot pass up a challenge. I’m horrible with free time. As soon as one extra-curricular activity ends, I’m compelled sign up for the next thing, even if I lament how little I read or make art these days. I fully admit to being hyperactive in that sense.

Marathon Signs

Signs courtesy of my amazing girlfriends. Do I have to take them down?

I signed up because I didn’t think I could do it, and it seemed like the next step in my running career. I got an amazing training plan, through Another Mother Runner, and ponied up the $126.20 (har har) for it. You can absolutely find free plans online (Hal Higdon’s is a popular one) or local training groups, but I wanted the tailored schedules, emails, and private Facebook page support, not to mention the flexibility of a plan for busy mamas.

Training is time consuming. I did an 18 week plan, with four runs a week. On weekends I did my long runs, ranging from 6 to 21 miles. I ran before my family woke up, on lunch break, or at night. Training hit a peak in September, perfectly synchronized to my family’s intensified school schedules. I thought, “This shit is no joke”. But I never wanted to give up. My husband ran a marathon two years ago, and was incredibly supportive. That’s key.

I had 5am running dates with a few friends, and some long runs with my sister, mom, dad, and brother-in-law, and I value those times incredibly. I went on runs where I viewed the beautiful Victorian architecture of the West End of Hartford. I went on a really shitty trail run; I was alone, afraid of bears or creepy men. I was hungry and ran out of water well before I reached my car. I wanted to cry. That day I learned so much about how to better prepare for race day. The awful runs teach you just as much, if not more, than the runs that feel like a gift.

Some days, the run is neither spectacular nor spooky, just time alone on the pavement or trail, time to sort through the constant stream of thoughts, goals, conversations I want to have, conversations I wished I’d had, and so on. It’s a cheap form of therapy.

Over the summer I ran in Amsterdam and Prague. I ran on the very hilly, very windy Lopez Island in Washington. I ran on Long Island. I ran pushing a stroller (not my fave), but sometimes I simply didn’t want to leave my girls behind. Some times I left them behind with my husband or mom, happy to shed my mothering responsibilities for an hour.

At times training felt selfish. But I did it for me. Carving out time for myself, demonstrating to my kids that I value my health and wellbeing, makes me a better mom and wife. And I’m SO proud of myself. My sister and I ran strong the whole 26.2 miles of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan. We stayed together. We thanked the volunteers and smiled at people who cheered our names. We were elated to see our family along the way. I finished with gas in the tank, and it felt good. Today I can barely walk and I fear stairs, but I did it.