Friday, March 31, 2006

I am a Runner

Just over one month ago, I ran my first marathon. On February 19, 2006, I stepped up to the start line and I didn’t stop running for 26.2 miles when I fell across the finish line. I know that it was a very profound experience in my life, but I’m still not sure that I can fully grasp what transpired on that icy day. It did not begin with the gun; it began six months earlier in September, when I decided to show up for the first workout. It began at the RunTex Annex, in front of a goofy-looking man who told me that in a matter of months, I would consider a 10-mile workout, a short run! Yeah right…

Inspired by our coach, who nicknamed himself ‘Panther’, my team named themselves the Olives and while we ran together twice a week, we really ‘met’ at happy hour. Kindred spirits. The training was long and difficult, full of pains and struggles and a lot of mornings that I didn’t want to get out of bed! I did it though. I pushed myself because I had people that were expecting me and really, I was expecting myself.

About one week from the marathon, it started to really set in…what I was about to do. My training group had a pre-race party with motivational speeches and the golden ‘race plan’. Steve Sisson, the goofy-looking man from September, stood before a room packed full of people and described for us what it was going to be like to run the course. He said (and I will never forget the way he said it) that when we crossed the finish line, we would never be the same. Whether it was for the first time or the 50th time, we would be changed forever.

A few days before, I had sent out a request to all of my friends and family to be cheering for me and thinking of me the morning of my run. I had a much larger response than I was expecting! This was my favorite…

Dear Jane,

First, thank you for including me on this list! Secondly, I am so proud of you. Not just for your training and hard work, but that you reached out to those of us that love you and asked for support. That is such a wise move on your part.

Just know that the motivation seated deep in your core that urged you to begin this process will not let you down. Also, know that whether you finish the race or not is not as important as the process of getting to this point.

I hope to see you and to yell your name out along the way. If I don’t get there, I will be holding you in my heart. In a Native American Sundance, supporters eat and drink for the dancers who fast the entire length of the dance (4 days). I will be eating and drinking for you to send strength, nutrition, and courage all along the way.

Please write again and describe your success of the event.

Love you!


In preparation, I gathered the support of my loved ones. I drank water and electrolytes just like I was told. I went to bed early all week, made sure my running clothes were clean. I picked up my packet two days before and prepared for the cold weather that was promising to hit. I WAS READY! Friday night I carbo-loaded with the help of my friend Lindsey, and went to bed early! Saturday I went for the prescribed 4-mile run and did nothing the rest of the day but lie on my couch and watch movies. By Saturday night, I was ready to go…I set my alarm AND my phone and had arranged for two of my teammates to call me just to make sure I didn’t sleep through it…

As I was finding my way from the parking garage to the buses that would take me to the start line, I took a wrong turn (it was early and I was nervous and I wasn't sure where I was going). A man with the race approached me and pointed me in the right direction. ‘The runners are going on those buses. Are you a runner?’ he asked me. I had only decided about one week before that I was, in fact, a runner. ‘Yes,’ I told the man at 5:15 in the morning. ‘Yes, I am a runner.’ When I used to play volleyball, I would always look for small clues around me that would tell me whether or not my team was going to win that night. Sometimes it was the focus in a teammates eye, other times a particular song that played on the radio when my alarm went off that morning. After my exchange with this man at the buses, I knew I was going to win this one.

I ran most of the way with my teammates. I cheered for anyone who had a Rogue shirt and I cheered especially hard for my fellow Olives. I ran beside Tim and finished only a few seconds behind him. We hadn’t run together the entire six months of training, but found that our pace was the same and that we needed to rely on each other to get through this together. We lost each other about mile 22. I finished just 15 seconds behind him.

I almost bit the dust early, on one of the icy bridges. Nothing was going to stop me though...’I'm doing it!’ was my mantra and while I wanted to stop many, many times along the way, I never truly entertained the idea. I forced myself to recall the hills that I had run and all of the workouts that I had been through that kicked my way was I going to stop.

A good friend of mine jumped in to run with me just after mile 15 and I've never been so happy to see a human being as I was at that moment to see my friend Lara! She didn't turn cartwheels or do a cheer for me, but she ran with me and occasionally would look over, smile and tell me ‘you look GREAT!’ I know that she was lying, but the lie made me feel better and made it easier to keep running.

I had friends along the course who braved the ice and the early morning to support me. They were AWESOME! I tried to charm as many of the spectators as I could. Give them a smile or a high-five. By the final stretch, I had complete strangers cheering as loud as they could for me. People I had seen four and five times along the course. I will never know them, but they were a significant part of my experience and success!

I never hit a wall...I had my ups and downs, but no wall. Once I got to mile 23, I figured that it was going to keep hurting no matter what I did at that point. I decided that if I could go a little faster, then it would all be over that much faster. By the time I turned right onto the final bridge, I felt like I was sprinting. It may not have looked that way to the crowd, but it sure felt that way to me. I heard the noise and I even heard Evil announce my name, but I really didn’t see anyone. I could only see the finish. I didn't have any thing left when I crossed the finish line and I burst into tears as soon as I could find a spot on the fence to hold myself up.

Within seconds I had three of my dearest friends around me, hugging me and telling me how proud they were of me. I hurt a lot, but the moment felt great. I started looking for the rest of the Olives and Rogues...

I am so proud of my finish in the marathon (4:43, just under my goal 4:45), but again am overwhelmed by how important my teammates and coaches have become to me. I was fired up when I ran into Panther at the start line, and I couldn’t have hugged Steve any harder when I saw him at the finish...I felt so much love for all of the Olives and other Rogues that I saw out on the course that day, struggling but ‘doing it’ all the same. I guess going through such a grueling experience together creates pretty solid friendships.

Not everyone in my running group had a good day. There were some who were dealing with the disappointment of injury or not meeting their time. Steve posted on the forum to encourage those runners. While my race was a victory, I was still inspired by his words…

This is the reason we set challenge us, to stretch our limits, to experience life on the edges of what we can handle. Whenever you take this kind of challenge you take a risk. The risk is disappointment, failure, and despair. These are certainly undesired feelings & emotions. But what is the alternative? Many folks sat in their homes & watched the event on TV or sat on the sidelines cheering, or never even gave the event a thought. Is that what you would prefer to failure? I don't think so...If you don't risk anything, then you are risking even more. You are taking the path of comfort, of ease, of low expectations & low rewards. Yesterday was a battlefield & you were all warriors. Regardless of the outcome you fought the good fight for a great cause...experience. Now take that experience & learn more about the race, about your training, about yourself. If you do that then this entire experience, whether good or bad, develops great worth. Pick yourself back up & get moving...there are miles to go before your next opportunity to risk.

Why didn’t I start running sooner?


Anonymous said...

Yeah, you're a RUNNER!! That was an awesome post. What a great experience. Now, I feel like a slacker since I slept thru my training run this am! You Rock!!


C. Mary said...

My dear Jane,

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sending me your wonderful blog! I was truly inspired this morning when I read it. :)

I woke up today 25 years old. (Yeah, yeah...25 is not that old you are thinking...but just hear me out.) "25!" I thought with despair. I grumbled, got out of bed and got ready as I normally would. I did things to try and make me feel better. I wore a cute outfit. I went to Starbucks and got my favorite coffee. But when I walked into the office and sat down at my desk, I was still dispirited. When the girl sitting next to me wished me a happy birthday, I cringed and looking down at my new pens from Office Max, I thought to myself..."you guys are going to be the highlight of my day."

And then I read you blog. Your magical blog that made me burst into tears at my desk with one single sentence. "Yes, I am a runner." I can even see that quirky little smile on your face and the wheels turning in your head as you process everything those words mean. :)

So I just want to say thank you. Thank you for reminding me of all my wonderful friends and the accomplishments we've seen each other through. Thank you for reminding me that we kick ass. Thank you for reminding me that I actually ACCOMPLISHED the biggest goal I set for myself to accomplish "before I turned 25."

I am so happy to be here and so glad to be reminded that we can do anything we set our minds to. Thank you've turned my day of pouting into a day that I'll spend setting new goals.

Thanks again and in case I haven't told you before, I'm so proud of you!

Besos and love to all my Olives.

Lupedawg said...

So are you going to put up anymore posts? So of us that were inspired by this Blog would like more.


rob said...

I barely knew you, but was so proud of you when you passed me around, what... mile 18 or 19?

Since the day I met you and the quirky (and infectious) smile, you've been nothing but encouraging and supportive. The world is better for Nanner, the Runner.

Keep writing...