I did it. I accomplished a goal which once seemed inconceivable. A dream so big, I was once not brave enough to dream it.
On Sunday, Oct. 20 at approximately 12:15 in the afternoon I crossed the Finish line of Nike Women’s Marathon and became a ‘Marathoner.’ The Finish was indeed memorable and special. Taking my six-year-old daughter through post race pomp and circumstance that so many participants covet. I logged the miles and she reaped the rewards. Pretty special stuff.
The truth of the matter is I was not emotional at the Finish. My emotion came surprisingly the week leading up to the race. Four months of my life, logging over 450 miles training for a 26.2 mile run. The friendships gained, built and nurtured during this time are what made this memorable for me.
Sharing the ‘journey’ as it became known with friends and family who somehow found the process ‘fascinating’ or ‘inspiring.’ That’s where the reward came from.
I’m just a mom, who happens to work full time and juggle a family schedule (no different from many of you). Last year when I spoke the words out loud of returning for the 26.2 mile course I had no idea how my life would change during the process.
The two weeks leading up to the race were undeniably the hardest as you must ‘taper.’ In other words: you run less, to rest your legs and allow them to ‘rejuvenate’ because you have basically beat the heck out of them consistently for three and half months of training. Reflection time not spent in sneakers is now very difficult for me. As I told a friend, life is crazy. My ‘to do’ list is vast, but when I lace up it somehow all falls into place and makes execution effortless.
By race day I was just ready to run. I missed the solitude. I missed my playlist and my body was ready to do the work. The prospect of being in forward motion for five hours … no longer seemed daunting. I welcomed it and yes ... I took in every minute.
After all, it’s not every day that city streets are closed to allow 30,000 people to run through them. What a glorious gift to have this opportunity to tour the streets of San Francisco – my hometown where I took my first steps.
The energy on course is electrifying. There are spots where you can literally feel carried by the crowd. The ‘real’ work I expected to find me at mile 13 when the majority of the pack would head for the Finish and a handful of us would carry on for our final 13.2 miles.
I was wrong.
As I headed out Great Highway toward Lake Merced the spirit of the runners continued. The crowd remained. Undeniably, there were fewer of us but this is where I spotted many of my ‘teammates’ and running friends. We knew what we were facing. We knew the world thought we were crazy and oddly we took comfort in that.
This was our race, the moment we had worked for and now in the moment we were happy for it. Yes, we were happy to run 26.2 miles.
My marathon training was fortunate, as I was guided by many experienced marathoners. Warned of what to expect both physically and mentally. Many believe the 13.1 Half Marathon is the physical test, while the 26.2 is more of a mental challenge. The body is an amazing vehicle and when trained properly it can endure more than we realize.
That being said, physically I felt strong. It was in Mile 19 that I began to wonder if my final seven miles would be barren of familiar faces. The ‘plan’ was to have friends and family at Miles 20, 22 and 24 to help carry me through the final six. I feared increased traffic and heavy crowds, coupled with guestimate of my time would not see this happen.
But then came Mile 20. As I approached a descent in the back side of Lake Merced I regained my stride. I felt good. As my pace began to return I caught a wave and a face I knew. There stood my cousin, his wife and my two beautiful children with handmade signs.
This was where I cried. The joy of seeing my children was overwhelming. I quickly embraced my daughter, then my son. Whispered a quick ‘I love you’ into each ear and … off I went.
Marathoners warn of Mile 20. This is where the ‘real’ work starts. Feeling that love, seeing those faces … it hardly made it easy, but it did make it doable. I had trained. My body could do this and now ... it was time to Finish.
Many have shared a sort of feeling of rebirth on the other side of their first 26.2 journey. While I cannot attest to that in complete confidence I can share a renewed love and faith in all who have been placed in my path. You ‘see’ different when you come out of the other side of a goal which took so much time, effort and commitment.
The best part came in the knowing that I can. Somewhere during that four months of training I emerged not as a person completing a ‘Bucket List’ item. No, I emerged as a Marathon runner. That’s the piece I love most. So yes ... I have been changed somewhat not because I did, but rather because I will.
As the saying goes, “Reach for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”
That I did indeed.
Teresa Hammond is a former reporter and current circulation manager for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.