Sunday October 20th, was the day. I could hardly sleep the night before, wondering how it would turn out, what might happen, and did I train enough. After months of training, hours and hours spent preparing for this one fleeting moment, it was here. The IMT Des Moines Marathon was upon us, and now it was time to see if all that training would provide the end result that I desired: to cross the finish line and forever be called a marathon runner. It would be something that could never be taken away, and is held by only 0.5% of the U.S. population.
I finally got a little sleep, but was up at 5am, antsy and ready to go. I got ready and had just finished breakfast when I got a text message that was quite a surprise; my dear friends (and to me family) Kaye and Dirk were here to watch me run. What an awesome surprise to have them drive all the way from Burlington just to cheer me on. It ends up that they, along with my wife, were at 5 different spots to cheer me on. That’s saying a lot, given the road closures and detours because of the marathon.
We picked up my dear friend and running partner Kara, and proceeded to downtown. We got together with the ICan running group, who I owe a world of thanks to. We found my other dear friend, mentor, and running partner Stephanie with the ICan group, and decided we would start the marathon together. Kara was running the half, so she moved toward the front of the line. We stretched, said goodbye to our loved ones and made our way to the start. Before you know it, the race was on.
Stephanie and I were separated at mile 5 because another in our group had to slow down and Stephanie stayed with them. It turned out that the lady had pains in her quad and had to stop. So Stephanie had to go it alone, as did I.
You have a lot to think about when you run that far. The crowds, the signs, and the scenery was great. But after a bit it becomes something of a blur and your mind tries to focus on your body, on the pain it feels, on how tired it’s becoming. That’s when you need the crowds and the signs and the scenery more than ever, to keep yourself focused on anything but yourself.
I did ok until mile 17, when I hit the wall. I had a pain in my hip that was persistent, but not enough to stop. All the other aches went away pretty quickly, but not this. It was begging me to stop this madness. By mile 18 and 19, I was questioning why this wouldn’t go away like the rest of the aches. Didn’t I train enough? Didn’t I do enough to overcome this? Why was this happening now, when I was getting so close?
I decided to hell with the pain, I wasn’t giving up. I slowed my pace a little, changed my stride, and continued. By mile 20, it felt like the lower part of my legs were tingling, as if they were going to sleep. I chuckled to myself that was a good thing; as long as I remembered to pick my feet up, I wouldn’t feel a thing.
I guess that was my version of “the wall”. Because at mile 21 it all stopped. The hip pain left, the tingling disappeared, and I was left with a body that said “Ok brain, you won’t stop, so I surrender. Where do you want to go?” At that point I knew I was going to make it, or fall over trying.
The last 5.2 were slow but rewarding. I knew with each step, I was getting closer. Suddenly a spectator shouted “One more corner and you’re home.” I got to the final corner and could see that beautiful finish line. It was probably the slowest sprint ever, but I sprinted with all that I had left to that finish. I heard them call my name on the P.A. system and suddenly someone was handing me a medal.
I was a marathoner. I made it. I could do it. I did it.
Someone asked later if it was too soon to ask if I would do it again. I could feel the soreness in my legs and the pain in my lower back, and even through all that I smiled and said “No, it’s not to early, of course I’d do it again.”
It’s what we do, after all.
PS: A special thanks to everyone who volunteered, cheered, helped, encouraged, mentored, trained, or offered assistance along the way to this milestone. To my wife, who puts up with the hours of training and the need to go to the running store nearly every weekend with a smile; Loran Storts and the ICan Running Group for letting me join them; to Stephanie my friend and mentor for her support and guidance, to Kara, Stacie, and Shelli, who are my running buddies; to Kaye and Dirk for leaving home at 3am just to stand in the cold to watch me run; to Suzan, who inspired me in the first place by watching her cross the finish line in a triathlon; and everyone else that is a part of this journey. When I look at the pictures and that shiny medal, I see all of you because you all were a part of it. Thank you!
Live healthy, be happy.