Yesterday I ran my second marathon. Two years ago I ran the same race, in the pouring rain. This year the weather was perfect for running, and just right for my cheering squad. Rob and the kids came down with signs, and many of the women from our running group were there participating, cheering, and pacing for the finish.
For my first marathon I trained and raced with my sister Heide (my other sis would surely have joined us if she didn't live so far away--and if we had any hope of keeping up with her!) Our only goal was to finish and we did that with smiles on our faces, despite the 4 hours and 17 minutes we'd spent running in a deluge and chilled to the bone.
This year I was alone for the run, but with so many people around (marathon runners really are the friendliest group I've ever met) I wasn't lonely. I ran half the race with a guy from Burlington, VT who was going for the same finish time as I was so we paced one another. He was good company. But the best part was having family and friends popping up where I least expected, cheering me on, or jumping into the race to "pull" me up the hill.
This time around I had a goal in mind, and pushed myself hard. The running was not nearly as relaxed or as enjoyable as my first race, and I spent a good part of the last 8 miles silently repeating a spectator sign I'd just read, "left, right, repeat". It kept me going. Then my rock star of a running friend (and 5 time marathoner herself) joined me at mile 24 and said, "this is where I'm supposed to tell you that if you want to make 4:00 you need to work". I somehow made my legs move faster and pushed through the longest 2 miles of my life. The whole way Laura ran just ahead of me shouting to the spectators "this is my friend, she's awesome, cheer for her!" And they did, loudly. It was pretty amazing. I finished 3 minutes after my goal time. But I moved as hard as I could the entire way, and took 15 minutes off my fist race, so I feel really good about the whole thing.
About mile 16, with all the glycogen in my legs gone, and only Shotblocks and a mouth-full of tepid water every two miles to keep me going, I was sure that I would never run another marathon again. But somehow its a bit like childbirth (well, maybe if while running 26 miles someone was simultaneously stretching your most sensitive flesh to the point of tearing) but similar in the way that by the next day my memory of it has already changed from excruciating to highly manageable, and that in a week or so I know I'll remember it as an enjoyable run. After the race I met a man who had just finished his second marathon of the weekend, and his 124th overall. When we congratulated him he told us of the man he'd run with who has completed 400+ marathons. I guess we all forget how much it hurts.
But the finish, that feels pretty darn good.