When I saw the sign for 26 miles, tears welled. In 365 yards I would cross the finish line. After 375 days of training, the finish line was right there before me. As I turned the corner, I saw my family, my cheerleaders, my home team. I threw my hands in the air and yelled at the top of my lungs. Because this thing which once seemed impossible had just become possible, this dream had just come true.
Saturday was one of those days I will never forget… waking up at 4:30 so I could eat my oatmeal and applesauce, pinning my bib in place and my Ziploc baggie containing my chocolate coconut Clif Bar bites to the inside of my shorts, kissing Matt goodbye when I got in place at the starting line, nervously finding the 4:30 pace group and hoping I could keep up with them, hearing the national anthem and the final countdown and then the sound of 3500 pairs of running shoes hitting the pavement.
It was a beautiful day, and I soaked up the sunshine. The first 13.1 miles passed by easily. I ran past Thalia Mara where I graduated high school, past The Old Capitol Inn where I married my best friend and past the house where Matt’s late grandparents once lived and where I first had Kitty’s famous broccoli cheese casserole. We all talked and shared running stories. I told them it was my first marathon, and, from then on, they went out of their way to cheer me on.
By mile 17, our pace group had thinned a little. The pauses in our conversation grew lengthier as we focused on each breath, each stride. Mile 20 brought with it hill after hill after hill. Four miles of rolling hills. I could feel my calves growing tight but I kept reminding myself, “One foot in front of the other.” As we rounded Mile 24, my pacer Charles said, “You’re about to be a marathoner. For the rest of your life, you’ll remember this day.”
All the five o’clock alarms, all the runs in single digits and runs in triple digits, all the sore muscles and blisters, it was all worth it, to cross that finish line.
26.2 miles. 4 hours, 26 minutes, 46 seconds. Marathoner.