Conquering the Mighty Marathon.

marathon 2013Last Sunday on June 23rd at 11:43am I stopped running.
I had just completed my first marathon, crossing over the 42.2km finish line in 4 hours and 12 minutes (4:12). Shaking the sports clad monkey off my back I was no longer a wannabe, nor a rookie…but a bona fide marathon runner. And, like all marathoner’s before me, I had to work damn hard for the honor of finishing.
During my training I’d read loads from rookie’s and seasoned marathoner’s. Their collective experiences all headed in the same direction of a shared sentiment. Respect the distance.
By the end, 42.2km’s took, and asked so much from me that it commanded my respect. But, in return I was rewarded with the power of knowing the tenacity of my own spirit. And bizarrely the value of the confronting reality; in the end it all comes down to me, and the choices I make. Quit, or continue. I’m the only person standing in the way of me, and my goals.
Only days before the race, Wellington was the lead news story. A storm had wrecked havoc on the self-proclaimed coolest little city in the world. By the time I arrived on Saturday afternoon, a bitterly cold southerly wind and needle point driving torrential rain proved the weather was still in no mood to play nice.
Sprinting the short distance from the car park to the shelter of the race pack pick up venue turned my already bad hair day into a drenched limp disaster. But, who cares about hair when you’re marathon runner #462? Not me.
After settling into my hotel room, and cranking up the heating a few notches, I dutifully laid out my running kit making sure I had everything I needed for the morning. I’d knew I’d be nervous enough without any last-minute wardrobe malfunctions.
Hours later after dining out in carbo-loading heaven, I lay snugly in bed defeated by a bowl of fettucine Puttanesca waiting for sleep to drown out the incessant discord of the cranky weather raging outside.
As much as I tried to harness positive thoughts, I couldn’t help but think…“if this weather continues tomorrow, I’m in for a doozy.” Come 6am Sunday there was a hint the weather might just behave. There was still no escaping the wind or cold, but at least the rain had stopped. During my three pre-race bathroom visits I trembled so hard with the cold, and nerves, I almost fell off the loo seat!
Staring down the start line, my thoughts echoed those of another runner, “well, she said, “we’re in for a long morning.” There was sugar-coating her statement of fact.
Aside from the fleeting euphoria of running over the start line, and confronting head winds, the first ten km’s was about getting them done at a pace to last the distance.
The next stage was a prelude to the beginning of mind games.
Due to the weather the race organizers had been mandated to change the course. The usual there and back course with a turn-around at the 21km point was amended to include a creepy dog leg on a four-time repeat.
From about 11 to 31km’s we were required to run the same stretch of road four times. At each turn-around point all runner’s were given a gorgeous beige rubber band to wear proving the distance had been completed.
With all three bands accessorizing my wrist, I was feeling good but whispers of doubt were trying to cast a long shadow over my determination to focus on the positive.
I continued on despite knowing my music had just up and died on me. Or so I thought. An hour or so after the race finished, I realized my battery hadn’t run out of juice. Instead, I had run through a black spot, and all I needed to do was restart my music. On reflection, in that moment of the marathon, I wasn’t thinking about logical techno solutions.
So with 12km’s still to go, I was running to the sound of my own thoughts.
It’s here the marathon started. The going got tough, before downgrading to downright messy. At 36km’s and with 8km’s to go, I ran head first into a wall of mental anguish and pain.
Exhausted from driving me forward, my thigh muscles sent rapid fire SOS signals to my brain begging me to stop. At the same time, I was a runner on the verge of pulling a show-stopping two-year old tantrum. I didn’t want to play anymore! It felt like I was shuffling through thick sticky icky treacle.
Before I had the chance to seriously contemplate a meltdown, I heard a spectator yell out “dig deep, only 2km’s to go!” Only two felt like two thousand, and I was in the trenches digging for gritty scraps of determination.
There was only one thing I could do. Put one foot in front of the other, and continue on.
Turning into Westpac Stadium, and with the end in sight my entire being changed. A rush of adrenalin obliterated any pain and exhaustion to propel me over the line.
Nothing can describe the feeling of conquering the 42.2km finish line. As the official handed me my very own medal, I knew I had nothing more to give, and only one word to say. Respect.

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