Too soon I find myself back in my study with my fingers poised above my keyboard, waiting for the perfect words to describe the race on Saturday. It was my very best marathon so far, and it greatly surpassed any expectations I had of what the day would hold.
I stood in the middle of a street packed with 12,000 runners. I was hopeful yet apprehensive. My miscreant feet were already starting to hurt and I’d not even begun to run. With only the cheers of the runners as my warning the race had begun, I placed my hand on my watch as we all began to inch forward.
A few yards ahead of me the leader of a pace team held a sign that said 10:18 on one side and GOAL 4:30 on the other. I wasn’t sure if I could run a 4:30, but I believed I could get close. I wasn’t sure what my feet had in store for me, but I felt the rest of my body was trained and ready.
I crossed the start line, hit the start button on my watch and began weaving in and out of slower runners to find the pace I wanted. It wasn’t long before I saw the goal sign bobbing up and down in front of me so I held my pace and kept the 4:30 sign in sight.
It wasn’t until mile 8 that I felt pain. It shot down my right leg all the way to my foot. This is too soon! I thought and I started to feel discouraged. But I knew this pain. I knew the source and I knew how bad it could get. And I decided I could beat it.
So on I ran. I got ahead of the 4:30 sign and it got ahead of me. As long as I could see it I was satisfied. My ipod played the songs I’d chosen to inspire me, and I allowed my mind to wander, all the while keeping my eyes on that 4:30 pace team and their little white sign.
The race course took us through gorgeous parks so that we were surrounded on all sides by lush greenery. It took us through old neighborhoods with quaint, stylish houses, and spectators cheering from their front porches. It took us through Churchill Downs and there I saw race horses being run and the places where wagers were made.
Eventually the pain in my leg ceased and my feet weren’t hurting that badly either. I was thrilled. I wasn’t tired and I still had the pace team in my sights. I watched the miles go by quickly and evenly, and as they passed I got more and more excited. When mile 20 rolled around, I knew without a doubt I had it. I was tired but too elated to care. I STILL had the goal sign in sight and I believed I could keep it there.
I looked at my watch and I was hitting each mile on the 7’s. 3:37, 3:47, 3:57, etc. I knew when each mile marker would present itself and sure enough I always saw it in time to pass on the 7. On mile 22 we got on a bridge that took us across the Ohio River to Indiana where we did a quick loop before crossing back over. By this point I was so excited that when Green Day sang in my ear “Can I get another amen?” I wanted to shout AMEN!
As I rounded one of the last corners I saw the marker for mile 26. I looked at my watch and sure enough, it said 4:27. I picked up my pace and scanned the crowd for Jason. I couldn’t WAIT to see him to tell him what I’d done. I wanted him to know by the gigantic smile on my face that I’d done something amazing. I didn’t leave it to my smile, however, because when finally saw him I yelled as loud as I could, “I DID IT! I DID IT!” I ran through that finish line with a chip time of 4:28:52, and there are no words in this language to express how I felt.
I was handed a medal and the chip was removed from my shoe. I saw Jason on the other side of the fence and went to him still grinning like a fool.
“I did it,” I said. “And I beat 4:30!” I showed him my watch and he smiled.
“I knew you could do it.” He said.
“I had no idea!”
I asked him how he had done and with tears in his eyes he told me he’d finished in 2:38. I wanted so badly to hug him but the fence was still between us. I asked after Jonathan, who ran his very first marathon that day, and Jason said he had done very well too. Could the day have gotten any better?
I grabbed a bag of salty potato chips and a diet coke, and the three of us made our way (very slowly and feebly) back to our hotel.
By the time we got back to his parents’ house in Glasgow that night I could hardly move. I took a bath in their whirlpool tub and went to bed. Two days later, I am still a little sore and stiff, but I’m still too excited to mind much. I still can’t help but smile when I think of Saturday and what an amazing day it was.
And I can’t help but feel empowered to set goals for the things I want to do and be, and to believe that I can reach them. All I have to do is believe, press on, and keep my eye on the goal.