Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I can’t recall a time in my life when I’ve worked as hard for something, as I did for the Snickers Marathon Bar Marathon. I signed Jason and myself up to run it in December, and from that moment I trained with all I had. I ran in the cold. I ran in the rain. I worked out at 2 gyms. I ran mean Madison hills at 5:00 in the morning in freezing temperatures…all the time with my eye on the goal.

The goal was to run a 4:15 marathon in Albany, Georgia on March 7, 2009. It was said to be a good, flat course and I was sure, if I worked hard, I could get there.

The week before the marathon I was revisited by some unexpected back pain. I wanted to panic, to scream, to stomp my foot and say, “NOT NOW!” Wednesday afternoon found me lying in the floor, stretching as best I could with tears of frustration sliding down the sides of my face. This could not be happening.

My mom got me in to see her chiropractor Thursday night. He said my left side was about an inch longer than my right and proceeded to adjust that. He showed me some stretches to do to keep my hips in place and said I’d be able to run just fine on Saturday.

I wanted to believe him, but the pain didn’t completely go away and before I knew it, it was Friday night and we were in Albany. I had my race number and the next day I was going to have to take all of those hours spent getting ready and put them to the test.

The morning of the race dawned and the world was covered in a misty fog. I put on my new lime green and navy blue running digs and my lucky green clover socks that Jason had given me for our first marathon together. I put body glide in the necessary places, grabbed my gummies and ipod, laced up my shoes and off we went to the start line.

After kissing Jason, I stood alone in the midst of a little over 700 people. Every once in a while I checked my Garmin to make sure it was ready and glanced at the pacer holding the 4:15 pace sign to make sure he hadn’t moved out of sight. I took a deep breath and said a prayer for Jason (who had been sick with a mean cold all week), for Mom who was also running that day, for Kristi and Kandi and for myself. Despite all the chatter around me I heard nothing, feeling surrounded by silence and my overpowering desire to run a good race that day.

Without warning the starting gun fired followed by laughter, whoops and hollers. I laughed with those around me, placed my fingers on my Garmin, and hit play on my ipod. As Michael Jackson began to sing, “Beat It” my feet began to slowly jog to the start.

I made myself stay with the pacer for the first 2 miles before allowing myself to run faster than a 9:42 minute pace. I sped up to a 9:20 and held it there for the next several miles. If I held that pace the entire way, I would finish in 4:05, and I thought that would be just great.

My back felt numb and I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad, but if that was all I had to contend with, I’d take it. The mist settled in my eyelashes, eyebrows and in my hair periodically dripping down my face. I could only see runners directly in front of me as we passed volunteers, spectators, police, and a marine band. I thanked those supporting the race and those cheering on the runners. I kept my music low enough to hear them and high enough to spur me on.

Around mile 7, I had to make a quick pit stop at a port-a-potty. I didn’t want to, but I didn’t want to have to go the whole race either. It took about 20 seconds and I was out again. I figured the change in posture was good for my back, which had gradually started to ache. I worried about this until mile 13, but by mile 15 it hadn’t gotten any worse and I was feeling pretty good. I began to slowly, cautiously pick up my pace. I ran each mile a little faster until I was steadily keeping each mile under 9 minutes.

I was nervous about this, but excited too. If I picked up the pace so soon, could I hold it? I felt like I could. Would my back pain get worse? I asked God for strength and decided to hold the pace. By mile 17 I still felt fine and my back pain seemed to be dissipating rather than growing worse.

I was getting more and more excited. I was getting braver with my pace and the seconds continued to drop off each mile as I ran. By mile 20 I had a new goal. No longer was I reaching for a 4:15 or even a 4:05. If I could finish that last 10K in less than an hour, I could break four hours. It was an unbelievable concept. I had to try. I felt it was in my grasp if I was willing to dig deep and push hard.

I was willing.

I picked up my pace and ran as hard as I could get my weary legs to run. My quads began to burn with a vengeance, but they were going to have to yell a lot louder for me to listen. My back wasn’t hurting, my knees weren’t hurting. I felt strong. I felt invincible. I ran by runner after runner as if I’d just begun my race.

I ran harder and harder. The miles seem to fly by. Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three. I had a 5k left and 30 minutes to run it. I had it. I knew I had it. With that knowledge I ran like a maniac. I held nothing back. I could feel my legs getting weaker, and I prayed that they’d last until the end.

I felt powerful, I felt joyful. My heart seemed to grow 5 sizes as it pumped the blood and oxygen to my pounding limbs. I rounded a corner and saw Jason. I wanted to shout, to tell him how amazing this was, but all I could do was smile and grunt when he asked how I was doing. I knew he’d understand. I was racing the clock like never before. No longer would a 4 hour marathon cut it. I was after more and I meant to get it.

I ran through a gate onto a greenway along the Flint River, and I saw the finish line. My legs were screaming and my heart was singing as I thanked my Lord for an amazing race. I gave a loud whoop, threw my arms in the air, and ran under the finish line in 3:58:57.

“You can stop now,” a volunteer smilingly said as he steadied me to take the bottom half of my number. A girl approached to put a finisher’s medal around my neck, and a kind man asked if I was alright and if I had family waiting on me. I was gasping for breath and smiling like a fool as I said yes. Jason showed up then, wrapping his arms around me and telling me how very proud he was. With my hands on my face I said, “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it!” A volunteer handed me a bottle of water as Jason and I made our way out of the crowd so I could walk it off.

I have no words to explain how triumphant and amazing I felt in that moment. I couldn’t thank my God enough for running by my side the entire way. I couldn’t tell my husband how glad I was to see him, how much his encouragement and belief in my ability spurred me on. I laughed and smiled, but I wanted to sing and dance. I was sunburned, covered in salt, and weak from head to toe, but I couldn’t have cared less. In that moment, all was perfect.

Before Jason and I left for Albany, I e-mailed the race director to ask if headphones were allowed. She responded that they were, so I made sure to fill mine with songs to pump me up and keep me motivated. The song that got me through those last 6 miles, was one I heard for the first time on the Wednesday my back started to hurt. It is called “Unbreakable” by Fireflight, and I cannot think of a more perfect song to explain how I felt about this race, about running, and how it applies to my life. The lyrics below were the words in my heart as I raced to the finish, achieving more than I had ever imagined.

Where are the people that accused me?
The ones who beat me down and bruised me
They hide just out of sight, can’t face me in the light
They’ll return but I’ll be stronger

God, I want to dream again
Take me where I’ve never been
I want to go there, this time I’m not scared
Now I am unbreakable, it’s unmistakable
No one can touch me, nothing can stop me

Sometimes it’s hard to just keep going
But faith is moving without knowing
Can I trust what I can’t see to reach my destiny
I want to take control but I know better

God I want to dream again, take me where I’ve never been
I want to go there, this time I’m not scared
Now I am unbreakable, it’s unmistakable
No one can touch me, nothing can stop me….

Forget the fear it’s just a crutch
That tries to hold you back and turn your dreams to dust
All you need to do is just trust…

God I want to dream again, take me where I’ve never been
I want to go there, this time I’m not scared
Now I am unbreakable, it’s unmistakable
No one can touch me, nothing can stop me….

1 comment:

  1. what an AMAZING time!! wow...i am so impressed! thank you for sharing your journey...i'm so happy for your triumph in this race! wow. under 4 hours. awesome!