Wednesday, October 12, 2016


I remember a little over five years ago when I trained for my first half marathon. That first 5-mile run was monumental in my training. I didn't know my knees could take such a long run, and I also first thought about how it would be crazy to ever run the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Josh ran a marathon the following year. Yeah, I thought he was crazy, but when my fast friend Pam qualified for Boston a couple years later I thought for the first time, Maybe I could run a marathon.

Then I dismissed that crazy thought.

About two years ago when I started training seriously with weekly mileage goals and speed work outs, I started getting stronger and faster. And I didn't automatically dismiss the marathon idea when I would think about it. I still thought it was crazy, and though I kept the idea secret: maybe a full marathon was doable for me one day. Two summers of running in Oxford helped too.

Fast-forward to three days after my first full marathon, and I still think running 26.2 miles is crazy, and maybe it's the high from the finish talking, but I'd do it again. There's something beautiful seeing an accomplishment come to fruition that can be traced back two and half years when all I wanted was to get back into shape after having my third child. Somewhere along the way, I started to really love running.

All the miles.

Lack of sleep from early morning runs.

A whole lot of ice.

And pain.

It was all worth it when I got to cross the finish yesterday.

We've all read and heard the motivational stories involving marathons. Marathons serve as perfect illustrations for life lessons and the spiritual. With close friends and family that have ran full marathons, I've heard their inspirational stories. My cousin Annie who cheered me on Saturday wrote, "It takes a lot of support to train. It takes support to run. I don't know why we think we can do life alone...God gave us people for a reason. Find your people. We're all in this together. We need Him and we need each other." So true. I love that phrase, "Find your people," but alas, that will be another blog post I've been writing.

Training for and running a marathon taught me a few things...

I'm still amazed what our bodies can do. For a girl who has never been athletic and inherited weak knees, I'm grateful that God gives us the ability to get stronger when we train. 

Running has been a great stress-reliever and a good way to manage my health, plus it's the only sport I'm good at (it's true, ask my boys about my catching "ability"). I was grumpy for the couple of weeks leading up to the race. I realized it was because my stress-reliever was taken away as I was tapering before the race.

The support and love I've been shown is overwhelming. 

From Josh and the family who watched kids so I could get my miles in and get a good night's sleep the night before the race. 

To all the Facebook love and encouraging texts from friends and family. Race day (and the weeks leading up to it) brought lots of encouragement. 

The crowds were great, and I saw the same spectators throughout the race as they moved along the race route to cheer their person (and others in the pace group).

Seeing my family twice on the route and at the finish helped so much. 

Can you tell this was around mile 9?
I was feeling awesome here.
And then there were the runners I met at the race. In my experience, the running community is typically very encouraging to runners at all levels. And there's something that bonds people together when they discover that they share a love for running. 

This is around mile 6 I think.
I ran with these guys the first half: Ricardo my pacer and Steve,
a first-time marathoner from Kansas City. 

I was thankful for my pace group at this race, especially my pacers. I don't think I would have done as well at my first marathon without a pace group. I would have burned out too early because I would have gone too fast during the first half. The pacer Ricardo had us walk at each water station for about 10-15 seconds. That little relief helped to sustain me. The first 13 miles flew by as I swapped running stories with Ricardo and Steve.

These awesome female pacers took over the second half. 
The race route wound through neighborhoods even cutting through a few yards to get on a path a couple of times. Because there were so many turns, it was a good distraction to the amount of miles. Shortly after the women took over, I had to stop to stretch my hips at a water stop. Annette gave me some electrolyte tablets because my calves and hips were cramping up. I hit a wall about mile 15, and I got really tired and slowed down. I took another gel, made myself catch up with the group, and Steve and the pacers encouraged me until I shook it off. I did okay for another couple miles, but started falling behind little by little around mile 19. 
Miles 20-24 were pretty awful. I was by myself. My legs were so heavy. I was hurting in places I had never hurt before. I was having to stop and walk way too much. This was when I had the crazy-two-extreme-line-of-thoughts. 

"So next time I train, I'm going to work on building up more strength in my legs so I can get through these miles quicker...."

and then 

"Can I just stop? I could call the fam to pick me up."

Back and forth. What kept me going was all the encouragement and advice I had been given by my running friends. I replayed it in my mind to stay motivated. Fast friend Pam telling me that you work with what you've got on race day. My Oxford running friend Myron's comments were running through my mind, "It's going to be hard. Your legs will alternate between feeling like rubber, lead, and fire. You will want to quit. You'll want to quit, but you won't. You'll run the next step, and the next, and the next, and you will persevere one agonizing step at a time."

As I neared the 24.25 mark, I told myself I was going to pick it up and get the race done. That would only be about 2 more miles. I was able to pick up my pace. My legs were still hurting, but they didn't feel like lead anymore. I got about a mile out from the finish, and I saw Ricardo.

He had come towards the end of the route to cheer on the pace group and join them, and realized I had fallen behind. He jumped on the course exclaiming, "There you are, Amanda! How you feeling?" As he ran alongside me, I told him I was really hurting and tired. He said, "Yep. You should be - it's almost the end of the marathon. But you have to finish. I'll be your personal pacer now and windbreak." He ran in front of me setting the pace - getting ever so faster. About a tenth of the mile out, he got off the course and said I had finish it on my own and "Run it out."

And I did.

There are few things in this world that parallel that elusive runner's high. I'm thankful I get to run; thankful God gave me the opportunity to run a marathon. And yeah, I'll probably do another one again. But I'll let my knees heal up first...


Jason and Erin said...

Congratulations!!! Prairie Fire is a great race---it was my first (and only) marathon.

Amanda said...

very cool Erin! It's a good route!