My first full marathon was just last year in 2017. I completed the Marine Corps Marathon.
D had just recovered from a fairly debilitating cycling accident. We were excited for my first marathon, his recovery, running together and the cause we were running for.
The morning of the race was pretty unforgettable. We were on top of a hill overlooking DC. The sky was a cool deep, bright, beautiful red. There were teams running in honor of lost family members, missing family members, those still serving, and all who sacrifice to keep us safe. It had the buzz I knew from half marathons and duathlons but that special energy of a full marathon. It also had a peaceful and respectful quiet eeriness. Many of the race volunteers were military soldiers in full uniform. There were runners with prosthetic legs, missing arms and visible healed (physically) injuries. I have seen inspiration and people overcoming adversity during races before. It’s one of the reasons I love races. You are part of something much bigger than a t-shirt and a medal. This was all of those things and 26.2 miles ahead. To say I was excited would not give the right feeling. I had a knot in my throat. I felt healthy, strong, lucky and so honored to be able to run alongside of these people.
I am so lucky.
D was having a tough day. We overestimated his recovery level. I also should mention that he is a heart transplant recipient. He is an athlete and extremely healthy. We do, however, have to be a bit more careful about pushing his limits. About 11 or 12 miles in, D made the decision to pull himself from the race. He said his heart was fine but he did not want to overdo it. I knew he would tell me if I needed to be concerned but I was still an emotional mess. I told him I was going to pull myself from the race also. He told me to finish because it was important that I did. It was my first marathon and this was a really special race. So I kissed him, hugged him, and began running again. I basically cried on and off for the next couple of miles. I was worried and the emotions had made running difficult. I was about to give up when a man with no arms and no legs coasted up to me on a skate board. He was propelling himself with a stick under one half arm. I looked down at him and he was looking up at me and smiling. I smiled back. He said “Keep going. You’re doing great!”. I managed to choke out a “thank you” and he coasted ahead of me with the biggest smile on his face. I swallowed the knot in my throat and told myself (I am pretty sure I was talking out loud) that D is fine and would never let me finish the race if he needed me and to keep going. So I kept going. And now I was smiling. I started cheering other people on if they looked like they needed it. I thanked every volunteer I saw.
I had a couple of really cool conversations with different running partners throughout the race. They were partners until they needed to go faster or I needed to go faster. I listened to a lot of stories. Some stories made me laugh until I cried and some stories just made me cry. The theme of this race was definitely crying for me.
Then I entered the Wear Blue: Run to Remember mile.
I couldn’t run here. My body wouldn’t let me. I’m glad though. It allowed me to truly appreciate how lucky I am to do what I do and be there in that moment. I looked around and realized I was not the only one. I don’t know if it is tradition, or was coincidence but everyone around me was walking. Everyone. We were all also crying. If you are not familiar with this mile, it is lined with photos of those who lost their lives during active duty. Each photo lists the age of the fallen service member.
I am so lucky. My life is so full. I am here.
At the end of the mile there are people holding American flags. These people are the loved ones of those fallen soldiers. While they hold those flags they cheer you on and thank you. They thank YOU. They cheer YOU on. So we all started running again.
I ran all but the last 5 miles (aside from the finish, you always run to the finish line. haha) and then walked.
You never forget your first marathon. It is always special. I am thankful that my first was special on it’s own.
As I get ready for the NYC marathon in a little less than 2 weeks, I am bombarded by questions. Some are from others and some are from me to me. Why would I ever want to run 26.2 miles? Why do I run at all? It hurts and you are so sore the next day and there are sometimes things that hurt for a week after. Why do I do it?
I do it for the people I meet, the stories, those who need an ear, to feel how lucky I am to be alive. I do it because I can.