It was a great read and a wonderful history of women's running. As I read about her history making run of the Boston marathon, I was captivated. She was literally almost thrown off the course once the director discovered, "K. Switzer, #261," was a female. It was a great moment to read about and then to look at all the pictures from that famous day in running history. As I type right now, I have a small clipping of that moment taped to my computer monitor. It has been in my sights for quite some time now.
Later that summer I was out on one of my typical Saturday morning long runs. I tended to run 13 miles every Saturday, whether I had reason to or not. As I was half way through it, I noticed my pace was faster than normal and I was sustaining it. When I returned I realized I might have more gas in the tank then I was using on my running expeditions. I recall talking to my Dad about the silly notion, that maybe, just maybe, little 'ol me might run a marathon fast enough to qualify for the one and the only, Boston Marathon. He believed that I could. I needed to work at it, but he believed that I could do it.
I went on the Boston Athletic Association's website (http://www.bostonmarathon.org/) and found my number. 3 hours and 40 minutes. A near two hour improvement on my best time thus far. It sounded impossible, but it was my number, and boy, did Boston have my number.
I worked. I joined the local running club's training class and was informed of my other number,
8:20. This was the pace I'd have to keep for 26.2 miles in order to get to Boston. Well, since I was just barely a one year old (in runner's years), taking that much time off my 2nd marathon didn't seem likely. I tried though. In October 2007, my follow up to my first marathon
performance of 5:20 in Oklahoma City was to run the Wichita Marathon.
While my magic number wasn't expected, I was dumbfounded as to how I ran a 4:29 less than 6 months after my first marathon. In that amount of time I managed to improve by an entire hour. I felt encouraged that I had it in me to get even faster. A few nay-sayers crossed my path. Saying things like, "another 50 minutes off, that's pretty impossible sounding." Ah, if they only knew the fuel they put to my fire.
With the full support of my loved ones I went for it and I went hard. Too hard as a matter of fact. I began training for my next marathon the day after Wichita. I became too obsessed with miles. I ignored training guides and just ran and ran and ran. I became over trained and burnt out. I had signed up for the Eisenhower Marathon in April of 2008. I finished my 22 mile training run with a great time and I was on target to run a Boston qualifying time, or a BQ. I was depressed from the burn out, I was alone from not having a running partner, and my body was in pain. I was not ready for my BQ. I was broken, in more ways than one. My Pelvic bone, my inferior ramus, was fractured, along with my heart.
I spent the spring and summer of 2008 in a dark place. My core was shaken. Not just because I couldn't run, but so many things were not right. It was a long season of seeking and searching, and healing. Physically and mentally. I had to examine what was driving me to run all those
miles. What was causing the obsession, the unhealthy obsession. I believe that God needed to grab a hold of me and unfortunately, thick headed girls like me, have to be broken before they can pay attention. But eventually I heard Him, I got it, and the sun shined once more. My relationship with the Lord is my only real reason I do anything, and especially the only reason I do anything well. I let go of so many things. As I learned to loosen my grip and yield control of my life, amazingly, the things I wanted, the things I dreamed of, and the things I hoped for were all falling in to place.
My heart and body healed and I was running better than ever. New personal records were being set at every one of my races. I was winning medals. I wasn't forsaking my family's best intrust in order to pursue my own. Things were good.
My dear friend, Karl, who happens to be my physical therapist, checked in on me after all my long races and by Christmas he delivered me some great news. "Okay, I'll let you train for a full, but you gotta do it right this time, you got it?" I got it, I was good this time, and this time IT WAS GOOD!
As I glance once more at the picture of Katherine Switzer and the race course that has my number, I can't believe the reality of the story I will tell you next.