Even though I had spent the better part of three hours nearly all alone, I still can't say I was thinking about much the whole time.
So as I put one foot in front of the other for 26.2 miles, I guess I was just in "the zone."
Race day was chilly. 38 degrees at the start. It was windy. A 15-20 mph wind that remained at our backs (most of the race). The sun shined and the attitude was jovial.
After a summer of intense over training and a fall of laid back great runs, my fourth marathon took off with little expectations. I had said I was running it just to run it. No pressure. I had qualified for Boston in April and this was just "for fun." (As if running that far can ever be fun)
I knew the course from previous years and from running the first half of it for a training run three weeks prior. So I kept in step with my friends for a while and as I was feeling good the gap between us grew wider. I looked back around mile 3 and heard their blessing, "We're okay, go on!!" So I did. Meeting up with wonderful support dispersed through out the course. Once a stranger in the sea of runners, I was so happy to know nearly all the faces along the way this year. It means so much to hear your name hollered as you pass. There really is a close knit community in this city.
Miles 3-9 flew by. I passed my PT multiple times and received his stern fatherly love each time, "watch it!! Take it easy! Looking good, be smart!"
Once we entered the ground of the air force base, the wicked Kansas wind started to show off for us. With nothing to block it, it became increasingly difficult to maintain pace. But I just ran on. I finally caught up with Kenton at the spectators site right at mile 13.1. He took my abuse as I hollered for Gu and he had to break the news that he forgot it. You only rip apart the ones you love with glares.
I ran on and hoped the one package I had tucked in my shorts would be enough. The course required some winding once on base and that meant taking the wind head on. I could tell it was slowing me and I tried to push harder. Finally I could see the end was in sight. Mile 18 marks the exit of the base and the direction change. My husband was standing on the first spot a non running civilian was allowed with a gu in hand ready to take my not nearly kind enough gratitude. (He's the best)
He ran off to plan for being at the finish with our son. I got back onto the street only to see my PT coming my way again. He could tell the wind beat me up, but encouraged me that I still looked strong and the worse was behind me. So, again, I ran on. I felt excited that mile 20 was around the corner and it felt like I was nearly done. I approached some more lively aid stations and was pleased to see the supporters once again. I made it to the last hill on the course. Mile 22 is right at the peak of an overpass and it's pretty steep. In 2007, I ran this course and gave in to my first walk break on that hill. I was ready for it this time and was surprised to see my running partner, Mr. City Manager, atop the hill coming my way. His encouragement and chatting helped me climb right over the hill and forget it was ever there. He pumped me full of every lie in the book to keep me going. "Looking great." "I'm struggling to keep up with you." Ah friends are great, they know what you need when you need it. He carried me through mile 24 and left me to go back and help the rest of the gang. I ran through the park and across the same bike path I've run a million times. I knew my house was only a mile away and I knew the finish wasn't much further the other direction.
I was feeling it. The marathon fatigue. The "how and the hell am I going to run another mile and half?" feeling. My neck hurt, my quads were a tight as they could be, my feet hurt, and I was just crazy tired. I had little words left in my vocabulary. Auto-pilot was set and I needed to just finish.
Right at the moment my husband showed up on his bike, ready to take more of my abuse. He cheered and I blurted out the only thing I could, "don't pace me!" He must have been scared because he didn't question those cryptic instructions much. I must have put the fear deep in him (later he said I was kinder in childbirth...well, they gave me drugs then!) because he didn't follow me, let alone try and pace me in. He under estimated my pace and the distance left. So much so that he didn't catch me as I ran right through the mile 25 marker and headed for home.
Mile 25-26.2 was a very familiar stretch of road. I take it every Monday morning at 5am to meet up with my running partners. I take it every Tuesday and Thursday as I run to the YMCA to lift weights. I know this mile all too well. So when I got off the path and on the street, I felt relieved. "This is over." I thought, "Piece of cake, phone it in, you're done." I knew I was set to PR and I thought I'd be seeing that clock in no time.
Time stood still. I knew I was moving, but I felt like I was treading water. I passed every building and felt as though I could see each and every detail as I passed. With volunteers standing along the way they kept assuring me that I was "almost there!" It took forever. And since I did have all that extra "time" I thought away about what to write about. Nothing. The romance of the marathon wasn't in it's giddy stage anymore for me. I wasn't chasing down a first time or a BQ. I was "just running." I recall almost feeling sad. Here I was about to set a new personal record, finish my fourth marathon in only three years of running, and I was a little bummed out.
I got to the final turn and my pal and "adopted brother," Oliver was standing at the corner. I waved and he had to confirm it was me. "Lacy?" "Yeah," I said. "Are you kidding me?!!" He wasn't expecting me yet. He jumped in with me asked how I was feeling. I answered, "uh, going to be better real soon." He cheered for me and got the crowd to do the same. I clip clopped up the brick street and see my second surprised face of the morning. My Dad was headed my way with his mouth wide open. He wasn't expecting me yet either. So now the three of us headed for the finish. While I know all this roller coaster of emotion took place in less than 10 minutes, I swear I went on another ride in those final footfalls. I could hear the finish, see the flags, even see some faces I knew. I heard my name from all sorts of directions. All the weird feelings I had moments prior, vanished. I could see a clock ticking and loved ones around me cheering as my feeble body carried me to an incredible finish.
3:19!!?? Are you frickin' kidding me?!! I stumbled through the shoot and turned to find people all around me. Friends, family, doctors, whoever. Without reservation I went straight for the man running towards me and did something I'm not sure I've ever done before.
I flew to my Dad and abandoned all formalities and through my sweaty arms around him and woke up to realize what just happened. 3:19!!!! We were all so shocked.
My beloved husband came screeching on his bike. He had missed it. My barks had kept him from keeping up with me on the course and he missed it, but who cared. "What was the time?" "3:19!!!" I hope I read his face right, "That's incredible and I completely understand and forgive you for being so mean to me earlier." (Right? That's what you were thinking, right?)
Brothers, In-Laws, friends, and my mother were all there to make me feel like a rock star. My PT finally let up his stern role and celebrated a "smart run" with me. Then came my muse, my inspiration. My little man came hopping over, unaware of what really just took place. So much so that he jumped in my arms at one point. He's 6 now, not an easy load to tote these days.
I know he doesn't get it now, but I hope he'll treasure these days as he grows. One day he'll learn what a marathon is and he'll be able to say, "my mom's done that." I pray that God allows him to see through this that anything is possible.
I walked around in a daze for almost two weeks. Not truly realizing that in two years I had taken an hour and ten minutes off my time in the marathon. Me? Really?
I don't know why I was given a chance to do this. I have dreams and hopes as to what may come from all this. But most importantly I've just been flabbergasted by what God will do with a humble heart. I pray I never take credit for what has happened. I pray I always point to the Lord as my reason for success. I'm amazed at what he has done and I'm so excited to see what's next.
The marathon amnesia has set in and none of it seems so bad anymore. I've got some muscle strain I've got to rehab and some winter cross training to plan for, but this journey is far from over.
A letter arrived in the mail last week with a unicorn in the return address label. Boston has let me in and we're coming.
All I can say with my delirious smile is that, God is Good all the time.