I was so confident going into Rails to Trails Marathon. This was marathon number fifteen! I’ve been there, done that, made mistakes, learned, did speed work, recovered, tapered, carbo-loaded, etc. There was no doubt that I would at the very least PR at this one.
But somehow at the early mile of four I knew it wasn’t my day. I started off strong, consistent, chatting with other runners, happy to be running. After mile four my breathing got heavy, for what should have been an easy pace. I tried to deal with it by turning on my iPod, which for some reason played the first eight seconds of a song, skipped a few beats, and then restarted the song.
what, the… frack.
I’d hit the next arrow to try the next song, which did the same thing. I reminded myself that I don’t need music, I do half and full Ironmans without music. But I wanted my music today. I didn’t want to hear my heavy breathing. Plus, this is a very small, lonely course. There’s no spectator support. It’s just you, your thoughts, the woods, and a few aid stations every now and then.
I yanked my earbuds out, frustrated, and forced myself to run faster. At this point I stopped looking at my Garmin because I didn’t need one more mental battle. I got to the tunnel portion of the marathon and enjoyed that. I came out feeling alive, running. Enjoying this beautiful day.
The 13.1 mile clock read 2:12. I knew I wouldn’t hit my goal of 4:17, but this left me plenty of time to at least PR. Instead of going for it, I began to walk. I have no idea why. I just straight up walked. I walked into that dark place. Why bother? I should get a ride back into town. I don’t belong on a team of amazing women. I’m a fraud. It’s a beautiful day to walk a marathon.
At mile 18 I was getting hungry so I started to run again. I had purpose, to finish this silly thing and get some food in me. I encouraged others as I passed them, heading back to Norwalk. I saw a girl in the back of a sag vehicle getting a ride back to Norwalk. I missed my chance of quitting by seconds. But at that far into a marathon there’s no way I would quit unless a limb was falling off. I thought of the many reasons I had not to quit:
- My excited social media posts about running my 15th marathon.
- I was accepted onto the Coeur Sports 2017 Team.
- I brought my friend Becca with who I’ve always yelled DON’T QUIT at.
- All of my limbs were attached.
- I GET to do this!
- I got out of bed at 3:50am and drove two hours, might as well get a medal.
So, I missed my goal by 50 minutes. It was disappointing. I was frustrated at myself. I gave myself 20 seconds to be upset, and then saw the gigantic blisters on both of my middle toes and was proud to have finished with that pain.
Anyone can show up and quit. Anyone can have a great race. It takes heart to get through the unexplained dark places and finish 26.2 miles.
And then it takes courage to do it all over again seven days later.