A little over two years ago, I was the girl who didn't run. I considered a good workout to be one of those "under 30 minutes to tone your ____ insert body part here" YouTube videos, maybe done 2-3 times a week, on a good week. I didn't really enjoy working out and I certainly never went on a run. Fast forward to one month ago today, and I have completed my first marathon. (!!!) I'm so proud to say that I am now a runner, for better or for worse.
So how does a lazy girl run a marathon? With a sister, how else?!
In early 2016 my older sister Michelle and her husband Lance had been in the international adoption process for several months. When she told me she was running the local Garden Spot Village Marathon and Half Marathon as a way to raise funds, I think I cried. Shocking, I know. I know this is just what mothers do, but there is just something so beautiful about a mother who will sweat and bleed and sacrifice for her still-unknown child. No shade to GoFundMe's, but running a marathon is the most special fundraiser I've ever heard of.
So that is when I started running. I committed to running the half marathon with her, and started training the next day. At this point it was February, and the race was begining of April. Not impossible to get into running shape in about 6 weeks, but very close to it. I remember my very first training run SO clearly. My brother was staying with us for a week over this time, and I begged him to come along with me. I bundled up and we ran/walked 1.63 miles that afternoon. I was huffing like the Big Bad Wolf by the end but I was SO proud. Over the next few weeks, My BFF Jess (who actually liked running, bless her) ran with me often. We would run together Saturday mornings, every week going about 2 miles farther than the week before.
The day of the race was cold and, if you can believe it, snowing. In April. In Pennsylvania. THANKS LORD YEP I NEEDED A LITTLE MORE RESISTANCE. To be honest, it didn't faze me that much. I was so ready to do this thing. Jess even came to see us off, and we away we went! The first half was SO FUN. Even in the snow, spectators would cheer and make me smile every time. Highlights of the first half include an encouraging sign that said "If Trump can run than so can you!" Michelle and I ran for the first half of the half marathon, i.e. the first 7 miles or so. Then the courses split, and she informed me she was gonna pick up the pace now. Thanks, lady. The second half of the race was the true test for me. I turned on the music, put my head down, and got to work. Even though I had to run up the biggest hill in Lancaster county, and stopped for a few walking breaks, those last 6 miles were probably the most empowering miles of my life. I was doing this! Just me, myself, my soggy shoes, and the Good Lord. I've never felt a high quite like this running high, and that day was my first taste. I can't tell you how good it felt to slowly slog in the final stretch. My oldest sister Tonya was crying, Brandon was videoing, my besties Jess and Vcitoria (and Vic's husband Cam) were all there cheering. You guys! It doesn't get much better than that! Except the hot oatmeal in the runner's tent. And gettting my medal. And wathcing my sister cross the finish line a little while later.
I recently listened to a podcast all about succeeding by not giving yourself a way out, and I struck me that that is exactly what I did here. The hosts called this mentality "burning your boats" -- if you want to take the island, you have to burn the boats, and make that your only option. Because when you're only option is to succeed or to die, most people are gonna find a way to succeed. And you guys, I did that! For maybe the first time in my life, I committed to something without giving myself the option of backing out. I don't like to say I was a quitter, but it's true. I didn't like hard things. I didn't like to push myself. I think that is part of the reason why I was (and still am) so indecisive, but that's a soul issue for another time. Looking back, those weeks of training changed me in so many ways. God used something as ordinary as putting one foot in front of the other to mold me and change me. And it didn't stop there.
Remember BFF Jess? Well she finally decided that if she was going to run the long training runs with me, she may as well get a medal out of it. Atta girl! We signed up for another local run that fall. I thought it would be better weather in September, but oh I was wrong again! The Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon was 90* and humid and it felt like the hottest day of my life. But we did it together! I tell ya what, if you ever want to be better friends with someone, just run 13.1 miles with them. We finished and we were so proud.
As a Christmas gift that year, one of my friends gifted me Shauna Niequist's book "Present Over Perfect" and I dove into it. I told Victoria later that this book is super casually just changing my life. It is filled with truth so raw that when you read it, you say, oh yes, there you've been. That's exactly right. I guess a good book will do that to you. The rest of the book aside, in one chapter Shauna writes about how she signed up for and ran a full marathon, after being a non-runner like me. It challenged me and inspired me at the same time, and I started researching cool marathons in the area. It was early spring of 2017 when I first learned about the Coastal Delaware Running Festival, and I was sold. Running on the boardwalk? A course that takes you through the beach town I've been going to my whole life? Free pizza?! Where do I sign! Unfortunately it was too late to sign up in 2017, so I kept this little dream in my heart for a while and signed up for 2018. I had been talking to Sister Michelle about this the whole time and convinced her to sign up too. Sisters who run together, stay together. I started training in earnest around Christmas time. Honestly, because of running, the first part of this year feels like a blur. Let's just say that working full time and logging miles every week and small group and making supper and moving and renovating a house all serve to make one a busy girl. I made it, though. Thank God and thanks, Brandon, for picking up my slack! Somehow, winter was over and April was almost here.
Two weeks before the marathon (the weekend after my birthday!) I got sick and was knocked out the whole weekend. I was planning to do my longest training run, 21 miles, that Saturday. When I woke up Saturday morning I knew there was no way I could do that. I was so discouraged and I let this set back really mess with me. I panicked and Googled how far do you have to run before running a marathon and the results were actually not terrifying! One site said that the distance of your run doesn't matter so much, as long as you are consistently training, and that the actual time on your feet is what benefits you during those longest runs. At that point I already had a few 3+ hours runs under my belt, so I tried to make the best of it. Those last two weeks before the marathon were a real turning point for me. Since I never got in my confidence-boosting 20-miler, I started concentrating and training my mind with as much attention as I had given my body. The Boston marathon was a week before mine, and this year the conditions were absolutely horrible! I'm talking monsoon weather the entire day. I stalked runner's instagrams and cried reading their lengthy captions. One account in particular (MotherRunnerMel) shared her positive attitude in a really inspiring way, saying stuff like you can't control the weather but you can control your attitude. I decided that this was my one and only 1st marathon, and I was going to enjoy this thing.
The morning of the marathon was an early one. It was cool but the forecast was calling for sun and 60 degree temps. My dad and Brandon drove Michelle and I to the boardwalk, we waited in a rediculously long bathroom line, and then it was show time.
The first miles were FUN. We started in the back of the corrals, so it felt pretty good to be able to start out passing a bunch of people. There were a ton of spectators lining the boardwalk, lots of homemade signs and the energy was so HIGH! I was smiling as we started and I don't think I stopped smiling the whole time. We ran through the streets of Rehoboth Beach to Cape Henlopen State Park. We ran on trails and paved paths until we got to the park's campground. We ran right past the campsite we camped at the year before! We were in the middle of the campground when Mile 9 happened. Up until this point, we both felt great. I was having so much fun and we were making good time (for me, this was around 10 minute miles) when Michelle's knee threw a fit. During the weeks leading up to the race, she had been having a lot of trouble with it twinging and giving her pain. She tried a new brace a week or two prior and we hoped this would be the ticket. And it was, until Mile 9. We walked it out for a while, and a sweet angel who was running in front of us gave Michelle some Advil. We started running again, with a revised goal: let's just finish.
Soon enough we were out of the woods (literally, the course finally left the campground) and we ran again. The miles from 13-15 were fun ones. We stopped every so often to stretch out Michelle's knee, but we made it to the turn around point, and to the best water stop. The volunteers called us each by name (thanks to our bibs) and that felt so amazing. Also this water stop had M&M's and I didn't know I needed those until I had them! Mile 17 brought us to the beautiful and charming town of Lewes, and if I had to pinpoint a place where things got tough, this would be it. This was around the time I asked Michelle to tell me her birth story of giving birth to Luca just to give my mind another pain to concentrate on. We kept pushing though, and made it to mile 20. I smiled big at Michelle and said, this is it! This is officially the farthest I've ever run! Soon after, we ran through the most beautiful neighborhood I have ever seen. I'm not sure if it was the mileage taking it's toll or the incredible houses, but we ran slow and admired. Right after that, we ran through the last bit of trails before the end! Running down the main street of Rehoboth was amazing. Fellow runners, people driving & honking, even police men standing by the route, I loved them all. We took a few more stretching and walking breaks, but we were determined to finish strong. We came up on the boardwalk and I felt like I couldn't breath. I was crying, but that didn't last long because have you tried to run and cry at the same time? It's hard! Our whole family was lined up on the boardwalk, cheering and waving and waiting for us. I can remember that feeling so clearly, and honestly I don't know how you can be happier than that right now. We crossed the finish line together, two sisters, in 5 hours 21 minutes. Michelle's longest marathon yet but a PR for me! Also an OR (only record).
When I started running two years ago for that fundraiser race, I never expected to keep at it. I certainly never expected to enjoy it and one day run a marathon. But life is funny and God has a sense of humor, this I firmly believe. Running has turned into medicine and dessert, all in one. I am so thankful to have this - hobby? passion? relief? in my life. Maybe one day that will evolve and change into something else, but for now, it's here. And I'm runnning.