My alarm went off at 4am yesterday morning.  Now since I had only gone to bed about 5 hours before, it took two bonks of the snooze alarm before I was actually willing to respond to my Taylor Swift ringtone telling me to be “Fearless.”  In fact, if I’m being quite honest, there was a moment at 4:20am where I looked at my bed for a full minute and contemplated bagging the whole thing and going back to sleep.  Luckily I realized how many people already knew I was going to the Portland Marathon that day (thank you Facebook) and I really could not back down now.  No, I had paid over a $100 to go run 26.2 miles at 7am on a Sunday morning.  So after a quick change of clothes, and a good laugh at how strange this morning already was, I was headed for the bus stop.

Now for some reason I imagined the area before a marathon to be different from that before any other race, but I didn’t realize this expectation until I was there.  I arrived at the course start about an hour and a half before the starting bell, and for a while it seemed like it was just me, the volunteers, and some individuals who were quite unhappy to be awoken so early by all of the racket.  So to continue with the unexpected morning, I pulled out a copy of Entertainment Weekly and learned what the casts of Clueless, Arrested Development, and Melrose Place have been up to for the past few years (because what else are you going to do before running 26.2 miles..a thought that makes me laugh even afterwards).  I was part of Corral F, which put me starting about 15 minutes after the National Anthem was supposedly sung (too many buildings to bounce the sound off of) and the starting bell went off (that one I knew about because of the cheers right afterwards).

After a bit of hurry up and wait, suddenly there I was, running down Naito Avenue towards the first mile marker in what would be an over 6 hour journey.  For the first six miles I listened to a variety of music on my “Marathon Success” playlist, which I busted out again for St. John’s Bridge and the final mile stretch.  But for most of the time I was kept company by The Mark Gungor show, and listening to the hosts talk about love, marriage, and challenging church leadership to actually preach what they believe.  In many of my initial training runs I listened to these podcasts, as a way to pass time, so it was nice to be reunited for a few hours and to randomly laugh while trudging up a hill or wondering where that next mile marker would be.

Also along the way I was blessed to have a few visits by my friend Beth, who I may have thought was an angel in my delirium as she offered me a diet coke.  If I had had the energy at the time, I would have shared that she was the bestest person in the whole wide world.  Knowing that she was out there, and was going to be my ride home, was an amazing source of encouragement and reason to keep going (especially up that hill to St. John’s Bridge).

I would also like to share gratitude to the marathon organizers in general.  Oh my gosh, there were so many water stations (and logically porta potties) that is seemed like every time I was thinking about being thirsty, there was a small army of 20+ cheerful volunteers with water of fake Gatorade ready to help.  It totally freaked me out the first few times they called me by name, then I remembered that my name was on my bib number.  Whoops.  I will admit that by the end I was a bit tired of smiling at all the people cheering, but as someone near the end of the pack, it really was amazing to have so many people still there on the sidelines cheering on their love ones, and the occasionally stranger journeying by.

Beyond the pain in my knees and calves (which have me home today recovering), I tried to have some deep thoughts during the run.  See I read Second Wind last spring, about a woman who completed a marathon on every continent and experienced these spiritual revelations about herself along the way.  I didn’t expect the run to be like a spiritual quest, but perhaps a few light bulb moments would be nice.  Around mile 12 I decided that I could do this again, but decided to wait on signing up until at least mile 17 (you know when I was beyond half-way).  During the last 6 miles or so, when I really started to slow down, I was passed by many many walkers and my main thought was how much that…well the word that came to mind was a bit less than appropriate so lets just say…stunk.  Luckily a second voice in myself, probably related to the “Why Not” voice that got me into this thing in the first place, reminded me that no matter what I was still faster than someone sitting on their couch.  So when I saw at the finish line that my time was much slower than I expected or hoped, there was that second reminder of victory right away: I was about to complete my first marathon and no time on that clock could take away my win.

I had five goals going into yesterday’s marathon and am happy to share I succeeded in all but the one connected to time: don’t die, finish, run the whole thing (except for water stations, and running is defined by me not by observers), and recover enough to go to Kaitlyn’s baby shower.  And for that fifth goal, well there is just the right amount of pain in my legs and shiny on my finishers medal to say I’ll try again next time.

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