I knew training for this thing would take time. I knew it would take a lot of effort. What I didn't know is quite how all consuming it would be. I figured it would be equal parts exhilarating and exhausting, but I didn't realize just how much. I know that my biggest challenge still lies ahead, but having pretty much completed my training at this point (just two short runs this week, 4 and 2 miles) I honestly feel amazed at what I've accomplished both physically AND mentally.
For the most part, my training has gone pretty smoothly. I missed one long run (16 miles) due to a cold (and don't even get me started on how that missed run has been messing with my mind the past couple weeks), and maybe one or two weekly runs along the way. There were weeks when all my runs were SOLID and I was riding a constant runners high. Then there were weeks when I just felt sluggish. Heavy legs, no focus, and too much of that little voice in the back of my mind that says, "You know, you should just stop. Walk. Or better yet, turn around and go home to your couch and a plate of cookies." People who aren't familiar with how marathons work are sometimes confused when they realize that this isn't something most people have any hope of actually winning. But they don't realize that it's that little voice that we're trying to beat. That little part of yourself that really doesn't think you actually CAN do this. You run a marathon to shut that little part up once and for all.
In the beginning of my training, I was just flying along. I was PR'ing (PR = personal record for those non-runners out there) left and right and simultaneously trucking along through p90x3. I felt strong. I felt fast. I felt unstoppable. I mean, I wasn't sleeping because Kate was still up several times a night, and I was dealing with 3 year old drama and almost 1 year old tantrums. So those first few weeks weren't without their rough patches, but, for the most part, I was sailing along feeling like a bad *ss. Theeeeeeeeeen the mileage started to creep up and as my fatigue levels increased, so did my guilt. Guilt because I didn't push play and do a p90x3 workout after a 15 mile run (I am very aware how crazy and, well, silly this sounds, but it's true). Guilt because I spent yet another Saturday morning away from my husband and kids. Guilt for giving the kids their breakfast in the stroller and taking them on yet another hour + run. Training started to be tough in ways I hadn't thought about. But it was pushing through all of that, and realizing I didn't really have anything to be guilty ABOUT (I didn't need a strength workout after a 15 mile run, I was home by breakfast time most Saturdays, and the kids actually really like riding in the stroller) that made me so much stronger mentally. People talk a lot about how mentally challenging running a marathon is and I always just assumed you get your legs strong and then on race day push through the mental challenges. I don't know why, but I never thought of how I'd be training for that aspect of the race all summer as well.
It was after my 20 mile training run that I really realized how far I'd come. Immediately after finishing the run all I could think was, "Um. Ow.", and, "6.2 more miles? Yeah I don't think so.", and, "Nope. This was stupid idea.". But a few minutes later I realized what I had just done. It was crazy. Like it hit me in the face all of a sudden, "You just ran 20 miles. T.w.e.n.t.y. m.i.l.e.s. You're amazing." (It's pretty awesome how your perspective can change after a hug from your husband and a pumpkin donut).
So here I am. 4 days 10 hours 29 minutes, according to the app on my phone (because I'm nerdy like that) from the official start of the Marine Corps Marathon 2014. I have my outfit picked out (the shorts or capris decision was an incredibly difficult one to make). I have a nice long playlist made, with the most pumped up songs in the last hour. I'm fueling and resting up this week. I'm feeling good, feeling strong, and feeling so. very. nervous. Holy cow. I haven't felt nerves like this since I was dancing. I've had the 'standing in the wings, tapping the toe of my pointe shoe on the floor, waiting for my musical cue in the snow scene' type of butterflies for a while now. When I take the time to really think about the race, I get tears in my eyes. There's so many emotions going into this, it's insane. There's a part of me that is so very ready for it to be over so I can have a little break, and a part of me that's expecting to feel deflated and kinda bummed when it's all finished. Again reminds me of ballet. When I was little I used to cry and cry when our run of The Nutcracker ended. I hated that popped balloon feeling after the months of build up. When I got older all I felt after a run of Nutcracker was relief before collapsing into an exhausted heap. Kind of expecting more of the latter post marathon to be honest. A little popped balloon and a whole lot of exhausted heap.
Once I drag myself out of the exhausted heap I hope to write part 2 of this. I really hope to be able to articulate the way I feel during and after the race, but I'm afraid it might be mostly, "It was just.... awesome. And it hurt. And I'm tired. But it was awesome." I guess we'll see!