Damn. I'm grateful to be a marathoner.
After five Clif shots, multiple cups of water and Gatorade, two blisters, one black toenail (my first ever!), and four hours and 12 minutes later, I officially became a marathoner.
And one of the best things to come out of Sunday's race? I finished wanting more. And I learned (or maybe taught myself) how to be grateful again.
I went into Sunday's race just wanting to get the thing over with while finishing strong. 'Strong' was my mantra; my marathon playlist was even titled 'Strong.' One of my main goals was to cross the finish line under 4:15. Luckily, I had a friend who was shooting for the same time. We ran together for the first 20 miles, which was great. I didn't feel pressured to talk all of the time, although I felt like her presence was a good distraction. We ran well together.
She started to slow a bit around mile 20; I didn't want to leave her, as I was feeling guilty already for running a few paces ahead of her. When she said, "We're in survival mode. Go on. Each man for himself now," I picked up the pace and ran the last 10k on my own. This is the point where the 'real' race started. The first 20 miles were fairly comfortable and steady. I felt like it was a solid training run with aid stations and fun crowd support. I was waiting patiently for that mystical wall of pain and pure misery to hit me at mile 20...
But it never came.
Sure, I had some very strange aches and pains along the way, but my so-called 'wall' was more like a two-mile annoyance. At mile 22, I started to see more people walking than running. The victims of the marathon were slowing, heads down, and clearly fatigued. Compared to them, I was feeling fairly well. For miles 23 through 25, I had to dig deep, I'll admit it. And it was annoying, mainly because I was so close to the finish, yet I still had to put in a solid effort to maintain my pace. But...it wasn't the worst pain I'd ever endured. I definitely struggled more in shorter races than I had for this little 26.2-miler.
And then I saw the glorious 25th-mile marker. Wow. At this point, I turned off my Motley-Crue shoutin' iPod, and I started to smile. For running in my 25th mile, I was very lucid. I think I had a mile-long 'moment.' No loopiness or angry drunk episodes like during my long training runs. I felt strong; and I realized that I really am strong. I made eye contact with several spectators and just smiled. I had never felt so grateful. For having complete strangers around me. For having my broad shoulders and imperfect body. For having my life. For being me.
While I find it sad that I don't have moments like that more often, I'm grateful that I was even able to experience it. People say that the marathon changes them; many first-timers say that they feel like they can do anything after running 26.2 miles. I'll agree that it changes you. But for me, I became genuinely grateful for everything that I have.
Simple and sappy, yes.
But damn. I'm a very lucky girl.