It was a long and incredible weekend but I'll start with the race since that is what most of you are here for. (even though many of y'all followed my splits on Twitter and knew before I did how my race went!)
Now, some of you can write an amazing race recap. Y'all take photos, tweet updates and give a mile by mile replay of what you were thinking and feeling.
Not me. I was running this race with this on my mind, run smart, run hard, PR the sh!t out of this race. Don't hold anything back. I didn't have time for photos, tweets or even coherent thoughts really. I've never raced this hard in my life.
I got a hotel in the District pretty close to Georgetown so I wouldn't have a long drive followed by a long Metro ride or, gasp, long walk. This close proximity to the start also afforded me the opportunity to set my alarm for later. Precious sleep = a well rested runner. As typical for me, I was plagued by nightmares about missing the race so I didn't really sleep that well after all. Also, my roommate, um, snored. Loudly.
If you name it, it will happen. Truth.
Catching the Metro and heading the the start line, I was very thankful for the throw away clothing purchased at a thrift store the day before. (in the SNOW!) The temps were brisk even for this hot blooded Texan.
WWII planes flew over, skydivers dove and the Star Spangled Banner was sung. Why does it seem like I'm usually one of the only ones singing audibly? This is America people, SING!
It only took us about 5 minutes to cross the start line from our corral. Def the most organized corrals I've ever experienced in a race this size. (with over 20,000 runners, MCM is one of the top 5 largest US marathons and top 10 worldwide)
I reigned it in the first three miles trying to stay just under 10 minutes. It never really thinned out but everyone around me had lined up wisely and we were running the same pace so there wasn't much weaving to do. Thankfully.
Intent on running the tangents as closely as I could and for my wonky hip's sake, staying off the camber of the roadway, I focused only on what was right in front of me. I saw NONE of the monuments or memorials that we ran by. I was vaguely aware of running down Museum row. I think I might have eaten some candy corn at that point. Yes, I fueled with candy corn. Surprised? My Tweeps shouldn't be!
My memories of the race include saying, "Great job" each time I passed a wheeled chair participant (how they power up those hills is beyond me) I recall coming up on a Marine missing his left arm and running on a prosthetic left leg. I told him thank you and "you look so strong." I witnessed a guide leading a blind runner, both sporting US Army jerseys. I offered up some encouragement and received a "Thank you ma'am." Man, oh man.
For all I knew, I could have been in almost any city on Earth. I just kept glancing at my pace, hovering just over a 9 minute mile and gauging if I could maintain that speed. I felt that I could.
Mile 19 brought some struggle. And the Bridge. Beat the Bridge. That bridge beat me down hard. My legs felt heavy and I grew weary. I've never run that far at that pace. I knew that I'd see Katie at mile 22 and I knew she was following my splits. I didn't want to slow down too much and let her down. She was expecting a text at mile 20 and I just kept telling myself to give more.
I look way happier than I was in this photo. Mostly I was just relieved to see my girls. Also, it looks like I'm running the wrong way. Nope. Just getting close to a turn around.
Somewhere between mile 22 and oblivion, I spotted Morgan's shiny silver disco pants. What a sight for sore eyes! My girls! As promised, Katie jumped in and immediately started talking. Exhausted, I muttered, "I'm really struggling; I'm on empty." She talked, sang, clapped, encouraged spectators to cheer, pointed over my head and demanded, "AMY. This is AMY. Cheer for her!" And they did! I kept my eyes on the ground about 10 feet in front of me and concentrated on the sound of her voice. I had nothing left and 2 miles to go. She never let up.
She told me, that she and Morgan picked out about 25 husbands for me, all shirtless Marines, all some of the first finishers. I chuckled at that. She chirped that I beat "the hell out of Oprah."
And then she said, "You've been through so much shit this year. But not today. You deserve this girl. Go GET IT." And with that, she patted me on the head, peeled away and disappeared.
For a moment I wondered if I imagined her. The finish line finally in sight, I gathered all the energy I had left and lumbered up the steep hill that led me home. It wasn't the sprint I had imagined; I had nothing left to give. I stopped my Garmin but afraid to look, I wobbled over to a curb and collapsed. Head in hands, regulating my breathing I thought about what had just happened.
I had run a marathon. #7. No matter your pace, you gotta respect the distance. 26.2 miles is a long way. I've come a lot further than that this year, but 26.2 marks my journey. The shone shone warmly down, a welcome glow in the chilly October air. I could feel my phone blowing up with texts. Twitter was auto updating my splits and my finish time. Not once had I glanced at my time, just my pace. Y'all knew and still, I didn't.
I knew I had slowed down those last few difficult miles. Had I made my goal of 4:30? Dare I hope for 4:15? My phone continued to buzz with excitement. Taking a deep breath, I looked.
4:05:59. A 29 minute PR.
Smiling, I looked up and was greeted by the Iwo Jima memorial. I've never seen it in person and had no idea how immense it was. The original photo, and now the memorial, gave hope to a nation. It was and is a symbol of courage, a reminder that we can still soar; that we can accomplish anything.
For me, and for many, the marathon is also a symbol of hope and courage. Proof that we can soar if only we try hard enough.
We all ran the same course that day, but like life, we are driven to run for different reasons. Some run to prove that they can, others to prove that they STILL can. Some of us aren't sure yet exactly what it is we have to prove, or to whom, yet we continue to feel that burning desire, that drive to keep going.
And I promise you, no matter what your challenge, you too can still soar.