H-town 2014: The Land of Firsts

So many setbacks. So many hurdles. So much doubt.

When I initially entered the lottery for the 2014 Chevron Houston Marathon, I figured what were the odds? Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to do it….but I was scared to death to even try. When I got my acceptance email, I freaked! Now I have to train! Long runs?!? After two half marathons I knew what that distance felt like…but this? Repeatedly approaching 20 miles? Oh dear. But I started, I committed. Financially things were a mess with my husbands job and through trying to budget in new shoes, I purchased some on sale Nikes (I’ve been a dedicated Newton runner for well over a year). Then injury hit. Foot pain that wouldn’t allow me to continue. Got over that. Then illness took the kiddo and myself down. Return of the foot pain and I guess my knee didn’t want the foot to suffer alone. Sprinkle in husband away working and lack of childcare. All in all I lost weeks of training…and only peaked at 14 miles in long runs. Stupid shoes. Hubby left to train for new job. I went back and forth between switching to the half or deferring….couldn’t do it. Common sense lost out and pride won. I was gonna go down fighting. After the preparation I had been able to put in, I couldn’t just not try at all.

The taper felt like a blur but I ran as scheduled. Went back to my old Newtons with new insoles as a last ditch effort to make injury stay away. Tape, ice, rest, repeat. Short runs were always accompanied by soreness but relenting enough to keep me crossing them off my calendar. Several of my running friends listened to all my doubts oh so patiently and gave me fantastic advice. I pressed on.

Race weekend arrived! Husband called an audible and was going to be able to make it home for the road trip to Houston with a couple of my running friends! Loaded up and off we went. Got myself KT taped at the expo and stared at my race bib. Dear Lord, what was I thinking!

Pasta lunch at expo attacked each of our foursome at some point in the weekend, tethering the husband to our hotel room when I left for the start corrals with my buddies. Energy was huge, start line was electric. I’m thinking….I’ll be the last one in out of all these runners. They’ll be closing up the start line behind me. Unplugging the time clock. Please just let me finish! Next thing I know, I’m over the line and hit start on the watch. I consciously dial myself back. Don’t go out fast. Pasta begins to talk at mile two, and at mile three I stop at the portalets. Yep, first time to do THAT during a race. But I feel tons better and click away solidly until 13 miles, only distracted by a burning sensation under my right arm which I inspect. Chafing to the point of bleeding. How nice. Undeterred, I continue running….walking through a few water stops and by one of the medical tents for Vaseline on a stick (which I apply to the inside of both arms while running…yes another first!) Feeling good.

Mentally I got scared at the halfway point. Everything after 14 was unknown…never felt this mileage before. Pressed on. Told my brain to shut up. Used my GU. Hydrated. Approached 20. In one moment I felt sure I’d finish then felt as if I’d slammed into…yep, THE WALL. Injured leg never hurt, but I was aware of increasing pain in my left foot. Mile marker 21. Wall dissolves. I pray prayers of thanksgiving, turn up my playlist and press on.

Mile 23 hurts but it’s just a 5k left. Almost done. I walk a few inclines and stride the downhills. Course swings back into the sea of downtown and I begin to sing to my music out loud. I realize I’ll finish. No stopping now. Foot pounds. One last walk break. Holy moly, mile 25. I’m finishing….it’s a blur. At 1/2 mile to go the spectators are lining the course, cheering, looking for their runners. I see my husband walking towards the finish line. He turns and sees me. I break into a smile, feeling my salt mask crack a bit. I obtain visual contact of the finish. My eyes water. I think of my mom. I think of my 200 pound self. I hear my two running buddies call my name. I pump my fist and sprint for the finish. I’m across.

Then there’s the medal…it encourages the tears from my eyes. This moment can never be taken from me. All my life I’ve doubted my mental toughness, argued with God about do I have what it takes to live this life.

And for the last of my firsts in H-town….I can finally say yes.