I ran The Tucson Marathon for the first time in December 2001. Running a marathon was a dream that I secretly held onto for a long time, but never believed that I could actually do it. I was too chicken to just train and sign up for one all by myself and the people that did run them seemed, well, way out of my league.
Then, whilst running (and chatting!) with a friend, she threw into the conversations that she was going to sign up for one! Whaaaa? I quickly said that I wanted to do one, too, and asked if I could train with her! She was thrilled to have company and it was such an exciting day for me! She had this little sheet of paper that laid out our weekly training mileage and I just did what she said we needed to do on each run! I remember my first, “longest” run of eight miles! I was elated, and not exhausted, surprisingly! I also felt a tremendous sense of pride…
I know it was only eight miles, but doing that made me believe that I could do anything! I think I carried these feeling around me all day, all week, and until my next long run. (Maybe this is where the addiction started?)
I remember the day I filled out the registration form and signed my check…ready to submit it before the fees went up. I sealed the envelope and stared at it on my kitchen table. I felt like I needed a ceremonial moment of contemplation before taking it out to the mailbox. I wanted to scream, jump up and down, and cry all at the same time, however, I simply placed it in the mailbox and put the little red flag up. Then I just stood there and became bullied by these little monsters inside of my head…
“What have you just done?”, Sensibility questioned.
“What makes you think you can actually do this?”, Doubt asked.
“What if you don’t finish“, asked Pride.
“What if it is really painful?, wondered my Body.
“What if you are too slow?”, asked my Ego.
It’s a good think I have a stubborn side!
I simply turned to go back into the house and, as my heart raced in my chest, I silenced the voices in my head. I was ready to conquer the world that day! I had just signed up for my first marathon!! I was excited!! I didn’t care if people thought I was crazy! I had already made up my mind that I was going to finish and it didn’t matter how long it was going to take me! So there!
Back then, marathons were not quite as common as they are today. This was before the big sponsorships took over and registration fees were really not that expensive. I don’t even recall very many 1/2 marathons in existence. I went straight from running a 5K to a full marathon. I had next to zero race experience…so I had a lot to learn and the learning curve was going to be pretty steep!
My friend and I continued on her training plan. We hit all the classic landmark benchmarks and peaked with a 20 miler. That was incredible! We had a beautiful route planned out and filled up our water bottles with Gatorade and brought a couple of gels. (I really had no idea what I was doing and gagged on the gels!) From there we tapered and psyched ourselves up for our big day!!
Attending the Expo was exciting and I couldn’t believe that I was holding a bag with my marathon bib number inside!! Marathon!! I was nervous as I scoped out all of the other runners. Checked out the booths with all kinds of merchandise and went home to eat my pasta dinner and try to get a good night’s sleep (right…).
The next morning I was up and at ’em getting all of my stuff together. I ate a bagel with some peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon. I must have been feeling pretty confident because I offered to drive my friend and some other runners. We chatted all the way to the busses and, once on the bus, continued to chat all the way to where the race would start. Man, that felt like a really long time on the bus…and we were supposed to run all the way back to complete this thing?? (gulp…)
December in Tucson is mild compared to many other parts of the country, however, it is still cold!! It was maybe 30 degrees Fahrenheit that morning and we had on our “throw-away” clothing over our running clothes. I observed what other runners were doing to stay warm, like wearing giant trash bags?? Hmmm, who would of thought of that?? Then there were the runners with shorts and tank tops on…that looked miserable to me!
Sure enough, the music at the start pumped us up, we held our hands over our hearts for the national anthem, and then we were off!! My breathing felt heavy and my heart rate felt too high. I needed to relax. I needed to warm up! The beginning was full of rolling hills at the base of our beautiful mountains, the Santa Catalinas. The scenery was magnificent as the sun continued to rise and warm up the wintery air.
A few miles into it, I was definitely warming up. I stripped off the big sweatshirt I was wearing and threw it onto one of the piles of clothing to be donated along the road. My friend and I decided to stick together for the entire run…no matter what! We talked, I memorized some jokes to amuse her, we listened to music on our walkmans! Okay, I’m really going to date myself here, but I listened to a cassette tape that I flipped several times during the run!! Can you believe it?? It must have weighed a ton on my hip, but it did help!
At mile 13, her boyfriend met us and we gave him our pants and gloves…too nice to throw away! We both had shorts on underneath knowing that it was going to warm up as we ran. He took a few pictures of us and gave my friend a kiss and we continued on our second half of the journey. Funny how much can change on the second half of a marathon. Stomach issues, mood, knees, feet, mood, blisters, chafing, mood…are we almost done yet? Why did it take so long to get to the next mile marker now? The first 13 seemed to fly by and now time seems to be slowing down. Was this some cruel joke?
I was actually feeling okay, but my friend…..well, she was struggling. I tried being sweet, optimistic, funny, helpful…but it all seemed to annoy her. So, I tried being silent. That was kinda working. I listened to my cassette player with headphones and just kept running. We figured out ahead of time that if we kept a 10 minute mile pace, we should finish in 4:30. We were getting close to the end and I was feeling great! Excited! Giddy! My friend was slowing down a little, struggling with each step. So, I made the decision to run at my pace and finish! I passed a lot of runners and walkers. (I’m sure they wondered where I had come from!) I looked for my family in the crowd, but couldn’t see them. I kept my eye on the prize and crossed that finish line! What an unforgettable feeling! I had silenced all of those little monsters in my head that doubted me and proved them wrong…Sensibility, Doubt, Pride, Body, Ego!
I wanted to cry and cheer even through my legs felt wobblier now that I wasn’t running, I couldn’t stop smiling. They snipped off the chip (this was before the disposable kinds we have today), handed me a bottle of water and put my medal around my neck! I tried to keep walking as best as I could. I saw my family and couldn’t believe how emotional I felt! I hugged them all tighter than ever. I had this renewed sense of appreciation for their love and support. I thought about them all so much during that race…not that they had any idea. They were proud of me, but also annoyed by the crowds and parking, etc. We hung out with my friends, ate, took pictures. It was so awesome and I knew instantly that I was hooked!
My friend finished about 5 minutes after me and was happy to be done. I don’t think she was in love with the whole thing like I apparently was. She went on to do a few more marathons and then decided 1/2 marathons were more to her liking. I just wanted to do it again and get better at it in the process.
The next day I got to know soreness at a whole new level. I forgot to mention that this was a downhill course, so my quads were toast! I didn’t know you really had to train to run downhill, I thought it was going to make the whole experience a little easier! Live and learn, right!
Last week, I just completed my 11th Tucson Marathon which is my 31st marathon. Even though the course has changed a bit over time, the experience is still just as awesome! Running a marathon gives me such a sense of accomplishment and pride. It still makes me feel like I can do anything. I had my second fasted marathon time and placed 3rd in my age group which was just a bonus to the whole marathon experience. Those little monsters still reside inside of my head, however there are louder voices that I choose to listen to instead, and they are called Confidence and Faith. Those are the voices that have brought me further along in my journey and they are welcome to accompany me anytime.