The Story of the Marathon—Finishing

Mile 23 marker laughed at me. I could hear that dumb sign laughing at me, so I turned my music up louder. Stayin’ Alive met I will Survive and I chuckled and breathed in deep. The Play List saves and then it doesn’t. The day I trained for 20 miles was the longest run of my life. I planned out the hours. First, I’ll listen to music. Then I’ll listen to a podcast. Then I’ll go back to music, and so on and so on. I remember getting to 15 miles in that training run, and I was just plain tired of listening to anything. Just as I was yanking out my ear buds, I saw a guy on a bike getting close to me. I didn’t pay much attention until he slowed down and rode right with my running pace. It was my friend Dave from the runners club. I laughed as I breathed out and told him how much further. He asked me about my nutrition and reminded me to eat a gel at that point. I got one out and started to chew on it. He kept talking and talking. I released him from having to ride with me, but I think he knew that I was struggling. He encouraged me to do some stride outs to fix my gait, and I did and it helped. I hadn’t realized how tight I was. I finished that 20 miles feeling pretty good thanks to help from a fellow runner. Sometimes you just need some help.

I shook my head and was blinking back to the present. I was passing a medical tent, and there were two runners inside injured with medical people helping them. The agony on their faces was tough to take and not at all about a foot or a calf of which each was holding. I felt their agony of being so close, and it sunk down deep into me that their race was over. And then I saw mile marker 24 and I realized…..my race was not over. I glanced down at my watch; adrenaline shot through me. My tired legs began to find some rhythm; I began to feel everything and nothing all at the same time.

The race path turned left and then left and then we were back in the city; the side lines began to crowd up and the race path began to narrow. I became aware of how soaked I was from four hours of sweating and working and rubbing and struggling and chafing. I had to shake that off….just a little further. The crowds cheered and the words they produced collectively invigorates.

And there it was—mile 25. My heart jumped….one more mile! The sobered, pain aware part of me reminded me of the .2 miles that I had left off in my excited heart-jump. The inside mind conversations that I have are one of my favorite parts about running long distances. Suddenly I knew, I had a lot left in this body. I could go farther. Farther than 1.2 more miles. But how far? I didn’t know….but I knew at that point I conserve a lot on the unknown possibility of running out.

I began to stretch out my stride. I ripped out my ear buds and shoved them in my little pouch. I breathed in and out. My arms stretched out. My feet and legs hesitated at first, but then they too found their rhythm in my breathing. My feet pounded the ground. I couldn’t feel them. I just ran. It felt so good to run. What a funny thing to think on that last mile! It feels good to run!

And then it was there and I could see it and I couldn’t believe it and then I was through that finish line and trying to wrap my head around it.

But my feet were slowing down, and tears were running down my face. And everyone was telling me great job, you did it! A race worker held my arm gently to stop me and put my medal around my neck. I was holding it and crying and grinning like a fool. And we all were ushered inside and someone took my photo. I called my family who were at a rodeo in Uvalde and cried and yelled that I did it. They were all so excited. And then someone handed me an ice cream sandwich and I ate it. I went in the T-shirt line and received my finisher shirt. Someone handed me a chocolate milk and I drank it. I felt happy and stiff and automatic and unreal all at once.

I kept moving until I found my sister in law. She had been in the medical tent. She had not had a good race, but she was dealing with it. She was happy for me. I had exceeded my own expectations for my time. We hugged and cried together. And then we picked up her shirt. After cleaning up, we had a big meal together before heading home. It was a great end to a long training and a long race.

When’s your next one? I hear a lot and I even heard it that day. But I wouldn’t even think about it. I let myself just bask in that finish line. I mean, you know what it meant to cross it, right?

But you also know it wasn’t really about the finish line.

All the way on the drive home, I squinted hard into all that training, all that sweating, and all that planning….trying to find the moment I learned the most, or I accomplished the most or I was humbled the most. And its like I couldn’t describe a piece of this experience without all the other pieces, and I wouldn’t trade one for the other. I learned so much…about me, about limits, from the road, from podcasts, about running, about life, from other runners, about breathing, and so many more things.

The first marathoner (in the history books) died at the end of his race having delivered the message he needed to give. So, let’s go on a race, shall we? A race to give the message we are meant to give. I assure you…every piece will be worth something in the end.

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The Story of the Marathon Part 3

So 15 miles went by me and 16 did also. I kept running like Forrest and I was enjoying every minute. And while I pounded onto mile 17, my mind wandered to the memory of training…of running 16 miles the day after Thanksgiving. It started like this.

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It was the most ill prepared training run that I did. I had had too much food and drink the night before, but I was sticking to my training plan no matter what. I didn’t have enough KT tape to tape my feet and my good socks were dirty. I set out that morning ready for a long haul, and 6 miles in found myself in a common situation for runners. I had to go. And I was in the middle of nowhere. On a highway. All I can say is that I’m thankful to the rancher whose pasture I borrowed in a little grove of trees. I felt like a fugitive; it was an emergency.

I ran and ran on that training run until I could feel the blister forming on the bottom of my foot. It was the longest I had ever run, and I struggled hard from mile 14 on. I remembered the very moment my watch said 16 miles, I slowed to a walk. My muscles had tightened and I bent over to stretch…then I saw that tears were coming out of my eyeballs. Then I noticed that I was sobbing actually and I couldn’t pull myself together. My husband had come to pick me up in his truck at that point, and with a look of concern asked why I was crying and what was wrong. I shook my head. I didn’t know. My feet had hurt like hell at that point, but not enough to cry. I cried for awhile and then I stopped and I was okay. I just needed ice for my feet. I felt so released.

Jolting myself back to the present, I saw that 17 mile marker flow passed my line of vision. I grinned….I had gained some grit along the way in all that training. I looked around me again, and the same folks I had seen before were in front and behind me. I also saw a member of the sideline crowd with a sign that said, “Run fast, in two weeks, Trump will have nukes!” I laughed loudly, and I exhaled long, satisfied with my pace and feeling connected to people. I made a quick pit stop…as quick as I could realizing how tight my muscles were getting. It was hard to get going again, but eventually I found my rhythm. I don’t remember much about mile 19, but passing 20 was triumphant. I had heard all these stories about how people break down at 20 and start crying and walking. I was feeling alright, and I was beginning to get excited about how this race was going to end for me.

Then I passed mile 21, and my legs began to ache. My feet were starting to cry out, and I thought about how far away mile 22 was. So. very far. All my bravado at 20 was gone, and then I saw the beer stand. Just what the doctor ordered right? The smiling man shoved the beer cup in my hand as I kept running, and I drank it fast, sloshing most of it out. It did help some, but I kept thinking how long the park in Houston must be for it to go on and on and on. I knew that the city had to be coming up at some point, right?

I felt around in my runners pouch and my fingers wrapped around an energy chew. I’m mostly an energy gel person, but I had brought one chew to mix it up. I popped that chew in my mouth, and started chewing. It was tough to get it down, but it helped me increase my speed to get to mile 23. I heaved a sigh of relief seeing that dumb 23 but then my tired old brain freaked me out with the thought of 3 more miles! 30 more minutes of running! Good God! I had to make it. I couldn’t tank in the end. I was out of nutrition. I was out of motivation. I was out of grit.

And so…I turned to the playlist…

To be continued…

The Story of the Marathon Part 2

So, I guess I’m still at the 10K mark right? You’ll have to forgive the delay. Blame it on rodeo. Seriously. We are in the State Finals right now. Serious business. Here’s the map so you can get my drift.

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The 10K sign was welcomed, and I found myself in rhythm with the road. I was watching my running watch pretty close, and I was happy with my pace. I relaxed into the run, and I began to observe first the surroundings and the atmosphere. It was a nice view as we ran out of the downtown area and into the city. It was humid and the coolness was dissipating.

At this point I started to notice the other runners around me. There was a younger lady a little in front of me who was keeping a nice pace. There was a purple haired gal to the left of me. I saw the packages of nutrition gels on the ground in front of me. I noticed the middle aged guy who was keeping my pace with me. I smiled. We were all in this together.

Suddenly there were signs and workers pointing to the signs of the course separation between the half-marathoners and the wholes. “We are the Champions” began playing in my ear buds from my carefully crafted race list. I waved to the halves and turned right with the wholes. I felt a little pride that I was moving on from that race distance to this new goal. I felt strong as I pulled out an energy gel to take in. I was glad for the advice my new friends in the Runner’s Club had given me about nutrition. I didn’t want to become depleted of electrolytes, and gels and water seem to work well for me.

When I reached the half marathon distance, I remembered my very first Half-Marathon Race a few years ago and how accomplished I had felt when I ran the Tyler Rose Half Marathon in memory of my mom. I thought about the year I ran the half marathon in Dallas and how sick I was that day and how my ankle was badly bruised and taped up. I had a good time that day even though I had to use my inhaler to get through.

Half way there rang through my mind, and I was excited and energized by how my muscles were performing. Then I reached the 14 mile mark, and I remembered my 14 mile training run. I had started in the park and run 7 miles with the runner’s club, grateful for the conversation with new friends. The last 7 I had looped around the park and our downtown in the cold wet, and I was slow and sluggish and feeling like I didn’t fit in marathon training. And yet, somehow I had continued to train through the sluggish, through sickness, through rain and ice, through kids’ schedules, and on and on.

I heard my name, “C’mon Katie! Let’s go Katie! You’re doing great!” a crowd member cheered to me. I looked down and saw my name on my bib. I looked back up grinning like a fool and found tears coming to my eyes. Wow. Encouragement. Never underestimate the power. Or the power of the moment you need it and don’t even know.

And then I was beside them. I had seen her earlier, the runner with the jogging stroller. But, I hadn’t looked on or really seen her. And all of a sudden, we were running together. She kept one hand on the stroller and reached down to adjust the sunshade on the man in the stroller. He looked like he had maybe cerebral palsy or something similar. At this point we are at the 15 mile marker, and I marveled at her strength. He looked tired too, and he pushed his neck over to look at me. His eyes met mine, and he smiled big. It was the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and the most encouragement I’ve ever received. Tears fell down my cheeks and it took me a moment to feel them. I was overwhelmed by gratefulness. I was still running, and I said thank you to the lady pushing my new friend. She gave me a thumbs up and said, “We are all going to cross that finish line, right?” I nodded.

I flashed back at my attempt 15 years ago to run a mile with a jogging stroller with a baby in it. How weak I was. How easily I gave up. How lazy I was.

I wondered but I knew in my heart how she was doing it. Determination, commitment, discipline, love. It’s all you need.


To be continued….

The Story of the Marathon

Five months, I had trained, I thought as I sat in the green portapotty doing my pre-race thing, appreciating the cleanliness. I had done everything right the day before….ran a mile to loosen up, ate carb-heavy, didn’t stay on my feet, and early to bed.  I had reveled in picking up my marathon packet and number. Then my sister-in-law and I carefully applied our tattoos.  I had slept horrible. My running watch so nicely described that I had only 1 hour of deep sleep. Thanks, Garmin. How does it know anyway? That’s what I’d like to know.

I finished my business, and moved out into what was a sizeable crowd in the what I thought was respectable “C” Corral. My sister-in-law had moved on to the “A” Corral where the serious runners are.


My hand moved down my taped leg as I stretched slowly wondering what this day would be like. The crowd was gathering, and the portojohn lines were crazy long. The announcer was blaring and the gun went off. I squinted through my corral barriers trying to see my sister in law as they let out the “A” group. There were so many people running this race. The crowd pressed in on all sides as friends chatted about their goals. I was glad I was alone. I caught the eye of the stranger next to me. We both smiled nervously and then we both took a deep breath. I chuckled. Let’s go already, I breathed.

And then finally, it was our turn. We all started walking out of the corral toward the starting line, and then as one big mob, the jog started, and then the announcer was talking to us and I was across the starting line. Here we go!


Almost immediately, the bruise on my left quadricep began to throb with each pound of my foot. I had fallen in my last training…tripped by some dumb wire at the park. It was so ridiculous and frustrating, but I had that damn injury iced as much as it could be and now taped up like a champ. I talked to the leg…settle in, come on, you’ve got this, get over it, just give me 5 hours…you get it.

My heart was pounding. This is going to be a long adventure, I said to myself, breathe and go! So, I did. By the 2nd mile, I couldn’t feel the pain anymore in the leg, and I was going at a pretty good pace. Mile 3, 4 and 5 went by pretty quick, and then–there–the big sign said 10K. I finally felt my breathing smooth out and I ran past the sign feeling consistent and steady.

To be continued….