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… 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.


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.


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.


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….

What’s Cool

You know what’s cool? When you open the sliding glass door to your house and all you can smell is your old dog’s breath. Ugh. What’s really cool is that we can open the windows and let that funky business out.

Hi! You forgot about me didn’t you? Well, thanks. Traitors.

Wait, wait. I was just kidding. Don’t go anywhere. I’ve actually accomplished a lot the last few weeks. It’s just that blogging hasn’t been part of those accomplishments.  What’s cool is that you are reading this now! Yay!

Hey, you know what’s cool? Blue screens! I love blue screens! Not. Yes, I know it’s not cool to say “Not” after sentences anymore. I’ve had the cool briefing/press release very recently. If you need help, here’s what the cool kids in the house told me:

No one says “the bomb” anymore.Definitely not the “b-zomb.” I liked that one. Not. Also, you really should say “Psych!” to your kids. They feel disturbed. Also, you shouldn’t say someone dissed you or ratted on you or fronted you. Or phat. Yeah, you’re a little impressed that I know all these archaic slang terms, aren’t you? So, what’s cool, you ask? “Cool beans.” “That’s amazing!” “Cool.” You can say cool anytime you want. I don’t know why, but it’s a classic. Phew. I needed a word I could count on!

So, my blue screen and I were trying to blog earlier, but we just decided to hang out and watch the computer try to restore while saying in a weird, blue DOS-type way that it is crash dumping. Now, that’s not cool. Don’t ever say crash dumping again. Raise your hand if you want your computer to tell you it is crash dumping? I didn’t think so.

But, I’m back! And let me tell you what has happened. I ran a half-marathon!!!! It was my first one, and it was super fun. Since this isn’t a running blog, I can still be proud to tell you my time was 2:01! I trained for it (slowly)  since the summertime. The week of the race, people in my family started throwing up. Don’t you love being in this large family? It’s awesome. We share everything, but not this time. What’s cool is that I managed to avoid sickness and have fun at the race.

What’s very cool is that I’m nearing the end of my graduate school work! Instead of blogging, I’ve been writing a lot of papers. Cool, huh?

We are rodeo people. You already know that. But, what you didn’t know is that I’ve been converted. I’m really from the city. Except now I can saddle and feed and cinch up girths and buckle on spurs and hold goats. We go to a few rodeos and if you count in practice, this takes a lot of time. What’s cool is that our girls are doing very well at this rodeo sport, and I’m very proud of them.

The one-year anniversary of my mother’s death was this month. I was able to spend a good part of that day with my siblings. It was a hard day, and we ate together and went to the cemetery. A friend of mine mentioned to me that a day of remembrance is a whole-self thing. It’s tiring. What’s cool is that we were together and we remembered her well. We remembered what it was like a year ago. I remembered her hair and her hugs and her love and her voice. I remembered her bravery and how relieved I was that she wasn’t having to keep track of blood counts anymore. I still have her text stream on my phone, and I’m not ready to delete it.

What’s cool is that I’m writing a little book. I don’t actually think it will be little, but it won’t be big either. But, those are my reasons for not blogging. I miss ya. I really do. And, I plan to be here more often.

So, we’re cool, right?

Running from Cows

What I’m about to tell you is something I’ve been made fun of by most people in our family. You can laugh too. I have, and I do. Once upon a time I was at the family bay house enjoying fun and sun and mud with the fam. One morning I decided to take a jog. This is a good idea for anyone there. People make cakes all the time down there. And I think salt water makes you hungry all the time.

I started running until I came to a cattle guard, and I gingerly hopped over. The longhorn cattle were all bunched up together in the first pasture, and I was deep in prayer and thoughts as I was running. Suddenly I heard some stomping/running type noise, and I glanced around. To my horror, I saw the whole herd and yes even the babies running after me. They had a pretty good pace too. I was impressed. I was also afraid. I sped up and they did too. I ran to a fence pole, and I climbed up on top. They stopped all around me. They stared at me. My chest was pumping. “What do you want???” I yelled at them. I’ve never been afraid of cows. This was a first for me. I tried to be rational. It wasn’t working.

I sat there on my pole while they watched me silently. I thought how everyone will laugh when I tell them this. I wondered if I might be trampled before that. I was on that pole for awhile considering my options. The cows waited intently, never taking their gaze from me. Then, I looked down and saw that there was a gate I could close and keep them in that first pasture all from my pole! I started to move, and their staring eyes followed my every move. It’s not like I’m wearing red, I thought. (I told you I wasn’t been rational.)

I got the gate closed, and I hopped down on the other side. “Ha! You can’t get me now!!!” I said, triumphantly. I ran to the end of the road, and then I turned around. I wondered if they would be waiting for me. My heart started pumping as I got closer to the gate I had closed. They had spread out again, and as I opened the gate I promise you that not one cow looked at me.

Feeling cautious, I decided to nonchalantly walk through them instead of jog. My flight from danger had probably burned a lot of calories anyways. They didn’t pay any attention to me. Maybe they were disgusted by my fear. Halfway there, I sprinted back. I was finished with those cows for the day no matter what they thought.

I told my story to our family, and I got a few pats on the back. Most people laughed (I was laughing too) and some doubted my story. The consensus was they thought I had food for them. My husband’s grandmother told me I should have turned around and shooed them away. This didn’t make me feel smart.

I was reflecting on this occurrence in my life this morning as I was getting ready for church. I still go running at the bay. Those cows can’t keep me down. But, I have to admit to you that my heart pumps a little faster when I pass them. They have never chased me again. I guess I looked like I was packing food that day. I guess I didn’t need to run after all.

I sometimes feel like I run from cows in life and in faith…sparked by fear/instinct I run. I climb a pole for safety from nothing. I see a situation that I cannot explain away, and I settle for dull instead of engaged.  Perhaps I run from God’s love. It’s too intimate and engaging for us. We tend to just crucify that kind of love. I run from myself too. Does anyone ever really want to look in the interior mirror? Most days I probably just live for myself, my comfort, my family fun. That’s running too, right? What are your cows? Depression? Debt? Lack of faith in God? Sloth? Pain? Expectations of people to fulfill you in some way? Perfect Love? What is chasing you today?

How do we face the cows? Here’s the advice my loving family gave me. I think it’s good stuff, and I think most of it is in the Bible.

1. Quit your whining.

2. Get your shoes on and get back out there.

3. You can’t miss the view…it’s always worth the risk.

4. Go with a friend.

5. When in doubt, turn around and shoo them. This might involve yelling and waving of your arms. You can say, “Git!”

” It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 (NIV)