Did I ever say how much I love running? There are so many reasons (I will have to list those in some later post) but my absolute number one and number two are being able to chat with girlfriends and being able to "chat" with God. Crazy I know, but when I run I pray. Many times I am praying to just get through to the next mile or to be able to make it home around the bend but more often than not, I pray for guidance and for protection and for peace.
This year I was blessed (and I say blessed because the St. George Marathon is a draw with less than a 50% chance of getting in) with being able to get into the Marathon with 2 amazing gals -- Gina (the endorphin hill junkie) and Heidi (the true blue running guru). We braved the early morning 4:45 am runs 4 to 5 times per week in the snow and ice, the 50+ mile per hour winds, running on trails with wild animals (and one big huge honking can of BEAR spray) and lots and lots of crazy injuries (I had extensive blood clots, 2 vascular surgeries, quad strain and one posterior tibialis rupture) to prepare for the great event. During that time we also adopted Cami, the running gazelle, and then a whole group of drop-dead, gorgeous ladies (Becky, Rena, Sandy, Sydette, Amy, Annette) named the Running Divas. Shall I say torturous fun?
Race day October 2, 2010. My awesome, supportive Dad (knowing exactly what you need on race day because he has been there too) woke up to drive me to the race. We knelt in prayer together asking for strength, he gave me my all-time favorite quick neck rub and then soothed my nerves with some fatherly advice to not to overdo it and if I am in pain, just hitch a ride with the injured runner van (hey, that might be fun -- never done that before--he, he). Then phone calls from mom, one after the other, wanting so desperately to be present but having to work, wanting to make sure I was going to be safe and wanting to make sure that I knew she loved me.
4:45 am I boarded the bus to ride the long ride up the hill to the starting line. It was warmy-chilly waiting 1 1/2 hours for the starting gun to sound in the hills of Vernon just 26.2 miles away from the city. Piles and piles of runners were wrapped in silver blankets, laying around the fires rubbing Vaseline on lips, thighs and just about any place you didn't want to get chaffed. Pre-race excitement was so thick -- you could just feel it everywhere around you. More calls, more texts from Ian, Shannon, Karen, Mom, Annie, Dave, Annelise. Time to turn in the phone and line up.
Finally, side by side with Heidi and Gina, we heard the gun sound the start and started slowly making our way to the starting line. Heidi quickly pulled ahead (wanting to break 4 hours -- that's running under 9:10 pace for the entire marathon). Mile 2, Gina was feeling good and was making her move. I was all on my own. Immediately I started to pray (you see, just 2 weeks to the day, I ruptured my posterior tib tendon and wasn't even able to walk on my foot until Thursday before the race) and felt the strongest reassurance that I would make it to the end without pain. Mile by mile I prayed, just chatting with God, thanking Him for all my blessings and asking for direction. Occasionally I sparked up conversations with passersby (just when I started to get really tired) and was edified by each discussion -- giving me strength to continue. Ususally, I would listen to the downloaded general conference talks of years past -- this always gives me a little extra umph (even better than listening to rock music -- FUNNY). Counting down mile by mile.
Mile 8, Veyo hill, over 1.5 miles of uphill torture! Slow down. Take it easy. This is where more posterior tib injury would occur.
Mile 10, Awesome! Made it up the hill PAINFREE!!!!!!!! YIPPPEEEEEEE!
Mile 13, alright, 1/2 way there. Need a little pick me up -- time to listen to general conference.
Mile 18, oh YEAH! This is my longest training run and I am still feeling good. Still listening to conference, still praying.
Mile 18 1/2. Stopped talking then started listening. Over 1 1/2 miles of uninterrupted instruction from the Lord. Nothing more amazing, more clear, more calming than that!
Then at mile 20, as soon as I ended my prayer and was ready to hunker down for the last 10K, I heard my name being called out in desperation. It was Gina, hurt and downtrodden. She was unsure if she could make it. Here knee was ready to give way. So I stayed behind -- walking and running together for the last 10 K to the finish line.
Even with Gina by my side, I was getting really exhausted -- my legs were tightening, my strength was diminishing,the 90+ degree heat was zapping all my energy. Being too tired to talk out loud, Gina and I separated by a few yards. I knew I just had to focus on finishing. Keep on going. Keep on moving one foot in front of the other.
Mile 23 grabbed cups of Gatorade and water. So Thristy! Keep on running.
Mile 24 given two cold wet towels. So refreshing. Keep on praying.
Mile 25 keep on going, only 1.2 miles left. So tired. Wanna walk. Come on, I can do this. Keep on running.
Mile 25.2 "Jen,"I heard my name being called by a beautiful blond with a thick bouncy ponytail standing on the roadside. "Jen...." thinking to myself, Wow, that is cool that this beautiful girls is cheering for another gal running with my same name -- I will just pretend she is cheering for me. I kept on running.
Then again "Jen...." as that cute blond looked directly at me and waved fiercely and smiling wholeheartedly. I turned my head around to see if there was another gal running beside me waving back at her -- Nope, nobody but me.
Then again, even louder, I heard "Jen.... It's me Karen." Leaning forward, focusing in, I finally recognized that the beautiful blond was my amazing baby sister K. She quickly came over to me and started running beside me in her flip flops. "You're almost there.... You're going to make it.... You're so amazing, you can do this...." For a mile she gave me all I needed to keep going. Then when she could not run along side of me any longer, I sprinted with all my might, unable to feel my legs but knowing that they were propelling me forward, until I heard my Dad, Mike and Heidi yelling my name, cheering me to the finish. I MADE IT!!!!! I MADE IT!!!!! Nothing short of a miracle. I MADE IT!!!!!!! In the end, it was broken down little ol' me running it across the finish line with the most fabtabulous, awesomeist cheerleaders surrounding me with hugs and phone calls and texts and prayers, all congratulating me on this major accomplishment.
Now, I have run 3 marathons, 2 half marathons, and dozens of other races, but this one was special. I may not have run as fast as I would like or have had the best finish, but this race is one that I am most proud of finishing -- I know that my ability to finish was indeed a MIRACLE.
BTW -- like my crazy CEP pink compression socks -- only the BRAVE and the strong can wear these puppies (he, he). They are my favorite. Ya'll gotta try them.