I'm still not sure that actually happened. That was the immediate thought that went through my mind as I crossed the finish line. And again as I was sitting on a cooler full of beer with my fellow finishers. And again as I was walking to my car. And again as I (slowly) got out of bed the next morning. And here I am, days later, still not entirely sure that just happened … I finished a marathon.
And I know it happened, I have the medal and the sunburn to prove it, but it still doesn't feel real, not all the time, at least. My coaches and fellow veteran runners tell me this is common, many runners even experience what is called the post-marathon blues, that weird feeling when all the early wake-up calls, long runs, nutrition plans and post-training social events come to an end. I'm not feeling that yet, but I am still feeling this weird sense of disbelief that I really just accomplished a full marathon.
As I said in my goals blog a few months back, I was never one for goal setting or long-term planning. I certainly wasn't an active child or young adult, opting to spend my time in front of a video game, TV, computer, whatever screen I could park myself in front of, so to see pictures of myself crossing that finish line … I've just been staring at them the last couple of days thinking, "I really did that?"
I really did. And it was ridiculously tough too. I trained for this for five months, I ran two 20-mile dress rehearsals that went pretty well and thought it wouldn't be that bad, but it was the hardest thing I've ever done. It didn't help that the weather was probably 20 degrees hotter than anything I trained in, or that the sun came out at mile 10 and there's literally zero shade after mile 18 (minus the glorious four seconds of running beneath an underpass), but even despite the conditions, it was just really, really tough.
There were numerous times I didn't think I'd finish. I knew there was no way I'd let anyone take me off the course, but I started to get in my head about passing out or getting sick, even inches away from the finish line, I thought I was going to collapse right there. Some say the mental struggle is worse than the physical and I don't know if I'd go that far, the physical part is pretty rough, but you definitely get in your own head.
But you just keep running (or walking, I did a lot of that), one foot in front of the other and you'll get those micro boosts of energy. A second wind. A third. A fourth. You find yourself able to dig down and just force your body to make it to that fire hydrant, the next water stop, that cute puppy up there – I counted 195 dogs, a cat and a pig on the route, BTW.
So if I can do it, anyone can … as long as you want to. I don't think there's anything wrong with not wanting to run 26.2 miles; I certainly don't think I'll ever do it again. But maybe it's a 5K, 10K, half marathon, whatever you want to do, the emphasis is on want.
What do I want to do now? Well, literally one day later, I signed up for the 3-Way with Extra Cheese for Flying Pig Weekend 2019: Little Kings Mile, 5K, 10K, Half Marathon. I'm not done yet!