Thursday, May 26, 2011

Goal #2 48 states, biggest to smallest

I had two goals to accomplish before my 30th birthday in October, and randomly, I found that they could both be completed in May. While not usually one to get things done so far ahead of time, I have accomplished my goals over 4 months ahead of schedule!

Goal #1: Run a marathon. I won't write any more about that. Mission accomplished.

Goal #2: Visit all 48 contiguous United States.

This second goal was not something I have been trying to do on purpose. It wasn't planned in any way, and it didn't really become a goal until I realized that it was actually possible to accomplish it with a little bit of fanangling.

Thanks to my two years with Youth Encounter and two years with Feed My Starving Children, both of which have allowed me to travel throughout the United States, I was up to 42 states for quite some time. What I lacked was the 6 New England states and Hawaii and Alaska. When I got my May schedule and saw that I was scheduled to work in New Hampshire, I knew that I needed to extend my stay and find a way to get to those New England states. I ended up spending two days driving around, seeing the beauty of my country's northeastern states.

Another interesting fact I realized was that my first state was the biggest in the 48 (I was born in Texas, and although Alaska is bigger it doesn't count as part of the 48) and my last state was the smallest (Rhode Island marked the last of the 48).

At this time, although I do hope to keep running marathons, I do not have plans to extend these goals to doing the Boston Marathon or to get to Hawaii or Alaska any time soon. :-)

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Final Count

I wanted to take a minute to update everyone on the generous donations. My ChipIn meter says that $403.20 (80% of the goal) was raised. However, I need to add that I received some donations directly as well, and the total raised was $533.68, which is enough to donate 2223 meals to Feed My Starving Children.

I was so thankful for the donations, the support as I trained, and the opportunity to write again and share my experiences.

I have no set plans for the future in regards to my running or fundraising, but I do hope to run another marathon again soon.

Again, thanks.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

3 days SINCE the race...

I'm almost back to normal! OK, I can walk mostly normal at least. I feel a lot better after a painfully sore weekend. The only obvious thing is the grimace I make when I stand up or sit down and I can't really do stairs yet... but I am feeling better enough to start dreaming and scheming about my next marathon! I do want to do it again, even though it was really hard and not very fun (i.e. brutally painful) for a couple of miles towards the end.

Looking back I can see how cool it was that I was able to finish, that I was able to keep running or walking even when I COULD NOT see how in the world I would be able to finish. I think the lessons that I had learned through my training helped me push through, and during the last 6 miles I saw a newer and fiercer determination in myself that I can appreciate a few days later.

I met some cool people as I ran, and in that sense I appreciate that I ran it alone instead of with a partner. I wouldn't have had the conversations that I did if I had been running with a friend. A woman in front of me had a friend join her around mile 20. She was really struggling, as we basically all were at that point, but he helped her to continue. I guess that is a common thing to do, to have someone join you and run a bit to help your mentality. While I think I would have benefitted from that, I am also glad to know that I CAN do it alone, that I did have it in me even though at that point I didn't think I did.

So for the few of you that might care, while I DO want to do another marathon, I don't know when my next race will be yet, or if the next one I do will be a marathon. The whole reason I did this marathon rather than one of the bigger and more known ones in the fall was that I will be student teaching in the fall, and I don't yet know how that will affect my schedule. So while I would like to do another one in the fall, I am not sure yet if I want to do 12 weeks or more of training only to start student teaching and find that there isn't time for a 10 mile run on a school day since teaching will involve so much prep and time at first (and always...). However, I am investigating the upcoming marathons in my area, and there is another small one that is on one of my running routes's on the list of possibilities.

I was looking at marathons online and found this quote on the Girls on the Run charity page. I think it is a great summary of some of the things I have felt during this experience.

Running makes you.

Running makes you happy, healthy, and strong. Running makes the girl inside you come out and play. Running makes you better. Sure, running makes you tired, sore and sweaty, but that’s because running makes you give it all. And when you do, running makes you unstoppable. Let’s face it: running makes you the super-duper ninja
bomb-tastic superhero you were meant to be. Running makes you all that.
Running makes you so much more!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mission Accomplished

Well, this morning was the marathon. I was excited, just ready to get started. The forecast included rain every hour, but those forecasters were wrong. The weather was absolutely perfect to run in, although the spectators were freezing. I saw the sunrise over a gorgeous Lake Michigan, and about an hour into the race, as the sun was high enough to start really heating things up, it went behind clouds and kept things cool. I even put a long sleeve shirt back on near the end of the race, something I pretty much never do. You probably don't care about that boring stuff though.

The actual race started really well for me. It felt good to be running again after tapering for awhile. I knew I was going at a faster pace than I thought I could keep up, but I just couldn't make myself slow down by more than 10 or 20 seconds per mile. The first half of the race went really well. If I had just been running a half marathon, it would have been a great one, probably a PR (personal record). At mile 12 the half marathoners turned around and finished their last 1.1 miles. That left the course very empty, which killed me because all the energy left with those guys. I found a group of runners, though, and started chatting with people, and things turned back around. The last 5 miles were really hard, but with some soul searching and a little hating all things that have to do with running, I somehow finished.

My favorite uplifters were the chants and cheers and music from the spectators and volunteers. It is amazing how hearing some cheers and cow bells could make my legs move faster. There was a guy playing a djembe (hand drum), he gets the award for best male spectator. Three sisters tie for best female spectators. They were in elementary school, and kept popping up at various points to cheer on their mom. They may be hoarse tomorrow, but they were the most supportive and always wanted high fives as I passed. If you know of a race coming up near you, please go and bring a cow bell or a drum or color a poster (best poster: "Smile if you aren't wearing underwear." Who could not smile when you read that, regardless of what you are or are not wearing?) Runners will really appreciate your enthusiasm, even if you don't know anyone who is running.

In my experience, your race time is really important to people. It's usually the first question people ask. Kind of like when you finish a soccer game, football game, etc. and people just want to know if you won. It's also often the first information that runners offer. Two of my friends decided not to tell what times they got on their marathon last fall, because they decided it wasn't about that for them. I have been thinking the same thing. I was very pleased with my time. I did much better than I expected to, and I am proud of my time. But I am not going to talk about it for now. If it is anything like my half marathons, I may forget the time within a few weeks or months anyway. If you really want to know, I am sure you will find a way to figure it out. But that's up to you, and I'd appreciate it if you don't post it on facebook :-)

As I've written before, I started this journey for the purpose of running a marathon. That was what it was all about. The end product. I wanted to do it before I turn 30. I didn't believe I could do it, but I wanted to try. I had some unexpected results. There's a cliche about things being about the journey instead of the end product. I really found the journey to be the most important thing. Parts of the race itself were a blur, and it kind of all runs together in my head already, only a few hours afterwards. But I haven't forgotten the lessons I learned about myself both today and through the training, and I hope I don't forget them. You can read more about that here and here.

Lessons today included finding more strength when I went way beyond whatever abilities I thought I had. My friend Dan told me that it isn't supposed to easy, and I had some time to think about that today. I found that comforting during the last half of the race, remembering that I have trained for this, and I can do it, but it won't be easy. I also found myself looking at people who were walking and looking kind of awful, and I saw that they were stronger than they thought they were. So I told them that. "You're stronger than you think you are right now. You can do this. You have it in you..." I said it a few times, but then I had to tell myself that same thing in the last few miles (numerous times). And it did help me to keep putting one foot in front of the other because of the lessons I had learned during training.

I am sore. I was sore before I even finished running. I look like an arthritic grandma when I walk, use stairs, or try to sit down or stand up. That will go away. But if you see me around, you can make fun of the way I walk this week. I will smile and be proud of myself for forcing those legs to keep moving so that I could finish my first marathon.

Thanks for reading these blog posts. Thanks for donating to Feed My Starving Children (for more info on that, read here.) Thanks for your support and facebook messages and text messages and emails, etc. I really appreciate it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

13 hours until the race!

The course has been driven, bib/time chip picked up. My electronic stuff is charging and I have taped my name on my shirts. My sweet mom knows right where to stand so that she can see me the most times without having to repark the car. It looks like a fun course with a lot of opportunity to see Lake Michigan, which was an incredible aqua blue today. What have I forgotten? I'm not sure yet. (Duh.)

I'm super excited and ready to start running! Thanks so much to those who have donated! (You can still donate for another week if anyone is interested.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

3.5 days until the race

The marathon is almost here, and I feel at peace about it. There are many things that could go wrong, some of them actually might happen. I know it sounds a little weird, but I have been trying to think of some of these possibilities, not to worry over them, but to reassure myself that even if ______ happened, I would still be ok. Even if it rains, even if my knees bother me, even if I trip on the clothing or cups that end up all over the ground during the race, even if I catch a cold, even if my ipod breaks, even if I can't finish the race or even if I can't start the race for some reason, I will be ok.

This hasn't been the journey I thought it would be. I thought it was all about the marathon itself. I thought it was about accomplishing this thing I thought I couldn't do. It turns out that the journey has been a game changer. I want to finish strong, I want to enjoy the race, I want to do my best, but even if I don't, I can't be sad. This has changed my mentality. I went from being a person who "could never run a marathon" to being a person who can run a marathon, a person who can stretch the limits, a person who can do more than I had originally thought.

This past weekend I spoke with a man who had recently run his first two marathons. His first marathon qualified him for the Boston Marathon, and his second was the Boston Marathon itself. As he talked about his experiences, his pacing, his times, I began to feel inadequate. I won't complete my first marathon anywhere near as fast as he did. I doubt I will ever qualify to run the Boston Marathon, and that isn't even a goal of mine. Should it be? Should I be concerned about speed? About pace? Will I be the last one out on this course, since it is a small marathon that I am running? I let these thoughts marinate in my head for about an hour.

Then I realized, I need to be true to myself and the things I have learned along the way. I am not running this marathon for speed. I don't run to compete against other people or to qualify for other races. I run for health, for sanity, to learn about myself, and to push beyond barriers that I place upon myself. I run because I like to run. I won't play the comparison game, and I will not wait until I can run faster before I sign up for a race. It would not be pushing my own limitations for me to wait until it is safe to run this, to wait until I am sure I can do it, or to wait until I think my time will be comparable with more people. That is not who I am or why I am doing this.

The marathon course has a number of points where people coming "back" will be passing the people still going "out". I don't know how to say that more clearly, but I will be almost constantly aware of the people who are going faster than me. I am glad that I got this chance to remember why I am running and who I am running for before the faster runners zoom by me. They are an inspiration. But they do not make me less of a runner.