[This post has been re-written to replace my first Phoenix Marathon recap blog post from May 2016, which was unfortunately lost after my blog was mistakenly deleted. Sadly, I also lost all the wonderful comments and well-wishes that followed this memorable post.]
“Leave the past behind you… I know you can do this. Trust your training, trust your instinct, and don’t let fear keep you from accomplishing your goal.” (Part of the letter Jordan had written for me to find the morning of the marathon.)
As I woke up at 3:00 am on the morning of the marathon, I was surprised to feel as calm as I did. I had gone to sleep at 7pm the night before after preparing all my necessities for the race. My leg was doing really well, and the blisters on my foot had healed completely. I felt ready for the day. I allowed myself about an hour to eat, get ready and ponder over what was about to happen that day.
Once I arrived at the start line, and after taking the longest bus ride of my life, I started to absorb the nervous energy and excitement of the runners around me. I decided to find the pacer with my goal time and hang out until the national anthem played and the fireworks went off. Even though I did not know anyone around me, I felt incredibly lucky to be a part of this group of runners. As I watched the sun lighten up our course and looked out over the view of the valley below, I knew that this marathon would not be my last even though the race had yet to begin.
From mile 1 to 6, we had a four-mile descent and then a two-mile semi-tough ascent (the only uphill portion of the course). I knew the incline was coming so I adjusted my pace accordingly. The view during this part of the course was incredible. My legs felt really good through these initial miles and my pace was right on track for my 4:30 goal.
From miles 7 through 13, I continued to stay on goal pace as the course flattened out but was still going downhill. I got to see some of my family at miles 9, 10, and 13, which gave a big boost to my energy.
I hadn’t expected to see them so early in the race and it made me surprisingly emotional to feel their support. My cute nieces and nephews made signs and cheered me on.
Once I hit the half marathon mark I began to feel a little fatigue set in. The course really flattened out and I started to wonder if I could stay on pace. The heat started to develop as well which didn’t help. It was supposed to be unseasonably warm – 88 degrees for the high and it was only February. I tried to simply focus on completing each current mile instead of wondering how I was going to finish the next 13. It was at mile 15 that I first saw Jordan and realized that he had a surprise in store for me throughout the race. He was wearing a purple (my favorite color) T-shirt with “Team Mo” largely printed on the front.
By mile 17, my pace had slowed enough that I knew I wasn’t going to make my goal time. Nevertheless, I felt proud that I was still running and I felt ok despite feeling fatigued. Miles 18 and 19 passed and I was looking forward to seeing Jordan again at mile 20. Little did I know that he had arranged for my entire family to be there, cheering, waving signs, and encouraging me to keep going. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have never felt so much gratitude, humility and love as I did at that moment. Maybe it was the heat and exhaustion that magnified my emotions, but all I could think about was how lucky I was to have such wonderful people in my life.
Then, I remembered that I had six more miles left…
“Keep running,” I told myself. “You can rest when it’s over.” Those final six were the toughest miles by far that I have ever run. My body was capable of running, but my mind was struggling. I allowed myself to run/walk between miles 21 and 25. My family knew I was tired and arranged to meet me at every remaining mile. I managed to push myself and run through mile 26. The home stretch felt really long as I pushed my pace as much as I could.
I smiled and cried as I saw the finish line. I did not care what my time was. I had finished.
When I first began this running blog, I believed that completing a marathon would most likely be the culmination of my running quest. However, after having completed my first marathon, I feel like this is really just the beginning of my running venture. It’s funny because I remember thinking as I wrote down my goals three-ish years ago that running a marathon might be a once in a lifetime event for me because I have lymphedema. Now that I am at this point of having completed a marathon, I find myself thinking about loftier goals.