Posted by: Sarah | October 19, 2008

many the miles…

I have never,  by any traditional definitions, been an athlete.  I did not play sports in high school, I hated running the four laps around the track in gym class for the presidential physical fitness mile test, and I only started casually running when I got to college in order to meet new people in my dorm and keep off the freshman-15.

Today, I completed my first marathon.  I wish there were words to describe the experience.  After I crossed the finish line of the Nike Women’s Marathon, and received my Tiffany’s finisher necklace, handed to me in a little green box by an incredibly sexy fireman, I burst into tears.    

Leading up to this weekend, it has been important to me and all my teammates that we were not only training for such a huge physically demanding test of endurance, but that we were doing so with Team in Training, supporting others who have fought much more difficult battles than we were trying to overcome.  I was very lucky that I did not have as close of a personal connection to the cause as many others do.  But it wasn’t until yesterday that any of us realized just how much we were a part of something bigger and how much all of our efforts had impacted the lives of others.

After hanging out with Jenna all afternoon, at a kick-ass concert in Golden Gate Park, I headed back downtown for our team meeting.  The 220+ runners and walkers who had flown out from NYC gathered to share one story after another that brought tears to my eyes.  Stories of parents, brothers, sisters, spouses, children who had lost their battle to Leukemia, Lymphoma or multiple Melanoma.  Inspiring stories of survivors.  Testimonies from teammates whom I had never known were survivors.  I had trained with them all season, they looked just as healthy as the rest of us, were often the ones leading the pack, and never let on the horror stories of chemo, radiation, and years of sickness they had gone through in order to get to where they are today.

Emotions were running high as we all headed over to the pasta party.  One of my mentors had mentioned earlier that walking into the dinner was the best part.  I had no idea what she could possibly be talking about until we entered the convention center.  The mass of coaches, mentors, and honored teammates from around the US wearing purple and green (TNT colors), applauding and cheering for us, many decorated in crazy costumes, was overwhelming.  We passed under a huge ballon wreath and went down the two story-high escalators and the cheering continued.  Our beloved NYC coaching team and LLS staff were blowing whistles and clapping for each of us, huge smiles plastered across their faces.  I have never received such a heart-felt, genuine welcome and feeling of gratitude in my life.  
Thousands of athletes, family and friends filed in behind us; it seemed as if they would never end.  The ginormous hall filled with people laughing and crying and I realized just how incredible this organization is.  We were finally able to meet Katie’s brother, a 22-year old cancer survivor, who we have heard about all season.  The speakers were phenomenal, congratulating everyone on their dual (fundraising & running) accomplishments and connecting everything so directly back to the cause.  I was touched that such well-known people in the running community, including writer John “The Penguin” Bingham, and the first-ever Olympic gold medalist in the women’s marathon, Joan Benoit Samuelson, were the honored speakers for the evening, as well as an incredible survivor story from TNT Ohio.  I can’t even begin to describe the effect that it had on all of us.  Everything was so well done.
The race was without a doubt the most physically challenging thing that I have ever done.  I ran the first 12 miles of the course with two of my close friends who were doing the half, until the course split, they headed for their finish line at the 13.1 mile marker, and I was on my own from there.  I knew that while the worst of the hills were behind me; it would be all mental from that point, pushing myself to keep running another few hours.  There were times throughout the course when all I could think was that I was crazy, that the human body was not designed to run 26.2 miles at once.  My energy level stayed high, but my hips started to ache and my knee felt like it was being twisted into a pretzel. There were times that I was running slower than I usually power walk around Manhattan.  I had synced my iPod with a playlist that reminded me of so many important times and inspirational people in my life which have led me to where I am today.  Tom Petty, U2, Juanes, Fonseca, Daddy Yankee, Big and Rich, Gwen Stefani, Bon Jovi, Rascall Flatts, Madhatters and all of the other classic 610 and Bros. songs that remind me of my roommates and best friends. That is what kept me running, kept me believing in myself until I crossed the finish line. 
  

Tina met me a little before mile 25 to encourage me and run me in when I could barely move my legs anymore. Ramon jumped on the course for the final stretch. Over and over throughout the season, I have realized just how lucky our team is to have a coach like him – he is one of the most amazing people I have ever met.  He was blowing a whistle and jumping up and down in front of us, making me laugh through the pain.   As he came up alongside of us, he looked us in the eye, and in all seriousness, told that he was proud of us and that it had been an honor.  Then he told me to go cross the finish line, for I had earned it, and this was my moment.
  

This weekend has been like coming down off the high of an @ conference, where you share a life-changing experience with a group of incredibly inspiring individuals, and try as you may, you can’t fully describe it to others the way that you want to in order for them to understand exactly what you went through.
I hope that this is one of those experiences in life where you subconsciously forget just how painful it really was, because I definitely do not want this to be my first and last marathon.
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Responses

  1. chica im so f-in proud of you! i got chills reading your post. i know how hard you worked and its so inspiring knowing that in the end you made it all worth it.

    in other words, you are fabulous.

  2. now i want to run a marathon

  3. this kind of brought tears to my eyes. I am so proud of you. I’m so glad I got to be a part of your experience!

  4. […] the weekend memorable.  Kathryn and Tina, with whom I trained for my first TNT event last fall in San Francisco decided to road trip up to Lake Placid and cheer me on.  Amy, whom I hadn’t seen since we […]

  5. […] meant to be.  I rearranged my race plans, resigned myself to the fact that there would be no Tiffany’s finisher necklace this year, and knew that it was the best […]

  6. […] Elke has been one of my best running buddies since Day 1.  We joined TNT at the same time, ran our first marathon together in San Francisco, mentored together for TNT in 2009, completed the 9+1 program together, and more. […]


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