It’s only a goal if it’s your own

Assuming you know the story of My First MaraNot (if not go back and catch up, I’ll wait) . . .

Okay, now that we all know the story, there’s one line in there that turns out to be not-quite-so-true for me. When I said (repeatedly) and wrote (just the one time) “And, I still have a marathon to run!”, well, it turns out I didn’t really mean it. Okay I meant it in that ‘All the Kool Kids are saying/doing it!’ kinda way. But it turns out it wasn’t really so much a part of My Truth after all.

Those of you who are diehard, driven, The Goal is The Goal kind of folks might want to stop reading right now before you get to the ‘throwing up in your mouth a little’ part. Unless you already have and in that case: I apologize. Here’s a breath mint.

To say that I have been ambivalent about running for the past two months is an understatement of epic proportions. As I was sharing with my Sole Sister/RYL (Running/Yoga/Life) Mentor Tonia there was a day a couple weeks ago when I was sitting at my desk glaring at my gym bag when the thought “I’m just going to quit running” walked purposefully through my mind.
Followed by complete and utter silence.
There was no immediate outcry from The Parts of Me That Lurve Running.
There was nothing.
No argument.
No “But you’ve got Nashville coming up!”
Nada.
Zip.
Infinity x Zero = Crickets.
And that was the moment I realized that there was something seriously wrong.

The problem wasn’t running. I <3 Running! Really, I do!
I wrote more about running than my husband on Valentine’s Day!
If that’s not proof I don’t know what is.
But somewhere between Friday morning when I typed out that cherubic little missive to my sport of choice, and Saturday afternoon when Tonia texted me asking “Can you talk?” (or words to that effect) I realized that The Problem was The Goal.
Not MY Goal.
Rather the goal I picked up and took home that really wasn’t mine.

Here’s the deal. (Yes, I say that in actual conversation. Frequently.)
When St. Jude was cancelled I was upset.
Correction I was hurt.
Corrected correction I was hurt and disappointed.
Correcting the corrected correction: I was hurt and disappointed and angry.
I was robbed!
I’d spent six months of my life training to run that marathon and now It Wasn’t Happening!
Oh sure, I could have gone out on No-Longer-Race-Day and run the course – hundreds of people did and they had a blast!  But we had other things to take care of.
The next week there was very well put together Make Up Marathon I could have taken part of.  And I just couldn’t get into it.
I did neither of those things.
Because I spent six months of my life training to run That Marathon.
Nothing else.
Not the Run It Anyway Marathon, not the Make-Up Marathon, not even one of the three races we were given the opportunity to transfer our registrations to.
That Marathon.
The 2013 Memphis St. Jude Marathon.
And It Didn’t Happen.
Not because I couldn’t do it or because I didn’t feel like it.
The event simply didn’t happen.  (For completely valid reasons.)

In all, 100%, complete, total honesty my first reaction was “Okay, well, it isn’t meant to be.” And I was okay with that.
Until everyone around me started saying (to be encouraging and supportive) “So you’ll Find Another Marathon to do? Right? Right!! Yay Julianne! Ewe can dew eet!”
And because I didn’t want to be A Quitter, and because I didn’t want to let everyone else down, I Found Another Marathon! And I registered and I set up a training plan based on the one we’d used before and even with having to have one of my 2,000 parts forcibly evicted (removed, surgically, it was my gallbladder, not my brain) I had more than enough time to recover and train and Run My Marathon in April!
Only that wasn’t ‘My Marathon’.
It was Everybody Else’s Marathon.
I had been perfectly okay releasing my Marathon Dream to “Eh, it happens!” and move forward to my stated goals for 2014 that centered around reducing my times in shorter races and embracing my Inner Halfer.
But I said I was Running A Marathon!
And Everybody expected me to Run A Marathon.
Many of my running buddies dove headlong into the next closest-on-the-calendar Marathon and did it! Others opted to get into trail running, and some into really long trail running. I admire each and every one of them for what they’ve done.  Especially those really long trail running people.  (They’re crazy, but it’s that admirable kind of crazy.)  Sometimes admiration is the sincerest form of flattery, not imitation.
And when I finally said, out loud, to Tonia “I really don’t think I want to train for and run a marathon, any marathon” I felt like the weight of the expectation of a thousand expectated expectations were lifted from my shoulders.

Because here’s the thing: Nobody – not one person runner or non-runner – ever said to me “Okay Julianne I/we expect you to run another marathon or you will be dead to me/us!”
Nobody threatened to take away my Asics or all the miles I’d put in training or the fact that I love running or even the really cute skirt I’d bought Just For That Race if I didn’t find some other marathon to run.
*I* did that to me.
*I* put that expectation of an expectation on me. And them. But mostly on me. On their behalf. Wasn’t that good of me?

There’s nothing wrong with saying “Okay, that race didn’t happen” and taking that as the answer to “Is it part of my journey?”.
Funny thing is that when I blurted all of that out to Tonia her answer was “If it isn’t your passion – don’t do it!”. And when I shared with my ‘nother running friend Tracie on Sunday she said “If you’re not going to enjoy it – why do it?”
Yet another reason I <3 <3 <3 Runners!
We’re big fans of that whole “It’s your race!” concept in and out of our Asics. Or Brooks. Or whatever fits your footfall.

So I’m running in Nashville (and I’m still raising money as a St. Jude Hero, as is HCRP) but I’ll be running the Half. HCRP hasn’t fully made up his mind yet, and whatever he chooses to do is his race.

Won’t you be my Valentine?

Dear Running,
What to say?
I know I’ve been distant and aloof these past couple months.
Oh, I’ve flirted with you here and there.
Those quickies on the treadmill.
That long weekend in New Orleans that wasn’t everything it could have been. By the way, thanks for doing your part there even though I didn’t do mine getting ready and all.
But really, we both know my heart hasn’t been in it.
And truth be told, I haven’t missed you. Much.

Because I love being part of The Kook Kids Klub, I’ve kept up the facade that we’re still A Thing. But you and I? We know what’s been up between us. Or hasn’t.  Thanks for not blowing my cover.

And really, it hasn’t been you, it’s been all me babe.
I got my feelings hurt when that Big Date we had planned back in December fell through. That wasn’t you or me. It was that witch Winter Weather. But I let disappointment turn into a long-term pout and I took it out on you with that whole silent treatment thing.

Of course having one of my 2,000 parts decide to stop doing that voodoo it (used to) do so well and having to be evicted didn’t help. But I’ve been over that for weeks now.

I do still love you.
I promise.

I’ve got too much invested in this relationship to back out now.
And we’ve got that whole Spring Prom thing planned in Nashville at the end of April! I know you’ll be there and I have no intention of standing you up.
I’ve just needed my space.  Okay maybe not “needed” but I took it anyway.

But this morning I woke up truly and fully missing you.
Everything about you.
The sweat.
The time and distance with nothing but the two of us.
The caring about a time on a clock at a finish line and wanting to make it something different. 
The Zone. That mile or so when it feels like my feet aren’t even touching the ground and I Could Do This Forever.
And yes, even that first sucktastic mile or so when I have to remind the legs and the lungs that yes they’ve done this before.
Yeah, I woke up missing that too.

So I guess what I’m saying is it’s time we got back together.
For real now. No more treadmill flirtations or half-hearted weekend getaways.
It’s time for me to come back to you. You’re right where you’ve always been: under my laces, on the streets. Thanks for that.
See you tomorrow morning!

It’s all about the numbers

Numbers of miles run.

Numbers of calories burned that simply must be replaced.

Numbers of ounces of fluid lost that absolutely must be replaced.

Numbers of ‘other things’ you pass on because “I have to run tonight/early tomorrow.”

Numbers and numbers of numbers.

And the numbers that matter most of all? 12/7 and 26.2.

Oh, and 1.9 million.
That’s the number of dollars it takes every single day just to open the doors and turn on the lights at St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Only those doors never close, and those lights never go off.

So all those numbers of miles and calories and ounces and “Can’t make it”s really don’t add up to a hill of beans in light of that $1,900,000.
Now do they?

One number that keeps resounding in my head, because it’s pretty huge for me, is Sixteen.
That’s the number of miles we ran last Saturday.
That’s 2.9 miles further than the half marathon that seemed like So Many Miles a little over a year ago.
That’s four miles further than than my Waterloo Distance of Twelve Miles.
And at the end of the Sixteen I felt pretty damn good!
Or at least better than I’d expected to feel.
I think I actually got a little Runner’s High around fourteen miles because suddenly my legs that had been filling with lead at Thirteen felt awesome!
I felt awesome!
The air was airier, the sun was sunnier, I think I actually levitated for a few steps!  Okay maybe I didn’t levitate, but  I can see how people get addicted to running these longer distances.

Tonight’s seven miles started out great.  Legs and lungs were working together from ‘Go!’ and everything was awesome until it wasn’t which was around four miles when my right hamstring started tightening up.  Then my left knee started humming in harmony, and by 6.75 miles both hamstrings were doing all they could to secede from the union of my legs so I walked the last quarter mile and until HCRP could get back to the car and come pick me up a little past seven.

I know what caused it.
Lack of consistent cross-training.
So we’ll be correcting that immediately.
And I’ll be getting in to see Dr. Awesome Sauce, Official Unofficial Chiropractor of Every Runner I Know, to see if he thinks taping my hamstrings will help.  Or if he, like TJ (my Running Friendtor – Friend + Mentor = Friendtor) thinks this is lack of consistent cross-training.
You know, doing what I know I’m supposed to be doing.
Another thing that adds up.
Doing + What You Know To Do = Success
What You Know To Do – Doing = Pain/Possible Injury
That’s math I know how to do.

National Running Day

Who knew?!
No. Seriously. Who knew? Before like Sunday when it started popping up all over Facebook I didn’t know that The First Wednesday in June is National Running Day.
And because I didn’t know that The First Wednesday in June is National Running Day I had accepted an invitation (and tickets) for HCRP and I to attend a local charity event.

I woke up this morning thinking “Ooh! 89 degrees will make for a great run this evening!” I even had the presence of mind to check my gym bag to be sure I had everything together for a run. And then it hit me (when it was too late to get a run in before work): There are simply not enough hours in the day for me to work, run, attend the charity event, be a good pet owner, eat, sleep . . .
And let the guilt cycling begin!
How am I not going to run on National Running Day?!
How am I not going to attend this event we’ve been so generously hosted at?!
How am I going to do everything that’s expected of me by my running friends and my job and my non-runner friends and the cats and the dog and – oh yeah – a girl’s gotta eat!
I finally said, out loud, and in So Many Words “There just aren’t enough hours to make everybody happy!”

And then I got to work.
I fired up my computer, and my desktop background started cycling through the 30+ ‘motivational/inspirational’ images I’ve collected from Ye Olde Interwebs and lo and behold I get patted on the shoulder by this one:

281972_439898836052990_1821223776_n“You don’t have to prove anything to anyone.”

Not my running friends.
Not my non-running friends.
Not anyone.
Not. Any. One.

So no, I will not in fact be running on National Running Day.
I will be going to work.
I will be supporting my fellow runners as they log their miles today.
I will be honoring the graciousness of the person hosting us at the event we are attending tonight.
I will be taking care of my household.
I will not be running.
Not today.
I will run tomorrow.
And that’s okay.
And I will set a reminder on my calendar for next year that The First Wednesday in June is National Running Day.

Oh and P.S. the pain that’s plagued the ball of my right foot for the past five weeks? I saw a (really freakin’ awesome) Podiatrist yesterday and the verdict is: inflammation of second metatarsal. Have an orthotic to offset pressure on the ball of the foot. Double dose of Aleve twice a day for 2 weeks. And I’m good to go to “get back out there running”.

We run. We learn. We suffer Ignominity.

In the one year and roughly ten months since I laced up my theretofore walking shoes and set out on my first outing as a runner I have learned many things.

  1. That I can, in fact, run!  Not just run “because zombies/people with big guns/IRS agents/Student Loan collectors are chasing me”, but run because I want to and I actually enjoy doing it.
  2. That falling on a run is generally never as bad as we imagine it will be before we’ve done it.
  3. That sometimes when one adopts a major lifestyle change, other people aren’t so much fans of it.  And that’s okay.  They don’t have to be.
  4. That if you push yourself past one “I’ve never/I could never” boundary you start looking for others to barrel over.
    I started running saying “I’ll only ever want to run 5Ks.  I have no need to ever run A Marathon!”  I currently have several 5Ks, three 10Ks, and a Half under my laces, and now those laces are with me as I train for what? A Marathon.
  5. That once you open yourself up to One Big, New Thing other Bigger, Newer Things follow quickly in its wake and your life becomes the Biggest, Newest Thing of them all.
  6. Tonight I learned that I can, in fact, stay on an elliptical for more than 1.5 miles and it will not kill me.
    And by “stay on” I don’t mean just stand there texting and flirting with the weight lifters (seen it!).  I mean “stay on” as in actually moving the foot sleds in an appropriate rotational motion over and over and over and over again for all of 3.0 miles!  And I didn’t quit.  Not even when my quads were screaming in two part harmony “Get thee to a treadmill woman!”  (They didn’t say “woman” but Mother will be sorely disappointed if I repeat their little potty-mouthed commentaries.)

Like many other runners I’ve come to love reading about running.  Amby Burfoot, Christopher McDougall, Hal Higdon, and George Sheehan are my new Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman.  Runner’s World has replaced O and Real Simple.
Most of my “Liked” pages on Facebook have to do with running.
And our social life revolves around races, either running them or volunteering with our running club because that’s another running is: A community.

But I’m digressing a bit here . . .
Back to the reading about running . . .

As I’ve read about running I’ve come to the conclusion that there certain Inevitable Ignominious Interludes in the life of every runner.  After Sunday’s run I’ve knocked two off the list. It was actually during Sunday’s run (which was supposed to be Saturday’s run but got put off due to circumstances beyond our control) that this list came to me.  So here I will share:

The Runner’s List of (mostly) Inevitable Ignominious Interludes

  1. Falling.  Otherwise known as face-planting.
    Been there, done that.  Got the high fives from other runners!
  2. Eating a bug.  Covered this one on Sunday.  Okay, kindasorta covered it…
    There I was running along and feeling pretty good given that Sunday was “Suddenly Summer Day” here in our fair metrolopolis when *ack* *cough* *gag* I felt the distinctive sensation of a bug hitting the roof of my mouth.  Thank God my lightening quick “I don’t want to choke to death alone on this trail” reflex kicked in and I managed to trap it between my tongue and the roof of my mouth and spit it out before I ended up curled up on the trail praying for a Heimlich Certified ‘nother runner to come along before I gasped my last gasp.
  3. Spitting/Being Spat Upon
    Much like everyone poops (the cute children’s book, not the runner version – I’m getting to that) every runner spits.
    I learned to spit.
    Unlike my little sister and her childhood BFF Angie I did not hone my spitting skills at a young age.  I was blessed to have a Southern Grandmother who instilled in me a strong sense of what Young Ladies do and do not do.  Spitting ranked high on that list.  Little Sister had the same Southern Grandmother, she just didn’t care about The List.
    However, once you become a runner many otherwise socially unacceptable behaviors become necessities.  Spitting is high on that list.  It didn’t take me too many runs to learn that swallowing too much water while running would more than likely lead to ignominity #5 or #6, so my ever-patient HCRP worked with me on the vital skill of “Swish and Spit”.
    But with great power comes great responsibility and in the case of spitting one must learn to look left, look right, look right again, then spit.  To the right.  I have yet to spit on another runner and, thankfully, I have yet to be spat upon.  My days are, obviously, numbered.
  4. Snot Rockets.
    I’m reasonably certain I just lost every single non-runner who’s ever stumbled across this blog with those two little words.  But runners know the nose knows and sometimes you just got to blow.

    I actually saw Kara Goucher blow a snot rocket at the Starting Line of the New Orleans Half this year and was shocked when I found myself respecting her style instead of being utterly disgusted. Another “I’m A Real Runner Now!” moment.
  5. Puking.
    There are a host of reasons why puking happens in running: Nerves, fueling too close to your run, changing what you eat to fuel before a run the day of a race (never, ever, ever do this!), consuming too much water or sports beverages during a run (hence the importance of mastering the Swish and Spit), and heat (a big one down here in Dixie).  And the one that I think maybe about 10% of us ever really do: Leaving absolutely everything on the course and having nothing but the waning contents of your stomach to leave at the Finish Line.
  6. Peeing.
    As in down one’s own leg, not just in general.
    Again, a number of factors can lead to this, but it generally comes down to either skipping a port-o-john or being so intent to PR or win that you honestly don’t care about anything else and stopping is not an option!  (I can assure you this one will likely never happen to me. If I have to choose between peeing anywhere but down my own leg or pretty much anything else, the “anything else” is out the window.)
  7. Remember: Everybody Poops
    And sometimes runners poop . . .  well . . . on the run.
    This is one that easily 99% of us will never, ever experience because we don’t run that far or that hard.  But it does happen.  To the Extreme Runners.  And from what I gather, they really don’t give a crap!  Okay, they do but not the way most of the rest of us would.  They’re too busy being awesome and superhuman to care about such.  In fact, at that level, I’m pretty certain it’s almost a badge of honor.
    However, if you’re concerned about preventing this in your own running experience I had a little time Sunday during The Longest 2.75 Mile Run Ever to come up with my personal list of Things That (might) Make You Go Poo:
    Changing your pre-run/race fueling foods. This is not the time to change partners in mid-dance people!  Replacing peanut butter with almond butter is probably perfectly safe, just not right before running.  Tummies are funny things.
    Switching sports drinks.  If you’re a Gatorade drinker switching to Powerade is probably best done on a rest day just in case there really is a substantive difference in their chemical composition.  (This is a lesson I learned from personal experience, thankfully not during a run or race.)
    Deciding that the night before a race (or run) is the perfect time to try “Thai Hot” for the very first time.  It isn’t.  It never will be.

I am certain, because I’m still a Running Newbie, that I’ve either missed or completely mis-conceived something in this list.  But if you’re Running Newbier than me I’m probably not too far from right.

Week One: And so it begins!

This is Week One of our Marathon Training Program to complete The Memphis St. Jude Marathon.
The Full Marathon.
26.2 miles.
All in the same day.
This is, arguably, the single biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life!
Yes, that counts childbirth and motherhood.
I always expected to have a child and be a mother.
Running a marathon?!  Not ever in my wildest dreams (until sometime late last year) would I have ever seen myself running a marathon.
And the thing of it is, running the marathon itself isn’t really The Thing of It.
Oh, the marathon is big.  Huge!
The marathon is The Prize.
The Victory Lap.
The cherry on top.
The point and purpose to be sure, but not really The Thing of It.
The training is The Thing of It.
Or so I’m told.
Right now the marathon seems like complete insanity.
But I haven’t finished a 20 mile training run yet.

We’re following Hal Higdon’s Novice Supreme, 30 Week program.
We’re implementing upper body strength training, yoga, elliptical cross-training, and various interval running training . . .  ummm . . . running training things.
We mutually agreed on the overall training program.  And we have a spreadsheet.
HCRP is in charge of the interval running training things seeing as how he ran cross country in high school and knows what pyramids and 400s and 800s and other such things actually are.
I’m in charge of diet and nutrition.  And yoga.  I’m mostly in charge of sharing what I learn from my Personal Yogi with HCRP.
We are mutually in charge of keeping each other from freaking out.
The rest of you are in charge of keeping us from chickening out.
Just so you know.

Tonight was our first Short Run and it called for 1.5 miles.
On one hand that seemed like a really short distance given that nine days ago we did a 10K race.
On the other hand we truly are Supreme Marathon Novices so it has been decided that we will follow this plan To The Letter.
So we ran 1.5 miles.
They weren’t fun miles.  My sinuses and allergies have been giving me fits so I felt like I had no lung capacity and the sore throat that set in late this afternoon made the breathing less than comfortable.
But it will get better.

In addition to training to and running the Marathon, HCRP and I are registered for The St. Jude as St. Jude Heroes which means we have each committed to raising funds for St. Jude and the incredible, miraculous work they do there. If you are interested in assisting us in our efforts to support St. Jude, below are links to our individual fundraising pages.
And thank you for any amount you are able to contribute.  Every dollar helps.

My St. Jude Marathon fundraising page.

HCRP’s St. Jude Marathon fundraising page.

Some of the best runs belong to other runners

Today HCRP and I had the unique experience . . . correction . . . we had the unique honor of playing Support Team to a couple we are privileged to count as both friends and fellow runners.

Our friends or (as I called them in several Facebook picture tags) Team Action Jackson were running in today’s St. Jude Country Music Marathon.
Mrs. Action Jackson has run several marathons, this was Mr. Action Jackson’s first.
They’ve spent the past sixteen weeks dedicating their lives to training for this event.
I can’t count the number of (cold, winter) mornings I’ve stumbled out of bed at 5am to be greeted by the Endomondo/Facebook cross-post “Mr. AJ tracked a run . . . ” that had started an hour before any part of me was anywhere close to tracking the path from the bed to the toilet, let alone a run!
Mrs. AJ (who loathes cold weather like ice cubes loathe sunny beaches) went out on countless weekday runs in overcast, sub-freezing temperatures.  And did I mention her getting both spin instructor and lifeguard certified during this time period?  Yeah.  That too.
Which says nothing of their Saturday Long Runs, many of which took place on cold, overcast, rainy days.  Thus are the perils of springtime marathon runners.
But they did it.
Week after week.
Run after bone-chilling, pre-dawn, I’d-rather-be-post-swim/spin-napping run.

Today was The Payoff.
The End of The Rainbow.
The Victory Lap.
And the weather?  Sucked!
All week we – Mr. and Mrs. AJ, HCRP, me, and 25,000 other runners and their respective cheering sections/support teams – have been staring down Ye Olde Weathere Reporte and never once did it blink.
A high percentage chance of rain and temperatures that would have been ideal on a sunny day, but didn’t bode well with all those higher-than-the-temperature-chance-of-rain percentages.

We were all awake and headed to The Venue well before the sun had even considered its position above or below the yardarm. The sun had, by all appearances, entered the Solar System Warming Device Protection Program and the sky was weeping its absence.
All.
Morning.
Long.
The temperatures joined the sky in its doldrums and stayed as low as the earth’s tilt on its axis would allow.
Awesome!
(NOTE: Both of the above linked-to-definition words are Maritime Terms.  That’s how much it was raining.  Without thinking I used Maritime Terms in writing this post.  I didn’t even know they were Maritime Terms until I Googled them to link to the meanings for clarification.  And to be cute.  But still, there was that much rain.)

But who were we (the non-runners of this race) to complain in the face of The Runners’ excitement and all that adrenaline oozing out of their every pore?!
Did I mention Cousin AJ?
Oh. My. Starz!
Cute as a button.  Clearly a cheerleader or coach or cheerleading coach to the core (all meant in the best, most admiration soaked possible ways).  She was there to run with The AJs.  She’s one of those Running Dynamos who, when asked “How many marathons have you run?” actually has to stop and think and may (or may not) recall the actual numbers because really they’re all just fun runs for her!
And you simply can not hate her.
In fact, you like her all the more!
Seriously.
I adore this girl after having spent maybe 45 entire minutes in her presence in my nearly 50 years of life!

We get to The Venue, deposit them at their Corral and headed to the Starting Line so we could enjoy The Energy of the race and get a picture of them as they started.
We absorbed enough energy to power the Eastern Seaboard for a week.
We missed getting their starting line picture because they moved up two corrals and we didn’t know.
Fortunately, we did get to see them as they passed our position about twenty feet past the Start.  We cheered, high-fived, were happy for, wished well, and then headed back to the car to head to our First Meeting Point: Mile Ten.

Here’s the “Advice Portion” of this post:
If you are ever fortunate enough to play Support Team for friends taking part in a marathon in a city you know abso-freakin-lutely nothing about I highly recommend researching three things ahead of time:
1) Your Meeting Points;
2) The Race Course;
3) Road Closures that might impact your travel from meeting point to meeting point with road closures taken into account.
Just for fun.
You got GPS?  GPS don’t care about no Road Closures.
GPS is a Honey Badger!  Honey Badger don’t care about no Road Closure because of Race Course!  (Seriously, click on that Honey Badger link.  Be Warned: They use ‘ugly words’.  You’ve been warned.  But seriously: Fuuuuuunnnyyyy!!!!)

Thankfully, HCRP is The King of Navigating Unfamiliar Territories.  This is why he will be the one doing all the driving when the two of us take part in The Amazing Race.
One other bit of advice: If the weather forecast calls for any sort of ‘extreme’ weather anticipate The Worst of said ‘extreme’.
If it’s supposed to “rain” assume it will monsoon.  Dollar Store ponchos will not suffice!
Have extra dry clothes that are easily changed into in your vehicle.
Large umbrellas.  Can not stress the importance of a large umbrella (actually in your vehicle, not at home in your garage) enough.
Dress in layers in case the weather ‘breaks’ and the cold monsoon becomes a tropical sauna.
If rain turns to shine, have extra dry socks and shoes to change into mid-weather change.
If rain remains rain, have extra dry socks and shoes to change into when all is run and done.
Trust me.
You’ll thank me.

The Mile Ten Meeting
We arrived at (or as near as we could get to) Mile Ten and started waiting for them to arrive.  Fortunately Mr. AJ and I are Endomondo Friends so I could follow their progress as often as the app updated.  We knew we’d arrived at Mile Ten plenty early because we saw the Pace Vehicle and Elite Runners come through while we were figuring out if this was the best place to be.
A lot of rain, a (thank you nice Lobby Monitor Guy) potty break, and a whole lot of runners later we saw The AJs and Cousin Awesome coming down the hill to where we’d stationed ourselves.
I fully expected them to want to change into the dry shoes we had for them.  *I* wanted to change into dry shoes!  They got to Mile Ten literally jumping up and down, hugging, happy, and genuinely doing great.  Rain and soaked shoes notwithstanding.
We parted ways, us winding our way to Mile Seventeen, and them gleefully running on.

The Seventeen Mile Meeting
This meeting was notsomuch fun to be at for any of us.
By this time the front that had brought the onslaught of rain had moved through, the wind had picked up, and the temperature hadn’t necessarily dropped, but the wind certainly made it feel colder.
The AJs and Cousin Awesome arrived at this meeting place having just crossed The Cumberland River which (I am assuming) meant running the arc of a bridge, and being buffeted by the wind on that bridge pretty hard.
By this point we’d been out in the wind and the cold and the rain for a fair amount of time.  Walking.  In and out of cover.  A good hour of that time in our vehicle driving.  And our feet were soaked.  And we were cold.  And tired.  Our friends, on the other hand (or foot, as the case may be), had been out in all those things the entire time.  Non-stop.  And running.
Dear God!
If they were ready to quit the instant they saw us I would have totally understood!  Hell (sorry Mom) I was damn near ready to try and talk them into it!  I mean running a marathon is an admirable goal and all, but this was just ridiculous!
And then we saw them!
I bellowed out Mrs. AJ’s name because I knew she’d hear me.
They came over to where we were standing.
Still excited.
Wetter (if that was possible).
Colder (which was certain).
Tireder (well duh!).
But still enjoying the race (if not the weather) and determined to FINISH!
We gave them hugs, told them they were doing great, took a picture (Facebook!), and sent them on their way.

The next thing we did I’m still carrying a bit of shame about, but we ducked into Shoney’s (truly the only food-bearing option anywhere around) and ate.  We sat in a heated restaurant and ate hot food while our friends ran on through the wind and the cold and the rain.
*hangs head*
We finished our meal-of-shame and headed to . . .

The Finish Line
Marathon Finish Lines are a lot like Maternity Ward Waiting Rooms.
Everyone outside the fences is there for the same reason, and we all know it.  There’s no reason to exchange pleasantries because really, we’re all just waiting on The Other Guy to see his/her baby so they can get the hell out of our way so we can get our first look (and picture) of our baby!
“Great!  Your spouse/child/co-worker/BFF/neighbor finished!  Yay!  Now MOVE IT buddy, you’re blocking my view/shot!”
Nobody actually says it, but we’re all thinking it and we all know it.
We stood there.
And stood there.
And stood there.
And.
Truth be told.
I shed tears for more than a few complete stranger spouses, children, co-workers, BFFs, and neighbors in whose faces I saw the same thing: Oh my God!  I did it!  I finished!

There are those who finish a marathon like they’ve just finished their grocery list at Kroger’s.  Seriously.  I saw them today.  They’re rare.  Like seeing a Bald Eagle.  I don’t think they breathe the same air the rest of us do.

Then there are The Rest of Us.
The First Time Marathoners.
The Finally Back In It Marathoners.
The I Beat The Odds Marathoners.
The I Ran This For ________________ Marathoners.
Whatever the reason or purpose, you can see it in their faces about twenty feet after the actual Finish Line.
And it’s like seeing that baby (whose father or grandparent you’ve been standing there trying not to elbow out of your own way) open its eyes for the very first time.
Know them or not, you know what it is for them.

After watching dozens and dozens of other people’s marathon stories both unfold and finish before me we finally saw Our Runners round the final turn and head towards Their Finish Line.
We – and by “we” I mean “I” – started screaming Mrs. AJ’s name and she bee-lined it over to me, grabbed me over the fencing, and burst into tears of “I did it!”.
This was Mr. AJ’s First Marathon.
This was Mrs. AJ’s Back In It Marathon.
And we were immeasurably proud of and for them!  They DID IT!!!

Cousin Awesome?  She was basically just there for them!  (See?  How do you not love her?!)
We met them at the end of the Runners’ Only Area, exchanged hugs and offered more “Congratulations”, then had to take off to get to a family event a couple hours away.
It was just such an incredible experience, and one I am deeply grateful to have been allowed to be a part of.

I started the day with more than a little bit of fear and trepidation.
I was afraid that seeing “what the run did to them” along the miles was going to prove to me that I had absolutely no business even considering running a marathon.
I was afraid that I would stand at that Finish Line and see myself in another late-40s woman who crossed the finish line either hobbled beyond movement, or who collapsed and had to be carried off on a stretcher.
I have a really vivid imagination and (obviously) entirely too much time on my hands to spend thinking about such things!

Instead I came away knowing that I can totally do this thing!
I have ample time to train.
I have a great training plan to follow.
I have runner friends – like Mrs. AJ – who have been where I’m going and are more than willing to share the wisdom of their experiences.
I have HCRP and he has me – like Mr. and Mrs. AJ had each other – and doing the training together and running the race together will be our strength.
All this from a race run by others.
And shared with me.