It’s the day after my first full marathon and I’m sitting here, still wearing my medal, with so many emotions flowing through my body. It almost feels like yesterday was a dream, except for the fact that my body is still trying to heal from what I just put it through.
The weekend before, I was an emotional mess. I wrote about all those emotions in my previous blog. The week leading up to leaving for Chicago, I was an anxious mess. There were some logistics I was still trying to nail down and a few plans didn’t get solidified until last minute. The morning I was set to leave, I still felt a mix of relief for heading to Chicago and complete anxiety for all the unknowns that I was about to encounter.
Three hours into my drive, I encountered car troubles. There was a warning light that came on and since it was a rental, I had no clue what it meant. I pulled off of the interstate to a gas station in order to look in the manual to see what the light meant. It showed me that there was something going on with the tire pressure gauge. I took a look at all the tires and the front right tire had lost a lot of air, and it looked as though the tire was pulling away from the hubcap. I immediately called the rental car company to see what my options were. When I explained to them that I wasn’t sure it would make it to another location in order to swap out cars, they told me to go to the Walmart Tire Center across the street to get air in it so I could drive a mile. When I pulled into Walmart, I was told there was a knot in the tire and it was about to blow. They were very clear that I should not be driving on it. I ended up waiting for about 40 minutes for a new car to come in order to swap out and be headed out on my way again. By the time I got to Chicago, I had been traveling for 14 1/2 and I was exhausted.
I slept really well my first night and then anxiety hit almost immediately the next morning. I decided to go to the Marathon Expo my first day, so that I could get my stuff for the race out of the way. I noticed how quickly anxiety and nerves set in as I started to look into how to get there. I all of a sudden felt like a tourist in my former home. I took the train downtown, where there were shuttles going to the Expo. When I got there, I followed the crowd upstairs to get my race packet and to look around. A friend of mine had told me about a video there where it’s the entire course sped up so you see exactly what it looks like. I watched it a couple times and each time I thought of running it and not knowing how it would actually feel, I felt more and more nauseous. I walked around the expo feeling a little lost. There were lots of people there, lots of different booths and things to look at, and I chose to just aimlessly wander around. I walked past different backgrounds where you could take your picture. My first thought was, “I don’t have anyone to take my picture. I’ll just skip it.” Deep down, though, I really wanted a picture taken with my bib. I chose to stand in line and ask a stranger. Luckily, there was another woman who got in line with me and was also alone. She looked at me and immediately said, “I’ll take your picture if you take mine?” Done!
On Saturday, I took my sweet ass time in the morning, not really doing much. My friend asked if I wanted to go out for brunch. We went to one of our favorite cafes where I was able to get amazing gluten-free buckwheat blueberry pancakes. I again tried to remain present. I so badly wanted to enjoy my time in Chicago and yet, I was so incredibly anxious. I felt nauseous and told him I had such a hard time staying present in our conversation. I didn’t want to wish away my time there and yet, all I could do was think of Sunday. “Do you want to do anything? Is there anywhere you want to go or anything you want to do while you’re here?” I couldn’t even focus. “No. Not really.” We went shopping afterwards to grab a few things for dinner, and then went home and just walked a bit around the neighborhood and relaxed.
Sunday was surreal, and still is. I know that writing about it isn’t going to give an accurate picture of what it is like to accomplish something like that. Writing helps me process, though. I woke up after only 4 hours of sleep, completely awake. I actually slept pretty well, given my anxiety levels in the days prior to the race. The oddest thing, though, was that on Sunday there was no anxiety. I’m not sure if my body knew it would be able to put it into the race or if my body had just had enough. I calmly drank my coffee and ate my eggs and avocado. I got ready for the race, grabbed my stuff, and left for the train.
I was kind of grateful the lines for the bathroom at Grant Park were so long. It allowed me to stand in line for an hour before the race instead of anxiously waiting in the corral. My wave officially started while I was still in line for the bathroom (the lines were REALLY long and slow) but the only consequence was: go to the end of the wave after the corral closed. Well…given that my corral was the last one, I wasn’t too worried about going to the end. As I entered my corral, the crowd of people was slowly inching forward. I threw off my t-shirt I was wearing over my tank top and was ready to go!
I was still experiencing a lot of doubt around whether or not I was capable of completing it. I mean, I knew I COULD but what would it actually feel like? The longest I had technically run was 18.5 miles. What would the extra 8 miles feel like? I had people watching/tracking me everywhere! Did anyone have any expectations around how long it would take me? As I started, it felt very much like my typical race running through downtown Chicago. I’m not sure it ever truly hit me that I was running a marathon.
The beginning of the race sounded like this in my head, “Am I going slow enough? I know I’m supposed to pace myself. It is a marathon, after all. What happens if I run/walk early on versus running until I can’t run anymore and then implement run/walk? That probably would have been a good thing to know BEFORE starting the marathon. Well…too late! I’m doing this shit now.”
Then the math started. “A 5k is easy. Wait the Shamrock Shuffle is only 8k? What’s the point of that? I’m more than halfway to my first spot to take a picture for Facebook. 6 miles! Only 3 more of those and I’m ALMOST to the end. 4 more miles until I see friends. 4 more miles is just over a 5k and a 5k is so easy.”
At mile 10, two of my friends were there cheering me on. Mac was literally jumping up and down, clapping his hands! As I met up with them, Mac started to join me in running around the corner, “I told Tim I was going to run with you for a minute and then meet him on the other side. How are you feeling? See you at mile 23!”
Oh my God. Mile 23 felt so long compared to mile 10. But then I started with the math again. “You’re at mile 10. 3 miles away from halfway done and right now, you’re only 13 miles away from seeing Tim and Mac again. No problem!”
When I got to mile 13, my legs were beginning to feel what I was about to really put my body through. I had flashbacks to my half marathon last year, and I was really proud of how far I had come. I remembered hitting mile 10 in the half marathon and I felt like I had hit a fucking wall. I remembered at mile 10 my thoughts were, “Never again!” But then, when I crossed the finish line at 13.1 all the pain went away and I was addicted. Mile 13 out of 26.2 felt much different. My legs were starting to feel what I was doing and my left foot was reminding me that I started 13 miles previously with a pain on the top of my foot. I was barely sweating, even though the temperature was beginning to rise. I realized later how dehydrated I was but I didn’t think anything of it because I was drinking water and Gatorade at every hydration station.
Mile 19 was a bitch. What I find funny is that later when re-watching the video of the course, mile 19 was my ex’s area of town. I had no clue while I was walking through it. I tried really hard to be present through the entire thing, but I was really just in my head trying to coach myself through the whole damn thing. By the time mile 19 hit, my lower back was killing me. I had to pull off to the side and just start stretching. I did everything I could to stretch my lower back and tell myself I only had 7 miles left. 7 miles? That’s nothing! 7 miles had become a leisurely run. One more mile and I could take another picture to show FB I was still doing it and still alive. “Just one more mile and then you’re in the homestretch. One more mile and then you’re in the true last part of the marathon. You can do this.”
At mile 20 I texted my dad and step-mom, “19 was tough!”
They responded, “Wow! So glad to hear from you! We’re following on the app!! You’re incredible!! One mile at a time! You are awesome.”
I hadn’t really planned on texting my ex, but I knew he’d be tracking, “Mile 19 was a bitch!”
“But you made it through!”
From mile 20 to 26.2, the sun was strong. Everyone was telling me how gorgeous the weather looked. Yeah…but when you have an almost 20 degree difference from start to finish, you definitely feel the effects of it all. I got to mile 23 and saw my friends again, jumping up and down. “Yayyyy!!! Great job! We’ll see you at the end!”
My friend later told me, “It’s so annoying to hear the other spectators saying, ‘You’re almost there! You’re almost to the end!’ No you’re not! You still have 3 miles!”
“Yeah, but, when you’ve already gone 23 miles, to go another 3 miles DOES feel like you’re almost to the end. Until you hit mile 25.”
One of the spectators said, “Michigan Avenue is right up there. Once you turn, you’re in the homestretch!”
I turned onto Michigan Avenue and thought, “You’re in the homestretch. Only 3 miles left to go. You can do this.” I started to run, feeling like I truly was in the homestretch. By the time I got to mile 25, though, my body was like, “What the fuck? How long is this homestretch?” The worst part? I think it’s around mile 26 when you REALLY are in the homestretch that then you have to go up an incline. I’m sorry, but what the actual fuck IS that? That final 5k was definitely the longest 5k of my entire life. There was no “easy” about it.
Once you see the finish line, though, oh man. There’s nothing like it. My body was like, “Nooooooo. You are not about to make me run that shit! Do you know that I just ran 26 miles?” My mind was all like, “No, this’ll be fun! You can rest later. Let’s go!” And I just started running! I heard the names being announced as they crossed the finish line, as well as where the runners were from. I did all that work to be announced as “Anne Peters from Mississippi”?? Oh hell no. Well, the Universe clearly heard me because I didn’t get announced at all! Apparently that’s what I get for bitching in my head about how I’d be announced.
Once I got past the finish line, I was greeted with my medal, a wet washcloth, a bag of ice, and a bag of goodies (most of which I could not eat, as they weren’t gluten free). As soon as I got my bag from bag check, I immediately dropped to the ground to take off my shoes and put my flip flops on. Although I had gone a size bigger in my shoes, my shoes still ran slightly smaller than a size larger and my second toe on my right foot had been rubbing the top of my shoe for who knows how long. It was extremely tender and the jury was out as to whether or not I would be keeping that toenail.
It ended up taking me just over a week to finish this blog. The emotional rollercoaster that followed was real. Physically, it only took me about a day to recover. The day after, I was so incredibly sore that morning I was on the verge of tears. Later that day, it felt just like I had had an intense workout (which clearly I did). The next day, as I was prepping to leave Chicago, I was up and down stairs like it was no big deal. Even driving 12 hours was completely doable.
Emotionally, it was a completely different story. I wore my medal for days after the race; it started to feel almost like a security blanket. It was this surreal experience where I knew I ran a marathon and I knew I had just put my body through something extreme, but everyone else around me was just going through their normal day-to-day life. I had been preparing my body for almost 5 months (as well as my mind for 10 months) and then one day it was just over. There’s no other way to put it except to explain it as an extreme loss. The medal helped to remind me it was real. I don’t wear it on a daily basis, but I still sleep next to it.
A friend of mine who has run multiple marathons (and who also recently left Chicago) checked on me often. I was explaining to her that it wasn’t just the marathon being over; it was also the fact that for the days I was in Chicago, it felt as though my 5 years there never existed. There was no evidence of the life I had created there. “It’s like you immediately need another huge and quantifiable and attainable goal like another race.”
This is a perfect example of how our past only ever exists in our minds. From what I could tell, I never lived in Chicago. I was never married. I hadn’t made any new friends. I was never a teacher or a nanny. I hadn’t had an incredibly important relationship. It only existed in my memories – in my mind. Now that I’m on the other side of the marathon, it’s one more thing that exists in my mind. If it weren’t for the medal next to me every night and every morning, it would just slip back into my mind with the rest of my life’s memories.
I find it to all be so interesting, given that I just got rid of all of my stuff 2 1/2 months ago because I had no emotional attachment to my 2 bedroom apartment full of stuff and yet this one medal has more emotional significance than anything else in my life and I can’t fully express in words why.
Maybe it’s because it’s fully mine. No one else bought it for me. I didn’t depend on anyone else to accomplish something so large. It was my body and my mind. I trained. I showed up for myself daily. I financially invested in myself in order for it to happen. I did it against all the odds that had been stacked up against me, physically, my entire life.
I know I’ll run more marathons throughout my life, but nothing will ever compare to what it took to accomplish the first one.