From The Archives – My Marathon Experience

Has it really been 2 years since I started this little ol’ blog?! This post was one of my first…and people tell me it cracked them up. It’s long – but if you just got fired and you’re caught up on all the House and Sister Wives episodes – it’s not a bad way to pass the time. Maybe it will motivate you to start training for your own marathon? Or maybe not. Probably not. But you can laugh at me. It’s really ok. Everyone does.
Hugs!

…originally posted in March 2009

I was going through some old pictures recently and found this one of me crossing the finish line of the 1999 Honolulu Marathon. I love this picture. It’s so telling. But before we go there, let me tell you a bit about how I got there.
Early in 1999 I decided I needed to shed some unwanted pounds. Because I can’t just work out a couple times a week and watch what I eat, I had to dedicate myself to running a marathon to accomplish this. The Houston Marathon wouldn’t do…I had to run the one in Hawaii. And if I was going to go to all that trouble, I might as well turn it into a fundraiser, so I joined the Leukemia Society’s Team In Training.
Just typing this out makes me feel exhausted today, but back then it all seemed rather doable. And it was. I accomplished my goals: lost 30 or so pounds, raised $5,000 or so dollars for cancer research and trained every day for about 6 months. On a plane to Hawaii I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride. And rightfully so.
Back to the picture. The first thing I love about it is that I’m obviously not the first one to cross the finish line. My grandmother, who lives by herself in Florida and is the dearest person you’ll ever meet, asked me after the race, “well, did you win?”
Yes, grandma, I won the Honolulu marathon. I’m 4’10″ and started training 6 months prior, with 30 pounds to lose. I love that my grandmother thought it was possible that I could have won. I’m not sure if it’s because she thought I was that good, or that she didn’t know how many people entered. But when I told her that I didn’t win, that I believed some guy from Kenya did – and that I actually came in 3,000th, she seemed somewhat disappointed. Always supportive, though, she said, “well, you finished and that’s the important thing.” And she was right.
I think the look on my face crossing the finish line says just that, doesn’t it? But let’s focus on the fella with his arms up in victory behind me and to my left.
I love this guy (don’t know him, never met him, had no idea he was behind me) but I love him. This is what I think is going on inside his head when the flash bulb popped….
“Oh, this is so incredible. I feel so good about myself. I’m in Hawaii and I ran a marathon. I worked hard and it paid off. What an accomplishment! I am filled with pride and can’t wait to share this feeling of joy with my friends and loved ones. I think I will have a party to celebrate, but the party will be more about the people I care about then about me. It will be a celebration of life. Oh, I love this big, beautiful world where anything is possible if you just believe in yourself and try your best and never, ever give up.”
And the girl in front of me. All smiles…”wow, that was quick…and I still have time to go to that luau!”
Ok, look at me again. This is what I KNOW was going on inside my head at the time.
“Are you f*&^%ing kidding me? Who was the insane human being who designed this course and thought it would be a great idea to have the last of the 26.2 miles I just ran be UP HILL? I trained in HOUSTON. No hills in Houston.”
I am not proud about the fact that I wasn’t thinking like “happy” fella behind me or “wow” girl in front of me. But it is what it is and my therapist says it’s good to “get it all out”….so I’ll continue.
I wasn’t angry the entire marathon, just at the end. I rather enjoyed most of it and thought, until mile 20, that “marathons are easy, what is this wall everyone talks about hittiiiiinnnnnn…..” BAM! All of a sudden my left leg hurt. Bad. And I was tired. And in a very disagreeable mood. I had found the wall and hit it. With all of the strength of a tall person.
At the time I ran the race, I was working in a management position at a children’s hospital and knew just enough about medicine to be a pain in the rear to anyone I talked to. When I stumbled upon one of the medical tents located somewhere along the last leg of the race (both puns intended) I expected to find someone who could provide pain relief so I could get back into the good mood I was previously in and enjoy the end of the run (I learned recently after becoming addicted to watching the TV show, House, that I was slightly delusional at this point). What I discovered (and am still considering seeking legal counsel for) was a teenager with clearly NO medical training holding a bag of ice whose general advice to anyone with any ailment who entered the tent was “elevate”. I felt compelled to stand up for all the runners at this point and I asked her if she was aware of the fact that we didn’t have time to “elevate” because we were running along a pre-determined route which was being timed… called a race. She seemed unfazed by my sarcasm and didn’t pick up on my humor.
Looking back, I think I just wanted help managing my expectations. If the race officials didn’t plan to provide runners with powerful narcotics, then they shouldn’t have called it the “medical tent,” should have call it the “bag o’ ice tent.” I think I was just giddy with the anticipation of a licensed professional in a nice, clean, crisp, lab coat who was ready to give me a shot of morphine and send me on my way. So leaving the tent a VERY dissatisfied and disappointed customer, I started to develop what I’ll call “an edge” which I hung onto until I crossed the finish line. This rough edge, I believe, was a survival technique my body developed in order to get me to the end in one piece. A guy I was running along side for a bit did not have this edge and was carted off at one point on a stretcher. I’m not sure where they were taking him. I hoped, for his sake, it was not to the medical tent. “Don’t let them take you there, I screamed after him…they’re a bunch of quacks.”
I didn’t have any family in Hawaii to support me, but because I was part of a national team of runners, anyone affiliated with TNT would cheer me on (see the groovy purple singlet?). Towards the end when I was wreathing in pain and running no faster then a toddler just getting her sea legs, a running coach jumped in from the side lines and started to “run” with me. He cried out to the crowds,”Hey everyone, we’ve got TNT member….,” (turning towards me he asked my name – I think I said Harry), “….Harriet and she needs a little encouragement.”
“Medical, pant, tent, pant, a sham, pant, pant….”I muttered in reply. Then I started crying.
That’s really all I remember until I got to the finish line. And, well – you know the rest. Although I couldn’t walk properly for the next two days, I did get in a little sight-seeing in before I left the island. Mostly, though – I sat on the beach with my finishers medal around my neck and a big girl drink with a little umbrella in my hand. Slowly my leg pain disappeared and I never, ever – elevated.
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