On December 1, 2014 I watched my brother Spencer become an Ironman in Cozumel, Mexico. The race starts with a 2.4 mile swim and transitions into a 112 mile bicycle ride before ending with a full marathon run of 26.2 miles. Every inch of me radiated with inspiration watching my brother and thousands of others compete in this endurance challenge and by the time Spence came around for the first loop of the run portion I had told my husband Jason I was going to run a marathon in 2014. I told Spencer that day I wanted to run a marathon and he promised to help me each step of the way and run alongside me on race day. I never looked back. We set our eyes on the Marine Corps Marathon. MCM is held each Fall here in our nation's capitol. My Christmas list was a runner's dream from Newton running shoes to cold weather gear and inspirational books. Those first few chilly months I passed mileage goal after goal. I'd never run more than 6.2 miles and can remember the moments I passed 7 miles and gradually worked into double digit mile runs. I was often tired and my muscles and joints suffered in the beginning as I built strength, but I never doubted my goal. I would hobble down the stairs, but when I strapped on my shoes and winter layers I could run strong for 60, 75, then 90 and up to 120 minutes. I began to feel like a super star not only in my Newtons, but in every avenue of my life.
Finally April rolled around and it was time for the MCM lottery. Spencer received a spot, but I did not. I was crushed and began looking at other races, but it was MCM that we wanted. I began searching the charity team options and a day later received an email from an organization my studio supports called Yokid! Yokid brings yoga to underserved children in my area. It was a perfect match. I joined the team, raised money as I logged miles and solidified a second contribution to my running plan.
Running is often a very solitary sport and in fact I trained 95% of the time on my own, but the rewards of running filled my life this year. Spencer and I have lived 1500 miles apart for most of the last 15 years and though our sibling love could never faulter our bond had waned. As I ran circles around Washington, D.C. those 1500 miles got very small. Spence and I would text, email, and chat on the phone several times a week. He was my coach and my motivator and my awesome big brother that I could share it all with.
And so when race day rolled around I was ready, nervous and excited. I managed to get some sleep the night before and tried to settle my nerves over toast and orange jucie at 4:30am. When the starting gun sounded at 7:55am tears rolled as my feet started running. We were really doing this together - siblings unite. The first 4-5 miles of MCM are a bit hilly. Between my emotions and the extra cardiovascular stress of running uphill I had a stomach cramp at mile two. O boy I thought, this is not looking pretty. But Spence talked me into a groove and by the time we headed down M Street in Georgetown I was finding my way and was able to pick up the pace some along the long stretch of Rock Creek Parkway. The crowds of runners and spectators was intense for me - not exactly my scene - and I had to keep calming my nerves. I had trouble throughout the race finding a steady groove. MCM is an emotional run. From the highs of having Marines had ME water & cheer for ME to seeing the pictures of fallen soilders along the way reminding us of what great freedom and ability I have simply to run this race.
Seeing Jason, Stella, my mom and friends at mile 16 had me crying tears of joy once again. I gave Stella a big hug and grabbed a new water bottle before heading down the National Mall to the US Capitol Building. Spencer reminded me this was a stretch I'd run 100 times before. Mile 16-19 felt great. I was easily on pace for under 4 hours and I was confident I would finish strong all the way to the end. But then we hit the 14th street bridge at mile 20 and that next one to two miles felt like they stretched on for days. Everyone and I mean everyone around us began walking and for once in my life I wanted to join them rather than surpass them. And so I did. A few miles later the 4 hour pacer passed me and for what tears I had left I let them flow, but I couldn't keep up. Somewhere along the way I mustered every bit of determination I could find and ran - more like sprinted - the last quarter to half mile to the finish. Spence and I crossed the finish hand in hand in victory. It hurt and it hurt bad, but we did it. My time was 4 hours and 10 minutes. From a field of 30,000 runners I finished 209th in my division, 1316 female finisher, and 4630 overall. What a race.
Training and completing the marathon became everything I'd always heard. It was exteremely difficult, rigorous, demanding, and time consuming. Yes my joints hurt at times and yes I suffered injury during training. But I'm healthier for all of it. The act of training for and running the Marine Corps Marathon did wholly change my life for the better.
Each mile was like shedding a layer and walking into a whole me. I was back on my feet and every other goal I set for myself in 2014 I've met and exceeded because of the passion and drive I found in running. Will I do it again some day - absolutely! I'm a runner now.