After five months of training, a namaste-killing explosion, and a runaway gallbladder, the time had finally come.
It was marathon day.
I woke up at the inhumane hour of 4:15 am, laced up my running shoes, and headed out the door without truly comprehending what was happening.
About an hour later, I was standing with my friends at the start line when my stomach dropped to my feet. The caffeine finally kicked in, I woke up, and I realized that we were about to run a marathon.
I immediately recognized that this was a bad decision. I was filled with terror.
But, I was trapped in a crowd with no clear way to flee. And, you all know that there is nothing that I find more attractive than a bad decision.
So, this was totally happening.
The starting gun went off.
We were on the move in the midst of a pulsing crowd.
And, just like that, my terror was replaced with unbridled excitement. I was running a marathon!! I WAS RUNNING A MARATHON! I WAS REALLY DOING IT!
After a few minutes of that nonsense, I remembered that I had a long morning ahead of me and tamed my over-achieving adrenaline. I took a couple of deep breaths, locked in my pace, and put my faith in my training.
It was all good.
But then at mile four it wasn’t all good. The course was still very congested with 25,000 runners, I had zoned out, and I had lost my friends in the crowd. I was alone! Adrift in the sea of sweaty masses! Never to be found again!
Things were not going according to plan.
But, my surprise solo time turned out to be just what I needed. I reflected on how much I had changed for the better since I started training in September, I reveled in how proud of myself I was for not giving up on this insane idea to run a marathon, and I rocked out to my music. With each passing mile, I felt stronger and more relaxed.
It was magical.
But then at mile 10 everything fell apart. I was bored and hungry. My shoulders hunched as I despaired over the fact that I wasn’t even half way done. The sun had risen and was beating down upon me with a tropical fury that had no place in the era of the Polar Vortex.
It was decidedly not magical.
My mind was invaded by all of the advice that the assorted marathon vets in my life had dropped on me. Snippets of articles that I had read about proper pace, hydration, and nutrition bombarded my brain. Was I doing it right? Was I following the rules? What if I was making mistakes?
But then I realized something.
Marathons are a lot like life.
The only way to get through them is to take a deep breath, believe in yourself, and just keep on keepin’ on the best way that you know how.
So, I did just that.
I relaxed. I banished all pastry-related thoughts from my mind. And, I went back to running how I damn well felt like running. And, as usually happens, after I shut down the pity party and quieted my thoughts about what I “should” be doing, things got better. By mile 12, I felt my inner-Phoebe creeping back in.
I easily cruised to the halfway point, which was where a few awesome friends were waiting to cheer me on and where Country Boy was waiting to join me for the back half of the race.
Country Boy was more than a smidge skeptical of my plan to run a marathon less than a month after I lost an organ via abdominal surgery, so he told me that, since he was pre-med for one entire year in college, he was basically a doctor and was going to run with me to keep an eye on all things medical.
Country Boy also, and I suspect primarily, ran with me because he is amazing and knows how to be supportive of his I-can-do-it-all-on-my-own wife in just the right way.
With Country Boy by my side, the miles ticked away.
We laughed, we talked about utter nonsense, we moved together in comfortable silence, and he knew exactly how to motivate me:
A few miles later, my friends showed up, and they showed up hard.
As the crowd thinned out, I finally spotted my friends who I had started the marathon with and was able to catch up to them. Together, we totally had this thing.
At mile 16, two of my college friends were waiting for me with a sign to remind me that, at the end of the marathon, there would be all of the beer. Just for me. All of the beer!
A few miles later, boredom and exhaustion were poised to make another assault on me.
But then, in the distance, I spied a very large panda clinging to a tree. We’re talking 6’4″ large. Next to Andre the Giant Panda was a giraffe and a banana. They were also human-sized.
I assumed I was just experiencing some light hallucination. That seemed like something that could happen.
But then my eyes popped open. Those were people in costumes! And you know what kind of people would do that?
People who I would be friends with.
I picked up the pace and, sure enough, that was my panda, my giraffe, and my banana! Alongside a whole crew of other smiling familiar faces. I couldn’t believe it! I mean, I could because this is totally normal behavior for the type of people with whom I associate, but I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening so early in the morning! And for me!
Who knew it was possible to laugh hysterically during miles 18 through 20 of a marathon?
By the time I got my case of the giggles under control, I realized that I had crossed the 20 mile mark. I had never run further than 19 miles before in my entire life.
Every step I took was a new record!
It was incredible.
And then it started to rain. And not in an “oh, isn’t this refreshing” kind of way. Oh no. It was raining in a soaking, horizontal, sunscreen running in your eyes kind of way. I was soaking wet, cold, and blind.
Just when I was ready to call a rain delay, I heard some familiar voices. My college friends were back! They were standing under a tree in that crazy monsoon to cheer me on! Again!
Upon hearing their voices, I wiped the sunscreen out of my eyes, regained the power of sight, and kicked it up a gear. It was time to keep on livin. If they could show up in the rain for me, then I sure as hell could show up at the finish line for them.
I was back on the upside of the roller coaster that was my marathon experience.
I had a huge smile on my face, I was chatting Country Boy’s ear off, and the miles were flying by once more.
But, what goes up must come down, especially in marathons.
Around mile 24, I hit another wall and I hit it hard. I knew, logically, that I only had 2.2 miles to go. I was totally there. I was going to cross the line in 20 minutes or less. No big thing.
But it was totally a big thing.
I managed to make it past mile 25, but I felt defeated. My running friends had slowed down to drink water, and I regretted not joining them. Every step felt like it was sure to be my last.
But then, out of nowhere, two more of my friends popped out onto the course. I was so excited to see them that I started jumping around in the middle of the street, much to the extreme displeasure of every other runner.
Not only did my friends surprise me with their appearance, but they also started running with me. It was so unexpected, so kind, and so needed. We smiled, we laughed, we took selfies. The other runners continued to not be amused, but I was having a great time.
After we climbed the last bridge of the marathon, my friends and Country Boy peeled off the course. It was time for me to finish what I started.
I turned the corner and, much to my surprise, there was the finish line. It was right there. RIGHT THERE. A huge smile broke across my face, and I sprinted across it.
The feeling when I crossed that line was incredible. I didn’t feel tired (even though I was) and I didn’t feel destroyed (even though my muscles were). Instead, I felt energized, I felt strong, I felt proud, and I felt incredibly loved by my friends, my family, and, most importantly, myself.
I was unshakably happy.
I dedicated five months of my life to running. A lot. Even when it was inconvenient. Even when it was hard. Even when everyone in my life hinted that I should give up.
But I didn’t give up.
Instead, I became mentally and physically stronger than I ever thought was possible. Not only did I run a marathon, I did it while smiling, laughing, and having the time of my life. To me, that, and not my finish time, was the true victory.
I found my happy place in the simplicity of just putting one foot in front of the other and seeing where it took me.
You should try it.
February 11, 2014 at 1:31 AM
You and your friends are awesome. I would run a marathon based on this story, If I could haha
February 11, 2014 at 2:15 PM
Thanks! I am very, very lucky to have them all in my life.
And you could totally run a marathon. I promise. As long as you can walk, just get a training plan and start putting one foot in front of the other. You’ll be amazed at what your body can do!
February 11, 2014 at 3:46 AM
Whew! That’s quite a tale, PN! Congratulations on a hard won victroy! Even in my prime, there is no way I could have ever accomplished such a feat. And here I had you figured for a Pinot sippin’, hot-tub lingerin’, pearls collectin’ type of person. Whew, girl, there’s steel under them buns. Nice job. I loved the support you got from your friends – the Panda, the Giraffe and the Banana. And especially from Country Boy. I bet if you had been a bit less focussed and had taken the time to look around, you would have seen Kato and all her friends (most visiting from the country for the special occassion) watching discretely from the shrubbery along side the road as they nibbled guacamole. All silently cheering you on! I’m sure that Kato told them that if they helped you to win this marathon, you will be so euphoric you wouldn’t even notice a few unauthorized avocado parties in the hottub while you weren’t around! No one likes to share more than a winner.
February 11, 2014 at 2:19 PM
Yep, sometimes looks and first appearances can be deceiving — although, truth be told, I wasn’t entirely sure I could run a marathon until I was actually running the marathon, so I even surprised myself.
As for Kato — HAHAHAHHA! — that is an amazing comment. And, you’re totally right, since the marathon I haven’t been as focused on shutting down the woodland creature party pad occurring in my backyard. Yesterday night, I just threw a pile of avocado rinds into the back hedge (for, you know, composting and not because I was too lazy to bring them to the garbage can in the garage…) and didn’t even think about the fact that Kato had totally left them there until right now.
February 11, 2014 at 3:54 PM
Wow! Table service! Raccoon’s eyes shine in the light, so tonight after dark, turn out all the lights at the back of the house and shine a flashlight into the back hedge. I bet you’ll see the little twinkles of a row of beady eyes just watching and waiting for your to retire (or provide more table service). May the force be with you!
February 15, 2014 at 2:50 AM
PinotNinja – I saw this ad on TV and immediately thought of you and Kato – some night when you foget your glasses/contacts – she’s just waaaaitng! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZOeWFBy75A
February 11, 2014 at 4:09 AM
Good job!!! Good for you, even though you had a tough ride you were able to pick yourself up and finish.
February 11, 2014 at 2:15 PM
Thanks! The good moments definitely outnumbered the bad and, now that I am reflecting on all of this from the comfort of a reclined position, it was an absolutely tremendous experience.
February 11, 2014 at 4:18 AM
Well done dude!
February 11, 2014 at 2:19 PM
February 11, 2014 at 4:21 AM
Love this. Im currently training for a marathon and can totally understand what you mean with letting go of all that advice and worries when running. I have just blogged about gie I had the best run of my life the other day from doing exactly that. Huge well done for completing a maratgon and ejoying the experience!!
February 11, 2014 at 2:21 PM
Good luck to you with your marathon! It is absolutely 100% worth it, so stick to the training even on the days when you really don’t want to do it. It sounds like you’re well on your way to having a fantastic experience!
February 11, 2014 at 3:20 PM
Thank you so much. 🙂
February 18, 2014 at 5:09 AM
Thank you! Its tough but im beginning to believe I can actual do this.
February 11, 2014 at 5:25 AM
Wow. Great story, great life metaphor. I hope you are insanely proud… I’d love to be able to have that much stamina!
February 11, 2014 at 2:38 PM
I am completely and insanely proud. It’s been well over a week and I still get an embarrassingly goofy smile on my face every time that I think about it.
Go out and do it — you’ll be surprised just how much stamina and strength you’ve got.
February 11, 2014 at 7:28 AM
So happy for you and proud of you! You inspired me this morning! Now i gotta get my run on…
February 11, 2014 at 2:39 PM
Run, Rachel, run! Especially because, knowing you, there is going to be a fabulous cocktail and snack waiting for you at the end.
February 11, 2014 at 8:02 AM
Congrats Ninj!! That’s an awesome accomplishment made all the more awesome-er with the support you had. I would’ve lost it if my friends showed up like that. And yes, 1 ur premed makes Country Boy a doctor. He and I have that in common and I say the same thing. Luv that running GIF.
Boom Boom and I ran Chicago years ago and i agree it’s like nothing else ( assuming U finish). Was going to do it the next year but she got all pregnant on me, so I lost my training partner. Luckily I injured my foot bc trainjng alone was brutal. Never tried again and retired from running. Lately been thinking about unretiring, but nothing more than 10ks. congrats!!!
February 11, 2014 at 3:05 PM
Thank you so much! I thought of you and your wife while I was running — both because I was trying to channel your prior marathon/barre class strength and because my marathon mix was stocked with songs that you had suggested — and it totally helped.
Come out of retirement! Training for 10Ks is a totally manageable time commitment and I think you’ll be surprised how much barre helps your running. I was shocked by how strong my legs had gotten from those 8,000 painful v-position pulses, and the stretching in every class kept me injury-free.
February 11, 2014 at 3:36 PM
I just might do that.. Been cycling, but don’t want to do any kind of group rides or anything because many cyclists can get pretty douchey. And Barre definitely helps there – I can kill any hill pretty easily
February 11, 2014 at 8:24 AM
That is easily the best marathon story of all time. I am SO excited for your accomplishment! Though I kinda think you’re onto something with that whole pastry station idea – that sure as hell would incentivize me. Then again, so would seeing my friends dressed up as Fruit of the Loom guys. I might have to sign up for a marathon now…
February 11, 2014 at 3:25 PM
If there were croissants, I would totally run for them. All day and all night if need be.
And, my costumed friends had such a good time at the marathon that they ended up staying out there after I passed and cheering for complete strangers for hours. I’m pretty sure that, if you asked, they would come to wherever you were running and bring extra costumes for your friends. They’re good like that.
February 11, 2014 at 9:04 AM
That was the most epic marathon story I have ever read in my entire life!! Wow. Although, ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? You train for 5 months for a FULL marathon? What about a half? A 10K? How about easing in? Damn, girl. You’ve got some balls of steel.
I love all the accompanying pics and gifs. They make this story even more epic. I am very proud of you. But, I was wondering why there was suddenly a shortage on beer this past weekend. Now I know! 😉
And your friends are the bomb. I want to party with you people one day. Seriously. I’ll even rent a costume if that’s a requirement. Hell, I’ll buy one if I have to!
February 11, 2014 at 3:29 PM
Thank you so much! It was a totally epic day that was nothing like what I had expected, which is good because it was SO MUCH BETTER than the complete hell I was envisioning at the start line.
And, yes, I decided to go big or go home when it came to running. Why do something in moderation when you can be excessive?
And, yes, my views on running, dessert, and booze are one and the same.
And, yes, you definitely need to party with the panda people crew. You & Val would fit right on in.
February 11, 2014 at 9:34 AM
I am so, so happy for and proud of you!!!!! Rockstar, all the way. Wish I could have been there in person to cheer you on, but I promise, I was there in spirit 🙂 Well done, Pinot, well done! ((((HUGS))))
February 11, 2014 at 3:34 PM
Thank you so much!! I thought of you during my marathon for inspiration. When I started to get defeated around mile 10, my mind wandered to you and how you had managed to go from a non-runner to an enthusiastic half-marathon pro in such a short time. If you could do that, then I could certainly dig a little deeper, buck up, and keep on moving. Now, hopefully my story will motivate you on your upcoming big race weekend — you are going to CRUSH IT!
February 14, 2014 at 3:07 PM
I am beyond honored – thank you! Expect very slow times and lots and lots of smiles, lol! 😉
February 11, 2014 at 10:33 AM
Congratulations!! I’m so impressed! And what fabulous friends (and husband) you have, which, really, is a testament to how fabulous you must be to have such a dedicated posse. 🙂
Do you mind my asking if you had laparoscopic surgery? To be able to compete in a marathon so quickly post-surgically, I’d assume that’s the route you went. Even so, wow!
February 11, 2014 at 3:41 PM
Thanks — my friends and husband are fabulous beyond my wildest expectations. I still cannot believe how great each and every one of them are, and, if I think about it too much, I start to get a bit teary-eyed. I am one lucky kid.
I don’t mind you asking at all. I had laparoscopic surgery and my surgeon did a fantastic job. I couldn’t believe I was able to run either, but by two weeks after surgery the swelling had gone down, my incisions were healed, and I was mostly pain-free. On marathon day, I covered my incisions and belly button with bandages just to make sure they didn’t get irritated from so many hours of sweat, wore a loose tank top that wouldn’t rub against them, and took a preventative Aleve. They didn’t give me one spot of trouble.
Modern medicine really is the greatest thing ever.
February 11, 2014 at 3:48 PM
Laparoscopic surgery definitely cuts down the recovery time. Plus you were in great shape beforehand. That helps a lot, too. Your surgeon probably uses you as a bragging tool. 😉
February 11, 2014 at 10:53 AM
Good for you! I’m currently debating doing a tiny 5k like it’s Everest (kudos to you for doing a full marathon!), but feeling inspired by your hilarious story/GIFS. 🙂
February 11, 2014 at 3:36 PM
Many moons ago, after a three-year stretch of little to no running, I started with just a 5K and it, too, felt like Everest to me. But, much as with the marathon, I got through it by just getting out there a couple of times a week and putting one foot in front of the other. It gets a little easier every day until, one morning, you wake up and realize that not only is running 3 miles no longer a big deal, but that you’re able to run it faster than you ever thought possible.
And then the crazy will set in and you’ll sign up for a marathon.
And it will be awesome.
February 11, 2014 at 10:53 AM
YOU ARE AMAZING AND I WISH I COULD CALL YOU MY PATRONUS. I love you, I love Country Boy, and I love your friends (obviously). When I pull my ass off the couch for a mile-long run this spring, I’ll think of you.
February 11, 2014 at 3:48 PM
No, YOU ARE AMAZING. I couldn’t have done this without your encouragement and awesome pre-marathon present. I mean, are you kidding me with that?! I cried a little when the gift bag and I used our whole college crew as motivation while I was running. Everyone, and you in particular, have been put in some very challenging moments since we grew up, and you were always able to dig deep, crack a joke, brush your shoulders off, and just keep on keepin’ on. If you could find the strength to deal with those things, I could certainly find the strength to do the much easier task of running for a couple of hours.
This spring, you are going to take your neighborhood by storm. If nothing else, you will definitely have the best music out of anyone out there. And we all know that is what is really important.
February 11, 2014 at 11:12 AM
I think this settles it, PNinj. You are a my hero. Not like, oh, I’m really thirsty and you brought me a bottle of Rose and a bottle opener, thank you, my hero! But like, you are my Alicia-I-Look-Fabulous-In-A-Brown-Paper-Bag-And-Sing-Like-Boccelli-Even-When-I’m-Sick-Keys. I loved the story, loved the accomplishment, loved that you are so loved by your friends. Well done!!
February 11, 2014 at 8:35 PM
No, you’re my hero! Your triumph over the banana pudding showed just as much endurance, strength, and perseverance as my marathon did, and the results were WAY more delicious.
February 11, 2014 at 11:20 AM
Omg. You are AMAZING and it sounds like your friends and husband totally rock! Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment! I can see why you mentioned on my post that you couldn’t imagine ever not living where you are now. Seriously loved this!
February 11, 2014 at 8:40 PM
Thanks! I’m a totally lucky girl and this was a prime example of what I meant when I said you just have to give your new city time and be open to new people. Slowly you start gathering up your new friend family without every realizing it and then, one day, they’ll all show up exactly when you need them without you having to ask.
And then you realize that you’ve been home all along.
February 11, 2014 at 11:38 AM
YAY YOU!! What an amazing, empowering and motivational post! You. Are. A. Warrior!!
February 11, 2014 at 8:47 PM
Thanks! You’re a warrior, too, and, when I needed to dig deep, I thought about all of the hard work you put into the last year and about how you never gave up even when you were exhausted and things got tough.
February 12, 2014 at 10:53 AM
I think you just inspired me to start training for a 10k. God help me. 🙂
February 11, 2014 at 2:41 PM
I have a friend who wants me to join her on her way to running a marathon. I keep thinking about it. …. your post… I feel like this is deceivingly optimistic.
p.s. congrats on your marathon! That’s a great accomplishment.
February 11, 2014 at 8:51 PM
Help your friend out! It’s a fantastic way for you two to spend time together, your help will make a huge difference for her, and you might just decide to run the marathon yourself.
I never thought I would run one — even when I started training, which was initially to help out a friend who wanted to run a marathon — but I ended up surprisingly myself and learning a lot along the way.
February 11, 2014 at 6:53 PM
AWESOME!!!!!! I was right there with you, every step of the way. I hope I can summon some of that resolve for 34 straight days. You say it happens. They say it happens. I hope a giant panda can happen for me. 🙂 Congratulations on this life-changing, mind-bending accomplishment.
February 11, 2014 at 8:54 PM
Thank you! And you were there with me at every step. I thought of you and your walking the Trace at multiple times and it motivated me to just keep going. If you could do 15 miles a day for over a month, then I could do 26 miles for one day.
You will totally have the strength and determination to handle the Trace, especially with MTM, your friends, and your family by your side. It’s going to be an experience that you will never, ever forget, and I cannot wait to hear all about it.
February 11, 2014 at 8:41 PM
I have always despised running. I think mostly it’s because in my youth and various sports it was always used as a punishment. Lately, I find myself getting mroe and mroe jealous every time I hear someone has done this. Even though we don’t know each other, I AM PROUD OF YOU!
My health is not there for a marathon at this point, but I have a feeling one day I will conquor this too!
February 11, 2014 at 8:58 PM
You will conquer it! And, there are a lot of intermediate steps between starting running and doing a marathon. I didn’t just go from 0 to 60. Six years ago, I decided to start racing 5Ks. After several years of that, and a hiatus from running, I came back and did a couple of half marathons. Then I took another hiatus from running, and then I went for the marathon.
Start with a reasonable goal — walk in a local 5K race — and then take it from there. Achieving your goals, no matter how ridiculous they might seem at first, is pretty damn addicting.
February 12, 2014 at 11:23 PM
I am way out of shape, but one day at a time! Thank you for the support!
February 11, 2014 at 8:50 PM
Talk about BAD-ASS!!!!!!! YOU’RE DA MAN!!! What a great accomplishment, I am very happy for you. 🙂
February 11, 2014 at 8:59 PM
Thanks mama!! It’s all about showing up every day and giving the world hell.
February 11, 2014 at 9:51 PM
i love that your friends showed up in style!! how awesome and supportive. congrats to you!! wish i could muster up that motivation:)
February 18, 2014 at 11:50 PM
I still can’t believe how awesome and supportive they are — I hadn’t realized that I had a family in my adopted hometown (far away from my actual family) until that moment and it was incredible.
You can TOTALLY muster up the motivation. Just start small and keep on going, you’ll be surprised how much strength you’ve got if you just stick with it.
February 13, 2014 at 12:33 AM
Congratulations on this amazing accomplishment! What an inspiring story!
February 18, 2014 at 11:52 PM
Thanks! Even better was the fact that I could eat all of the croissants and drink all of the champagne for days afterwards.
February 19, 2014 at 12:45 AM
February 13, 2014 at 4:18 PM
Good for you for actually doing it! Sounds way, way too hard to me, though. Why can’t eating Little Debbie Snack Cakes be an Olympic event that people are proud of? Just sayin’…
February 18, 2014 at 11:52 PM
Wait, Oatmeal Cream Pie races aren’t an Olympic sport?! Then what the hell have I been training for all of these years?
February 17, 2014 at 1:43 PM
Man, nothing gets me going like a good marathon story. I totally vibe with the way you experienced it and told the tale… it’s a lot like life, with ups and downs within the same (ridiculously long) race. Congratulations!
February 18, 2014 at 11:53 PM
Thanks so much — I’m glad you stopped by to come on the ride with me!
February 18, 2014 at 11:27 PM
WOOHOO!!! Congratulations on getting it done!! I’m seriously impressed that your friends would dress up as animals, and seriously jealous that you live somewhere where you can where shorts and a t-shirt in February. Way to go!
Also, how was all the beer afterwards? That sounds like the perfect way to celebrate 🙂
March 21, 2014 at 11:17 PM
You’re amazing. I’m almost inspired to start running. Ok no, I’m not but you know what I mean!