Having all just completed the Surf City Distance Derby the previous Sunday in the freezing cold rain, we were all worried what Saturday morning would bring. After dinner, we went to CVS and bought the last two emergency ponchos. But I knew that these wouldn't work for very long if the rain continued. I have never ran a marathon in the rain, but have heard horror stories of blisters and falling. And, I worried about Dad and Glen, feeling somewhat responsible for encouraging them to sign up. We had fun at dinner, as we always do, but it was definitely overshadowed by worry of what tomorrow would bring.
|Dinner, the night before.|
I dropped Mom, Dad and Glen off at their place, and headed to my bed and breakfast. I fell asleep to the sound of rain, and just knew that when I woke up, it would still be raining. I didn't sleep well, afraid I would oversleep and woke up several times during the night.
To my surprise, I didn't hear any rain when my wake-up call came. I downed a red bull, ate a clif bar, and called mom for the weather report because they were staying closer to the start, 10 miles away. No rain there either! But it wasn't light out yet, so I didn't know if it was still going to rain. I got dressed and left to pick up Dad and Glen (Mom was to take a cab to the finish later). We headed to UCSB for our shuttles and met Delia in the parking garage. We snapped some pictures, and said goodbye to Glen and Dad, who were taking different shuttles to their 1/2 marathon start. The sun was rising, and there were dark clouds in the distance. Still, I worried about the rain.
|In the gym, before the start.|
|Much smaller marathon.|
Delia, Andra and I started together and ran for a mile or two before Andra asked "Are you Megan?" It was then that I realized she was the one person who I had never met who donated quite a bit to my NAMI walk. "Oh, you're Andra!" was my response and the conversation flowed. With marathon running as the common denominator, you almost have instant friends, across any age, gender and occupation. But I found that Andra and I had a lot of other real-world, non-running things in common too. Around this same time, Delia picked up the pace, (or we slowed a bit) and it was just the two of us running. The miles flew by as we chatted and got to know each other.
Until about mile 7, when I noticed that my legs were already starting to feel a little bit heavy. That's an unsettling feeling, when you have 19 more left. I took a gu and continued on, realizing that I should have brought my own and taken it much sooner. Talking to Andra helped the time pass and I have to say it was one of the most interesting conversations I've ever had during a run. Around mile 15 or so I felt good; floaty and even a bit giddy. Not the elusive runner's high that I've read about, but pretty close. I saw a caterpillar crossing the bike path we were on, the most unusual one I've ever seen: short, fuzzy and black/bright yellow. I imagined that it would turn into a bumble bee, not a butterfly, and I bent down to pick it up before it got squashed. This put me behind, and I lengthened my stride to catch up to Andra.
We were commenting on the beautiful weather and how lucky we were to not have the rain that all the weather reports said we were sure to get. It was right about this time that it hit me: I had spent all that time and energy worrying about something I couldn't control: the weather. I was spending time worrying about rain, when we were going to have beautiful weather anyway! How completely useless that worry was...and how it robbed me of being in the moment and enjoying my time with my family to the fullest extent. It sounds silly, and even a bit trite as I sit here now writing it: but in that moment, I actually felt what I've always known to be true: worry doesn't help, prevent, or change anything. I had been so worried about the rain; how it would affect my performance, my Dad and brother walking the half, and my Mom waiting at the finish. In fact, I hadn't just been thinking about it the night before, but the entire week before...ever since I knew it was in the forecast! When there really wasn't any rain in the cards for us.
Looking at the bigger picture of life, I started thinking about those things that I periodically worry about while we continued our 10-ish minute per mile pace, talking less now because that same pace was becoming more difficult to maintain. I started thinking of those re-occuring things I worry about and imaging that, just like this rain, maybe I really don't have any reason to worry: my Dad's health, not finding someone in time to have children, even death. Just like perfect weather was really in the forecast on the day of the marathon, what if my Dad's leukemia never needs treatment and never gets worse? What if I will definitely be a mother someday? And, the big one: what if there really is something, anything, after this life? And, even if there isn't...does worry ever help? It was going to rain that day or it wasn't, plain and simple. So, why did thinking about it even matter? I felt a calmness and a peace about everything I have ever worried about in life. I felt like I now knew that just like that day, everything was going to work out just fine. Maybe I was experiencing a little bit of that runner's high, but even now, almost a week later I still feel that that calmness and comfort is with me.
Her pace remained steady, and I felt myself start to slow. We were almost at mile 20 when it became even more difficult, which is usually when it happens. I remember reaching mile 20 in my 1st marathon back in 2003 and I was so excited to only have 6 more miles left. But then, my next thought was 'oh wait...that's over an hour more of running.' Sharing this with Andra, she helped me re-frame it by pointing out that we really only had 3 more miles to go, because the last three would be so exciting. That helped me a lot, and as she continued on and I walked a bit because my fingers were tingling (electrolyte imbalance?), I kept telling myself that. There was a fairly steep hill at mile 23 and I decided to walk the whole thing, telling myself that I would need to walk a lot in the upcoming North Face Endurance Challenge 50K.
After that walk break, it was hard to get going again...mentally as much as physically. I didn't have my iPod, because I thought it would rain, and that is usually the time when I rely heavily on Lil Wayne. My hip flexors were sore and tired, and my feet didn't seem to come very far off the ground. I rescued another cute bumblebee caterpillar headed into traffic and certain death, and thought of how beautiful and precious life is. I thought of my brother, Dad and Mom waiting for me at the finish line and how I was now on the same path that they had just been on for their race. I felt so proud of my brother for completing his first 1/2 marathon and I felt so lucky to be there with him. Concerns from the past, of the health of him and my Dad melted away. I started smiling.
At mile 24 I saw a woman shuffling along like me, struggling. This was a small marathon with only a few thousand participants, so there weren't runners all around me like in Chicago or LA. I asked her what number marathon this was for her, and she said it was her first. "How exctiting!" I said, and we struck up a conversation. She had a thick accent, and I asked where she was from. She was from Ethiopia, and came here for a better life. Now enjoying an ocean view, and the finish within our reach, I asked who was waiting for her at the finish; her husband, and three children. I told her that she could put her iPod back in if she wanted, and that I was missing mine, but she said our conversation was exactly what she needed. It was what I needed too. About a mile out, her husband and children appeared, and started running alongside us. Her husband was videoing us, and her excitement and energy were contagious.
By this time, I realized my face was actually hurting from smiling so much. As we ran into the finish line together, I heard my Mom yell my name and went over to give her a kiss. Less than 100 yards from the finish, I heard Glen say my name and made a sharp right turn, over to him. I stopped and hugged him, telling him how proud I was of his accomplishment.
An observer called out 'don't forget to finish!' because my chip time was still ticking, and I crossed over the finish, with an official time of 4 hours, 46 minutes and 12 seconds... an average pace of 10:55. I met up with everyone from my running group, and my family. We sat on the football field of Santa Barbara City College and compared stories, and shared our experiences.
In all, this marathon was one of the best I've done. Not because of my time, or the course, but because of the experience. Maybe if I had been sitting at home I could have had the same revelation and shifted my perceptive, but I doubt it. It seems to only be when we push our physical limits and boundaries that we get some distance and out of our head enough to gain true insight into ourselves. I hope to carry the experience of that day with me for a long time and use it as a point of reference...remembering that tomorrow may or not bring rain, but today, it is sunny.
|Glen, finishing strong!|
|Second 1/2 marathon for Daddy!|
|Andra and I, at the finish.|
|We've bonded over many long training runs.|