I spent an entire marathon training season saying this year’s Top of Michigan Marathon would be my last full marathon. It’s such a time commitment and it is far too easy to get distracted. But, somewhere along the trail, I realized why I was driven to register in the first place. And when I crossed the finish line I was overcome with emotion.
For me, running is hard. I’ve wondered if I have some sort of exercise-induced asthma because it’s so difficult for me to breath. And both of my lungs collapsed in a traumatic accident, which may also be a factor. But, until a few years ago, I was not a runner. Today, I run 3-5 times weekly—usually training for my next race.
If I ever take time off from running, I can feel it. A few days, and my mood turns depressed. My body gets stiff and I start to ache. I’m tense and irritable. So I’ve become addicted to the adrenaline boost. A quick run can turn a bad day good. It washes away the stress of a long day at work, gives me a chance to think through issues and inspires me.
But running a marathon is hard. Those 26.2 miles are no joke and if you don’t train properly you risk injury and failure (something I don’t cope well with). So when I had to quit before I even hit the halfway mark at last year’s race, I was disappointed. I wasn’t surprised. I hadn’t taken my training seriously, the weather was hot and humid, my water supply was limited and I was just not prepared. When 2019 race registration opened, I signed up determined.
My training kicked off with a new, aggressive routine. I was logging 10-mile runs in the first month and incorporated speed and strength workouts into my program. But, with a month and a half to go, I got derailed. Travel plans, long hours at work and a lack of prioritization put me behind schedule. My first 16 miler was cut short by bad weather and stomach discomfort. I walked the last 4 miles of a 14-mile run instead. I was defeated and considered transferring to the race’s half marathon instead.
A few weeks later I finally logged that 16 miler and I felt great. Throughout my training, I never took more than two days off, but I hadn’t been hitting my mileage. So, I was determined to finish strong—and I did.
The morning of the race, I was unsure, but I knew my body was strong. At mile 10 I was keeping my pace. I passed the spot I broke down last year when I called my husband and told him I couldn’t finish. I continued running beyond the halfway point, pacing ahead of my time from the 2017 Chicago Marathon.
I reached mile 16 and realized how much better I felt than during my long training runs. At mile 18 I pushed on knowing this was as far as my training would take me. By mile 21, I realized I was going to finish.
This year, I knew my body and I was prepared. The course increased the number of aid stations and I made sure to utilize the resources. My husband refilled my water belt along the course and I maintained my fuel routine. I came out strong and steady, but even as I dropped off I was pacing to finish by my goal time.
At mile 25, I felt invigorated. I crossed the finish line knowing I’d logged a personal best. I sobbed to my husband, “I finished.”
Running is hard for me. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breath. I have to take deep breaths to remind my lungs to fill with air. I focus on my breathing a lot. But I can run, so I do.