The day has finally arrived. I woke up early so I had time to lay in bed and read my bible and just really calm and focus myself before the race. I finally got up and took time to stretch my legs and use the foam roller while my bagel toasted. I spread it with peanut butter and topped it with some sliced banana. I had laid out all my clothes so I just had to pull on my awesome Roxy sports bra and shorts. I sprayed myself down with sunscreen and donned my cool new highly personalized TNT purple singlet. Hair up in a pony and teeth brushed, I tied on my shoes and grabbed my hydration belt and extra shirt and headed over to Steph’s room. We made sure Andy had all our supplies before we left and I texted my mom to let her know we were headed to the start. I forgot to leave my phone with Andy so we had to run it back up but we still had plenty of time. We met with our team downstairs and the excitement in the air was palpable. Everyone had trained hard and was ready for this race. We took off for Union Square in one big group and the streets were already bustling at 6 in the morning. 20,00 runners would line up to start this event. We made our way to our corral and I scanned the crowd to see if I could find Holly and John. The first pass proved unsuccessful so I stretched with Steph awhile before taking one more loop. I spotted Holly with my “GO Michelle” sign waving in the air. We both squealed like little girls. I ran back to get Steph and we all chatted in our corral waiting for the starting signal. After the start sounded, I told Holly and John that they could go to the other corner and see us as we made our way to the start, since you don’t really go anywhere fast after the gun goes off unless you are an elite runner. Since it was my first I didn’t want to crowd the kids at the front. :)
So off they went and we scooted our way forward til we turned the corner and it opened up a little. We waved at Holly as she took some pics and video and after we got all of our GPS turned on, away we went. Let’s do this thing. Just a little morning jog if you will. We made sure to keep our pace steady those first few miles and not start out too fast. We got warmed up and enjoyed running through the buildings and seeing the wave of people making it’s way through downtown. It was a beautiful sight. At mile 2, when we got to the waterfront, we saw Andy and Steph’s mom and got the first of many photo ops. Thankfully Andy and Holly both sent picture message updates to my mom throughout the race so she could see how we were doing and where we were. After Steph tossed her throw away shirt we took off down the Embarcadero.
The sun was making it’s way up in the sky and it was a beautiful morning, cool and crisp as we passed a gospel choir singing praises for all the runners. What a sweet sound. We settled in and just ran, taking in all the sights and sounds, doing a mental inventory as we went. We passed right by the first water stop and I dropped off my throw away shirt, thanks to Steph in the donation box they had set up at mile 2.5. We both felt really good and were just really enjoying the race. We passed Andy and Mom at the next water stop and barely saw them in the craziness that was the aid station. From there we started on some of the hills, making our way through a park and down to the waterfront on the way to the bridge. There was a family cheer station set up and we saw Holly, John and Chloe screaming like banshees as we ran past. We ran past all the houses that sit overlooking the Bay and there were people out in their robes, drinking their coffee waving us on. It was so fun. We could see the hills coming but thankfully with all the training in Mission Viejo, they weren’t really that bad. We reminded each other to keep the chin up, pump the arms and run lightly on the feet and up we went. The view of the bridge was a little obscured by the morning fog but it was still a beautiful sight to see. Still feeling good, we just ran and ran and ran, motivated by all the cheering fans and coaches and other runners. I just tried to take it all in, yelling “Go Team” to every coach I saw on the sidelines and encouraging other runners who had started to slump. We were at about mile 8 when we came to a moderately long hill, not too steep but long. We decided to run it for someone and we picked our little honored teammate “Gubben”. So we turned the corner and up we went. When we started to get tired , we said “this is for Gubben”, arms pumping, chin up, “we have never had to go through chemo, we can do this”. We got almost to the top, breathing hard and we came upon one of the wheelchair athletes gutting her way to the top of that same hill. We cheered her on, “you got this” I yelled, “Keep going”. I was so inspired, and choked up and so thankful for my little tired working legs.
From there we came up over a hill and were face to face with the Bay Coastline in all it’s foggy morning glory. It was a gorgeous view with a huge rock full of sea lions in the distance. I am quite sure I heard them cheering for us. We made our way down to the bottom and the only bummer was that we could see the finish line and yet we had a really long way to go. But we were feeling good so it wasn’t total torture. We headed into the park, through the throngs of screaming families, friends, coaches and bystanders. I was looking for Holly and John, thinking they should be in that area somewhere. There were people everywhere but I didn’t see them. Then all the sudden I saw John spot us and he took off running up the hill away from us. Steph and I started giggling and we were like “hey, why is he running away?” We saw him get up to where Holly and Chloe were and let them know we were coming. They started cheering like crazy. It was awesome and as we made our way up to them I swooped in and gave Chloe a big sweaty kiss. It was great. The run through the park was so fun because Safeway had cheer teams all over the place. They were cheering, there were bands, and there were teams of them with giant signs encouraging us and reminding us of why we were here. Some of the signs were “because you paint your toenails black to cover the bruised ones”, “because you went through 3 pairs of shoes in training“, and ”come on legs“. There was one guy with a megaphone asking ”who needs a push?“ I waved at him and said that we did and he raced over and ran with us screaming ”PUSH, PUSH, PUSH“ through the megaphone. It was awesome! We got to mile 14 and there was Andy sitting on the side of the road, camera in hand. We stopped and took some pictures and gave him an update on how we were feeling and then away we went. It was a beautiful run through the park and I reminded myself of the ”Penguin’s“ words to take time to look around and really enjoy my first marathon. I was feeling really good so far so I was really grateful. I looked around at the beauty of the park and as we came up to a little lake on the left, there was a bench with a mom sitting on it. Dad was down by the road cheering on runners and their son, who must have been about Chloe’s age had a little mini red drum kit and he was banging away on it. it was so random and so darling and so entertaining. A moment to enjoy.
We made it down to the Great highway where the half marathon kids go right to the finish and we went left to finish 10 more miles. As we ran through the cheering crowds Steph and I high fived and said, ”Now we are committed“. Off down the Great highway we went. The next time we saw Andy, the sun had come out and as we ran up he had our sunglasses out and ready to go. We slid them on, he handed us the sunscreen and I sprayed myself down and then Steph. She already had her glasses on and I sprayed right over them. Ooops. :) Away we went again, still feeling pretty good. Miles 17-19 flew by with no real trouble and then I had a problem. As we made our way toward the loop around Lake Merced, it was a slow rolling downhill. There was a band at the bottom singing Flock of Seagulls ”I ran“ and I was quite pumped up by that. Until Steph said ”I have never heard this song“ WHAT? I gave her homework to YouTube it when she got home. The hair alone is worth a look. But as I was running downhill toward them I started getting a really sharp pain in my right knee. Right knee? WHAT? I never have trouble with my right leg. My left leg has been the problem child forever, this was so unusual and it was Capital C cranky. I had to slow to a walk and my brain went into over drive. I thought, there is no way I am making it 6 more miles with this pain. I started telling myself to ”manage the moment“, I stopped to stretch, I started to freak out just a little. Steph stopped and walked with me and even walking I was still getting an occasional jab. She grabbed my hand and said let’s pray. SO we did. I even closed my eyes and then after a few steps realized that probably wasn’t a good idea. So I just prayed to the Lord to take the pain away, to send lots of good healing blood to my knee, to help me manage the moment and to keep going. I said Amen and we started to jog very slowly. It was a slight up hill so it didn’t hurt that bad. Steph pulled her phone out and called our Pitt Crew Chief to request some advil. She told him where we were and a few minutes later he flew past us on the bike, up ahead we saw him jump off and pull stuff out of his bag. By the time we got to him, the advil was out with a gatorade chaser in the other hand. I was nervous to take it cause I didn’t want to mask pain that was causing some really damage. I made sure to stretch a bunch because I knew something was tight to be causing this nonsense. Feeling a little better, I said ”ok let’s do this“ and off we went. We started off slow and eased into our pace and Praise the Lord, it felt better. Around the lake we went. We passed the chocolate mile on the back side and got to run with our Coach Noah for a little bit, needing some of his encouraging words. We were getting tired but we were so close so we were trying to stay focused.
We made our way up the last hill as Andy took pictures from the road side. From there it was a long, flat stretch down the highway to the Finish. We got a little spring in our step when we got to 25 and swapped out our sunglasses for our tiaras. Oh yeah, game on. We are almost Home. We heard one of the TNT coaches say ”only 2 lights left“. We got this. I think I had a few of them over the last 6 miles, but that was the final ”Moment“ The moment according to the ”Penguin“ is when you realize you are really going to do this. I realized I was really going to do it, finish a marathon. WOW. We stepped up our pace again. The crowds were cheering, we were running well. Chin up, arms pumping, shoulders down and relaxed. Even after 26 miles, it was easy with the Finish Line in sight. We started to sprint it out and ended up running right past Holly and John. I only heard her yell after I passed her and turned around to wave quickly. Can’t stop now kids, Finish Line in sight!
Steph and I came across the Finish Line together, hands and heads held high. Emotions overtook us as we hit the timing pads. We laughed and cried and hugged. It was AMazing. I did it. I ran 26.2 mile. I know the best part is supposed to be the little blue box at the end that holds the finishers medal, but it didn’t even compare to the feeling of accomplishment. The feeling that with enough work and consistency and determination and support and encouragement and prayer, I could do anything. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t turn down the blue Tiffany box that the tuxedo-ed fireman held out to me, I am just saying.
So that’s it kids. It was everything and more that I could have ever asked for. I don’t think I could have scripted a better first marathon experience. I had fun, I worked hard, I pushed through, I managed the moment, I enjoyed the experience and I took time to relish everything around me. I hope the same for anyone who ever decides to do this.