26 MILESNovember 14, 2004
I did it. I really did it! I’m so unbearably proud of both myself and Marama for going the whole distance.
Okay, so they were calling this a “practice” run, the Galloway method of training for a marathon. I think the premise is that after running 26 miles, your body will remember it later, the next time you run a “real” marathon, and not think you’re going to die. No, it only thinks you might die the FIRST time you do it. Like, yesterday. It was a fantastic day to run. Cool and breezy and still sunny the whole day, my pace group started out with seven people. We ran up the Cliff House mountain from the windmill and then through Sutro Park. I hadn’t done any of my training runs during the week in hopes of keeping my shin splints from flaring up, and it had really, really helped.
Coming down the hill, I was feeling great. I kept feeling pretty darn good up until about mile ten, when we were approaching Lake Merced. I helped myself to a handful of gummy bears, because apparently they’re something you eat while running. Know what? When you’re running 26 miles, don’t eat ANYTHING you haven’t practiced running and eating already. Oh, the belly cramps. I hate running with my hands way up in the air, but it was the only way I could get air to my innards. They went away eventually, but I felt pretty durn sick for about four miles or so.
Apparently I’m a long-distance runner. The three and four milers are all right, I like ‘em just fine, but I hit my stride right about fourteen miles in. From fourteen to about nineteen, I’m happy. I’m feeling good. I realize that I’m going to make it. That I’m actually going to run twenty-six miles, something I’m not sure if I ever really believed I would do. I had hoped, yes, but I wasn’t sure. (Kind of like living in my own home, or falling in real love. I’ve had a REALLY busy few months, haven’t I?)
At mile eleven, Vanessa peeled off from the group and went home to take care of her poor knees. At mile twenty, Kat called it good, going way farther than she had hoped she would. Miles 20-23 were really hard, but we did ‘em. At 23, Lauren decided she had had enough and that her hips were all done for the day. Laura, Dan, Lynn, and I kept running.
I thought maybe the last three miles would be like 20-23. Okay? They’re not. Everyone says a marathon is in two halves: The first half is twenty miles, the second half is six. They’re right. Mile 24 was hard.
Miles 25 and 26 were almost impossible. I remember just putting my head down and staring at the ground that was going by sooo slowly. I hated every car that passed me. I really hated the bicyclists that whizzed by me on the sidewalk. When you’re that tired, you really have a limited amount of motion accessible to you. I couldn’t move right or left, I just had to hope the bikes would get around me somehow (when I stopped to retie my shoes, I could barely work the laces—the only thing my body could do by then was run). I even hated the two girls on their skateboards. I wanted to mug them and ride a board to the finish line, but I don’t know how to skate and yesterday probably wasn’t the best time to learn. So I kept running.
I think I had assumed the last mile would be easy. It wasn’t. It only became easy when we came around the corner and saw the balloon arches and heard the music and suddenly realized there were dozens of people screaming as we came running. We took hands and held them over our heads, and we broke the tape they held out for us, and I cried a little bit as they hung my medal around my neck. Just like I am now, just thinking about it.
It was so fucking worth it. I did it. Sure, it took me six hours and fifty-two minutes, but I did it, damn it. Marama was a little ways behind me, with her reconfigured group, so I got to cry and yell all over again as she came in. I can’t tell you how beautiful she looked, breaking that race tape, arms up, so happy to be where she was, to have MADE it. And our coordinator gave me Marama’s medal, so I could put it around her neck, and I’ve never been prouder. Really.
Then we got in the car and drove straight to Barney’s, where we ordered:
I told the Emmylou Harris look-alike sitting next to us that we had just run 26 miles. She nodded and smiled. Then she saw our medals, which we are planning on wearing until we die, and said, “Oh, my god, you’re serious!” Yeah, lady. We were.
No, we didn’t even come close to eating it all, but it sure felt good to sit there with her, grinning our heads off for running a MARATHON, dammit, no matter what they were calling it. That wasn’t no practice, man, nosiree. That was the real deal. I’m so happy. And so proud. And YOU were with me every step of the way. Really. Thank you. One month to Hawaii! Whoo hoooo!