I am a collection of things. A dreamer, a creator, an adventurer. A daughter, a sister, a friend. A writer, a reader, a storyteller.
And now, I am a marathoner.
Let me tell you right from the beginning that when I crossed the finish line on Sunday, I had nothing left. I ran my freaking heart out and I left everything I had on the streets of Columbus.
If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen my posts about running clog your feed from time to time (#sorrynotsorry). Well this past Sunday, weeks of running, training, and sweating culminated in a 26.2 mile run through the streets of Columbus, and it was nothing short of phenomenal.
Even though I trained for so long, as race week approached, I started getting nervous about the 26.2. Every time someone asked me if I “was ready,” my heart started beating a little faster and my response differed depending on the time of day.
Well, on Sunday, I found out. Running for 26.2 miles is hard. It’s beautiful. It’s emotional. It’s empowering. It’s humbling. Incredibly humbling. When I started running last year, all I really wanted to do was find a way to believe in myself. Marathon running is unlike any other sporting event I’ve ever taken part in. You’re not battling an opponent; you’re only battling yourself. This race was a competition against myself and I won. I beat my own mind. I found strength and confidence within me that I don’t think I will ever lose.
I have asthma. I never ran in high school. In fact, I couldn’t even run a mile in gym class under 13 minutes. Look at me now. I packed my inhaler with me and I didn’t even need to use it once.
The course was challenging enough to hold my focus, and fun enough to keep me entertained. The flat, fast course, the awesome crowd support, the fireworks and bands blaring at every mile — this race will forever be remembered.
The first 13.1 miles completely flew by! Once the half marathoners split off from us and the marathoners kept running straight, it hit me — I’m running a marathon!
The amount of runners decreased around me and my friend Melanie, and I kept saying over and over, “We are so cool! Oh my gosh! We’re so cool!!!”
The most incredible moments for me were during the last six miles. During training, I read and was told by my marathoner friends that “the first 20 miles are from training and the last 6.2 are from your heart.” I was told over and over that the last 6.2 would test me mentally and be the toughest miles.
At mile 20, I was still feeling awesome! I must be crazy! When mile 21 came around, the crowd was so energizing and motivating. “What a wonderful group of runners we have here! So many smiles!” one said. Grandview was definitely my favorite suburb to run through.
Yeah, did I mention that I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face for 26.2 miles? I really must be crazy. I kept telling Melanie, “Why did people say mile 20 would feel like death? I still feel pretty good!” I chugged away, “I think I can, I think I can!” I found out pretty quickly that by making myself laugh, and making others laugh, running a marathon was a whole lot easier.
Then it hit me. The roller coaster of highs and lows. Mile 24 was tough. Mentally, I was okay, which was the most important part, but I knew that I just wanted to finish already. Physically, I felt like a newborn baby giraffe. I think I mentally blacked out. Running is one of the only things I do that completely shuts off my thoughts.
My bib had my name written on it, and my absolute favorite part was having people–complete strangers–cheer out my name. “Go Laurie!” “Laurie, you’re an inspiration!” “You got this Laurie!” I owe miles 23-25 to them.
At mile 25.5, I saw a guy who had already passed the finish line standing alongside the crowd to cheer on the rest of us. I pointed at his medal and, exhausted, slurred, “I want that medal!!!” He smiled at me and said, “You’re gonna get it! GO GET IT! You’re so close!!!”
The tagline for this year’s Columbus half marathon was “determined.” For me, this was very appropriate at that moment. I kept my eyes straight and pushed myself to mile 26. I shouted to Melanie, “I taste the finish line!!!”
Then, all of a sudden, a bundle of adrenaline I didn’t know I had inside of me burst open and I sprinted with every piece of energy I could muster towards the finish line. There were thousands of people on each side of me screaming and cheering, but I couldn’t hear anything. My heart was pounding inside my ears! I felt like I was in a vacuum of euphoria. My smile was so exuberant that I could physically feel how massive it was. I was grinning from ear to ear!
I looked beside me and didn’t see Melanie. I stopped, .1 miles away from the finish line, grabbed her hand, and we crossed it together. “You just finished a marathon together! Hand-in-hand!” I heard the announcer say over the speaker.
I don’t remember the next 15 seconds because I experienced complete sensory overload. I was feeling so much. I stumbled over to the man with medals and the second he placed one around my neck, I cupped my face in my hands and started crying. Slobbery crying. Body shaking crying.
I turned around and saw that Melanie’s lip was quivering and eyes were filled with tears. We embraced, medals clanking, bodies thumping. One of the photographers snapped our photo before we could walk away.
Going into this race, I was very conservative in my goal: just cross the finish line. I knew I could do that. My goal was to have a great race, and I didn’t just have a great race– I had the best race I could possibly imagine for myself. I may not have ran as fast as I wanted, but I ran the entire time! I am proud of that.
I seriously couldn’t have done it without my friend Meghan, who pushed me through training or Melanie, who stayed by my side through the entire race. I am also super thankful for EVERYONE who cheered me on or who sent me words of encouragement. You all made my first marathon very, very special, and I’ll never forget that!
Distance running is a strange love-hate phenomenon. It’s that moment in training where you wish to run zero more miles, that mid-race moment where you think you’ve hit rock bottom, but somehow, you find it in yourself to dig a little deeper, push your limits a little further, and put one foot in front of the other.
People ask me how I could have possibly ran so far. The truth is: my mind is much stronger than my body. While I’ve been forced to hit some form of rock bottom more times than I’d like to admit, the positives of the experience as a whole are most powerful. I’ve learned much about myself, and for that, I am thankful; for that, I am blessed; for that, I will continue to marathon.
Did I just say I will continue to marathon? You betcha. That was the most fun I’ve ever had on my two feet. I am fully aware of every single muscle in my body right now. I am still flying on my “runner’s high” and I am over-the-moon happy and I can’t wipe the smile off my face. I can honestly say it was PERFECT!
Thank you all again for all the support, good lucks, cheers, or stalking me on the participant update. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.
You can train in a myriad of ways, but being gentle to and listening to your body is what pays off in the long run. Pun intended. 😉
P.S. I can’t stop eating. Please send help.
P.P.S. Send pie to Meghan. Not apple pie though; she hates apple pie.