It was somewhere between mile 25 and 26. The Third Street sidewalk decided that my body needed a break…or at least a few scratches and bruises. Before I knew what hit me, I was face-down and slightly stunned.
As I lay there, my mind drifted back to a dreary day in June 1994. My mom and I had pulled up to my grandparents’ house, where she and my Pop were attempting to pull my paralyzed body out of our car. Pop didn’t realize how heavy my dead weight was, and I fell to the gravel, badly skinning my knees. I could barely walk, and I definitely couldn’t get up from the ground on my own. Later that day, I was admitted to the hospital by my neurologist to begin treatment for what was being diagnosed as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
My 14-year-old self probably wouldn’t have believed you if you told me my 37-year-old self would be running my first marathon. Actually, I’m not sure my present self could believe it either. A few months back, I blogged about The M Word, where I told you all that I intended on running the first Williamsport Marathon. Then, summer happened, and even though I was running frequently, my training was more triathlon-focused than long-distance running. Maybe it wouldn’t be a big deal if I chickened out, or maybe just did the half marathon instead.
Therefore, I waited to register. I also didn’t do any long-distance runs to prepare myself in case I decided to go for it.
As September rolled around, I was finally persuaded to train, with what little time I had left, to run the full 26.2 miles. I knew I could at least make it 13.1 of those miles, so I stood a chance at finishing the race. Even if I was walking, limping or crawling, I was determined to finish.
October 8th dawned with heat, humidity and rain. Fortunately, by race time, the rain had stopped, and I was comfortable in my tank and shorts. I was excited, but nervous, of course, because this would be the longest distance I’d ever attempted.
In the first ten miles or so, I learned that the water stations were few and far between. They were also not well-stocked–even with water. There was a total of one porta-potty on the entire course. I also discovered that there were no mile markers, which would have helped greatly while running such a long distance. Not to mention that the volunteers abandoned their posts after a certain point. At least they couldn’t yell at us for drinking right out of the gallon water jugs because the small bottles and cups were all gone. Desperate times call for desperate measures!
After a few hours had passed, there were no bystanders cheering us on. Traffic was open, which meant traversing some less-than-well-maintained sidewalks in South Side. As I lagged behind at my 13-minute mile pace, I started to get disheartened. What if they had torn down the finish line before I could get there? What if nobody was there at the finish at all?
My body was actually holding up very well, aside from my left instep, which made me take walk breaks more frequently. I don’t remember if I was walking or running when I tripped and fell.
There I lay on the sidewalk, bruises appearing on my knee, shoulder, arm and hands. I brushed the fine gravel from the scratches on my hand, knee and shoulder. At this point, I considered giving up. Nobody would probably be at the finish anyway. I could just lay there and admit defeat.
Then, I remembered why I was doing this–for the 14-year-old who couldn’t get up.
I rose to my feet, got my bearings, and with the help of a nearby crossing guard, made it to the intersection, and on to the final half mile of the course.
When I saw the finish line, it was hard to hold back the tears. It wasn’t the fanfare finish I’d dreamed of, with only two people, both volunteers, there to welcome me. I wasn’t choked up for the lack of people…it was the fact that there WERE people at all, waiting for me. I was overwhelmed at what I had just accomplished.
I am a marathoner.