So after hearing about my previous exposures to distance running and marathons, you are probably wondering how I decided to make this goal my own. Truth be told, I don't have a really good reason other than maybe a little medal envy. Last year I was just doing my thing, walking to the train station at O'Hare Airport after a trip and I noticed that it was a lot more crowded than normal. I had forgotten that it was the day of the marathon until I saw several people in their finisher medals. I guess I just thought to myself, "I could do that." It also probably helps that I had just started dating a guy who plays league sports like it's his job and I might have been feeling like a sloth. I'd also been living in Chicago for a couple of months and the weather was turning cool enough to feel like getting out of the house for a run. It must have been a combination of everything but I told Adam that I was going to train and run the 2009 Chicago Marathon.
Later that week, I registered for my first half marathon "preparation run" in Austin in January. It's funny to think about that because Adam and I had only been dating for a month but I told him that I wanted him to fly down with me so I'd have someone to cheer me on at the finish line. Luckily, he liked me enough to say yes without hesitation and my marathon dream was officially born.
I somehow conned my dad to sponsor me through his company so I was able to register for two more half marathons and the biggie for free. He also got on board and had t-shirts made. Thus, Run, Big Jen, Run became reality. There was no turning back, although I haven't really wanted to.
In January, I ran the 3M Half Marathon in Austin, Texas. To this day, that was still my favorite half because the weather was perfect (very cool), it was a small race and it felt so good to finish. I was such an amateur then! I don't think I even had my beloved Balaga socks but I didn't end up with too many blisters. I had never experienced the joy that is Body Glide and I wore a cotton sports bra. Let's just say there was some chafing and leave it at that. I was so sore for about a week because the race had so many hills and I wasn't used to it (it doesn't help that I did most of my training in the gym because it was so cold and snowy here in Chicago). It was awesome though because I got to have my favorite bean and cheese tacos as my post-race meal.
In April, I started writing here on Run, Big Jen, Run, just before my infamous and anti-fun experience at the Go St. Louis Half Marathon. It was good for me to experience running in the rain but not good to feel as crummy as I did for most of the race.
In May, I ran the Soldier Field 10 Miler, which was really fun. I plan on doing this race again next year. Adam and I also started running 5Ks together, which has turned out to be a really fun activity that we can do together (and that works out well since I like to participate in exactly zero other sports things he likes to do. If it involves a ball, count me out, please).
June was when my real marathon training started. Now that I'm on the tail end (and this is probably due to my IT band issues) I'm just ready for it to be over. Marathon training is four months of intense running. When I was still flying, it was incredibly difficult to squeeze in runs. I despise running on treadmills and I was never too keen on running in unfamiliar layover spots for very long distances. It was hard for me to find the time at the beginning but eventually I was able to fit running in as my mileage increased. One of the hardest things about increasing your mileage is the fatigue. There were days that I'd fall asleep on the couch at 8:30. I could pound down 12 hours of sleep easily because I was running for such long amounts of time since I run like a turtle.
Over Labor Day weekend, we ran the Virginia Beach Half Marathon. I was able to better my time and I learned a lot about pushing myself in hot weather. Thankfully tomorrow's race is not in September in humidity because I don't think I could have gone another mile, let alone double the distance.
Now, seeing things from this perspective, it's funny. I have run short distances and longer than I ever thought I could. I have stopped, turned around and gone home because I just couldn't finish. I have run in pouring rain. I have run on snow and ice, I have run in heat that has made me run out of sweat. I have run in cold where I could see my breath through the entire run. I have run in clothing that has chafed me so bad that it will probably leave scars. I have run on the lakefront path countless times; I have run in several different cities and countries. I have run until I could no longer breathe. I have done more miles than I care to count or remember but mostly, I have been running for me. I set this goal to prove to myself that I could do it and I haven't backed down. I have fought through pain. I have schleped my sore body all over the place. I have cried. I have laughed. I have seen some inspiring things and met some crazy people. I have been on what has seemed like the longest journey, but in the morning my journey begins again. Tomorrow I will see things that will bring tears to my eyes. I will feel blessed that I have two legs that are strong enough to do this. I will pray to God to give me the mental strength to carry on. I will be fighting the adrenaline surge and trying to bottle that energy to get through the finish. I will see my family and friends along the way that have sacrificed to be here to support me. I will be counting down the miles until my fiance meets me to finish the last few. We will count down until the end together.
And I will cross the finish line. This 26.2 mile long journey is just beginning.
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