Jan 21, 2014 1:13 PM by Danielle Lerner
I don't think it's quite hit me yet. I know I spent the past 18 weeks training for it and I know I crossed the finish line in 6:37 Sunday, but it's still hard for me to believe that I completed a full marathon. It is something I can honestly say I never thought I would do, or even want to do, but in a way that's what makes the milestone even greater.
I first got the itch to go 26.2 miles after completing my third half marathon in January of 2013. I crossed the finish in 2:35, my best time yet, but couldn't help feeling like I was capable of more. I thought about it for a few months and realized fear was the only thing holding me back from taking the plunge. I knew if I trained properly my body would physically take me all the way, but it was that unknown element, the act of embarking on something I had never tried before and being afraid to fail. When I think back over my marathon experience, it's that decision I'm most proud of, having confidence in myself and my ability to at least try. So many times that's the toughest part of making a change or moving forward. Simply deciding to give it your best shot.
I went online and found an 18-week marathon training plan for beginners and got to work. We ran 4 days a week and placed our long run on Saturday mornings. The program builds until you run 20 miles a couple of weeks before the big day, and then taper down from there so your body can rest and repair itself. I was nervous the lack of mileage toward the end would take a toll on my performance but was assured time and time again my body would know what to do on race day, so I decided to trust the training.
Before I knew it, I was standing in corral 6, facing the start line. I had my running pack full of GU gels, Gatorade, water and a protein bar to eat at the halfway point. I looked around at the thousands of runners lined up in front of me and the few hundred behind me, and still couldn't help but think, "I can't believe I'm about to run a marathon!" With the music blaring and runners cheering, we surged across the start and began the 26.2-mile journey from Phoenix to Tempe, with a detour through Scottsdale. I felt strong through the first half, felt a little pain in my left knee and tightness in my legs, but that was to be expected. My sister met us at mile 14 with bottled water and ice cold towels, just what we needed since it was starting to get warm. By the second time we saw her, at mile 19, the crowds were thinning and our pace was slowing down. We were now picking landmarks a little ways up the road, running in short bursts and walking in between. Around mile 22 is when I really started to feel it. My legs were tight, I had a brief stint of nausea and was starting to get a headache. People were passing us left and right and the competitive part of me was starting to get frustrated. We trudged on through miles 23-25, thanking each and every volunteer/band/cheerleader who stayed to support the stragglers. Once we hit mile 26, we could see the finish line and some of our friends and family members who waited more than six hours to see us cross. I also thought of all the people who had called, texted, sent emails, Facebook messages and tweets of encouragement. We jogged the final .2-mile stretch before nearly collapsing in a heap of exhaustion. It was over. We finished.
Now that the soreness is fading and I'm a couple of days removed from it, the idea of doing another one is no longer out of the question (if you had asked me Sunday night I would have said NO WAY!). To be completely honest, I was a little disappointed in my time, but I know that's just my competitive spirit. Overall, I always knew the ultimate goal was to finish and now that that's done, I can focus on going a bit faster next time.
If there is anything this "Fit 4 ‘14" challenge is teaching me, it's to push myself beyond the limits I've set for myself. Yes, we're trying to lose weight, but we're also trying to improve our health, both physically and mentally. It's easy to get lost in the numbers on the scale from week to week, but it's also important to revel in the mini milestones along the way. Whether it's eating healthier just a couple of days a week, going for a walk around the block, or conquering a marathon, each of us have our own ideas of what seems "impossible." Thank you for all of your support in helping me to conquer mine, and we wish you the best of luck in conquering yours!
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