I just returned from running the Chicago Marathon. We were blessed with a perfect day. I entered the race with trepidation, as I had pulled my hamstring two weeks before the race and it was not happy. I worked with a great sports massage therapist, a physical therapist and acupuncturist for the two weeks leading up to the race and sat on a tennis ball on the plane ride to Chicago, hoping for a miracle.
I knew I had to keep a steady pace and not joggle the hurt hammy. At the start of the race, I made a pact with my leg: If you get me through the race, I will reward you with tender, loving care afterwards. I have to say, my miracle happened and my hamstring held together. It was achy, but manageable.
At mile 18, I started to feel the pain more acutely and knew I had to hunker down to make it through. But that’s what marathoners do – we hunker down and dig deep and find that sliver of faith that gets us through. For the next 8 miles, I focused so deeply on the road I felt like I was burning a hole in it. At mile 20, I started my mile-by-mile dedications: my parents got mile 20; my husband got mile 21; my masseuse, PT guy, and acupuncturist got mile 22; my kids got mile 23; mile 24 went to my friends now gone, Grete Waitz, Ted Corbitt and John Kelley (Google them if you don’t know who they are); mile 24 went to the Boston bombing victims (I was running next to a man who was carrying a huge Boston Strong flag); and mile 26 went to my TFK first-timers. And.2? That was pure grit and spirit.
No one can truly explain what completing a marathon feels like, as it is so personal. For me, it is unbridled elation, mixed with emotion – I always cry at the finish of a marathon and sometimes at the start. At Chicago, when the race director announced the singing of the National Anthem, all the runners fell silent and took off their hats for respect. But as the singer’s voice started the notes, the PA system died. Without missing a beat, the voices of 45,000 runners took up the song and sang their hearts out. It was so beautifully moving.
When you run your marathon on November 3 and get to mile 20, you will know what it means to deep dig. You will know what you are made of. You will surprise yourself. And it will be a day you will never forget.