Literally, it was a full marathon.
On Sunday, April 29th, 2018, I completed 26.2 miles.
I will start by saying that the Marathon is probably the most fcked up sporting event that has ever existed. And that was my exact thought at mile marker 23, “this is fcked up.”
If you’ve been following my small journey through my thirties, on Instagram, and this very blog, you will have seen a lot of my daily runs, workouts and my full training to achieve this goal. I’ve had this goal in my mind, for about three years now, which came shortly after I started running more aggressively. I think the most courageous step to take was actually starting: Registering, full training and showing up. I had no idea what was ahead of me yesterday, besides 26.2 miles. But as I’ve ascended deeper into my thirties, I think I’ve begun to have this love affair with the unknown. And that is exactly what a marathon is: 26.2 miles of the unknown.
I now know why only 0.5% of the population has ever completed a full marathon.
During my training I had tough runs. I trained alone, so I was out there, alone, with some of the hardest workouts and nothing but my own thoughts. Being alone with your own thoughts is terrifying. I guess when people say “I can’t run” or “I could never run a marathon” that is sort of part of the why. Because everybody can run and every body can run. The mental aspect is a whole other type of hell. Mentally and emotionally, it is in the top two hardest things I have ever been through in my 34 years.
Running is one of my passions, training for this marathon became a religion and the devil was sure as shit, in my ear, during my last weeks of training and during this run.
For the week before the actual race, I think I checked the weather forecast more than I checked it for my wedding day. Everything looked perfect, 56 degrees and sunny for a 7:30am start. And then the day came and it was rainy and cool. I told myself, if the runners in Boston two weeks ago could do it, so could I. There were three goals in mind: The first was to finish healthily, the second was to finish in under 4 hours and 30 minutes, with bathroom stops and water stops, the third was to BQ. I knew it was a crazy goal but so were these 26.2 miles, so why stop there (even though I said I was one and done)?
As the race started, the last thing I said to my friend was, “what the f*ck am I doing!?” And then I was off. The first mile was your typical first mile of a race: weave through the crowd, find your path, run it.
Miles two through six were swift and easy for me and I progressed, to about an 8:10 mile, and held it steadily. However, I found myself already reaching for one of my energy gels. I brought four, so in my head, I had to reset my pace at which I was going to use them.
Best sign at this point, “Where is everyone running to?”
Since I started in the last corral, I started with the last group of pacers. So at mile 8, when I passed the pacer for a 4:30 marathon, I found myself thrilled. At the same time, it’s mile 8, and there’s another 18.2 miles to go. Anything can happen.
Best sign at this point, “I’ve seen you do better things while drunk. – Local Village Idiot”
By mile ten, it was time to wish the half marathoners well and us marathoners were going on our journeys of another 16.2 miles.
Best sign at this point: “Smile if you lost a little urine!”
….and then Mile 15 happened. I felt cramping in my right foot. This was NOT what was supposed to happen. I did everything I was supposed to do, I was warmed up, I was hydrated (I actually took water and Gatorade at almost every station), I had no clue why this was happening as it never happened to me before. Alert the media, the mind f**k was happening! My pace was forcibly slowing down. I thought of stopping at medical a few times but I adjusted how I was running and plowed through it. At this point, I was now pacing at an 8:25-8:30 per mile. But then something happened where I knew I could keep going…
I saw Jamie Watts. (Please view the available link for Jamie’s full story.) Jamie and I are the same age. Jamie and I have the same vision. Jamie and I have different ways of getting it done. From the moment I read her story, I was inspired.
Best sign at this point: “This seems like a lot of work for a free banana” and “Why do all the cute ones run away?”
Mile 19 was a sticky one. It’s that feeling of being so close but so far. My foot was killing me, now I was facing headwinds, I questioned why I even started. How are my legs even moving? I don’t understand how they’re moving if I can’t feel them. I saw Jamie again. I cried a little. A woman who was running on the opposite side of the race, miles that I ran just about 30 minutes ago, and I caught eyes, we smiled at each other, that was all the motivation either of us needed. I also realized I was past the 4:05 marathon pacers. Was this really happening?
Best sign at this point: “If Trump can run, so can you.”
Mile 23 tested everything in me. My left side cramped to the point that I had to walk. So, on top of my pace drastically slowing to an 8:45 mile, now this. I was in so much pain between my right foot and my left side. My thought was “This is so f*cked up” before “Now I know why people don’t run marathons. But now I know why they do.”
The taste of achievement and smashing the shit out of a goal that once scared the shit out of me, a goal bigger than myself, was so close. I had to slow down to walk for about 30 to 45 seconds. I had no choice. I hadn’t walked thus far besides briskly though water stops just take a quick sip, no more than 5 seconds each.
Mile 24: A random guy, all alone, cheering everyone from the side. Legit getting in runners’ faces, with words of encouragement, and clapping. Was this an angel? I don’t know you, guy, but you saved that mile for me. Thank you.
Mile 25. This was it. I flipped my playlist to Eminem’s Till I Collapse and hunkered down. I saw a woman next to me who I was shoulder to shoulder with, on and off for a few miles, struggling herself. I caught her eye and we took off together. That last mile I started flying. The support of thousands of strangers cheering you on during those last legs is everything that every runner needs. All of a sudden, there was no pain anymore.
And it happened. I crossed the finish line. I envisioned that finish, in my head, for months. I saw it for months. Every grueling training mile was now worth it, every early morning wake up, every early night to lay down, every time I had to decline an invite, every penny I spent on going through sneakers, proper nutrition, doctor’s appointments, every carb I had to force down for a week straight. Every time I wanted to give up. Every muscle ache and joint pain. It was all worth it.
I snagged my medal, I downed a Gatorade, I saw those who were there to support me (thank you, thank you and thank you!) and pulled off my right sneaker to only find out that my foot wasn’t, in fact, cramping. I somehow developed the nastiest blister, on the underside of my foot, that I ran with for 11.2 miles. Blister 0, Angela 1.
To every child that was on the sideline yesterday cheering on the runner’s, in awe, I was once you. To every runner who thought they could never pull this off, I am you. To every runner who felt “too old” or “too out of shape,” I am you. To every runner who was tired and thought, “is this ever going to end?!,” I am you. To every runner who fought through the wars of their minds and pain in their bodies and finished, I am you. To every medic, police officer, firefighter, volunteer who kept everyone safe, thank you. To every spectator cheering everyone on, you have no idea how necessary you are.
I finished, by 40 minutes, under my goal time and missed qualifying, for Boston, by 17 seconds. And that’s okay. I finished in 3 hours, 51 minutes and 1 second. Most importantly, I am healthy.
Dear Marathon, you’ve humbled me, and I am proud to officially be a part of the 0.5%.