A Gift

Something I realized last week is that for me, it’s not really fall unless the cathedral is coming out of the trees on Summit Avenue and I am standing at the top of the hill looking down.  It is a once a year view, and one that you cannot pay for.

So, how was October 7, 2012 AKA The Most Perfect Day?

SPECTACULAR.

I woke up and did all of the boring nonsense that runners do.

I self-portraited.  Because how else is anyone supposed to recognize you if it doesn’t get Instagrammed?

I inscribed.

For a full explanation of what it means to be The Ariel and why that needed to go on my body, click here (it’s the second comment on the post).

When I got to the dome I saw SO MANY of my people.  Carissa and I met-up right away.  And workshopped our races AKA the kick-off of The World’s Most Epic Comeback Tour.

Photo from the lady herself!

Caitlin, a life-long friend from infancy ended up walking straight into us over there.

I ran into Jen heading over to the gate where I was supposed to meet Katie and a few others.  She came with, and we ran into my sorority sister Mollie.  Katie showed up about 20 minutes later and shortly thereafter Julia appeared.  Usually I like doing my own thing before races, but yesterday, seeing all of these ladies was perfect.  The only “zone” I needed to get into was a joyful one.

Race-wise, it was a bit chilly at the start (Translation: actually freezing), but nothing particularly unmanageable.  I decided to ditch my headphones for the beginning of the race because even though basically the entire course is a raucous party, but the first seven miles are WILD.  I knew I’d have plenty of time to pop them in once we got away from the lakes.

As we crossed the start line, I said the Shehecheyanu, which is a Jewish prayer you say on special/unique occasions.  If running a marathon doesn’t qualify as an appropriate occasion, I do not know what does.

I don’t remember the first mile at all, but once we were through that we could hear the bells at the basilica (they ring all of them on race day for the runners – it is the coolest sound) saw Emily standing on the bridge by the sculpture garden and spotted Cousin Larry standing outside of the Walker Art Center.

Katie and I ran together for the first three miles and then she disappeared behind me.  I had basically just planned to listen to my body and adjust my pace accordingly with the full knowledge that I would hit a wall much earlier than any of the other runners.

The first five miles evaporated and I got to see Marcus, Lindsey, Galina, Jenn and Bengt at Mile 7.5.  Then by some lucky twist of fate, around Mile 9 or so I saw Allison.  I had no idea she was going to be spectating so that was a great surprise.

By Mile 10 my feet felt like hamburger (I suspected this would be the case) and by Mile 13, even though I was definitely dropping off the pace, I knew I could keep moving and that beyond that, nothing else really mattered.

I reminded myself that even though I was hurting, it really wouldn’t hurt any more than that.  Which is purely the truth.  I owe Angie big time for that dose of sagery.

I saw Amy at Mile 14.  Or maybe she saw me.  I know for a fact that Mile 14 is where Mike, one of Marcus’ fraternity brothers spotted me – he was running his first marathon and we probably did a quarter of a mile together and chatted about how the race was going before he and his running partner continued down the course.

Mile 14 is also the point where I started telling myself that I Was The Favorite Amongst All Of The Snails.

WTH, right?

The story: Earlier this year, my mother described watching races as being something akin to watching snails race because it was so boring.  I can’t blame her – there’s a certain amount of encouragement to be drawn from the other runners passing by you, but when you spectate, mostly you camp out for an hour to see your runner for 10 seconds and then you move on.  What she texted me the night before the race is that I was her favorite snail.

I completely forgot about it.

Until I looked at all of the runners surrounding me and thought, I Am The Favorite Snail.  Which continued every few minutes through the end of the race, because I am in my heart of hearts absolutely positive that no other runners were anyone else’s favorite snail yesterday morning or ever, really.

Good luck finding me a snail necklace, Mom.

Ann and Jay are in some sort of pseudo-competition to be the best marathon spectators in the history of earth (coming off of their Finish Maybe? signs at Grandma’s) and kitted themselves out as Dancing Robots.  Watch the video and slay yourself because this was actually happening.  For two and a half hours.

But mostly I just got to appreciate Jay’s bot-ing because Ann tore off her costume and started to run with me at Mile 16.  And it was the greatest to tell her that I had spent most of my run thanking God for such a great day and a pain-free run, and that I knew I was going to finish.

You know, since last time we ran together I told her I couldn’t finish.  And since I got on the bus at Mile 16 at Grandma’s.  It was a BFD.

I saw Marcus, Lindsey, Galina, Jenn, Bengt and Carrie again at Mile 18.  I hugged everyone except for Carrie because I was confused.  Really.  Look.

My mental state after anything over 16 miles is best described as Hot Mess.

I managed to keep a pretty good pace (and by that I mean I was still running and not walking) until Mile 20 when I really kicked into walk when it’s faster than running-mode.

I saw Amy again somewhere around Mile 22-23.  She ran with me for about a block, which was just phenomenally motivating because I was just…exhausted.  We’ve only met in the wild (AKA IRL) a few times and that she would cheer me on and run with me during the race was really touching, actually.

At Mile 23, a man appeared holding a box of Kleenex.  I can only imagine that seeing him was sort of like what it might feel like to be a part of the second coming, since I had spent the entirety of the race farmer blowing (I never totally eradicated the cold) and wiping my nose on my sleeves.   I grabbed a handful and stuffed them in my sleeves.

Finally at Mile 23.5 or so, I could feel my right glute cramping, and I took a walk break that lasted through Mile 25.  Some of you might be thinking, Kat, really?  But honestly, that was the point where I knew I was getting what I came for (a finish) and that I had successfully managed to avoid injury in the process.

When I started the race, I was feeling really good about the idea of finishing but I honestly had no real concept of what that finish would look like or if it would involve another crippling injury.  So truly, I got what I came for.

I saw Annie at Mile 24.  She volunteered for the water stop and was honest-to-goodness the very last person at the stop.  I was SO EXCITED to see her because after scanning the first twenty or so people, I was terrified that maybe she was on a break or something and that I wouldn’t see her after all!  Especially since I had been looking forward to seeing her for the entire race, but really since Mile 20.

And then out of nowhere at Mile 25 Katie came up from behind me and told me we were running to the finish.  So I got back on the horse and we got running.

When I saw the cathedral come out of the trees this year, I think I shrieked something to the extent of We’re Finally Here!  Except I was far less interested in the cathedral than trying to figure out where Brady’s run club, Minnesota RED was stationed.  They set up camp at Mile 26 and cheer from the time the first 10 Mile runner comes down the hill until the SAG wagons come through at the end of the race.

It’s hardcore inspirational.

Anyway we had made plans that she would run me down to the finish line and then meet me on the other side.  I couldn’t really see her, but I did yell her name as loud as I could (Lord only knows how loud that actually was) because I figured that even if she didn’t hear me, one of her teammates would.  But she heard, and started running with us along the sidewalk.

Thank goodness for that because Angie was camped out on the other side of the road and I didn’t see her either, but apparently Brady’s scamper got her attention so then she hollered at me and order was restored to the world.  I was so happy to see her face because I didn’t get to see her at all when we were both up at Grandma’s.

Julia, Ann and Jay were waiting in the chute as were Marcus, Lindsey, Bengt, Jenn and the entirety of Katie’s family.  We crossed the line at the exact same time.  5:14:27.  The only way I can think to explain the fact that we started off together, ran totally separate races and then finished together is that it was just how it was supposed to be.

Finishing was…

…Well I did a few tears.  And then Katie and I did our business taking post-race photos, collecting our medals and shirts and grabbing the odd bit of food.  Truth be told, as soon as the finisher’s shirt was in my hands, the tags were off and it was on my body.  Partially because it was crispy outside and I was soaked in sweat and partially because once you don’t have it, you want it on you NOW.

After escaping the finisher’s area, Brady and Ann appeared out of nowhere and I ugly cried on both of them.  It was extremely emotional and exactly like I had imagined it.

After escaping the Capitol Grounds, we battled epic traffic to get home so that I could do a more formal portrait.

And an ice bath.  It was pretty much the greatest thing.  Besides all of the shivering.

I have no idea why last year I decided to take off my other top and put a tankini on.  This year I just threw on some swim bottoms and got in with the rest of it.  It’s not like I was wearing a dry shirt or something.

But that’s really here nor there.  No one taking a post-marathon ice bath is ever really in an A+ frame of mind.

There are so many feelings that this recap doesn’t even begin to touch on.  Like relief.  Release.   Renewal.

What I can put into words right now is that this marathon was a gift.

There is a reason you don’t read about tons of people on the internet who run marathons training on a stationary bike in their parents’ basement.

Fun Fact About Posterior Tibial Tendonitis: The restricted blood flow to your tendons makes them a notoriously hard heal.

There are so many reasons why none of this should have worked.  The bike training, the recovery I have enjoyed so far, the race, all of it.  And for the last three months I have been so blessed to be surrounded by people who have kept the faith with me.  People who never once told me that I was crazy, that this was insane or that it wasn’t going to happen.

That maybe I should think about next year.

Instead, tonight I will go to sleep thinking about next year and not what could have been, but yet another chance to cross over the hill on a beautiful fall morning.

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20 responses to “A Gift

  1. Congrats on an absolute amazing race!!! You are an inspiration, girl ! 🙂

  2. Crying tears of joy for you!

  3. Great race, Kat! I wish I could have met you for more than two seconds!

  4. Hooray, Kat!! I am always and forever in your cheering section. Way to go rockstar.

  5. Lovely Race, I’m so glad you could have this

  6. Congratulations your Katness!

  7. You are amazing!! Congrats Kat!!

  8. Beautiful. Kat, you deserved this race so much! Way to stay strong and never give up!!

  9. Your strength, determination, and fight for this marathon is awe-inspiring. I loved following your journey to get there and this recap showed what an absolute running rock star that you are. Congrats Lady!

    And you so need to make a running shirt that says ‘I am the favorite snail’…I so love that!

  10. mmmmmmmmmmmm

  11. Great post, Kat! I am so happy for you.

  12. Congratulations m’ dear. Most impressive! You are such an inspiration.

  13. Kat, I can’t imagine running a marathon. I love running for the results but in and of itself, I don’t enjoy it too much. Really what you are doing is seeing your goals through no matter whether it be a marathon or something else, and that is what helps us to become successful, happy people. Good for you, well done.

    My oldest son was really interested in this post, he read it and, I think, he is trying to fathom running for five hours…..you’re awesome.

    Hope to hear from you soon, take great care and way to stick it through.

    Shauna xoxoxoxoxoxo

  14. Great recap. I am so happy for you!

  15. omgggg this gave me chills!!!!!! i cant even get over how perfect of a day it just seemed to be for everyone on Sunday. its like we were all exactly on the point in each of our journeys we were each supposed to be…if any of that even makes sense. when I saw Ann and she said she saw you and KNEW you would cross the finish. i wanted to start bawling. then when we saw you coming i just wanted to scream my head off for you all the way to the finish! Congrats dear friend! so unbelievably happy for you!

  16. So, a few things.
    1) I am so extraordinarily proud of you that I cried when I was getting texts for your times. While I ran those first ten miles with you, Running Pack in the Sky style.
    2) You’re super extra inspiring. I hope you know that.
    3) When I run my first marathon, I am going to fly Ann and Jay to wherever it is so that they can do What They Do Best. I wish I could have seen that in person. Because it rocks, and I’m serious about making it go viral.
    4) Hugs, smooches, and all that because you are awesome. I’m so excited and proud and happy and thrilled and overjoyed for you, my friend. It was a fantastic day.

  17. I am sooooooooo proud of you! You are absolutely right, marathons are a gift. I am happy you finished strong and healthy because at the end of the day that’s what matters. I would love to run with you sometime in the frozen tundra or if you want to come to the Mile High, that would be sweet too! Either way may dear, you’re a rockstar!

  18. Oh my gosh, what a wonderful race! Congrats times a billion! So exciting to hear that everything worked out. It’s good to hear about the strong finish too. Also, digging your running outfit. Fun!

  19. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us!

  20. Pingback: Reverb 14 | Prompt 10 | Leap of Faith | Tenaciously Yours,

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