Right from the start I have to say that my sister Erin was my rock. Had she not run beside me the entire time, I would not have finished the marathon in under five hours, and perhaps not at all. She was incredible. Huge accolades to her for running a marathon last minute—just to help me out. I can be nice now as it has been a few days since I ran the marathon. The demons have been exorcised and must have left my body.
I will start at the beginning. One night I received a phone call from a neighbor who asked me if I would like to train and run a marathon with her. I thought about it for all of five seconds before responding, “Yes.” Years ago Dad told us kids that he’d give five hundred dollars to any of us that finished a marathon in under five hours. I had toyed off and on with the thought of running a marathon but was not a runner and like many others thought it would be too hard.
My Dad and some of my siblings had run several marathons. I had always been thrilled and cheered loudly when I saw people cross the finish line. My Dad even qualified for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:08. I figured the marathon gene must be in me somewhere. The five hundred dollars wouldn’t hurt either. My family and I had just moved into a new house, and there were some things that I had wanted to buy. In my mind it was the perfect solution.
My training began with a schedule I printed off the Internet. I still remember trying to run three miles just to see if I could even begin to train. That was the beginning of this ordeal, but let’s fast forward to the end.
The day of the race I really had no idea what I was getting into. I knew it was 26.2 miles. What I didn’t know was that the last four would feel like the first 22 all over again. The 18-mile training run I had done a few weeks before the marathon was a breeze. Because of that, I figured it couldn't be too hard to finish 26.2 miles. I knew the very end would be difficult. But, I could see myself, although tired and worn out, feeling triumphant as I happily waved to the crowds of cheering people along the sidelines. I imagined grabbing my baby boy, Cameron and carrying him across the finish line with me. Tears would fill the eyes of all present. I‘d be a kind of hero returning from my war, greeted by outstretched hands of many accompanied by their showers of applause. My husband would profess his love and admiration for me, the woman he loved now more than ever.
My younger brother, Jordan, was to be my running partner along with two of my girlfriends from my neighborhood. After a knee injury during his personal training, Jordan called to tell me he was out. Two days before the marathon I asked my older sister, Erin if she wanted to run with me as far as she could make it. She agreed hesitantly.
I didn't run for a few weeks before the marathon since my knees were hurting. Added to that problem was a cold that I caught three days before the marathon. This resulted in only a few hours of sleep during those nights. However, the night before the big day, I got a whopping four hours of sleep and awoke at 3:45 a.m. pumped and ready to go. Despite the lack of sleep, I felt pretty good.
Miles one through nine were not bad at all. I think we were running at about an eight or eight and a half minute mile. My sister, Erin, and I got separated from my two running partners at mile three. Even though Erin hadn’t ever run a marathon and had not trained for this one, I knew she could finish and would probably do a lot better than I would since she was an avid runner.
At about mile nine, I started feeling pretty tired which was kind of a bummer as I had run those 18 miles in preparation a few weeks previously and felt great. I figured it would pass. By mile 12, I was really struggling and wondered if I would feel this bad the rest of the race. Little did I know it could get so much worse.
By mile 13, I was dying and was glad to walk through the water station. I saw a girl holding cans of the drink Red Bull and I asked if I could have one. I drank half the Red Bull and tried to keep from throwing up. Luckily it stayed down and it actually ended up helping quite a bit.
Miles 13 through 18 commenced my best miles. Thanks to the Red Bull buzz. These miles were great. (Great is subjective). Half of mile 14 was uphill and because we could walk it quicker than we could run, we figured-why waste the energy? We met some great people while walking the hill. One lady was 55 years old and running her 60th marathon. One man and his wife told us jokes to keep us going...which were stupid so really who cares about them? (The anger is rising in me as the memories come flooding back.) Moving on.
At mile 14, we met Dan, a 60-year-old man that looked like he may have had some kind of brain injury or stroke. (Again this is subjective because at the end I looked like I may have had some kind of brain injury or stroke). Anyway, he looked in bad shape. I asked him if he was OK, and he responded that his knees really hurt. I was glad I had brought some extra ibuprofen with me and offered some to Dan. He hadn't taken any as some dummy told him he couldn't mix medicine with power bars. “What in the world?” I asked Dan. “Everyone knows that only applies to street drugs and power bars,” I said jokingly. We both laughed. That would be my last laugh for a very long time.
Dan ran with us until about mile 20 maybe 21. To tell you the truth I’m not really sure. My retinas had stopped functioning by then. At mile 18 my high (the Red Bull drink) started to wear off. I was hungry and a little nauseated from all the sugar in the power bars, PowerAde, GU's and candy I had consumed throughout the race. I was thirsty, too, which was not a good sign. My Dad had warned me that if I ever got thirsty during the race, it meant that I was dehydrated and past the point of being able to re-hydrate.
At mile 18 I saw a boy about the age of six, holding a huge bag of pretzels and watching the race. I ran right over and shoved my trembling hand into his bag, grabbed a handful and ran on. He looked at me bewildered, but I didn’t care.
At mile 19, my leg started to cramp at the side of my knee and really hurt. As we walked through the water and aide station (we walked all the water stations for about 30 seconds so we could drink our water) I talked to one of the nurses and told her about my leg. She said it meant I was dehydrated. She gave me some PowerAde and shoved me on, while yelling, “Don't stop.”
I wanted to say, "You don't stop, fatty." Really, she wasn't fat. I was just slowly sinking into the dark side by that point.
Miles 19 and 20 were getting pretty tough. It was 82 degrees out and I couldn't take in water fast enough. I was drinking two cups at every station, while trying to keep from vomiting.
At about mile 21, I was wondering how I was going to make it. I remember thinking, "Someone forgot to put out the mile marker for mile 22. We must have passed it by now." Five minutes later my thoughts had turned to, "Holy crap! I’m going to die!" At this point I saw the 1/4 mile to the mile 22 sign. "What the *&@% ! A #$%@ quarter mile more! Are you blanking kidding me?!! I thought it was a ¼ mile to the bleeping finish line.” I yell this to anyone and everyone within earshot.
It is important to note that through this entire marathon clear to the end, Erin is doing awesome. She is not struggling in the least. She is even cheering people on. (This was not appreciated by others like me, who were struggling. She knows that, now that it’s over. We talked about it later and I made sure that she was sufficiently ashamed and embarrassed.) Now remember, Erin was an alternate since my stupid brother wussed out. She was asked to run in his place two days before the marathon. Although she runs everyday, she had never run more than eight miles and had never done any race over a 5K, let alone a marathon. So one may gather just how much her over enthusiasm meant to me and others like me who had actually trained.
Miles 22 through 23 were when the whimpering began as I realized I am now at about a 13- to 14-minute mile and will not finish this race ever. I am walking, running, walking. I am comatose. I notice at this point that no one is running anymore. Instead everyone like me is dragging their feet forward slowly and despondently. I am just one zombie in a sea of many.
At mile 23 all I can repeat over and over is, "I can't! I can't! I can't! This is accompanied with the whimpering. (From this point on -always there is whimpering. Had I had tears to cry, I would have been doing that, too).
Erin responds reassuringly, “Yes you can. This is nothing. It's only three more miles until it’s over. We can do this. This is easy."
At this point all communications on my end have ceased. I think, What in the crap!!? Three miles!? That's like three hours since I am now at what feels like a 60 minute mile.
Twenty-three and a quarter miles, I start to pray, “Please God. I have had a good life. Please take me.”
At mile 23 and a half. I pray again, this time, “God, why aren’t you taking me?”
I hear Erin say, “You have to run, Kate. Come on you can do this,”
I tell her out loud this time, “Just shut up.”
The other half of mile 23 is a blur of misery, laced with the occasional profanity that I rarely if ever use.
Mile 24 to mile 25 Erin says nicely (for fear of getting her head chewed off), “OK, let’s fast walk this entire mile. Do you think you can do that?"
I respond, “Oh, please yes. I think I can do that.” That mile is a lot better; still bad but the whimpering has ceased for the time being. I’m actually talking again, although still not apologizing for being mean to Erin.
Somewhere along this mile a girl passes us going way too fast for someone who is about to complete a marathon. She turns and something must have possessed her because she decides to speak to me. She says, "Come on you can do it. If I can do it you can do it! I just had a baby three months ago. Look at me!"
I think, Excuse me. Do I know you? Are you my personal trainer? Did I unintentionally, sign up for something, I wasn't aware of, during this stupid race? Like some twisted type of singing telegram? Then why in the crap have you chosen me or anyone else for that matter to give your dumb pep talk to? I then catch a glimpse of her bib and notice it is white. Mine and Erin's are purple-the color of the marathoners. White stands for relayers -which means a team of four run the marathon together as a relay. I quickly calculate and realize that is not even a seven-mile run. Hardly the 26.2 miles that the rest of are running. I thank heaven for this little bit of insight as it is most obviously a spiritual experience. I make a mental note to share it next Sunday with Mom as my “spiritual experience” for the week. I understand now that I have obviously been sent personally to humble this brainless cheerleader. I yell to her, "Are you freaking kidding me? You’re a freaking relay-er!!!"
She is an idiot and decides to yell back proudly, "Yeah, but I ran the whole thing." I of course know she is lying and decide to keep my mouth shut as it is expending energy I don’t have. I secretly hope her baby-fresh-uterus falls out as she skips across the finish line. Knowing I will most likely see her at the end of the race, I make a mental note to strangle her. I smile in satisfaction and think how nice that will be.
At mile 25.2ish I get a bit of my strength back. I can hear people cheering and I actually start to run again. I get excited and even emotional as I think, "I’m really going to do this!"
At four blocks from the finish line, I realize I am officially out of gas. This is what is meant by the term “hitting the wall”. I think of the marathon broadcasts I have seen on TV and the images of people who have hit the wall. They look like jelly fish willing their legs to move only to have them give out on them again and again.
I see my sister, Angela, waiting for us a few blocks from the finish line. I am the most spent I have ever been in my entire life including giving birth to my son. Seeing the finish line only makes things worse as I realize I can't go another four blocks. The whimpering has begun again and now I really want to die.
Angela starts to run with me, in her flip flops. She takes one look at me and can tell it’s been a bad run. I tell her, “This is hell.”
I’m grateful to her because she gets me through one block. Erin at this point puts her arm around me and says pleadingly "Only three blocks to go. Come on! It’s right there! Come on." She yells desperately.
I yell back, "Don't touch me!!!" I am literally in hysterics at this point. I am so afraid I will fall over if anyone touches me. Angela tells Erin to just go on but Erin won’t leave me.
Erin says to Angela, "We only have six minutes for her to make it in less than five hours and get the money from Dad.” I am walking-weaving dangerously at this point and hallucinating. I tell them both that I don't give a rats what time it is when I finish this stupid race. That the old man will pay me the money regardless!
“Oh yes. He will pay," I say as I weave in a zig zag pattern that wastes time. Two blocks to go and I start to run again. The crowd erupts for the girl who obviously has some type of disorder.
People are screaming at the top of their lungs. "You can do it!" I feel like I’m not getting any closer at all. With one block to go, I see my husband, Travis. At least I think it is him. Really it could have been any man or a 12-year-old girl for that matter. Nothing was registering at this point. He yells to me and I barely manage a half wave back. I don't notice anyone. I don't see anyone. I later realize that at this point I think I am all by myself, even though Erin was right next to me-no doubt doing cart wheels over the finish line.
Ten feet left and I truly want to die. If someone had said to me, “You have to run these last ten feet or I will kill your family”, it wouldn’t have mattered. I could not will my body to move. I remember watching my feet and seeing them take one tiny, dragging step over the finish line. I’m pretty certain I was dead and hovering over my body at that point. I stand there stupidly not able to take one more step.
I hear a man say, "Is she OK?"
Erin is crying and says, "No.”
I collapse into his arms. He and another man take me into the medical tent. I try standing before they put me on the lawn chair and my legs give out. I cannot believe how gone I am. I was in the tent for an hour and watched person after person being carried in, runners and non-runners alike. Every time I tried to move a little bit, I got really nauseous and started to pass out. My legs began cramping and I start to yell that it hurts so badly. A man and a woman rush over and begin to rub ice packs up and down my legs. They tell me I am very dehydrated. I couldn't get my shoes off because my feet were so swollen, so another man unlaces them for me.
Finally, Travis’ shows up. I ask him where in the crap he has been. He is frustrated because it took me a lot longer to finish than I had anticipated and Cameron has been restless waiting in the sun. He tells me he had no idea I was in the medical tent.
“Really?” I say. “Your first clue might have been the fact that I collapsed directly onto the finish line.”
Travis tells me he didn’t see it which means he didn’t video record it either, which was his one job. Which also means, no prize money from America’s Funniest Home Videos and that I married a moron.
“Awesome,” I say. “I’m so glad you came then.” I know how much fun it must have been for him on the sidelines with an 18-month-old baby waiting in the hot sun for his wife. But I’m pretty sure if anyone deserves sympathy at that point, it is not him. After an hour in the tent, with Travis’ help, I very, very slowly make it outside the tent. As I turn to thank the medical staff, who do I see? But my little friend -the girl that was filled with energy “who had just had a baby three months ago.” She was lying in a chair after being carried in. "Stupid girl! You think you’re better than me?" I yelled. We smile at each other and go our separate ways. OK so that didn't happen but she really was there, and yes I was a little satisfied just thinking those words.
I sat down on the curb outside while Travis left to find a bathroom. He leaves me with two foot long sandwiches which he bought for us for lunch. I eat mine and then remember that he missed the end of my race. I eat his, too. A runner plops down despairingly next to me. I turn to him and with a large sigh, I say, "Well. . .that sucked."
He replies, "Yeah, pretty much" then proceeds to vomit all over himself.
“Amen,” is all I say, as I finish Travis’ sandwich.
And that was my marathon. Oh and by the way, my time was 4:54. I made it.