Two years ago, just after my 27th birthday, I made this list to give myself 30 things to strive for before I turned 30. The very last item on that list, was an ellipses-ed, maybe, kinda, but I don’t know item: Run a Marathon.
I didn’t want to commit to the task, but I also wanted to keep it in mind. I love challenging myself, and I especially love proving I can do things I never would have believed I could, so I put it on the list and let the curiosity fester.
Then, in September of last year, the curiosity bubbled over.
I did some research and I looked up training plans, and I decided to commit to this one, which would have me marathon ready in six months. I would start my training in October, making it so I finished training just before the 2019 LA Marathon.
The training was tough, and long, and sometimes just plain frustrating, but I got through it, and this past Saturday, as I sat eating my now traditional pre-run pasta dinner, I hoped it had been enough. Then my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. the next morning, and there was no more wondering, there was no more waiting, it. was. time.
The starting line was at Dodger Stadium and the start time was 6:55 a.m. So after pinning on my bib, jumping around and stretching, and hugging my family goodbye, I got in line, loaded up my playlist, got herded into the corrals, and then…the gun went off.
I was in the zone y’all.
The first mile flew by and when I saw that first mile marker, I lifted my hands up the air, confident, excited and ready. Only 25.2 more to go!
It wasn’t going to be easy. This was a marathon after all, and everyone running that race was running against something that had nothing to do with the course. For me, besides the emotional obstacles of doubt and contemplating my potential insanity and all that fun stuff, I had recently been struggling with the IT band on my right leg.
It began in the last few weeks of training, and though I’d been as diligent as I could to ice it, rest it and pray sweet blessings over it, the muscle still, for lack of a better word, twanged. And unfortunately, after that first strong mile, I felt that twang.
Okay, I thought. We’re okay. We can do this. PLEASE, LORD, HELP. We can do this.
For the next 10 miles or so, I did do it. I powered through. The uphills were tough and the downhills were worse, but I breathed and I focused and I powered through.
We can rest later, I said, talking to my IT band like a person, just keep your shit together for ONE. MORE. DAY.
Thankfully (I guess), by mile 15, the arch of my left foot started to ache, which more or less cancelled out the pain in my leg, giving me a nice, uniform discomfort that was manageable.
And so came mile 16, and then 17, 18 and 19, and just as I approached the mile marker for mile 20, I slapped my hand on a sign being held by a little boy on the sideline that said “tap here for a power up!”
Only 6.2 miles left! I thought. We do this all the time. We got this.
That’s when I hit the wall.
Not a physical, actual wall. No, the infamous, figurative marathon wall. It’s the point when your strength suddenly plummets, the trail suddenly stretches, and time suddenly slows way down.
I came around a corner to the hill that led to the mile 21 marker and I suddenly just felt done.
By this point both of my legs were aching, the bottoms of my feet felt like I was running on broken glass, and my knees were just plain tired of being knees. I stopped running for the first time and I wobbled my way up that hill, feeling as broken and discouraged as I did during my first training run for my very first 5k all those years ago.
Mile 22 wasn’t any easier.
I took turns running and walking, neither one feeling particularly easier than the other, and I stopped making eye contact with fans cheering on the sidelines. What if I can’t make it?
Just then, a text came in from a friend who was tracking my progress online: “Keep it up Kim! Almost there!” I thought briefly about curling into a ball and crying, but instead I decided to start running again. It was a slower pace than I’d kept my first 20 miles, but it was something.
I jogged and I breathed and I tried to stay focused on the songs playing in my headphones, assuming that if self confidence could take me 80% of the way, an up-tempo song with some inspiring attitude could take me the other 20.
Then I saw mile 23. And 24. And then, finally, mile 25.
“Only one mile left!!” someone on the sidelines yelled into a megaphone.
I took a deep breath and I buckled down. My entire body hurt but I didn’t care. I could f*cking do this and I was going to prove it.
I came down the last hill and saw the ocean, and then the road wrapped around and there was the finish line. It was a straight shot. A far, long, seemingly ENDLESS straight shot. But it was there, and each step got me closer, until suddenly my feet were on the final platform and the finish line was moving into my rearview.
I had done it. I RAN A DAMN MARATHON. And the moment I saw my family and they ran out from behind the sideline to give me a hug, I burst into tears.
This was undoubtedly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was also the most rewarding. At the end of mile 20, as I came around the corner under an overpass and looked ahead at the mile 21 marker at the top of the hill, I wanted to quit.
There’s just no way I can make it. I’m in over my head. I can’t do this.
But the moment those words crossed my mind, I was determined to shut them out. To prove them wrong. So I took this picture:
I wanted to remember this spot. This moment when I could have let doubt and discouragement win. So that when I crossed that finish line, when I got my medal and my free banana, I could always remember that I kept going. That instead of quitting, I went 5 more miles.
We can do anything we put our mind to.
Go the extra five miles. You can do it.