la marathon

I Ran A Damn Marathon

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.

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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:

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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.

Look Up and Look Around

I am currently training for the LA marathon. This means that three times a week I’m outside running, telling my body that all the pain and exhaustion will be worth it when we get that medal at the finish line—and the free banana shortly afterward.

This past Saturday I ran 17.5 miles, the second longest run in my entire training plan. (The longest being 20) For the first 13 miles or so, I was doing pretty well. My legs, while tired, still had some juice in them and I was determined to check this milestone off my list. But as I started those last four miles, it seemed like each step got harder and harder. My knees began to ache and my ankles threatened to quit on me. This was the longest I had ever run in my entire life, and to know that even when (or if) I finished, come marathon day I’d have to come up with the strength to run nine more miles—a marathon is 26.2 miles—my body was just about ready to call it.

Around mile 16 or so, my mind was really starting to get shaky and my legs were even worse. Continuing to run almost felt like punishment, but I knew quitting would feel far worse. That’s when I hit a red light and had to pace around the sidewalk—legs wobbly as ever—while I waited for my signal to continue. I put my hands on my head and took some deep breaths, hoping to relieve some of the stiffness in my back, and then I looked up. The sky was a piercing blue with big, beautiful, puffy clouds. I watched them swirl around above me, and it gave me a warm feeling in my stomach.

When the light turned green and I started running again, I focused on the clouds, and for a little while my knees didn’t ache as much and my feet didn’t sting; my back felt looser and my legs felt a tiny bit stronger.

By the time I made it back to my house however, I was sure my legs were going to fall right out from under me. I walked through the door like a baby giraffe and stumbled my way through a shower and the making of my usual after-run protein shake.

My body was spent.

But even as I limped around for the rest of that day and the next, I still thought about that patch of sky. While it hadn’t taken away the pain I was feeling, it reminded me that it wasn’t the only thing that day—that moment—had to offer.

There are many instances in which I’ve let a dark time or a difficult situation block out all the light around me. Sometimes it’s hard to remember there’s a blue sky up there. Especially when so many other days are grey, cloudy and rainy.

But alas, there are always good things. There is always something just out of your line of sight that is there to give you hope and inspiration. There is always something to push you that last mile.

In the next month, I’m sure I’ll spend more than a few days wondering, what the hell am I doing? Namely when I pass the 20-mile mark at the marathon and have to run SIX. MORE. MILES. But I’m going to take that patch of blue sky with me through the whole race and the days, months and years that follow. I’m going to look up, even when my head wants to hang down, and I’m going to look around, even when it seems safer to keep my eyes forward. Because as sure as there will be dark, there will also be light, and I’m going to try harder to find it. Even when it feels like my knees might spontaneously combust—or you know, the day to day life equivalent to that feeling.

Opening the BIFC Door

As many of you know, my family and I climbed a mountain last year. A MOUNTAIN. It was one of those, “did I really do that?” type of moments that was immediately followed by, “we definitely deserve cake for that.” Let’s just say I opened the BIFC (scientifically pronounced Bifsee) door.

We all have this door. Some people kick it open Kool-Aid man style, without fear or hesitation, while others fiddle with the keys and hide from the moth living on the screen before we even attempt to push it ajar.

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This past October, I came across an ad for the LA Big 5k, an event held the day before the LA Marathon as both a challenge for the general public and a warm up for the Marathon runners.

I’ve never been a runner, ever. The last time I remember running for sport was 6th grade when I was trying to keep up with the boys and get an A on my physical fitness test. (Side note: I got a B because I couldn’t do a shoulder roll. I was convinced I’d shatter my shoulder blade and have to learn to cook with my feet.) I don’t really know what made me click the link, maybe it was the inspiration of my brother signing up to run the marathon, or maybe it was because I’d watched Thor the night before. Either way, I clicked the link, filled out a form and before I knew it I was signed up to run 3.1 miles in the middle of March.

My first reaction was panic. WTF was I thinking? What if my lungs dissolve into a puddle of blood and weakness and I die amongst thousands of 6-packed super humans? Would they use my clothes as sweat rags and my tears as a hydration refresher?

January marked the official start of my self-training. My regimen was extremely detailed: run until you might die, then stop and walk for like, a long time.

My first trip out I made it about a half mile before my lungs went to war with my ribs and my heart tried to out do the drum solo in Whiplash. I walked it off, panting wildly, and half-heartedly waving to neighbors as I slobbered my way back to a realistic breathing pattern. I picked the speed back up, much to the displeasure of my shins, and then I walked again, waving and slobbering like I was an out of shape record on repeat.

For the first month, not a single time was fun. Every time I started to run I dreamed of the moment I got to stop. I would pick a pole, an intersection, a tweaked out squirrel, anything up ahead that I could will myself to keep running towards, stopping on a dime when I got there and cursing myself for this entire process.

Over the course of the second month, I used the same process, but eventually I would pick a pole, reach it, and then tell myself to run passed it to the next one and then the next one and then the next one.

In a blink, it was race day. I was standing amongst 5000 of my sweatiest acquaintances, when at 8:00 a.m. on the dot, the MC gave us the green light, shouting, “GO! GO! GO!” into the microphone.

I had long decided to set my own pace. I was not racing, I was running and the only person I had to beat was the one inside my own head, telling me to quit.

When I reached Mile 1, I was both discouraged and excited. It was: “Woohoo 1 mile gone!” and “THAT WAS ONLY 1 MILE?!”

The 2nd mile marker sat at the bottom of a hill, which, on any other day would invite me in to spend the afternoon eating hot dogs and watching my favorite team play baseball, but today it only offered a challenge.

At the top the path flattened out, only to curve and dip and loop around to yet another hill, seemingly steeper than the last. I could see the Mile 3 sign at the top and I knew that the finish line was waiting just beyond it. So with a deep breath, I pushed myself up that hill like Thor himself was waiting on the other side. Once I reached the top, I could see the arch marking the finish and was overwhelmed at the amount of people lining the path, cheering. I picked up my pace, suddenly unhindered by anything, and against every assumption my negative brain had made over the last 12 years, I finished my first 5k without a stitch of walking.

Why?

Because I F*cking Can.

Find your own BIFC door, then Kool-Aid man that thing and never look back!