Friday, May 24, 2013

The Last 6.2

A long time ago, before I ever knew I'd run a marathon, I read a post from a DC running blogger about her mom's first marathon. Her mom dedicated each of the last six miles to different people and ran that mile for them. Then, she couldn't quit during their mile because she'd be letting them down. I have always remembered that story and I've decided to do it for the last 6.2 miles of my first marathon.

There is a lot of weight in those last 6.2 miles. Everyone says that they're the darkest part of a marathon, when your body really gets tested. Each of those miles achieves a distance that most first-time marathoners have never run before, myself included.

For the first 20 miles of the race, I'll have the confidence of knowing that I've run 20 miles before. And for the next 6.2, which is a long way even by itself, I'll have the people I love listed below on my mind and in my heart to make me keep pushing. I know I will not want to quit during any of those miles and have to say "I gave up during your mile". So it's easy... I can't give up.

Mile 21: Nathan, Ingrid and Inna
My brother and my two best friends, all of whom I have some running history with and all of whom I dream of running a long race with one day. Nathan is a great athlete and he runs but he also smokes so it's hard to convince him to run too far. We ran an 8k together two years ago and I know he's thought about running further. If not, he'll always be a fun person to play pick-up football and random games with. Ingrid is my original workout buddy. We have played soccer together since we were 5 years old. We attended sports camps, ran in our neighborhood and did intense training workouts at our local park. We both have a love of athletic adventures and one day I expect us to ride ragbrai and run a half marathon together. Inna is a strong and speedy little runner. She has never thought that the idea of running a ton of miles was fun but she is committed to exercising for health and fitness. For the first time last week, she revealed that she's recently considered running a half marathon one day. If I can't finish mile 21 for these people that I love, how will I ever be able to convince them that they should run a long race for fun?!

Mile 22: Nikki and Hadley
These are two of my dear friends in DC who I met through work three and a half years ago. On October 12, 2010, I joined them for an after-work run at a time when I had not been running often. They tricked me into running nearly 6 miles that day, got me hooked on frequent runs together, and eventually led me to register for and run my first half marathon. This series of events turned me from a person who ran for exercise into a person who runs for fun and to accomplish new goals. These girls are marathoners themselves. Nikki will be running VCM as her fifth marathon on Sunday and Hadley ran her first in October. I admire their strength and appreciate all the support they provide, in running and other life endeavors.

Mile 23: Katy, Joann and Tony
My cousin, aunt and uncle who I am so delighted to share in this experience with. They live/lived in Burlington and (with Emily) are the reason I fell in love with the idea of the Vermont City Marathon. Various teams of them have been running the VCM relay for years, before I even thought about running 13.1 miles. Aside from this race, they are the poster child of an awesome, outdoorsy, adventurous family. They go on canoe trips in the wilderness, hike, bike and run. I can't wait to spend time with them this weekend and will be incredibly motivated knowing Katy and Joann will be running somewhere along that course on Sunday morning and that we'll all get to celebrate together at the finish. I'll also run for Katy's boyfriend Simon, who will be running and who I've only met once but who I've e-mailed a bunch for running and training advice. In order to celebrate, I'll have to finish mile 23 for all of them.

Mile 24: Emily
Emily is part of the awesome, outdoorsy, adventurous family of Vermonters but, since she can't be there with us, I will be dedicating mile 24 to her alone. She has run the VCM relay more times than I know and she ran the marathon for the first time last year. She injured her hip during one of her last long training runs and didn't think she'd finish. But she finished it strong and has nothing but wonderful, positive things to say about her experience and about the marathon in general. Emily is studying abroad in Chile this semester so she can't be here this weekend. She is actually doing way cooler things than running races- backpacking and sea kayaking in Patagoina, hiking in Machu Picchu and playing on her Chilean University women's soccer team. If I can finish mile 24 for her, I'll only have 2.2 miles to go and then I'll be ready to run a marathon with her (and hopefully Katy) one day.

Mile 25: Mom and Dad
Growing up, my parents were at every single soccer game that I can remember. They left work early, gave up years of Saturdays and Sundays, and forked over lots of money to support my goals. They helped me over-analyze every game and gave me all kinds of constructive criticism. They didn't push too hard and left the decision up to me when I thought about quitting. And, as if that wasn't enough, they joined me, and helped make possible, one of the greatest adventures of my life- our bike ride across the country. I owe my athletic ability, determination and confidence to them. I will run mile 25 for my mom to help her understand why someone would actually want to run a marathon and for my dad who used to run and is working through knee strengthening exercises so that he can ride a bike and exercise for countless more years.

Mile 26: Joshua
If you're not a runner, you don't dream of a vacation in which you get up absurdly early to stand around in the cold, in crowds, or in rain for hours just to watch other humans run by. But if you're in a relationship with a runner who you care about, this is what a lot of your vacations look like. I feel so lucky and grateful that Josh cares enough to join me at every start and finish line and that he usually manages to take awesome photos along the way. Like my mom, he doesn't understand why a person would choose to run such an absurd distance just for fun. But it has never even been a question whether or not he'll be joining me in any racing adventure. I will be running mile 26, and that last .2, for Josh who has been so supportive and whose arms I know I'll be dying to fall into after I cross that finish line. I'll need to finish the mile, and the marathon, to see his face and that has to keep me going.

Last night, when I told Josh I was running mile 26 for him he said, "Why?! Why don't you run it for yourself?" That's an interesting point. But I'm running the whole race for myself. And for all of these guys. And for anyone else who has shown support of this adventure. Less than two days. Woohoo!

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