I started running in 1989, and it quickly became part of who I was/am... Boy time flies, and I can't believe that it has been that long ago... my first running shoes have dry rotted, and my teenage daughter is now wearing my super-fast, awesome pin-striped track shorts.
However, there are two remaining connections to my running roots. First, I was given my all-time favorite sweatshirt (which defines comfort for me) my first year of running indoor track by an Arkansas State runner. Although it is more like a long-sleeved t-shirt and has a few holes in it, my sweatshirt is still hanging in there. It will be a sad day when it retires.
Last December I changed my mind. I ran the St. Jude half-marathon with a Spartan. The cause of supporting a children's hospital has been dear to me ever since becoming a mom, and then even more so after Sarah had to have emergency hip surgery in Louisville, KY. As we ran through the campus of St. Jude (and really throughout the whole race), people cheered and called out thank-you's for supporting the kids at St. Jude. When I saw the sign that read, "Smile, Jake always did!" my heart ached for all the parents watching their children go through serious illnesses.
It seemed logical. I was blessed to be a healthy female with four healthy children. I would commit to running the full marathon in 2011 and raise money for those kids while doing it. It seemed like the least I could do. At this point, I really just wanted to "check the box" and run a marathon... and I thought I could raise money for a good cause at the same time, and have the marathon experience in my hometown of Memphis, TN.
The year passed quickly, and after many long runs alone on county roads and in the middle of the night (4:00am) with my friends, Esther and Jimmy, I thought this would be my one and only marathon. I was tired!
The race always falls near Hannah's birthday, so we all came to my mom's house the night before the race. Esther Sanders and her girls came too, and we had Hannah's favorite, Chinese food, for a pre-race meal. (Mental note... no more Chinese before races!) The next morning we headed downtown and met lots of other spartans and friends in the lobby of the host hotel. It was a little chilly for the spectators, but just right for running long. Below: Eryn Sanders and Hannah
Mycah squirreled her way through the crowds trying to locate us!
Here are Esther and I before the start...
Once the race started, Scott and the kids walked over to Beale St. to watch the runners come by after the first few miles. Below is Martha Chunn, a Spartan who was doing the half-marathon.
After most people had passed, they went into the Redbirds Stadium to kill time and wait for half marathon and marathon friends and relatives to finish.
I usually have several goals for a race. The first goal is my confidence-builder goal... the one I feel pretty sure I can make, and the one I can console myself with if I don't make the other ones. Then I have my what I would really like to do goal, and finally there's my secret goal.
For this race, my first goal was under 4 hours and to have the "marathon experience." It was my first marathon, and I had no idea what to expect. I thought this was a reasonable first time goal for a marathon. My next goal was under 3:45... and my secret goal was to qualify for Boston with under 3:40. (I thought this would be my only marathon, so in my mind I had one shot to say that I ran a BQ). My running coach had told me not to expect great things from my first marathon, and that not very many people qualify for Boston the first time they run one.
Esther, Jimmy, and I ran the first 16 miles together. As we ran under the giant balloon arch start, I teared up. I was really doing this! When we ran through the campus of St. Jude, I burst into tears, remembering WHY I was doing this, and being thankful that my children were healthy. At the half marathon mark, it seemed like we had only just started! The crowds, scenery, music, and excitement made things go by so fast! At about mile 16, Esther dropped back. At about mile 20, I was feeling good, and we could see the 3:35 pace group! WHAT?!! I took off, and felt strong and great until about mile 25.5. That's when the monkey found me. Wow. He jumped on my back, and I slowed down to a crawl. That 3:35 pace group passed me again. I ended up finishing in 3:34:56 and qualifying for Boston!
I never expected such an amazing experience. It was downright fun, and I was already searching nearby marathons on the way home! I have already registered for the 2012 St. Jude Marathon, and the time to start building mileage is quickly approaching!