About three months ago, my friend David and I decided to run a marathon. Neither of us had run so much as a 10k before. Although it was a spontaneous decision, we took it seriously. I found a beginner's training schedule and we stuck with it as best we could. Rain or shine, night or day, oncall or not, we ran.
Marymoore park was our preferred training location. We would always start at the park, run out half our training distance, turn around, and try to make it back to the car. I had blisters on my feet, sore joints, and aching legs, but we would always made it back. We ran that trail so many times, that it became a part of me; I learned every twist and turn, and every mile marker. We could run it with our eyes closed, and sometimes we did, in the pitch black of night.
The night before the marathon, my roommate cooked. I went to sleep with a belly full of pasta. I was woken up at 4am by an unexpected text message. "What are ya doing man?" it read, but I was too bleary eyed and preoccupied with the marathon to reply. I needed to get going anyway. When we hit traffic driving to Seattle Center, David kept busy by measuring the rate of raindrops hitting the windsheild. "It's slowing down," he told me.
We managed to park and walk to the race start with a few minutes to spare. My Dad had come to support me and take pictures. It was the first time I had seen him in a month. He didn't say anything about my hair. The raining stopped just as we came to the start time.
The first half of the marathon flew by for me. Seeing everyone else running with me, and hearing the spectators cheer us on really got me going. At that moment, I felt like I could run 100 marathons. We started near the back, but we kept passing runners. As we ran across the I-90 bridge, we caught up with the 4 hour 45 minute pace runners. We managed to stick with them through the halfway point, giving us a split time of 2 hours 22 minutes.
At mile 15, things got a lot harder. Pain and fatigue caught up with me and I couldn't keep up my pace. I had to slow to a walk, and the aching that was masked by endorphins really kicked in. It was the worst I felt during the entire race, and perhaps my entire life. I wondered how I could ever finish the remaining 11 miles. Giving up was so tempting. But I remembered the guy at mile 9, holding up the sign that read "Pain is temporary, pride is forever". I remembered the smile of the little girl at mile 12, cheering and making more noise with her little cowbell than anyone else. I remembered the man with the loudspeaker at mile 7, saying how he was so proud of all us. I remembered all the reasons that I had to run. And I kept going.
Each mile after that was a struggle. The time between mile markers grew and felt like an eternity. At mile 20, my Dad called me, wondering how I was doing. At the time, my phone felt like a brick in my hand. He asked if I wanted him to come pick me up. "No", I said without hesitation. I had made up my mind. There was no way the day was going to end without me finishing what I had started.
Just short of mile 25 I heard David yell out in pain. I turned around and saw him holding his leg. It had cramped up. David told me to keep going without him, but I wouldn't have it. I wasn't about to abandon my friend. Not when we had gone so far, and were so close to the finish. I waited for David to recover. Then we limped/walked/ran/sprinted the final mile.
It took me 5 hours 42 minutes and 10 seconds to run my first marathon. So why did I do this? Why did I choose to put myself through such pain? For me, it's more than just being able to say I've run a marathon. It's about pushing the limits of my ability, experiencing new things, and most importantly, achieving something that I really want.