The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

A runner’s dream. The sky was overcast with no threat of rain. The temperature was hovering in low 50s. After taking the shuttle to the start, I find myself sitting in the community room waiting for 9:00. I looked around at the people I was about to embark on a 26.2 mile journey with. Energies were high and laughter wafted above the nervous chatter. I was definitely nervous. After running Capital City 3 Sundays ago I was not sure how my legs were going to do. But here I was ready to make the trek all over again.

Walking out to the start, I dropped my extra clothes off at the clothes drop and headed to the start. Hearing someone yell my name, I thought surely it was for someone else as I knew no one at this race. Looking in the direction it came from I found my friends Sharlene and Palmer waving. What a great surprise! Hugs were given and after the shock came off my face, I made my way to the starting shoot. “Eye of The Tiger” was blaring from the loudspeakers, causing me to smile - the 80s were just awesome. No national anthem here, just Survivor singing loudly. The horn blared and we were off.

The first half a mile was relatively flat and I was making excellent time. Most of the elevation gain is in the first 1/3rd of the race. Each hill I hit I felt strong and good. Soon after the start, I found myself in-step with a guy named Joe. It didn’t take me long to figure out Joe really liked himself. By mile 5 I had mentally dubbed him Jabber Joe. A few miles later I took the opportunity to fall back a short ways as I was needing to be alone inside my head. Jabber Joe had begun a conversation with an Army XO and they were discussing all the data their watches were giving. Seems at mile 10 I was well on my way to a 4:15 marathon.

We finished weaving our way through Sequim and began the portion of the marathon on the Olympic Discovery Trail. The vistas were breathtaking. The trail wound it’s way through the Olympic National Forest, where we would spend the remainder of the marathon. The birds chirped as the water made it’s way down the Olympic mountains through gorgeous creeks crossed by old train trestles. The steepest part of the course came at each of the 3 water crossings, it was steep going down to the water and steep coming up out of the ravine. This is where I first decided to walk. My pace was good and strong up until the point my legs yelled “Excuse me!?!?!? I remember this from the other week and I’m not happy about it”. So I let them be unhappy and walked it off. The rolling hills were a little bit of a surprise to me and I realized I needed to do whatever it was going to take to complete the run.

There comes a point when no matter how beautiful the scenery or how crowded the course, you are alone with yourself. Alone with each thought, with each pain, with each moment. Here in lies the discovery. You either quit or excel. Your pace does not necessarily increase or magically get stronger, but your mind rises above. This is exactly where I needed to be. This is the moment in time where the race is made or broken, regardless of the finishing time. Today my race would be made. My hopes of a PR dissipated when I had to walk, but I knew it would be a stronger race than my last one. Looking deep within, my body felt stronger and my mind propelled me forward.

Several times along the course Sharlene and Palmer met me with shouts of encouragement and picture taking, included being perched at the top of a not-so-nice hill around mile 16. I’m sure that picture snapped has an evil look in it. I’m sure. Along the route I managed to adopted a brother. His girlfriend was a ways behind me and he moved along the course waiting for her. It didn’t take long before he was yelling “Go Sister!” to which I replied “Thanks brother!” and we would trade high fives. I wonder what his name is.

The last couple of miles are along the ocean’s front with the trail winding our way toward the finish. A party was in full swing at the finish line and I was heading home. Approaching the shoot my boys were waiting waving bright orange pom poms and jumping up and down. I heard Sharlene yell my name and I, as predicted, began to get emotional. So much so, I couldn’t speak to the race officials at the end of the shoot waiting for me to walk me to the marathoner’s finish area. The tears flowed and I smiled. “Thank you” were the only words I could repeat as they placed the medal around my neck, removed my timing chip for me and walked me to the food tents. The tears spoke louder than my words.

With climbing 3,239 feet and descending 3,382 feet, I finished my race in 4:44:23. But there is no way you can reduce the marathon to a statistic. It is more than a number to be celebrated, it is a journey. Lessons are learned that can only be taught by pain, agony and the rising above. It is a journey that each marathoner goes on, regardless if it’s a first time marathoner or one celebrating their 101st, and the journey is the same, it is one of self discovery. It humbles you. It transforms you. It makes you rise above delivering you stronger and better on the other side of each finish line.

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