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, January 1, 2012

Last Chance Marathon

Large, white clouds obscure Mount Baker yet help create a spectacular sunrise with the morning sun's rays of red exploding behind them.  A beautiful start to the last day of the year.  A couple hundred of us milled around the start line trying to keep warm.  It wasn't long before the countdown began, someone yelled "Go!" and we were running.

Last Chance Marathon would be my fifth of the year and a perfect way to end the year.  Knowing this trail was not an easy one and not conducive to a personal best, I was using this race as a celebration of my 2011 year of running; every step would be enjoyed.  

Once we got onto the trail the crowd seemed to space out pretty quickly.  It wasn't long before a woman, after seeing my jacket, approached me telling me she too was a Marathon Maniac.  For the next mile or two we talked of races we've done while the trail's crushed rock crunched under our feet.  Entering Arroyo Park the trail became a single track and she took off in front of me.  I concentrated on my foot falls on this technical part of the trail.

Mile 4 a man commented on my jacket and how he was working toward becoming a Maniac.  I slowed my pace to talk with him.  John is a soldier, stationed 3 hours south in Fort Lewis.  This was his second lifetime marathon.  We shared a mile before he told me to move on as he had to slow it down.

My husband had positioned himself to be at mile 5 and as this was on out and back course which we would do twice, I'd see him 4 times.  I was feeling good and in need of nothing so he simply cheered me on; as well as on my return.  Reversing the route I made my way back to the park in which we started.  Half marathoners were finished and full marathoners went back out for the second and final loop.

As expected the runners thinned out tremendously, giving me plenty of alone time to celebrate my final marathon of the year.  Slivers of light were beginning to break through the winter's forest.  Entering into Arroyo Park the sound of the creek greeted me.  The descent was rapid and soon the trail snaked it's way alongside the creek.  The rains had swollen its waters and rushed over rock and fallen trees.  The trail, peppered with roots and rocks, kept my attention.  Small wooden bridges latticed their way over the creek and washouts.  Winter's leafless maples dressed only with thick green moss lined the muddy trail.  The switchbacks took me from the creek to the top of the valley.  A steep ascent, I walked out of the park onto the trail. 

At the trail head I heard people cheering for me as I emerged.  I smile when I realize it is my friends Arlane and Amy, who after running the back trails and stumbled upon the marathon route kept an eye out for me as they knew I was there.  I stop and give them big hugs.  A complete surprise and one that gave me a boost.  After we talk a bit, they cheer me on my way and turn away to finish their run.

I am now heading toward Dennis and feel blessed to have such great friends and a husband up ahead standing in the cold waiting to see if I need anything.  My hands are cold and he rushes to get me my gloves.  After an orange slice, a hug, and kiss I'm on my way toward the final turn around point.  Reaching it I give those at the aid station high fives and head back for the final 6.2 miles of the run.

The trail is muddy and squishes under foot.  I maneuver my way around to the driest sections.  I see no one ahead of me and no one behind me.  I stop for a brief moment.  Not a sound was heard.  Standing in the woods, I listen to nature.  I feel peace and thank God for such beautiful scenery.  I run on celebrating the beauty around me. 

A man with a speedy shuffle is coming toward me.  I ask him if his name is Mel.  With a mischievous smile he tells me it is.  Shaking his hand I introduce myself and tell him it is wonderful to see him out here running marathons again.  In the spring, at the age of 77 he had fallen out of a tree and took 6 months to recover.  A man who routinely ran 20 marathons a year spent no time feeling sorry for himself, recovered quickly and came back to running marathons the previous month.  His smile warmed the chill out of the day.

At mile 21 my husband filled my water bottle and sent me on my way as he went off to an appointment.  Despite being tired from the rigors of this trail race, I felt good.  The trail occasionally afforded spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. It was easy to be lost in thought with such beautiful vistas.  Madrona trees hung precariously over large rock face as if a small wind would cause them to tumble down the mountainside. 

 I enter in Arroyo Park for the last and final time.  With a little over two miles to go there is a bounce in my step and I'm celebrating my final 2 miles of 2011.  Takao Suzuki, although running the race himself, pauses to snap my picture. Making my way up and out of the ravine I notice someone at the top of the hill.  It takes a moment for me to realize it is my coach Pat.  Once he saw me, his encouragement started bringing a big smile to my face.  At the top of the hill he gives me a big hug.  I am overwhelmed.  Knowing he had a full day of commitments he made time to find me along the course just to encourage me on the last of the biggest hills I'd face on the course.  With a final pat on the back he sent me for my final ascent reminding me once at the top it would be downhill all the way to the finish.  A mantra I'd repeat several times over the final miles.

Mile 25 came and I celebrated each step.  The feelings of being incredibly blessed welled up inside and were bubbling at the surface.  I rounded the corner taking an off-shoot of the trail into the park.  Nearing the finishline I do not see the clock ticking off the time, I see only one thing.  My coach had driven to the finish to cheer me home and celebrate the finish with me. 

This final run of the year was not about running my fastest time, it was simply about the run.  Driving home, the emotions of the day flooded over me.  How incredibly blessed I am to have a spouse who braves hours of cold to support me and friends who search me out solely to encourage me.  Their acts of selflessness touch me deeply.  My heart is full.  I can't think of a better way to close the year.


  1. Such a great report Cheri! I feel like I was running with you! Happy New Year Sis!

  2. You WERE running with me...I thought of you often while running those trails. Much happiness to you this year Sis!!

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts... you are a gifted writer and runner! I wish you continued success in the coming year. Lyle

    1. Lyle, thank you for always being my encourager. Hopefully our paths will cross again in the near future.