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.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Winthrop Marathon

Kathy and I roll into town close to noon.  The town is small; built around a four way stop created when the state highway takes a turn east.  It is a western town where cowboys are not a marketing ploy but rather a way of life.  Working ranches pepper the landscape.  Cowboy hats and boots differentiate the town folk from the visitors.

After an afternoon of driving the marathon course, checking into the hotel and shopping all three blocks of the western store fronts we settle into a large, carbo-loading dinner at The Barn located at the edge of town.  As part of our $65 registration fee, we are fed a large meal in which no one walked away hungry.  Kathy and I met Trevor (a pastor) and his wife Angie (a nurse) who came from Missouri.  Angie's hope is to qualify for Boston with this race.

By 8 p.m. armed with our race numbers, we began to say our farewells and head to our hotels.  My friend Trevin, who was running his first half marathon, received the bib number 666.  We wondered if this was an omen.

Before retiring for the night, Kathy and I talk of the course, check the hourly weather forecast for the 100th time and layout our race day clothes.  Pre-race jitters have taken over us both and we know we are headed for an anxious night's worth of sleep.  Yet we do what we're suppose to ~ turn out the light and pretend to sleep.

At 5 a.m. I am peeking out the hotel window and praying the clouds have held over.  I am greeted by a brilliant blue sky.  Knowing my body does not do well with running in heat, I am immediately anxious.  An hour later Kathy and I are driving to The Barn where we board buses taking the full marathon runners to the starting line.

Riding up the mountainside, Kathy and I talk with Cat and Janet, two fellow Marathon Maniacs hoping also for a sub-4 marathon.  We talk of everything and nothing to pass the time and calm race day jitters.

Once at the start, Kathy and I break off from the others to do some light running to warm up our muscles.  Coach would be so proud.  We follow the trail up the hill and I notice my breathing seems to be labored.  This confuses me and I wonder if it is due to the starting line being at 3100' elevation.  I push it out of my mind.

We stand atop a forest road's steel bridge.  Melted glacier water rushes below us bringing a sound of serenity to those of us standing there.  Brief instructions are given and someone yells the command, "GO!".  After months of preparation, the race has finally begun.

A downhill start quickens our pace.  Kathy checks her watch to ensure we stay on our desired pace and stick to our plan.  Mile two approaches and I tell Kathy I feel I'm breathing too hard.  She assures me we are right on pace.

The forest road winds along the crystal clear Chewuch River.  I am unsure if I have ever run in a place more beautiful.  The large trees give us shade, yet the sun sparkles on the river.  Split rail fencing border private property, old salt-box farm houses stand amidst bright green fields.  The land gives the impression neighbors still have conversations with each other while leaning against their fences and sipping their coffee.

An hour after the start, we have lost 800' of elevation and I begin to feel my legs turning to jello.  My breathing is still labored and I know oxygen is not getting to the muscles I need them to.  Mile 9 comes and I can no longer hold onto the pace we are doing.  I tell Kathy to go ahead.  She stays on my shoulder.  Knowing how important this time goal is to her, I tell her I can not go on and I stop to walk.  Kathy pulls ahead.  After a handful of walking steps, I continue to run knowing now I will not hold her back from her goal.   It kills me to not be beside my friend, but I could not live with the fact I had held her back.

Mile 10 comes and my legs are playing havoc on my mental game.  The day is warm and the shade is less.  My average pace is slowing, yet I hang onto the goal time of making 3 more miles to where the half marathoners will start.  Getting a high five from Trevin will give me a boost that I need.

The water stop gives me a break and I work on collecting my mental stamina.  My watch confirms my goal is not going to happen, but a PR is still in the works.  Hitting the half way point I see there are no runners and I have missed the half marathon start by three minutes.  A part of me is crushed.

Trees no longer line the road to give us shade.  A bright sun hangs in the sky robbing me of my energy.  Mile 16 greets me with a hill and ushers in the next 10 miles of rolling hills.  My watch confirms what I did not want to see; a personal best is not going to happen.  Emotion floods over me ~ an odd mixture of sadness, determination and anger.

My hopes and goals sizzled away on the hot pavement of the East Chewuch Road.  Stretching on the side of the road is a young man to be in his late 20s to early 30s.  I ask him if he's alright and if he needs some salt.  He declines my offer and tells me the heat is killing him.  He takes off at the fast pace I could tell he was capable of.

A water stop lays ahead and I see the young man walking.  It doesn't take long and I catch up to him.  "Come on, we walk the up hill and run the downhill."  He says, "ok" and falls in line right behind me as we run the downhill.  We both grab cups of water at the aid station and continue down the course.  He no longer follows my lead.

The course turns onto a road in town leading us to a 3 3/4  mile out and back section.  I wonder if I will see Kathy and then hope I don't as I know if I do it meant she didn't meet her goal.  In less than a mile I see her coming towards me.  We meet in the middle of the road and give each other a hug.  She leaves me and heads toward downtown and her finish line.

Not much longer I come to the turn around, high five the volunteer and head toward the finish.  A 25 mph head wind greets me.  First the sun, now the final two miles will battle the wind.  I am spent.  My mental fortitude crumbled.  It is in these final two miles where my struggle wins.  I think about the other races I have this year and wonder if I have the strength to do them.

In what seemed like an eternity I finally see the finisher's shoot.  Trevin is cheering me in, while Perry is snapping pictures.  Kathy stands next to James, the race director, waiting for me to cross the finish line.  James gives me a double high five, Kathy gives me a hug.  It is finally over.  The clock reads 56 minutes later than my goal time.  I am heartbroken.

Neither Kathy or I thought the race would have turned out the way it did.  In talking with runners at the finish line, not one had a good race.  Not one.  The sun became the clear winner.

A few days removed from the race, there is still some sadness (which I talk about here). The future holds more races and more opportunities.  Although this race is by far the most difficult for me to get over, I am blessed to be surrounded by my family and friends who refuse to let me give up. 

Sometimes in life you need to rely more on the belief loved ones have in you than you do in yourself; that belief gives way to hope and in turn births determination.  Then you wake up one day and find yourself standing at the starting line of another marathon saying, "Yes I can."


  1. I love your writing Cheri! Sorry your day didn't go as planned, but you gutted it out when you probably felt like death.

    1. Thank you Ron! Hope you are healing up well and hope to see you at another starting line sometime soon. :)

    2. So I fractured my right ankle, and now I just found out yesterday that I fractured my left. So I'm pretty much set for the walker with the tennis balls. My goal now is Portland, the original scene of the crime.

    3. OH NO!!! That is horrible!!! You've got guts to return to that course - you should receive a medal of bravery. :) Have you run California International before? I'll be running that one in December - my first CA marathon!

  2. I've never run CIM before. It always the same weekend as Las Vegas, which I like a lot. But I've always heard great things about CIM, I should really consider it.

    1. I've heard great things about it too and that's one of the reasons a group of us decided to run it. Let me know if you decide to venture north instead of Vegas, it'd be great to see you!