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.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

California International Marathon

Nature's fury raged just outside the window.  Bus 133 gave us safety against the storm.  Normal pre-race jitters were heightened with the anxiety over the weather. 

Kellan is the first to leave the bus.  We time how long it takes him to make it to the Port-A-Potties and back.  Four minutes later he stands in front of us, soaked to the bone.  We stare in disbelief.  Kathy and Karen venture out and upon their return, Karen laughs stating to us there is no way we can race this marathon.  The statement released an invisible pressure valve, and you could feel anxiety slip away.

Standing at the starting line, we are a mass of walking garbage bags.  Although they do not keep us dry, they offer a warmth layer against the 38 mph head winds.  Gusts are recorded at greater than 50 mph.  The winds make it nearly impossible to hear each other, as the garbage bags flapping in the wind just add to the noise.

Unwilling to lose each other, Kathy, Karen and I hang onto each other refusing to let go.  This is completely out of character for us, yet brings an undeniable comfort.  Kellan and Arlane are somewhere in the crowd of those racing.  I ask God to keep them safe.

We turn onto Oak Avenue to a section we have nicknamed Farmville.  The street is lined with fields of white fencing designed to keep in horses.  We notice the horses are not to be seen and had enough smarts to stay in the barns.  The wind is no longer at our faces but at our side, giving us a break.  It is easier to hear each other talk.

Debris is everywhere.  We watch the air, we watch the ground.  The rain is relentless.  Mile 3 my right hamstring says, "hello".  I was hoping to make it to the middle miles before feeling it's presence.  The course turns onto Fair Oaks Boulevard and into a head wind once again.

Mile 9 Pat and his friend Diane are cheering for us.  Drenched to the bone, they cheer loudly as we run down the street.  My legs feel like jello and I know my body is low on iron.  I make my way across the street to Pat.  Yelling above the wind, I tell him I need a coke.  I know this won't help with my iron issue, yet I hope it will give me a boost of energy I need to power through the conditions.  Unknown to me once we have run by, Pat turns to Diane and tells her he is concerned with how I look.

The rain is falling at an incredible rate and as we turn to run up a hill, we are faced with an urban river running down the road.  We are running upstream against ankle-deep water rushing down the hill.  This all seems so surreal.

We reach the half way point together.  I finally confess to Kathy and Karen my hamstring has been bothering me and I promised myself I could change my game plan once I made it to mile 13.  Kathy tells me I can keep going.  I listen.  There is a relay exchange at this mile marker and the thousands of cheering people give us a push.

Making our way down the course, we hear people yelling "PUDDLE!".  We are confused as we've been running through a lot of standing water and aren't too sure as to why this is being called out now.  The crowd of runners begins to merge to the left and we follow suit.  Then we see him.  A man stands in the road as a warning, with water up to his mid-calf yelling at us to avoid the puddle.  Volunteers never cease to amaze me.  

Mile 15 1/2 I walk the uphill relieving my hamstring pain.  Kathy and Karen slow their pace which allows me to catch up to them when running the down hill.  This goes on for a couple of miles.  We are never far apart and always with in eye sight.  With so many runners in garbage bags, I lost their whereabouts several times but could find them again when one of them would turn around to keep an eye on me.

The weather begins to break.  Upon seeing a sliver of blue sky between the clouds, I point it out to those around me.  No one looks up, no one listens.  I laugh to myself at the absurdity of the Garbage Bag Lady yelling about blue skies in the midst of the horrendous storm.  Yea, I wouldn't believe me either. 

Running the downhill, I catch up to Karen and Kathy.  I tell them I've seen blue sky.  They both turn to look at me.  I recognize that look.  Karen tells me I'm hallucinating; then they see it and we all smile.

At mile 19 and 20 I look for Pat and Diane.  I can not find them or the coke I knew they would have for me.  My mind is a haze fighting against my hamstring and low iron.  Kathy and Karen are slightly ahead of me.  We made plans to meet at mile 22 should we separate.

Alone for a short stretch, I reflect on my racing year.  Every race this year has been a challenge; all due to things out of my control.  I feel extreme relief knowing this is my last race of the year and I will be able to put this year behind me.  My worst year is almost over.  I remind myself to notice the palm trees.  This is my first race among palm trees.  There is good with the bad.

The aid station at mile 22 holds water, electrolytes and my two friends.  Kathy and Karen stand sipping water and waiting for me.  Laughter returns over the next four miles.  They are not easy miles, but there is laughter.  Pat and Diane, unable to get through the closed streets at mile 19, are waiting at mile 22 1/2.  With a coke.  We each drink from the bottle and hope for a bump in energy.

We walk and run the final miles with my hamstring dictating the plan.  The rain has stopped and the sun begins to shine.  With only 3 miles to go we decide to keep the garbage bags on.  Although we are warm, we feel the bags are a visible sign of the battle we'd gone through.  They are our battle wounds.

The last stretch lays ahead of us.  We run a few blocks and walk a block...or two.  Our legs are cramping and it hurts to run, it hurts to walk and we are soaking wet.  Yet we laugh; oh do we laugh.  A bystander yells, "Go Garbage Girls, go!"  and this gives us the giggles which can only be understood when one has 25 miles of hell behind you.

The finisher shoot lay ahead of us.  Clad in our garbage bags, drenched to the bone, we grab each other's hands and raise them over our heads in victory.  The weather warred against us, our mental fortitude battled our resolve, yet together we held strong. 

Running hand in hand across the finish line, we had won.   This marathon was not about a run, or our finishing times or the medals around our necks.  This was the most difficult finish line we had ever earned and we did it together.

Our table is long and holds all of us.  We celebrate Arlane and Kellan's strong races and our standing tall on the other side of the storm.  A strong sense of survival is felt by all.  It is a sense we can not explain, yet it is fully understood.  There are no tears, only smiles and laughter.  Reliving the details, Karen tells us this was a race about friendship.  Quietly the tears show up.  They brim our eyes with words unspoken.

Yes, this race was all about friendship; a friendship made stronger by simply being at each other's side. 



  1. This is what running is all about -- friends, accomplishment, smiles!! Love this post Cheri!! :)

    1. Thank you! Friends made it all worth it. Would not have been the same without them!!

  2. Wow Cheri!!! Congratulations on surviving such a day!!

    1. Thank you Ron! We know refer to it as THE Epic Marathon!