Monday, June 24, 2013

My First Marathon: What it taught me

In January, ten runners from Kennebec Valley Coaching embarked on a journey to complete a marathon. For most of us, this was to be our first full marathon. I was just coming off major surgery in December, so in many ways my training was starting from scratch. We ran as a group through the winter with the Winter Warriors group, then we transitioned into the Mystery Run group (which could have been named "The Hill Running Group). On June 23rd, all ten of us completed the Inaugural Bay of Fundy International Marathon in Lubec, Maine (yep... that's right, we're INTERNATIONAL marathoners)! The course was very challenging and hilly and we CRUSHED it! I could bore you with a mile-by-mile recap of the race, instead I'll give you the highlights:

Pre-race stretching class courtesy of Fab at Absolute Balance Massage Therapy (yes, we travel with our own massage therapist). Folks were sitting on their porches with their morning coffee at 6am to send the early starters off with cheers (I opted for the early start not knowing how long it might take me), FRIENDLY border patrol agents, amazing scenery along the entire route (lupines everywhere, rocky coastline, quaint harbors and fishing villages), BEST CROWD SUPPORT EVER (the boys at the half way waving US and Canadian flags, the girls cheerleading at the church, SANTA!, the house with a ZILLION signs of encouragement, the family offering chocolate chip cookies at mile 18ish, the huge crowd at the finish),the smelly dead fish just before the mile 12 marker (which was sponsored by Family Fisheries) totally made me laugh,  the folks driving along the route ringing cowbells and waving and beeping, the other runners cheering each other on, the photographers (I actually have several REALLY good race photos), the volunteers (water stops every 2 miles was PERFECT), the police on both sides of the border, the race organizers. Post-race massages (thanks to Fab) and stretching courtesy of Jared Lawson of Kennebec Valley Chiropractic (yep... we brought our own chiropractor too). 

It may sound melodramatic, but training for, and completing, the marathon has changed my life. The lessons I've learned along the way extend far beyond running and fitness. Here are some of those lessons:

  1. Slow and steady really DOES win the race (or in my case, FINISH). I ran my marathon in 5:45:35, which is exactly what I was hoping for. I ran my own race, at my pace, and I truly enjoyed every step of every hilly mile.
  2. I am capable of so much more than I'd ever imagined. I started running in September of 2010 hoping to finish a 5K. Each time I attained a goal I set a new goal. I never imagined I'd be running a full marathon in less than 3 years.
  3. Don't judge a book by its cover. Fit doesn't always look the way you think it does. Marathoners often masquerade as "ordinary" folks. Sure, there are runners out there with the long legs, sinewy muscles, and 10% body fat. But there are many more with soft squishy bits, things that giggle a bit when you run, and enough body fat to keep the chill away.
  4. For the first time ever I see myself as an athlete. I've struggled with my body image and self-confidence since I was tweenager. We stopped for lunch on the way home. As I walked down the street looking for a sandwich shop I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a store window; I had to take a second look. For quite possibly the first time ever I liked what I saw; I saw myself as fit, and healthy, and happy. I saw an athlete.
  5. Over the past few months I've noticed less negative self-talk. I've all but abandoned my bathroom scale. When I think about my body, I think about what it CAN do, not about a number on a scale, not about the flaws. Are they really flaws?
  6. Anything is possible with persistence, patience, and support. Never quit, shit happens, and when it does you just have to roll with in (not in it)! Just because you put something on a list, or set a deadline, doesn't mean that is when it will happen, it will happen when it's MEANT to be, enjoy the journey. It takes a village to raise a marathoner. My village includes my husband Andy who always encouraged and pushed me to do my training (even when I didn't want to), my running family at KVC (coach Amy, Lynn O, Lynn F, Pat, Kim, Karen, Brenda, Amber, Aimee, Trisha, Ellen, Beth... just to name a few), my parents (they've always said I can do anything I want... and meant it!), and my friends.

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