All because of two gold hearts

14 June 2014

Well, the Utah Valley Marathon and I met again this morning.

At 6 am in a cow pasture in Wallsburg.  Actually it started on a bus at pitch-black 3 freaking am.  And then the Marathon and I kept company for the next four hours, until I sprinted across the final line.

This experience wasn't like my last one.  Certainly the swollen, aching, proud act of busting across that finish line was, and the sights, sounds, and iconic feeling of that rapture is worth another stillframe.  But the journey in the middle is what makes the real impact on me.  A marathon is certainly an emotional experience.  And I cannot say that my two marathons were at all the same.  

So let's talk about that emotional experience, because what else can I do as I lay here for the rest of the day with immobile throbbing legs.  SO LISTEN TO MY FEELINGS!

Running such distances really depletes all faculties of reason and polarizes what you feel.  My last marathon, I had a lot of bottled happiness, so the race made me euphoric!  I had the most incredible out-of-body runner's high I'd ever experienced.  Miles and miles and miles of supreme delight.  I felt stallionized.  Completely iconic, and ennobled, and powerful.  I was proud of myself beyond belief, overcome with awe at my abilities of enduring and rising (both figurative for the race and also literal for that time of my life).  It was such a luminous experienced that it instantly entered my top three moments of life.  And the other two moments on that list included years of such saturation, and this was only for a few hours, so let that speak for the true poignancy.   

(Last marathon story here - email me for access).

But this time, not near as close.  And I wasn't really holding onto the expectation that it would be the same, as I'm good at entering all situations with a fairly clean slate.  And, I mean, that's quite an experience to beat anyways.

So, we end the feelings talk and begin the story.

The bus, the starting line, running begins through the canyon, blah blah blah.  Skip to the dramatic parts - the physical pain.  Last time, I remember mild pain kicking in around mile 8.   But the whole game of long-distance running is how to divert your mind to anything but the pain, which isn't a problem for me.  Overly imaginary, ya know.  So last race, at mile 15, I popped an aspirin to keep the pain at bay and didn't even feel any sort of physical resistance until mile 23.  23!!  Twenty-three.  All the way to three miles to donzo!  I spent that whole middle time zoned out in happy clouds!

But this time, at mile FIVE, my hip started searing.  And patterns of pain evolve in training, so you can anticipate what is gonna ache and what isn't.  But this pain came with no precedent.  And it was so unnatural and strong that I was concerned.  Only a few miles later, I had to actively work on bridling my limp, knowing that if I limped for the next 18 miles, I would throw far more pieces of my body out of alignment, and I'd be in some long-term trouble.  Luckily the pain disseminated with some IB Profin, and I was able to run balanced and evenly.

So I reached the halfway point in good time.  Just like last time, I changed my socks and quickly used the bathroom.  Which is always the most prime place to do so, because this is the half-marathoners starting point, so there are lots more restrooms and you don't wait in a line and eat time.  And also, new puffy cloud feet!  Which apparently I made up this idea of fresh socks, because no other racers have heard of it.  But might I still suggest it to all.  Love it! 

Also, at the halfway mark, I always up my game.  Hold back the first 13 miles to make sure I'm good with body and energy.  And then go hard the last 13.  Which makes things real fun.  People are retching on their shoes, and I'm smoking by them.  Slap em on the butt!  No don't.

However, as soon as I stood up to continue the second half of the race, the searing in my hip came back.  Luckily I had one final painkiller, which I had offered to a man awhile back because he was limping heavily on the side.  He said he was okay, so it turned out for the best that I didn't shove it in his mouth.  Throw on a mighty strong headwind.  Right at the most intense incline.  Both making my hip pain worse.  Oh, and my iPod decided it was a good time to break.


So I struggled upward.  Which was disappointing because this was the point last time when the race actually began for me, sailing away in a trance of inspiring song, and rapid fire legs passing everyone.  But now, I was hobbling to even keep my steady pace with a glitchy Pandora station.  And I'm not for certain, but grabbing someone's shirt and getting a freeride probably wouldn't have rolled over so well.

Aaaand, now we're going back to feelings.  Because this is right around the point that faculties of reason and control disappear, and whatever emotion is bottled inside is now felt by 200%.  Well it wasn't eupohria, that's for sure.  Something more like discouragement and pity groveling.   But what can you do in a canyon with a broken body in the middle of a marathon?  Mooooore running of course. 

By mile 19, I felt incredibly alone.  Nevermind the other 2,500 people in the race with me.  Battling any intense experience alone feels so isolating.  I considered tapping someone's shoulder next to me and saying, "Could you please hold my hand?  This is really scary, and I don't want to die, and I just need a friend.   AND WHAT IS WITH ALL THIS BLOODY ROADKILL??

And then a sob escaped.  And then another.  And I knew if I finished the next 7 miles alone, I would not only cross the finish line a blubbery mess, but certainly end up in a trauma ward forever screaming "SOMEONE HOLD MY BODY!"

Luckily, Julie had been keeping tabs on me through text since mile 15, so now was my chance to avoid that.

"Julie, will you jump in with me at the mouth of the canyon?  Mile 22.  Wiiiiind.  And not doing so hot."

Done.  I'll be there. 

I love that woman. 

And the race picked up for me from there.  For one, Julie was coming to the rescue.  And also, knowing a lot more of the race was done than not done.  And also, knowing I would be entering the city soon, which means MORE PEOPLE!  I always love the cheering crowds!  Plus, that stupid wind had softened a bit, and my aspirin had kicked in.

So I picked up my speed to match more of my former flying time, cruising right on passed people.  Smacked no butts.  But I did admire a Fabio looking man, matching his sprinting pace.  And, I began smiling broadly at every human in sight.  I like to play Runner Girl Celebrity.  My smile is big and it wins big cheers.  Fun little game that exists in my head only. 

Around mile 21, I made friends with a guy named Zach.  At the end of long runs, you can finally talk to people, as the battle against your body no longer includes your lungs.  And because parking was horrible, Julie couldn't enter the race until mile 24.  So Zach and I got to know all about each other for a few miles.  Eh, but I've forgotten most of it now.  Short-term memory loss.  #RaceBrain.

Zach and I had run just passed the 24 mile marker, and Julie AND Kersti appeared in the street, all geared up, cheering and smiling at me, and ready to run right at my side.  They encouraged me and really pumped me up, repeatedly saying how bad-A I am.  Turns out that is a compliment that really pushes me.

Except, the last 2 miles of hard sprinting still felt like 87 lightyears.  I was panting as audibly and quickly as a dog. Zach stayed steadily on my other side and also cheered me on.  Aside from loud relieving grumbling noises, I mentioned murder a few times.  #RaceBrain.  Let's just throw out that the final miles of a marathon are not the prime time to meet someone. 

In the final yards, Julie ran ahead to get pictures, and Kersti stayed right with me.  I don't know where Zach went.  He was probably afraid.  Kersti and I entered the final pipeline of hollering crowd and cowbells.  And there was Leslie and Chris spotted amongst them, cheering loudly as I ran by.  And also my cousin, who I think was about to jump over the gate and come tackle me because she was so proud and yelled it as loudly to match.  I hope everyone understood her enthusiasm, because now they're deafened by it. 

I was charging at quite the speed, wheezing harder than I ever had, so Kersti distracted me by telling a story about running and poo.  It was SO funny that I ran through that dense crowd of people laughing and grunting with quite a volume for such tired lungs.  I'm sure everyone thought I had completely lost my mind. 

And the race was over, just like that.

It was such a strange accomplishment.  My body was a hot mess, and my brain immediately emptied everything that happened for the last several hours.  Some sort of innate self-preservation.  Suddenly I forget all the grueling and puffing and hobbling.  Zach came and touched my shoulder goodbye, and I almost yelled, "WHO ARE YOU??" 

A woman put a medal around my neck, and friends surrounded me with hugs and pictures.  Then I stood dumbly at the final drink station, grabbing cup after cup after cup, in a robotic, poorly aimed motion to my mouth.  Thinking absolutely nothing.  Well, except water, waaater, WATER!!!

But, I did feel a little swelling of something deep inside.  And also felt the dribble of water down my face, drenching more of my shirt.

Ultimately, this race was a lot harder and didn't end with quite the same intense pride as last time. That heightened elation and independent glorification.  So glamorous and over-sensationalized and doused in self-confidence.  I was hollering with the rest of them, wobbling around with my jello legs and shrieking about endorphins.  I think I may have actually been on fire. 

But this time, I felt a lot more tenderized.  Still a bit of pride in myself and all that I had just endured.  But mostly, I felt a reverence for the people who had come across the finish line with me.  The way Julie and Kersti so readily jumped beside me to run the final steps when I openly asked for help.  Two miles wasn't a huge sacrifice on their end.  But it really meant everything to me.  More than all my repeated, slurred thank you's could say. 
So many people fail us.  So many have failed me.  And charging onward alone, when I also battled fatigue and physical hurt, would have only drawn out more raw memories.  But when I put the care of myself in the right hands, my ability multiplied.  As did my belief in really being "Bad-A."

Maybe some big achievements are to be done alone.  But maybe others aren't.  Maybe sometimes it's good to experience that lofty self-assurance, seeing that we can trust ourselves to carry such heavy weight.  But maybe sometimes it's good to place that trust in people so dear and see their willingness to carry what we can't.

I needed that shared burden in the final, thickest moments of my race.  I needed the support and loyalty of my friends. 

So, last time, I titled my marathon experience, "Worth My Sweat in Gold."  But this time, all that sweat is dedicated to two golden hearts.  (Bet no one ever dedicated their sweat before.  But, why waste 26 miles worth?)

All because of two gold hearts.

Onward and upward,

Post-Script Shout-Outs:

Okay but really, everything hurts and I can't move.  I like tacos.  Let those connect in your mind how they may.

Phil - ah, boating!  Any other day, I'd be there.  

Leslie - thank you so much for coming and being there!!

And Kersti and Julie - not the final time, but one more - THANK YOU!


  1. I'll say it again, you are awesome! And I loved your insights on occasionally needing to be carried by others. Amen and amen!

  2. I loved reading this, especially after just experiencing my own physical euphoria, and Herculean task. Makes me want to train for a marathon, but I know my poor granny knees won't let me. I'll stick to cycling.