Saturday, April 23, 2011

God is Good!!

I can't explain it, but God worked a miracle for me. On the 115th running of the Boston marathon, I was able to complete my 15th marathon. Even lining up to the start, I had no idea what the day would bring and just how far I would be able to run on my bum foot. I tried to put my fears out of my mind and just go with the flow. Hanging out and starting the race with friends helped tremendously. I had to keep reminding myself to just live in the moment and take it all in. Not knowing if or when I'd be back to run Boston, I didn't want to let this opportunity pass me by and leave with regrets. That was my "A" goal no matter what happened with my foot.

Still, I feared the worst. Simply walking around before the race on Saturday and Sunday, I had pain in my foot. Every pair of running shoes I packed (I brought a large suitcase so I could decide between four pairs!) didn't feel good on my sore foot. I decided I needed all the help I could get, so I used the free titanium tape they offered at the expo and wore my EFX band (those holographic bracelets that have been disproven). I didn't care if it was all a hoax. I tried convincing myself they were real and could really help me. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. I didn't feel different by having them on, but was hoping there might be something in them that could help in the later miles of the marathon.

Race day: Woke up early, showered and ate breakfast. (I wasn't going to make the same mistake I've always made when running a later marathon). Waited in a long line, but finally got on the school bus to go to Hopkinton. I wasn't nervous yet, just sleepy. Rested my eyes a bit and chatted with my friends. Got to Hopkinton and waited in a long port-o-potty line. Bundled up in my poncho and danced to the hip-hop music the "DJ/announcer" was playing.

Finally, my friends and I settled down to get ourselves all race ready. We thought we'd have more time, but the announcer was already instructing us to line up in our corral. We gathered up our belongings and dropped off our bags in the appropriate buses. (I was impressed by the extreme organization. Boston sure knows what they're doing!)

We walked, and walked, and walked and finally got close to the start. This was a whirlwind! I barely had time to take off my throw away clothes when we hit the starting line. I wished my friends good luck one last time and we were off and running. We lost the speedsters, Theresa and Ann, pretty quickly in the crowd. They were shooting for a faster time and I didn't expect to see them again until the finish (if I could make it there). I stuck by Patricia and Bonnie who both wanted to run a sub 4. Patricia acted as our pacer since she was the only one with a SmartPace band. It didn't take long before I realized just how far back we had started in the third wave. I looked around at the numbers on the runners around us and we were in a pack of 20,000+. I figured most of them were charity runners and we were going to have to do a lot of weaving. That's exactly what we did for the first 7-8 miles. It was work trying to stay together, but thankfully, the pace didn't feel bad for me. Cardiovascularly, I was fine and my foot wasn't hurting yet. I had my name on my shirt and every time we hit the crowds, I pumped my fist when I heard my name and high fived the kids. I thought, if this is as far as I can run, I'm going to make the most of it.

The miles just kept flying by and I was doing well. Pace still felt good and foot was still fine. We got to the screaming wall at Wellesley and again I ran by the crowd. Lots of "Kiss me, I'm [fill in the blank]" signs which kinda weirded me out, but I high fived a lot of the girls and the handful of guys through this area. I ran with a huge smile and felt like a celebrity. I decided right there that this was how I wanted to run the rest of my race. I didn't want to care about my pace or my foot anymore. It was all about taking it in and enjoying the crowd. I would let them carry me through the miles and through the pain.

Mile 17, Patricia and I saw her husband, Joe, and I was finally able to dump the arm warmers and gloves I had been carrying around my waist. It was somewhere around that time, I started pulling away from Patricia. It wasn't intentional, I just felt good. Patricia was feeling overheated and needed to slow the pace down a little. She kept encouraging me to go ahead if I felt good, but I was still a bit apprehensive about running too fast and worried my foot wouldn't be able to handle it. At the next aid station, I found myself ahead of her. I looked back a few times, but slowing my pace down felt unnatural. I trusted that Patricia could finish and just needed to run her own race. I had seen Bonnie a couple of times after mile 15, but kept losing her too. She was looking strong every time I saw her though.

I don't remember a lot of details about the next 8-9 miles. My memory always gets sketchy around this time of the marathon. I remember just wanting to get to mile 20 before I could feel confident that I could finish, even if I needed to walk. I was feeling some pain in my foot, but it wasn't in the same spot I had been so concerned about. Now, it was blister pain on the bottom of my feet and under my toe. I don't know what it is about Boston. It's the only race I've blistered in. Must be the hills! I was wearing my Injinji socks and had lubed up well with Sportslick that morning, so I had no reasons for these blisters. Instead of getting upset, I decided this was the least of my worries. I just wanted to finish and would deal with whatever blisters I got. They weren't going to stop me this time! I figured blisters will heal, broken feet and disappointment take a lot longer. My foot didn't feel broken and I so wanted to finish.

While I was taking in the crowd at mile 20, an angel appeared. It was a woman who looked right at me and said "You've got this, Myra! Six more miles and you'll get your medal!" Seriously. How did she know that this was what I was working for and that this would be the perfect motivation for me that that particular moment? I had told Eladio before I left that if I could make it to mile 20, I just wanted to finish so I could get that medal. If I had to drop out before that point, I could live with myself. But, if I got that close and didn't get to finish and get the medal, I would be so disappointed. In fact, as a safeguard to my potential disappointment, I specifically bought a "Boston 2011" necklace at the expo that would serve as my medal in case I didn't get one. But here was this lady, saying I was going to get it. I believed her and just ran as fast as I could.

Those last 6 miles were the most awesome final 6 miles I've ever run in a marathon. I was fully in the moment and thoroughly enjoying the crowd. Yes, my legs were getting tired and I was running on a painful blister, but I didn't care. My mantra became, "Run with Joy" (borrowed from the title of Ryan Hall's book). Finally, I hit mile 25 and I knew I was going to finish. A few turns and then we hit the final straight away. I gave it everything I had. Crossed the finish line and looked down at my watch - 3:55:05! I did it! Not only did I finish, my foot felt okay and I ran a sub 4! I got my A, B, C goals and more!! Immediately, I called Eladio. I broke down into tears and just thanked God for his amazing grace. We both cried and rejoiced.

God was so good to me and my friends that day. I don't know why, but He performed a minor miracle to help me get through and remain injury free. Both Ann and Theresa achieved PR's and Patricia and Bonnie were able to finish. Oh, and did you hear - an unofficial world record was set by the male winner. What an amazing day!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Praying for a miracle

Here's the sad and ugly truth. I'm sitting here trying to fight the urge to wallow in self-pity over my predicament. To comfort myself, I'm indulging in McDonald's fries and a strawberry shake. Great health food, I know!! Here's why -- It's almost two days until Boston and I'm not even sure I'll be able to finish the race. In my 13 years of running and of my 14 marathons, I've never gone into a marathon feeling this way before. I'm going into this race with a potential major injury. At the very least, I have a stress reaction in my foot. Or, it COULD be a stress fracture. I've had no MRI to confirm this, but have seen several health care professionals in the past couple of weeks and this seems to be the logical conclusion.

I knew going into this training that things wouldn't be ideal. For goodness sake, I had to train in the winter in the Midwest! What could I expect but lots of cold, snowy days running outside. But, I dealt with it. I sucked it up and did what I had to do. I wasn't killing myself this time around. I had already qualified, so my goal was to just put in the miles and build up to some speed and hill work so I could at least go into Boston prepared. More than anything, I didn't want a repeat of how I trained and ran Boston before. When I ran it in 2002, I was a full-time student and just barely squeezed in my training between classes, homework, and tests. I did just enough to finish, but not enough to have a strong race. Still, once I was in Beantown and surrounded by all those wonderful athletes, I convinced myself I could still push the pace. Once I started the race, I became intent on breaking four hours. All went well in the first half, but once I hit the Newton hills, I got a blister on my big toe. I was able to stay on pace, but finally, at mile 19, it broke. I had never blistered in a race before and didn't know how bad it was. I just knew it hurt with every step. For three miles, I searched for a medical tent. When I finally found one, I sat down, took off my shoe and sock, lubed up with Vaseline, and put on a band-aid. Once my foot was all mended, I took off and was able to finish the race. I don't remember much about those last 7 miles except it was a struggle. I remember that I started resenting the race and couldn't muster up the strength to try to enjoy myself by taking in everything around me. I was frustrated that I had a negative attitude and that my race hadn't gone as I had hoped. Still, I finished in 4:06. Not a bad time for me (based on the clock's standard), but a terrible time in terms of how I experienced what was supposed to be the best part of the race, the finish.

From the start of this training, I've said that finish time wasn't the important factor in my Boston race this time around. I just wanted to go back to Boston and try to redeem myself from all the negativity I experienced before. I wanted to take it all in this time and enjoy it as much as possible, especially the final 6 miles!

I don't know what God's plans are for me, but I know that goal may be difficult to attain on Monday. When I saw my chiropractor today, he said he wouldn't advise running, but he knows I will anyway. He just wants me to be prepared to stop in the race if the pain becomes intolerable. I'm sure if it gets that bad, I'll have no choice. There's a good chance it could become a stress fracture and I could do major damage if I keep running on it.

I have no idea what is going to happen on Monday. I'm praying for the best and for my ego to get out of the way so I can run smart and finish - no matter how slow. I've GOT to get time goals out of my head! I'm a pretty competitive person (I think all Boston qualifiers are) and it's going to be challenging to go against my nature. Only God can change this in me.

I am comforted by all the people who are praying for me. Thank you! I'm beyond any more physical help, so this is all I have left.

I'm sure there's a major life lesson in all of this, but I'm not at a point of analyzing it just yet. Give me time. I'm sure I'll have more to say when I get back.

Earlier, I felt at peace and I was okay with simply lining up at the start of Boston and just seeing how far I could go. I'm nervous and sad now. It's just a mix of emotions for me right now. My hope and prayer is that I can make it to the finish and get that Boston medal. I wish I had more faith, like Ralph in the movie Saint Ralph, to expect that God will perform miracles. I know He can. I just don't know if there'll be one for me.