Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Day I Became Marathon Allie

This has to be at least the 20th time I have sat down to write this post. Every time I open up a page to start, my mind is overwhelmed and I am at a loss for words. I get emotional as I start to relive the entire day, mile by mile. I have come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to do this experience justice with my words.

As with most exciting experiences, I had trouble sleeping the night before. Once I was finally able to fall asleep, I woke up a few times in a sweat that I had overslept and missed the whole thing.  Once 5 a.m. rolled around I was up and less nervous than I thought. As I got dressed I was excited and ready to get started. But as we drove to AJ's house the nerves started to flare up. I remember grabbing Chris' hand and asking him, " I can do this, right?"  What I can't remember is what he said back to me. recollection whatsoever. I actually don't remember much of what happened or was said between me asking that question and him dropping AJ, Jen and I off to go to the start line.

What I did remember was posting this photo and saying a prayer. During that prayer I prayed for a safe, injury free race for everyone involved and for God to help me push through whenever I doubted myself or felt like I couldn't keep going. While I joke that I do races for the medals (don't get me wrong, I love them!) this race was different. It was not only a physical and mental challenge, it was very spiritual for me. It was the ultimate testament to God's greatness and the transformation he has helped me make over the last year.

By many people's standards I shouldn't be running a marathon. I am overweight. I am slow. I didn't train 6 days a week. But I didn't care, I have the heart of a runner. Not only was I running a marathon, I was running after being 100% med free for nearly a year. There were so many times during my training I wanted to take Adderall to help me push through/focus my mind, but I didn't give in. I panicked a week or so before and really considered taking it the day of the race, but in my heart I felt like I would be cheating myself. I am so glad I didn't give in to the fear.

Throughout the day there were a handful of very clear moments that I knew without a doubt, God was sending me the help I prayed for. Those are the moments that have stayed with me for nearly a month afterwards, that continue to work on my heart and make me want keep going.

When we walked to our corral, I was doing everything I could to keep my nerves in check. There were so many more people this year and my biggest cheerleader wasn't physically there to reassure me that it would all be ok.  As we found our way into our corral and were waiting to start, my nerves went into hyper drive. Behind me a girl was making a video to post before we started. The video went something like this: "I am about to run my first half marathon! I am so nervous but I just want to be an inspiration to all the girls out there that have every doubted themselves. Wish me luck!"

Even with all the people and noise, I remember this moment so clearly. It was a simple message, but it spoke to my heart. That is so much of what I wanted from this experience. I wanted to inspire others to reach deep and push themselves to do something they never imagined doing. I wanted to show others who had been in the dark place that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted glorify God every step of my journey. Within a few moments my nerves had calmed and I was focused.

Once we started I felt great, other than a little rumble in my stomach that I had just chalked up to nerves and figured it would go away. Little did I know that "rumble" would cause me quite a bit of trouble and help add nearly 45 minutes to my time.

Other than stomach issues and one of the water stops being out of cups, the first 12-13 miles were amazing! The energy on the course was awesome and even going up the Main Street bridge, I felt so strong.  I loved seeing my family and friends in the Stockyards and then again on Magnolia. Truth be told, I wasn't totally prepared for how lonely the course would get when the half and full split at mile 10. There were moments I felt like I was the only one still out there. I am so thankful I did all my long runs alone, otherwise this would have really been an issue.

I knew I would see everyone again right before mile 15 at Laura and Sean's house, but mile 14 is where the mind games started. I remember tearing up just a little when I saw Kipper and my Dad run across the street to meet me. For a brief moment I wanted to call it a day, a very brief moment. The cheers of from my family and sweet friends gave me another wind. Around the corner and off I went.

The next 2 miles went great. I was keeping my mind games in check and my stomach had calmed down a bit. Sadly that peace was short lived. Somewhere between mile 17 and 18, I lost it. Full blown meltdown. There were moments my eyes started to burn from the tears and I felt weighed down by sun was beating down on my back. I was really ready to give up, I no longer believed I could do it. I tried to focus on the lyrics of the song that was playing, which just happened to be Matt Maher's Hold Us Together. Shortly after the first verse I saw I woman running towards me, waving her arms. I sucked up my tears and pulled out my ear buds so I could hear her. She was so sweet, wanting to make sure I was ok and even offered to stay with me. I assured her I was ok (which was a total lie) and thanked her. As she started off the other direction she yelled "They are all in the park waiting to cheer for you! Keep Going!"  

I knew Fosters Park was the next place I would see family and friends, so that comment made the tears flow again. As I put my ear buds back in, these were the lyrics playing...

And love will hold us together
Make us a shelter to weather the storm

And I'll be my brother's keeper

So the whole world will know that we're not alone

This is the first day of the rest of your life

This is the first day of the rest of your life

'Cause even in the dark, you can still see the light

It's gonna be alright, it's gonna be alright

It was an aha moment to say the least. With a semi-fake smile on my face I kept pushing through. By the time I saw Kipper and my Dad again, my stomach was killing me and I was starting to worry about finishing in time. I could have sworn I was the only person still out there and that was really disheartening. Kipper assured me if I stayed on track I would be fine, I just had to keep going.

At Mile 20 is where I saw the whole gang, with the big banner they made AJ and I. This is when I found my next guardian angel of the day. Jenn Harris sent Bobby on to mile 23 to meet Kipper and stayed with me. Not only did she run the next 3 miles with me, she helped me make it to the next bathroom stop and kept
talking so I didn't have time to think too much.  By the time we meet the guys at the Woodshed, I felt like a new women. I was hurting and tired, but the end was in sight. Only 3 miles left, but they were 3 miles I had run a million times before. Both AJ and I said, if we could make it to the park we would be okay. We knew that part of the trail like the back of our hand.

The last 3 miles were amazing. Once in the park I realized there were lots of people still out on the course. I met up with a lady from Arkansas running her 2nd marathon and a 65 year old gentleman from Fort Worth who was also running his 1st marathon.  Chatting with them was a nice distraction for the blister that I felt burst around mile 24. And when I would start to slow down just a bit he would yell "Pick up the pace pigtails!"

When I crossed University and entered the Will Rogers complex my adrenaline really kicked in. All of the body aches, stomach issues and doubt was gone.  There were several times throughout the day that I recited one of the 4 verses I chose for this race to myself. As I picked up my pace and approached that last turn, I just kept repeating Philippians 4:13 over and over. In the final stretch all I could see was AJ on the other side of the finish line and Kipper, Watts and Jen M on the other side of the barricade cheering like mad.

It was almost like an out of body experience. As I approached the finish line the tears kept coming and I just covered my mouth in shock. I did it! I, Allie Martin, ran a freaking marathon. I am not the same person I was at the start line that morning.  I was so excited, I didn't even really care they had run out of medals and I would have to wait nearly 3 weeks to get mine. But we did get a laminated photo of the medal and a cowbell. We kept joking that we ran a freaking marathon and we got was a stinking cowbell! lol.

That morning I asked  God to help me push through whenever I doubted myself or felt like I couldn't keep going. That help came in many forms and in ways I would have never imagined. I wasn't at my best that day, I honestly didn't feel like I deserved the finish I had. But through his grace I was able to finish strong and hopefully inspire others to have the courage to push themselves in a ways they had only dreamed of.

Both AJ and I went into this thing saying it was a one and done situation. I was never going to put myself through this emotional roller coaster again. It only took a week for me to realize that wasn't the case. I will do another marathon. A few things need to happen first (losing some weight and finding a coach because I will probably not train on my own again) but I WILL do it again. I have taken time off to decompress and now it is time to focus on more cross training and speed work. I don't do well when I don't have a tangible goal and this last month was very much proof of that. Time to start putting in the work to make my next dream come true. Half marathon PR here I come! :)