the race, I almost don't believe it. Someone check the records and make sure I finished all 26.2 miles.
The day has become a complete blur, as much as four and a half hours of nonstop running can be. My experience mirrored those of so many other first-time marathoners. The first ten miles passed by almost effortlessly. Mile markers were flying past me, my pace was comfortable and I was loving life. The next ten were harder, but I anticipated that. I was ready for it. Somewhere between miles 19 and 22, though, it got even tougher. I tried embracing it, knowing that this was what made it a marathon. The hard parts are what makes it such an awesome accomplishment. It's one thing to know that intellectually, though, and another to be right there in the thick of it with tired legs and an impatient mind and the sun beating down on you. But Hartford put on a great race, with lots of course entertainment, clear mile markers, tons of support and water stations and pretty decent crowd support. I never found the official pace group I had vague plans to run with, but I'd still recommend the race wholeheartedly. The weather was beautiful, starting out at 50 degrees and warming up quickly to a sunny 68-70 or so. Truthfully, it was actually a bit warmer than I'd like but I decided not to complain and upset the running gods that day.
During my training runs, I always imagined how emotional I would be in the last stretch of the race. How much of a relief it would be to pass mile 23, 24, 25... knowing that I only had a few more miles left of this epic adventure. As it turns out, I didn't feel that relief until I crossed the finish line. With one mile left, I couldn't muster up the weepy pride that I had assumed would overwhelm me. No slow-motion montages of all of my previous hard work playing through my head. Nope, just sheer grit to make it to the finish line. I knew I would make it, of course, but even a mile seemed like a far distance to run. At mile 26 I passed Chris, enthusiastically cheering me on, and he told me the finish was right around the corner. It would only be another minute until I could stop and rest, but I still didn't feel any sense of relief! I just wanted it to be over, finally. As I ran down the finishing chute, a small smile spread across my lips and I managed to pump my arms in the air as I crossed the line. I collected my medal, my shiny foil blanket and water. Only then did I feel great. I felt proud. I felt equally triumphant and nonchalant about the achievement. I wondered if any of my family had tracked my progress on the computer and if they were relieved that I had made it. I shimmied out of the giant foil blanket meant to keep me warm, thinking that it unfortunately made me feel like a soggy burrito. I wandered over to the place where Chris said he would be. I waited for a little bit, probably just a minute or two, unable to think clearly about calling his cell phone or even sitting down in the shade to wait. I just stood there, in the middle of a race-crazed crowd, and looked around. I was in a total fog, but it was a happy one. When Chris got there he ran over and hugged me and shouted, "You just ran a MARATHON!" Then I sat down and burst into tears.
I've already got marathon amnesia. I'm already thinking about another one, in the future, someday. I am so proud of myself that I stuck with it during all of the training runs, especially those that I desperately wanted to skip. I'm thankful for the awesome phone calls and text messages and FB/Instagram notes and high fives I've gotten. For the celebratory champagne and beers. For the post-race burritos and Ben & Jerry's. For having friends and family that get it, or at least pretend to. For having a husband who doubles as my zen running coach. For the opportunity and ability to become a marathoner. And for feeling pretty damn great afterwards, with no injuries or major discomforts at all. Mission complete.