Well, here we are. Just one sleep and a wake-up, and the event I’ve worked months for is here. Lots of thoughts bouncing around in my head…will try to put them in order somehow to share with you.
Week 15 went pretty well…I did a 3 on Monday and a 4 on a beautiful evening last Tuesday…it was 60 degrees even at dusk on the last day of November, and if it hadn’t been such a pleasant evening to be outside, I would totally have skipped this run. Funny how I’ve become enough of a runner now that an unexpectedly balmy evening makes me want to run in it, not sit on the porch in it. =)
I skipped Thursday and did Saturday’s 8. It went fine…had some problems in the early miles, but once I cinched down my knee brace above my knee, I had no more IT band issues. I’m hoping that’s a magic bullet of some kind, pressure on that spot. It wasn’t a fast 8, but I’m not surprised…missing all of Week 14 had me feeling very sluggish and non-runner-like. And I knew that Week 16 probably wouldn’t exist, either, since I’d be so busy and we’d be flying out Thursday night.
So that means that, out of 3 weeks of taper, I did only 4 runs, all in the same week. I feel as though I’ve put on 10 pounds. My body, to me, looks like I’m carrying more weight than I was this summer when I started running. I feel as though the past 3 weeks have undone a lot of my progress. All my Running Gurus swear to me that none of this is true, and it’s all part of race-week anxiety. I believe them…it’s just weird to have such a disconnect between what your brain tells you and what you know is actually the case.
ANYway. OH. One thing that DID happen this week was a visit to an orthopedist. Wasn’t much to it…he took x-rays of both my knees and declared the results entirely normal. He drew lines on my bent knees and when I straightened my legs, the lines were no longer straight…they bent to the outside slightly at the halfway point. He said this means I have patella-femoral syndrome and that strengthening my leg muscles is the answer. He said it was also possible I had IT band syndrome, but made no move to diagnose that in any way…if it can be done. My online reading and my chats with other runners are the reason I’ve been thinking I had that. So when I went to VA Runner last week, they said they’d order me a strap that would help with it…I picked it up yesterday afternoon before we flew out. I haven’t run with it yet. Which means marathon day will be the day I try it out. Which is bad news…never add something new on race day, for God’s sakes. It’ll be okay, though…I’m due to pass my folks at Mile 3, and if it’s not working for me, I’ll pass it off to them and keep going.
We put “Transfermantions” letterings on my shirt. It says “CHRISTINE” across the front and “FIRST TIMER!” on the back. =) That way the crowds know what name to yell. The MCM taught me about that…if I saw a name, I hollered it, and often the runner seemed to appreciate my support. I hope lots of people yell my name (my friend Michelle says I’ll have to listen carefully to hear the cheers all the way back home in VA).
Dad said I have to be visible. Therefore, I’m in a hot-pink long-sleeve shirt with yellow lettering, and I’m wearing a screaming-neon-yellow visor. In return, my parents are probably going to be wearing dark blue and black. Sigh. Made my dad promise to wear my brother’s blaze orange UnderArmour ball cap.
Silly admission: I think I’ll have my cell phone on me as I run. I don’t plan to use it except to report mile markings 2 or 3 times to my folks as I go. I need to make sure we don’t miss each other at halfway, because they’ll have a spare bottle of Gatorade with me.
It feels surreal that we’re here, the three of us, all the way over in Memphis, 1/3 of the way across the country, just because I decided to do this THING. And it feels even weirder that tomorrow, they’re going to drop me off, put me in the corral with everyone else, and say, “Okay. Go do it. You brought us here for this, now go do it!” And I’m gonna have to get the job done. 16 weeks of training and it STILL feels like, “How did I get here? Who got me into this??”
Beale Street was pretty cool, though I can’t believe it wasn’t packed full of people. Everyone we did see seemed to be carrying a Memphis Marathon goodie bag, but it still seemed really quiet downtown today, compared to what I expected. We had lunch at the Hard Rock and it was cool…they have an upstairs completely dedicated to Elvis Presley, and since it doesn’t look like we’ll have time to make it to Gracelend, they told us this is the next best thing. (Their twisted Mac & Cheese was AWESOME.)
Obviously, “Walking in Memphis” was in my head all day. Union Avenue, Beale Street, WC Handy…all of it. I wish I’d been able to make it to the Gambit before we came here…I’d wanted to sing it before the marathon. I’d never dared to before…I always thought I wasn’t allowed, somehow…it was Joe’s song, and after he died, well…it was certainly never mine…but that doesn’t matter to me anymore…I wish I’d had a chance to sing it. I will when I get back, maybe.
We drove the course. It took us about 45 minutes. I’m kinda trying not to think about it. I have been staring at that map for weeks now, trying to memorize every turn and every landmark.
I wonder where the wall will be.
I want to do this thing with a peaceful heart. I want to bear the pain and the fatigue steadfastly, and soak it up because that’s the way it’s supposed to be, and because if it weren’t painful, it wouldn’t be a glorious undertaking. By that reasoning, the pain and the fatigue should be a kind of balm…the signal to myself that I’m doing something worthwhile, that I’ve challenged myself, that I’m doing something that not everybody does. I don’t want to let thoughts creep into my head like, “Oh, God, I’m not even halfway yet…” or “Oh, GOD, still TEN MILES to go!!” I want to sink deep into every moment of it and really FEEL that this is something I CHOSE to do. I want to display determination and grit. I want to look brave and strong and tough. I want to try to transcend, as best I can, the exhaustion and the soreness and the pain.
In fact, the 26.2-mile distance no longer seems to be the challenge. I can finish. I’ve done 18, and had I been forced to walk, even at a snail’s pace, another 8, I could have done so. There are only two questions left: 1) Will my joints allow me to run the whole thing? (There’s no longer a thing I can do to affect that outcome…they’ll either hold out or they won’t.)
And 2) HOW will I bear the process?
THAT is the challenge I face tomorrow. Not getting through it, but getting through it with grace and courage and fortitude.
The truth is…I decided to run this marathon as a way to heal a terribly broken heart…a way to restore faith in myself after a traumatic event that happened several months ago, when I was forced to part ways with someone I’d loved dearly, someone I thought would be a part of my life forever. It shattered my faith in friendship, left me feeling destitute and alone, made me wonder what could possibly be so wrong with me if my best efforts to be a friend to someone could end in such an abrupt and incomprehensible goodbye. Training for the marathon was a way to cope, keep busy, soak up hours of suddenly empty time, and re-create myself inside and out.
They say that when you run, you can solve not just your own personal problems, but damn near the problems of the whole world. I thought I’d be doing enough running that I could figure out how to find my way to the other side of the blast hole left when the mine went off in my life. And I hadn’t been able to find anyone to commit to it with me…I’d be doing it totally alone, something I don’t always deal well with. I’d be forced to depend on myself, FOR myself, and I’d have lots of time to think. Perfect. The marathon was supposed to fix everything.
I don’t know if it will. Something tells me it won’t…that 24 hours from now, I’ll be the same person I am today, and the same person I was months ago when this all began. Maybe the 26.2 button on the back of my car won’t change anything.
But if I can finish this thing tomorrow with grace and grit, stay positive through the pain, and cross that finish line strong…all while laying $3000 from my friends and loved ones at the feet of those bald little kids at St. Jude, who are the model of everything I’ll be trying to be tomorrow…well, maybe I’ll go to sleep tomorrow night feeling very, very different…and hopefully it’ll be a good different.