Sunday, October 11th, 2015, has to go down as one of the most incredible days of my life thus far. it was the second time i’ve run the Mohawk Hudson Marathon in upstate NY, and by far the absolute most wonderful, amazing, beautiful, kick-ass, fun-from-start-to-finish races/runs i’ve ever experienced in my life.
for starters, the day was utterly glorious. this entire weekend was like a gift straight from Autumnal Heaven. i mean, i woke up to this view of Crooked Lake from my parents’ deck every morning and sent up silent prayers of gratitude that this is, in fact, my life. i felt so relaxed & thankful & rested & healthy & strong & READY for this marathon. Sunday morning dawned all hazy pinkish-purple and chilly, in the 40s, and i knew it was going to be a perfect race day. thank you, God!
i’m blessed with the world’s most amazing parents, who also woke up at 6am and shared my excitement for race day, and the three of us set off to the start in Schenectady NY’s Central Park. i was more excited than nervous, and totally curious about what this race held for me and how i’d be feeling in just a few hours!
i’m a big fan of this race. it’s small — i think they cap it at 1,500 runners. it’s well organized, and the course is just absolutely gorgeous, winding through a truly picturesque, tree-lined bike/running path for a good portion of the race, and over rolling countryside hills & along both the Mohawk and the Hudson Rivers, ending in downtown Albany right along the Hudson. my dad said one of the winners was quoted saying it was the most beautiful course she’s ever run, which is easy to believe. it’s really an ideal place to run an Autumn marathon, showcasing upstate NY at its finest.
the start isn’t very crowded and it’s easy to find people, which was fabulous, as i was so fortunate to be so very surrounded by people i love. one of my close girlfriends came to support me and run the beginning with me (thank you, Sarah — you’re wonderful!), and the boy also dragged himself out of bed bright & early and came to see me off (before getting onto a plane for work, unfortunately, but i’m thankful he made it to the start — points for that 🙂 ). my sweet parents were there, of course, and then resurfaced 3-4 more times along the route, and were the faces i saw in the crowd right before i crossed the finish line as well. my (pregnant!) best friend also jumped in to run a bit with me around mile 19, which was so appreciated and fun, and was also waiting for me at the finish — and took some great photos for me. thanks, baby girl — you are my sunshine!
i felt so very loved & encouraged & reminded yet again of how blessed i am to have such wonderful people at the center of my life. the world becomes such a bright & shiny thing when people are invested in what’s important to you because they care about you. feeling all that love & support contributed greatly to making this such a magical experience for me.
so, what can i say about the actual race itself?? it went smashingly. no, but like — it really, honestly did. i couldn’t have wished for anything better, and i went into it so relaxed & ready & confident that i’d done all the necessary work, and i was determined to just enjoy the experience and savor every moment — and i truly feel like that’s what i did. i ran with the 4-hour pacer til just over mile 23, when i started to feel the first twinges of the struggle life set in, and i decided then and there that i was going to run this race for me and not push myself to the point of misery and lose the joy i’d felt the last 23 miles. i slowed down a bit and started reflecting on the whole thing: how crazy good i’d felt for 23 miles, how all my hard work was coming to fruition in this one 4- hour race, how blessed i was to be strong enough to choose to run a marathon, how over-the-moon i was about to be in a few miles when i saw that finish line up ahead.
i won’t lie: miles 24-25 were a bit rough. not rough like during my first marathon (where i thought my body might break apart), but they were the hardest of this race for me by far. i didn’t walk (save a few steps at the water stations), but i did have a few fleeting thoughts of doubt creep in during those 2 miles where i almost wondered how i’d ever finish and everything suddenly just seemed so dang hard…
and then something happened when i saw the mile 25 marker. it was like a switch flipped within my brain and i instantly thought, “okay, welp, stop the pain stuff — you just ran 25 miles. you’re one mile away from finishing this race, and this has been a wonderful, mostly enjoyable experience that will go down as one of the biggest accomplishments of your LIFE. you so, so have this, and you’re going to finish it STRONG & HAPPY & just let yourself go.”
mile 26 was glorious. it really was. no, i wasn’t flying, although i did pick up the pace from my last 2 miles, and no, i didn’t magically feel all my pain swoosh out of my body. but somehow, i didn’t feel it as much, because i started to become overwhelmed with the beauty of the whole experience and be so very present in the reality of finishing this race. mile 26 was so very mine. it was my pièce de résistance.
i don’t believe it’s possible to accurately capture in words that specific, all-encompassing feeling of elation that overwhelmed me when i rounded the final corner and saw the finish line of my marathon ahead of me. so much crowds into that moment that if i could just freeze it and dissect it, i’d be able to name all of the individual parts that contribute to the overwhelming sense of euphoria that brought tears to my eyes as a grin stretched across my face and my arms had no choice but to fly high above my head — but in that moment, all i felt was so much. so much.
it’s the sense of accomplishment in yourself, of having done this hard, hard thing — this nearly-impossible thing that really is ever-so-possible after all — entirely on your own.
it’s the physical representation of the goal, that banner stretching high, the words marking your final steps. it’s hearing your name over the microphone as you step across the finish line.
it’s the cheers & excitement of the crowds, seeing your parents & best friends’ faces beaming through, feeling their love & pride shining forth at you. all for you.
in that moment, it honestly feels like the whole world just loves you. like you understand what it means to sit atop a cloud and look back at earth & transcend it all, floating high amidst the bluest blue, untouchable, unbreakable, infinite.
in that moment, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are exactly who you were meant to be; exactly who you want to be. you are oh-so-human, with good days and bad, with heartaches & joys, with disappointments & love — you carry the whole world inside of you, & as you cross that finish line after a 26.2 mile journey to the center of your core and back, you can feel it all.
you are one person among many, but you are so very much you.
& suddenly, you know that will always be enough.