Luckily, Christine was prepared for the marathon. Earlier today she shared with me her story, and she also gave me permission to post her moving marathon for you to read, too. Without further ado, here is Christine's Nashville Rock 'n' Roll Country Music Marathon experience.
there are some experiences in life that can never be fully explained - no words can describe, no picture can capture. they can only be cherished - kept, carefully weighed, compared and added to what we already know to be true about ourselves and others.
my country music marathon was one of these experiences. that being said, i will simply do my best to convey the events as they unfolded.
it was to be my second marathon. my first, huntsville in december of 2009, didn’t go quite as well as i had hoped. i went into with an ambitious goal of 3:30. a boston qualifying time of 3:40 was my plan b. i should have been thrilled with my actual finish of 3:49. and i would have been if i hadn’t felt awful from almost the very beginning. i didn’t hit a wall ... the whole race was my wall. and then i threw up at the end. i came away from the experience with a very bad taste in my mouth, and it took me over a year to even entertain the thought of doing another.
when i finally did, i knew that i would have to run my own race (not try to stay with anyone else as i had before), with lots of support, and on a familiar course. enter the country music marathon.
after battling illness and injury at the beginning of my training, things went very well. (besides, it was those things that kept me from registering sooner, allowing me to win a free entry, so i consider them a blessing in disguise.) i was in a much better place physically and emotionally, and felt stronger than i had in a long time. i established a good routine with my long runs, and felt great during and after them. everything seemed to be lining up, and i was cautiously optimistic about a positive outcome.
my parents came in town for the race and they, along with some of my closest friends, made up my amazing cheer squad. we had mapped out several spots for them to watch along the way, and my best friend (and running partner) planned to jump in with me at mile 20 and do several miles, then finish together. i was ridiculously nervous in the days leading up to the race, but by that morning had settled in my heart to just make the most of the experience.
things started out great. i caught a glimpse of my cheer squad at mile 2 and their exuberant faces carried me for the next 8 miles. the twin boys that i used to nanny and their parents were stationed at mile 10. i paused long enough to kiss their little knees in the stroller then was on my way again. my cheer squad was next stationed at mile 11 where i stopped to refill my bottle with gatorade. at that point, i was on target for a 3:40 finish. but after leaving them, i made the decision to drop my pace.
i was beginning to struggle, and when i couldn’t stomach my energy bar just before mile 10, i knew that things were not going to turn out well. i had tried for as long as possible not to entertain that thought, but it was only a matter of time before the mental could no longer overcome the physical. i was okay with not hitting my goal if i could stay strong for the rest of the race. if only ...
the next 6 miles were some of the course’s hardest ... a long & lonely, hot & hilly out and back through metro center. i passed my oldest nashville running friend - and marathon veteran - around the farmer’s market and wonder now what would have happened if i had tried to stay with her. instead, i have almost no recollection of making my way back into the city and meeting up with my cheer squad at mile 17. they could see that i was not doing well. my eyes were the strangest color, they would later tell me. it was like i was there, but i wasn’t, or like i was underwater, which is weird because my ears were actually clogged. in that moment my best friend decided to go with me then. initially, she was just going to go a little ways before circling back to meet me at our next checkpoint. but it didn’t take long for her to determine that staying with me for the long haul was what i needed.
we slowly jogged away from the group, across the woodland street bridge and into east nashville. i’m not sure at what point i had to start walking, but would say i was only able to run fewer than 3 of the final 9 miles. my cheer squad popped up again around mile 20, and i was able to give them a smile and sign “i love you.” but it wasn’t long after that when i told my friend that i may or may not throw up. i also realized that i was no longer sweating and knew that was not a good sign. my responses to her came in short bursts - “wait ... walk ... no ... stay with me.” she carried my bottle for me, poured water down my back, and held my hand as i struggled up a hill in shelby park.
if not for her, i’m honestly not sure i would have been able to make it through those last long miles. then, as we crested the hill right before mile 26, i knew i was either going to pass out or throw up. fortunately it was the latter. and inexplicably, it seemed that every ounce of fluid and gel i had taken in over the last 4 1/2 hours came back up. no wonder my body was shutting down. the best part was, after i finished, we turned around to see a girl carrying a sign that said, “puke and rally.” and that i did.
i eased into it, but found i had the strength to run again. we picked up speed as we made our way down the hill toward the finish line. i laughed when the song that would be the last of the race came on my ipod - one of my best friend’s group ‘undue favor’, called “life amazing.” i could not have picked a better note on which to end. my dad - jeans, polo shirt, recent back surgery, and all - jumped in with us.
unfortunately, he was also what clued a race official into the fact that they were not registered runners and stopped them from finishing with me, which has never been an issue in the past. i was so disappointed, but knew that i could not let it hold me back. the rest of my squad had managed to attain perfect positioning at the finish, and a huge smile spread across my face as i crossed the line to their resounding cheers.
4:38 was my final time. it was disappointing that i had missed my goal by so much, but in that moment, just like they say about labor, all the bad parts disappeared and only the incomparable joy remained. i wish i had thrown up sooner so maybe i could have finished stronger. but i know beyond the shadow of a doubt that i absolutely gave my all that day. and i wouldn’t trade what i shared with my best friend for anything. my first goal for the day was a 3:40 finish. my second was not to throw up at the end like i had after my first race. but my ultimate goal was for it to be an enjoyable experience. and that it was. two out of three ain’t bad.
in jest, a friend asked if i had won. “i overcame,” was my response. pushing through the pain was ultimately a greater accomplishment than meeting my goal time. and it is an experience i will keep in my heart and think about often.
Congratulations, Christine! I cannot imagine a better winner for this race than you -- it definitely did not sound easy, but you took away many lasting memories. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that this is one of the greatest joys in running.