St. George marathon, once of my favorites yet one that I totally dislike while running it. You see, I am not very good at hills and despite the fact that this one is mainly downhill, I feel the hills each and every time. This was my 4th St. George Marathon and I had great plans for it, wonderful plans that unfortunately had to be thrown to the side due to my torn lateral meniscus.
Four weeks ago, I was squatting and doing my thing at the box and I heard a pop, just a normal pop and I figure it was just that, just a pop but after a few more squats, my calf just didn't feel right and my knee was hurting, so I stopped and went home and iced it. Next morning, the entire knee was swollen. A year ago, I had torn that meniscus badly teaching at Zumba class at a gymnastics studio and my knee has never been the same since. Well, the injury came back to haunt me 4 weeks ago with it went my dreams for getting an under 3:30 marathon. I knew I had trained well for it and I knew I had it in the bag but life had other plans for me. I missed two races that I really love-Big Cottonwood and my favorite Top of Utah marathon. I hobbled around as my hubby and friends ran these two races. I was able to provide support for my hubby during the TOU marathon and I took tons of pictures of all of them. But it was not the same as running it.
The day of St. George approached and I knew that I wasn't ready to run it. I knew that I couldn't get the under 3:30 I had been dreaming of all year. However, I also knew that I didn't want to sit out on another marathon. I wanted to run/walk if needed. My doctor had cleared me to run after 4 weeks, no, not a 26 miler but he said that I could run. I didn't tell him how long I was going to go, just that I was going to run.
Day before the race came and the whole family piled up in the car and we went down to pick up our packets. It is such awesome feeling to be there with all the other runners, feeling of their enthusiasm and their pre-race excitement. We got our packets and we headed eat dinner and then to the hotel to get ready for the big day. I taped myself up as well as I could around my knee, giving it all the protection I could imagine. That night, as I was falling asleep, I prayed to Heavenly Father to give me the strength to finish the race and not to disgrace myself in front of my kids. I didn't want a specific time, but if I could, I wanted to finish in under 4 hours. I prayed for the pain to be manageable and I prayed for guidance so I could know if I should pull out of the race at any point.
Morning arrived and I laced up my shoes and we headed to board the buses at 4:15am--crazy!!! Hubby was concerned about my knee and kept telling me to just take it easy and to listen to my body. He knows me well and he knows that I will push until I can't do it anymore. We had about 1 hour and 30 minute wait at the top where we just hung out by the fires. It was so cold--not a good thing for my knee as it is now a great weather predictor. I waited to the very last minute to shed my extra layer, was very sad that I had not worn my tights instead of my skirt.
The gun went off and we were still putting our clothing in the truck, gah, running late, good thing it is by chip time. We managed to squeeze in and go out with most of the 3:25 crew. Sam with his wide shoulders was able to carve a little path for me and I was able to get to a not so crowded area. I found my pace and my tunes started playing and I was in a happy place. He was in front of me and I could barely see him as it was still dark but knowing that he was up there gave me comfort. The first two miles went by super fast and I was surprised to see that I had already ran 2 miles. My knee was ok, not great but ok. I was hopeful. Then at mile 3, the pain just came out of nowhere, sharp and I could even taste a bitter taste in my mouth. I want to pull to the side and just stop. Then I looked to the right and I saw a SAG Wagon or what I like to call the SAD ride down. I looked at it and I contemplated for a few seconds just boarding it and letting the pain stop. Then I imagined my son at the hotel waiting for me to finish and to ask me how the race went. I couldn't. I didn't have the heart to ride the wagon. I just couldn't quit so early in the race without really pushing myself. So, I looked up ahead and I kept running. I kept repeating, one foot in front of the other, you can't stop because if you stop, it will still hurt and you won't be moving forward.
The following miles were the same. I kept repeating in my head, it is just walking, one foot in front of the other. Don't stop. I kept imagining the area in my knee where it hurt and I just imagine a big flame of warmth and love around it. I sent all power I had in me to that area. I don't know if it was all my "imagining" or my pleading but the pain did switch to a dull pain.
But then my nemesis came, the Veyo hills. I knew that I couldn't speed up the hill. My hill running is not very good when my two legs are working, it is even more pathetic when one of them is not functioning. But, I am proud to say that I didn't walk one inch of that hill. I wasn't breaking any records speeds by any means but I didn't walk.
After the hills, I was waiting for mile 14-18, typically my fastest miles in this marathon, but by that time my knee had had it. It was at the 13 mile point where I decided that I wasn't going to ride the SAD wagon down. I had already managed 13 miles and I wasn't going to throw them in the garbage. I continued forth, slowly. I tried speeding up down Snow Canyon but my knee didn't want to bend back very much, so I couldn't speed down. Instead, I admired the beauty of the canyon and painted a picture of it in my mind, the beautiful red cliffs with the sun hitting them. I could imagine touching them and feeling the warmth of the sun passing through my fingertips.
It was during the last 13 miles when I realized how blessed I was. I had never really taken the time to admire the beauty of this marathon. I had always been rushing down, never taking the time to see how blessed I have been to have a body that allowed me to do one of the most wonderful things in this world, run! I felt free! I felt happy to be moving. As I admire those around me, I kept thinking of how amazing runners are. We test our limits, not physically but mentally each time we go out there and attempt such a mighty distance.
I had prayed to Heavenly Father to carry me through the first 20 miles and that I could do the last 6 on my own. I am glad HE knows best because he didn't leave my side at all. After the 20 mile mark, things got ugly again and I just wanted to quit. My right calf was tight from the stress and my left leg was tiring of pulling all the weight, hahaha, all 115 lbs of me! I stopped at the following aid station and got some goey stuff put on my leg and grabbed some vaseline for my chunky arms--they were rubbing my armpit area raw! I limped through the aid station and I saw others limping too. I took courage in knowing that they were continuing forth and as such as should too. I shuffled down and started counting down the miles.
At mile 23, I said to myself it is just a 5K, you can do this in less than 30 minutes if needed. The crowds at this point where exactly what I needed. I high fived all the little kiddos who had their arm extended and I took the energy from the crowd and went forth. And then a great surprise, one of my crossfit friends was there, Angie, she came out and ran with me. I think I even hugged her but I can't remember, I was delirious at this point. She looked so happy and had so much energy, it was great to have her next to me and to have her run a few yards with me. I ran a bit more and then I stopped for some popsicles. I needed to give my knee a break, so I walked and ate my purple popsicle. As I was eating it, I was contemplating that it was not paleo and that it was throwing my entire paleo day off. Then I laughed at my thinking, hahaha, what person in their right mind can be bothered with paleo food when running 26 miles. Only me! So then, I thought about my non-paleo meal I wanted to have after the race. I figured running 26 miles was deserving of some Mexican food, so I imagined sitting down and having some sopes and tamales with a side of shrimp. I was going crazy.
The last mile finally came and I didn't want to be walking it/shuffling, so I ran. My knee was screaming but I didn't want to finish the race walking. I sent one last prayer for help. It was as if the heavens opened up but for about 1/2 mile my knee was back to its old self. I could run. I could bend it all the way back to kick back and stride. I ran with all my heart. I crossed that finish line and I knew that it had been the best race I had ever ran. It was not the fastest race I have ever ran but it was the race where I was grateful to be out there running.
I saw a sign twice along the course that I have not forgotten. A small child held it and it said "When your legs are tired, run with your heart", the heart portion had a little heart drawing in red. I ran this race with my heart and I found out that it is a lot stronger than my legs!
Official time: 3:49:15
When we got back to the hotel, my kiddos where very extied to tell me that they saw me on tv, running to the finish line :). That was the best news ever--they were so happy to see me finish.