A huge thank you to everyone who donated, texted, emailed, and facebooked me. Your support, both financially and emotionally, was huge, and I am so appreciative. Truly.
I left Saturday morning, taking the regional rail into Philadelphia and transferring to an Amtrak train into DC. I love the public transportation in DC, and was easily able to navigate to the Armory for my bib and t-shirt pick up. Then, it was to the International Guest House, where I stayed for the night. Amazing place. Imagine a cross between a cozy B&B and a hostel. I'd totally stay there again. The folks were lovely, the room and bath were very clean, and they even put out an early (and I mean) early breakfast for me so that I could eat something before the race. The only downside was that I was an hour from where I needed to be, but for the price ($40/night, including breakfast, evening tea, and the room), it was a perfect fit for me. They were so hospitable, and reminded me of family in how excited they were for me to be running (and afterwards). I didn't stay long, as I was meeting Team Lemon for dinner, just outside of the Pentagon, so I hopped on a bus and metro and made it with time to spare.
I was honored to be asked to address the team with a story about why supporting the Foundation through running and fundraising is important. I'd hoped to get through it dry-eyed, but just saying the words choked me up. 25+ years ago, a child being diagnosed with neuroblastoma had only a 5% chance of going home and living a relatively normal life; now, upwards of 80% of children are going into remission. That's huge; it's no guarantee, but every dollar we raise goes towards a cure. That's amazing for the families impacted.
Back to IGH and to bed by 8:15pm. I was up at 3am to get ready and caught a 4:30am bus to the metro. I shared the ride with a number of runners, and we made it to Pentagon station by 5:30 or so. It was probably about a half mile walk to the Runners Village, where the Marines had put up several tents to keep the impending rain from Hurricane Sandy off, as well as the UPS trucks that would hold our bags and meet us at the finish. The USMC also scheduled 2 nondenominational services, and the USN chaplain who did them was amazing. We even started by singing "This Is the Day (That the Lord Has Made)", which was Robert's favorite song. (When I told my MIL this, she actually cried. I didnt tell her, but when the Chaplain announced it, I teared up. It was just a confirmation that I was really supposed to be there). His sermon was on point and moving; I felt so inspired about the journey ahead, and I'm so glad that I was able to attend. As the morning closed in on race time, we all walked the half mile or so to the start and got in our corals.
|Prior to the race- and don't worry: I'm going to buy the real picture :)|
The canon fired and we were off!
It was an amazing experience. There were Marines everywhere, cheering us on, giving us water and food, and supporting us. Volunteers, spectators- it was amazing. The first 8 miles had some hills, but it was a beautiful route. I choked up early on as we ran by Arlington National Cemetary, and then later on, when we ran through the flag-lined memorial to fallen soldiers. There were moments where it hurt, moments where I was tired, and moments where the only thing that kept me going were the prayers in my head and asking Robert to hold my hand. I prayed a Rosary for my cross country kids (who were racing their final in Philly), and countless other repeats of Hail Mary's, Our Father's, and whatever else I could remember. I ran solid until mile 20, then did spurts of running with 30 seconds to a minute of walking. (It was better that then not finish). I had hoped to do 4:30-5 hours, but my last month or two of training- especially since the kids started school- hasnt been what it should be. And the wind- man, the wind was merciless! I thought I'd be blown into the Potomac! But it didn't rain, and for that, I am so thankful.
You can see me speed across the finish line (clock time 6:11:02, I'm running down the center line and sprinting, black shorts, yellow shirt over blue shirt), 5 hours and 49 minutes after I started. I did it. Wait- I DID IT!!!
|I might look rough, but damn am I happy!|
Coming across the line, a soldier shook my hand and called me his hero. (I'm sure he said that to all of us), but it struck me. He- and those like him- are the heros. I ran a race. It hit home what the MCM stuff said; the people run to honor the Marines, and the Marines are motivated by the people supporting them.
I called Peter as soon as I crossed the finish (you can even see my phone in the picture!). A few moments later, a Marine who looked like he was 12 put the medal around my neck and saluted me. Me! He- a true hero- gave me that honor. Tears, I tell you. There were tears.
I had initially planned to stay at IGH another evenings and take the train back Monday afternoon, but the weather was getting worse. By the time I was on the way back to IGH, rain had started. After I showered, I packed up. I'm lucky; Peter was able to get me on the 6:20 back to Philadelphia. Once I got back to the station, I heard that Amtrak decided to stop all trains to the Northeast Corridor after 7pm. On the train, I made fast friends with other MCM runners and we chatted about chaffing in appropriate spots, hardcore wind, running when you didnt want to anymore, and how nasty some of the recovery drinks (G3 anyone???- YUCK!) are. I made it safely into 30th Street Station at 8:30, and into the waiting arms of my husband, who braved the wind and rain to come and pick me up, rather than have me wait for a regional line home. His arms were some of the most welcome, beat only by the smiles and hugs waiting for me by the two sweetest munchkins in the world when I got home.
During the prayer service, the Chaplain said that this would be one of the highlights of my life, that it would be an awesome achievment that little else could measure up to. Truly, it was. The woman who started that race wasn't the one who finished it. It changes you- it changed me. How can it not? Putting your body through that distance for whatever reason you do it- for the Marines (and all servicemen who give themselves for us), for your charity, for those you love, even for yourself- it makes you stronger. It changes how you view yourself, how you see others, and the world around you. It makes strangers into friends.
My faith in myself was tested; I was afraid beforehand and there were moments that I thought I was surely crazy. But I had a smile on my face through the race. Even when my knees hurt. Even when my compression socks failed. Even when I wanted to just fall over from exaustion. Even then... It was such a moment.
My faith was tested- would I fail? Would I make it? Somehow, through the prayers and the love and the support, I was sustained. Thank God. Thank you. Thank everything.
It was such a highlight, truly. I'm looking at the medal, hanging by my window with my medals from the Half and Broad Street, and it is just such an awesome feeling still. I'm looking at the poster the XC kids made (and which I took with me, giving it one final look before setting off for the race), and my heart bubbles over.
I'm a marathoner. Me. The girl who thought after her 1999 car accident that she'd never run again. The girl who tipped the scales a few years ago at 251 pounds. The girl who thought she'd never see the sun again when her world tilted on its axis and stopped spinning in 2008.
Wow. I'm a marathoner. I did it.
Thank you. Thank you so much for the support and prayer. I couldn't have done it without you.