On Sunday, Mom, Andy and I ran the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, Pennsylvania. This was Mom’s tenth marathon. For Andy and me, it was number one.
We drove up to Scranton together the afternoon before. We stopped by the Expo, picked up our race numbers, had a relaxing afternoon at the hotel and then went to a nearby Italian restaurant and had an all out carb binge. Bread, pasta, beer and then topped it off with a Krispy Kreme donut (it was just across the street). The alarm went off at 5 AM and we were in a hotel shuttle taking us to the buses that would bring us to the starting line.
The school bus was dark, the windows fogged up, the hum of voices and nervous energy reverberated throughout. A man was wearing a shirt that said, “Run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, but don’t give up.” Another shirt said, “Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.”
We arrived at the high school and were herded into a gymnasium where people were stretching, greasing up with Glide (to prevent chafing), applying sunblock, tightening shoelaces and dropping off their bags. We all just wanted to get going, the wait was torturous. Finally at 7:45 AM we were led to the starting line.
We started out strong, but knew that we had to hold ourselves back. Classic mistake: run too fast at the start and totally burn out before you’re even half-way.
Our first big hurdle was to get to double digits. 10 miles. Then we focused on 13.1 miles, the halfway point. Then we focused on mile 17 because we knew Dad would be waiting there to cheer us on.
After mile 17 and a few photos with Dad, we focused on hitting 20: The homestretch. After mile 20, the race started to get harder. The sun was higher in the sky, my feet started to go numb, people all around us were walking. This is when you learn that your body is stronger than your brain. Your brain says you are finished, but your body just keeps going.
Andy and I parted ways at mile 23. He had a bit more energy left in him, so I told him to go. I had been depending on his support, but running is an independent sport, you have to do what feels good to you. He told me he loved me, he was proud of me and that he’d see me at the finish.
At mile 24 I took a one-minute walk break. A woman ran past me and said, “I’ve been watching you. You can do this. Run with me. We’ll get each other across the finish line before the 5 hour mark.” I took her up on her offer. I was in so much pain, so demoralized – I needed help. I don’t even remember what we talked about, she mentioned wanting a milkshake. She was a godsend. And she got me across the finish line, as promised, in under 5 hours.
Will I do another? I’m not sure. Probably. The man’s t-shirt was right: The pain is so very temporary. The pride is forever.