Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Marathon Miracle

Well, it's official!  I have completed a marathon!
If that's all you want to know than you can skip the rest of this post (because it's really long).  However, if you want the gritty details read on.  Remember, this is my journal, so I might get a little too detailed for you.  Just skim and look at the pictures if that is the case.

I have to start kind of way back in my training to give you the full story.
I decided I wanted to do a marathon last fall as I watched the Top of Utah finishers come staggering in across the finish line.  Something stirred inside of me and I got the bug...anyway, I started training in January for the Utah Valley Marathon.
I had shin splints to begin with (I always have shin splints) and then after my mileage started getting above 10 I found out that I also had achilles tendonitis in both ankles.  Kind of painful but I realized that if I kept a brace on during the run I could manage fine.  It was afterward that was the killer :)
It was the perfect winter to train through since it was so mild.  
I ran all over this little valley (well, kind of) during my training runs.
After each long run I would think there was no way I would ever be able to one more mile than I had just done, but sure enough, each time I bumped it up two or three and made it happen.
There were only two times that I was unable to finish a run...my 17 miler and my 20 miler.
(I was able to make them both up later though)
Something happened to my left foot towards the end of my 17 miler.  It was so painful that I was limping along.  I finally decided to call Andy and have him come pick me up.
Early on in my 20 miler my left knee started aching.  By the time I got to miles 13-15 I was hobbling along.  My friend encouraged me to stop to prevent further injury.  Within 2 days I was fine again.
So that's my pain history leading up to a few days before the marathon.
As I mentioned in my last post, my left knee started having that same pain...I noticed it just walking around the house one day. I was barely able to limp along in my run when I had it before so I was so scared that I wouldn't be able to run my marathon.  I iced it and prayed really hard.
  A tender mercy occurred the Wednesday before the big day.
I had gone in to renew my temple recommend with a member of the Stake Presidency.
It turned out to be a man who has run his first two marathons within the last year.
He knew I was running on Saturday (even though he didn't know me) and I ended up explaining my concerns to him.  He spent the next 15-20 minutes showing me stretches for my knee (he's had the same knee injury) and talking to me about the mental and spiritual aspect of running a marathon.  He then conducted the interview and we concluded by talking about running again.
He told me that things like this that are important to us are also important to our Heavenly Father.  I agreed and went on my way feeling hopeful and uplifted.  When I arrived home I did the stretches he recommended and then went out for a short run...the first since my knee started hurting.  I was fine...I barely even felt the pain.  However, I was still worried that it would not hold up through 26 miles.
I continued to pray and worry but with some added hope.
Friday, before the family and I left for Provo, Andy gave me a beautiful priesthood blessing filled with many promises that put my mind at ease and gave me hope for the following day.
Since Ben had decided not to nap that afternoon, I was amazed that he didn't fall asleep during the 2+ hours of driving we did.  He was happy and content (even without the iPad) the whole time.
After we made it through the construction, Andy dropped me off at the Marriott where I picked up my packet.  I also splurged a little bit on some things since, who knows, this might be my one and only marathon.  I bought a new little pack to put all my stuff in while running, 2 (BOGO Free) official Utah Valley t-shirts and a cute little running shoe bead with '26.2' engraved on the sole for my Pandora bracelet.
Andy and the kids had gone to get something to eat and picked me up when they were done.  Then we drove to my cute cousin's house.  The family wished me well and said goodbye and drove off.  
My newlywed cousin and her husband were the perfect host/hostess.  They gave me the perfect dinner of a baked potato bar and salad.  I enjoyed talking with them and getting to know them a little better. 
We were to spend the night in a home which they were house sitting...where there would be more room.
When we arrived there I nervously set out all my things for the next morning, set the alarm clock for 3:00 a.m. and climbed into a cute little girl's bed.  It took me about an hour to fall asleep I think.  It could have been worse :)
Four hours later, my alarm went off and I got going on my preparations.  Half an hour later I was ready and my cousin drove me to the buses downtown.
She wished me luck and I was on my way.  As she drove off I felt so alone again as I had when Andy dropped me off to get my packet and then as the family left me at my cousin's apartment.  I squared my shoulders though and got in the long line to board the bus.  
I had a nice conversation with a lady from D.C. who would be running her 18th marathon.  It was fun to hear her story.  It made the long ride up the canyon less nerve wracking.  
When we arrived I met up with a couple who I know through my neighbor.  It was good to see some familiar faces.  We sat around a fire as the sky slowly turned from black to blue to daylight.
When the time came to go to the starting line I said goodbye (as I would be starting much farther back than they would be)...again, alone.
The gun went off...cheers went up from the crowd and after several seconds, our end of the runners started moving forward, slowly at first and then we picked up speed as we crossed the starting line.
I kept it really slow the first several miles.  I ran 10 minutes before I took my first walk break (shhh...don't tell Mr. Galloway).  There were others that I could see were doing the run/walk method as well.  That was comforting.  It was warm, even at 6:00 when we started.  That made it nice so we didn't have to start with layers on.  We went through a little community (Wallsburg) before we hit the canyon (about 6 miles in).
That's when things started getting a little hairy.

You see, my 23 mile training run had gone quite well.  I was tired, but I felt good...there had been no major problems.  So, my thinking was that I should be fine for at least 23 miles right?
There were a few things that I didn't take into account...
#1 more hills than I was expecting
#2 wind blowing in my face almost the entire time
#3 drinking more water than I was used to and feeling uncomfortably full and in turn making it hard to run.
There were moments that I enjoyed (the downhill moments) but it was rather grueling for the most part.
One thing that I regret (besides drinking too much fluid at the aid stations) is that I didn't really talk to anyone along the way.  I felt kind of cold...not like myself.  I was so focused on me and my journey that I didn't reach out much.  I feel that it would have enriched my experience if I had.  Sometimes, I thought about talking to people, but each time I thought about it I would think of the energy that it would take and decided I didn't have any more energy to give.  Sad...
Another regret is that I missed Bridal Veil Falls...a beautiful waterfall in the canyon.  I was so focused on the road ahead that I rarely looked off to the side and enjoyed the scenery.  I had been looking forward to seeing the waterfall along the way, but I was too intent on my goal to notice it.  It wasn't until I came out of the canyon that I realized I had missed it.  I'm sure there's a good life lesson in there somewhere right?:)
I wish I could put into the words the things I was feeling along the way, but it's hard.
I felt so many emotions...such a range.  I felt so depleted and down to nothing.  I felt like I was kind of dreaming it...it wasn't real...I wasn't really running a marathon.  It was so strange.
I walked the hills (not what I had planned) but there were several (also not what I had planned as mentioned above).  I walked a lot of other times too when I should have been running.  The last several miles I was probably about 50/50.
I had brought my cell phone so I could call Andy when I reached a certain point and tell him to start driving down from his parents' house to meet me at the finish line.
About mile 15 my phone rang and I heard my neighbor, who had run the half, on the other end.  She asked me how I was doing and where I was.  She asked me if I had done the big hill yet...WHAT???  Sure enough less than a mile later I saw it.  I was in good company as I walked most of it.  I would say 80% of the other runners were walking the hills.  With that wind, it was just brutal.

I know I look happy in these pictures but that was just because a camera was in front of my face  :)
I called Andy soon thereafter and told him I was going slower than expected.  He sounded relieved and said that they were stuck in the long line of cars that I was seeing off to my left.  He was behind me.  Apparently they ended up sitting there for an hour.  How miserable for them :(
Anyway, somewhere after mile 20 they passed me on the road.  I heard my name called out and looked up to see the van go by.  I waved and felt a little embarrassed that I had been walking at the time...only a little though.  At that point, part of me didn't really care.
I would jog slowly along until I just couldn't go any more and then I would stop and walk.  I would choose a point in the distance and tell myself that I would start running at that point again.   I was pretty true to my thoughts and would pick up my feet when I came to the chosen point and will myself forward.
When my mind would start to wander to the 'dark side' I would think of the finish line and how it wasn't really that far away...my family was there waiting for me...and hopefully some kind of ice cream too :)
All the water and Powerade at the aid stations was warm so I was craving something ice cold.  I got so excited at mile 23 where they handed out Otter Pops...now, normally I'm not a fan, but right then, that was the perfect thing for me to see.  I asked the volunteer for a second one...she seemed a bit reluctant but gave me another one.  I was so grateful!
There were even a couple of miles towards the end that I grabbed an orange slice...I've never wanted one during my half marathons and I turned up my nose at them earlier in the race, but boy were they good when I was so empty (except of course of my water :)
I had listened to the one hour of music on my iPod several times...much of the time not really hearing it because of the wind but by the end I didn't even notice if it was playing or not...my mind was off somewhere else.  I called Andy again as I reached mile marker 25.  I told him there was just one mile (plus .2) left but it might be a very long mile and they still had a good 12-15 minutes before they would see me.  He encouraged me along.  Soon I could see the finish line.  I was determined to run the last mile, then when I couldn't make that, I thought I could at least run the last half mile...well, maybe the last two blocks.  I think that ended up working for me ;)

I saw Andy and Ben and Merill cheering me on as I entered the gates and then Matt putting out his hand for a high five further in and then I was across the line and they put the medal around my neck.

I expected a flood of tears when I finished (especially because of the way I've been lately :) but I was dry as a bone and just felt pure relief that it was over.

{The tears did come later though as I knelt and thanked my Heavenly Father for my marathon miracle.
All the promises given in my blessing were fulfilled.
My knee gave me no pain during the run.
It truly was a miracle.}

My desires at that moment were to get something cold in my mouth, sit down in some shade and enjoy being with my family.
I found the 'Creamies' table...the nice girls told me to have as many as I wanted!
Thank you 'Creamie' girls!

I found some shade (although I had to 'hop' over the gate to get there.  It probably looked more like I was falling over the gate)

And I found my family.  Andy and the kids....my parents....my in-laws.  It was so nice of everyone to be there to support me.

I drank cold water, I got some ice for my tendonitis, which I knew would be a problem later, and then I drank about ten mini cups of an awesome smoothie sample that Andy discovered for me!
Honestly, that smoothie was so good, I'm seriously contemplating ordering the product online...although, I'm thinking it won't be quite as good to me as it was at that particular moment :)
We also ate some really good hummus and pita bread from California Pizza Kitchen.  I loved it even though my stomach was already quite full from everything else.
Eventually we decided it was time to go.
I hobbled to the van and we drove to my cousin's home to pick up my bag.
I slept on the way home and Andy pampered me the rest of the evening.
Very nice!
It's over...I did it...and who knows?...maybe I'll do it again some day.  But as a friend of mine told me after her first marathon when I asked her if she would do another one, 'not until my kids are older and my husband doesn't have to sacrifice so much'.  Thank you Andy for making it possible.  Thank you family for supporting me. Thank you Trina for training with me :)  And thanks be to my Father above for sending me my miracle.

(I guess I should say, just for the record...my chip time was 5:47:34 - about 20/25 minutes more than I had hoped -
and I came in 1949th out of 2059)
That's okay though...I was a finisher!


  1. And we are so proud of you for seeing this through, Aimee. What an accomplishment! It was really interesting to see into your experience.

  2. Way to go!!!! Our Heavenly Father is amazing!!!! Thanks for sharing your story!! Loved the picture of your family!! So special!


  3. Yay Aimee. I'm pumped for you. I don't think that I could have that much strength to run a marathon. Way to go girl!

  4. I'm totally impressed, Aimee!

  5. Wahoo!!! Way to go Aimee! :)

  6. I knew you could do it! Of course there are lots of life lessons in the marathon, it is a two for one deal, you will get to use this experience for tons of learning and teaching for the rest of your life. Congratulations Aimee! Thanks for sharing.