Yesterday, as my children and husband cheered me on, I finished running 20 miles. I know that this may not sound like a huge accomplishment, especially for those who are marathon runners, but for me, this was huge. And my family understood that.
Almost 10 years ago now, I was training for the Boston marathon, which was to be my first marathon, to ring in a new decade (the Boston Marathon coincidentally fell a few days after my 30th birthday). Three weeks before the Boston marathon in 2009, I embarked on what was to be my longest run to date, 21 miles. When I hit mile 12, something was off with my shin. I've always suffered with shin splints so I thought it was my shin splints rearing its ugly head. Mile 18 the pain got worse. By Mile 20, I was in tears. I should have stopped running but I was a novice at long-distance running and I wanted to finish 21 miles. I barely crossed the finish line, aided by my Dana Farber marathon teammates. As I got in the car, I knew that something was terribly wrong. It was confirmed by the doctor the following day that I had sustained a stress fracture in my left leg. I was devastated. I had been so diligent in my training, followed the training schedule, trained during the harsh Boston winter, and had nothing but a boot on my left leg to show for it.
Fast forward nine years and I started thinking about entering into a new decade and what I wanted to accomplish before I turned 40. I revisited my bucket list and finishing a marathon was still on there. Dare I attempt it again? With my children older, logistics not as menacing and an ever-supporting spouse, I entered the Chicago marathon lottery with three friends. The Chicago course is supposed to be flat and it's in October so it would not require training during the winter. Plus the added bonus of not having to qualify or raise money to run. My friends and I were selected to run the Chicago Marathon! I was thrilled but also super nervous. Now, almost ten years older, would my shins hold up? I was worried about repeating past mistakes.
I started training in March in earnest. I decided to ramp up mileage gingerly through the spring and early summer to allow my legs to adjust and my shins to recover after each run. I bought special compression socks to provide additional support. I invested in good new running shoes along with an Apple watch (I love it on my runs!). Also, I started strength training to build up muscle. One of my friends running the marathon with me had worked with her running coach to come up with a marathon training plan (thanks S!). I tweaked her plan a little bit to suit my running times and marathon goals. During this time, when discussing my training with my strength trainer, we realized that I was running too fast during my short runs. So I adjusted my mile times and ran slower (this sounds easy, but it's not)! Taking these extra steps and being deliberate and patient with my training are lessons I could have only learned after having experienced failure during my first marathon attempt.
Needless to say, I was a ball of nerves all week leading up to this long run. I iced my legs every night trying to reduce swelling and inflammation. I went on two shorter runs during the week and diligently stretched and rolled out my legs afterwards. I stopped drinking wine and ate relatively well. I was ready. My legs were ready. I was in the zone.
Crossing the 20-mile mark yesterday felt surreal. I was stronger both mentally and physically than I had been back in 2009. I was prepared and more experienced. Even though I suffered the usual aches and pains of having just run 20 miles, it felt good to be able to run across this finish line, by myself and smiling. And having my children there to see me reach this milestone truly was icing on the cake. Chicago marathon, it's been almost ten years in the making, but here I come!