Jun 15, 2006

My First Marathon - The finish line is only the beginning

As most of you have learned by now, I am recently divorced after 22 years of marriage, with a total of 26 years with my ex. While the last 13 months have been challenging as I try to piece my life back together after it has been altered against my will, I am discovering many things about myself that I will share with you, over time, through this diary of mine.

To combat depression and sort out of my thoughts, fears and worries, I took up running again in May 2005. Throughout the summer and into Fall, I just ran - sort of like Forrest Gump. But it was Forest Park and I that spent many hours together. Many, many times I ran with tears in my eyes as I contemplated my future and second-guessed my past decisions in life. All this running eventually resulted in my decision to run a marathon.

I felt I needed to prove something to myself. My life was so out of my control and I needed to take back the reins. So...I donned a pair of running shoes and just made my decision. Period.

Now, I have "run" a half-marathon before and even done several mini-triathlons, but never a full marathon - that is 26.2 miles for those of you who have sense enough to stay in bed and sleep instead of getting up early to run like a fool.

I chose the More Magazine marathon in NYC that took place at the end of March 2006. This magazine is marketed toward women 40 and older and the run is for women 40 and older only. I really wanted - no, needed- the support of others just like me. I quickly discovered that I was not alone when it came to running a "post-divorce" marathon. All of the women had personal stories and events that brought us all together for this run. There were over 4000 runners and less than 300 doing the full marathon. My only goal was to finish. I have friends in NYC, but they could not attend the race - so I was really alone that day.

It was a very cold morning, windy and drizzly. I knew that this was a special day and I didn't care how long it would take - I was going to finish. I was bib number 261. As I ran the marathon in 5 hours and 13 minutes, I had a lot of time to think and reflect about the last 11 months of my life. All the pain, the tears, the confusion, the fear, the sadness, and anger. I also had time to reflect on my strength, my will, my ability to overcome, to move on, to find happiness, to open my heart again to love, and to just keep going no matter what. During my run I admired Central Park, the other runners, the comradery, the whole event. What was also surprising was how I felt sort of like a celebrity. You see, out of 4000 runners, less than 300 of us were doing the full marathon - and we marathoners had blue bibs. The rest of the runners wore orange bibs. At one point on the route, the full marathoners split from the others and ran a mile on a different path and then later, merged up a hill and met up with the rest of the runners and continued the route. As I came up the hill, in view of the other runners, they all clapped and cheered for the "blue bib!" As I ran past cheering crowds, children would exclaim, "here comes a blue bib, mom!" People wanted to slap my hand as I passed by them and yelled out "go blue bib!!" It was absolutely so moving on so many levels. While they may have only seen me as a blue bib running alone on the path - I felt surrounded with my personal thoughts.

My pace was actually pretty good up until mile 21. At that time, my left knee gave out and started to quiver...I never had a knee problem before nor any problems while training. At mile 21 it started to lightly sleet and got colder. I had to walk and stretch out my knee for the next two miles. I was so frustrated but I decided I wasn't about to walk across the finish line - I was going to run across it, dammit! I reflected on how ironic that I would come so far only to have my knee give out when I least expected it, never having had a knee problem before - sort of like my marriage - I was married 22 years, just running along, doing my thing, and out of no where, my marriage gives out. Sort of like my knee in the race. And like the race, I didn't want to quit life either.

As I saw mile marker 26, my heart began to race - I was almost done and I was all alone. Most runners had finished way before me. But I wasn't last either. I knew in my heart that I could do anything. Tears welled up as I closed in on the finish line - my knee was in a lot of pain, I was wet, cold, and tired. I was so damn happy. My friend, Carl, made it back in time to snap a photo or two. As I crossed the finish line in NYC, I realized that for me, it wasn't a finish line at all - it was only the beginning. The beginning of what exactly? I don't know about the future, but I am remaining open to all possibilities. And my store, my photography, my writing, my design work, and my physical health are all gifts that I will continue to grow and share with those who appreciate it. I hope my talents inspire others to discover theirs. That will be the best gift of all.

May you always cherish your gifts.

P.S. I am registered to run the Chicago Marathon in October 2006! I will keep you posted.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Way to go Elizabeth. you are an inspiration for so many!

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