In 2015, I felt I knew what I was made of. I decided to run another marathon and I decided that this time, I could set a time goal. My training was perfect; I shocked myself by checking off every workout and owning the long runs. I felt I was truly capable of PR'ing. However, as race day loomed, something became clear: the unpredictable weather that is December-in-Florida threw off my plan. I tried to take it in stride, but that was basically impossible. I came dangerously close to quitting at the halfway point; I fought through it and finished my second marathon with a significantly slower time than my first. I was disheartened. I was embarrassed. I doubted myself in a way I hadn't in years.
What this story is about is my comeback marathon.
Every year, I run a specific race that falls on my birthday weekend. That year, 2016, that race was a mere two months after my disastrous second marathon. I planned to run the half, and I half-heartedly trained for it. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I should run the full, since I was basically trained up for it. If anything, the two months between Marathon 2 and Race Day were like an extended taper. I had every reason not to upgrade my race distance: I was burned out. I was still mentally raw from the last marathon. My foot kind of hurt.
I talked the ears off all my running friends, who gave me sound advice, but I was still undecided. Then, the night before the race, I went to pick up my bib. I took it from the check-in table and, without giving myself time to think, immediately walked over to the line where I could upgrade my half marathon to a full.
I didn't really tell anyone except my parents, husband, and one or two of those advice-y running friends.
I want to tell you race day was perfect. It wasn't. It was hot and incredibly windy; at one point, I really thought I was going to get blown off-course. The high winds made breathing difficult, and the sun cooked the asphalt from mile nine to 26.2. But there were so many highlights, and as I passed by the turn-around for the half and went on to the full marathon course, my heart felt light. My mind felt clear. I felt totally at ease.
At mile 20, my sister met me with a Coke. (If you look through the full recaps for these races, you may start to wonder if Coke sponsors my finisher pics.) At mile 22, I glanced at the pacing tattoo on my arm and knew I was going to get my PR. At mile 24, a seagull caught in the gale nearly hit me on the head. At mile 26, I heard my husband cheering for me. And as I crossed the finish line, I began to cry.
The day after that third marathon, I turned 30. I said goodbye to my 20s with a lesson I think all young people should learn: we may have setbacks, but if we fight for glory — whatever that looks like for each of us, personally —we can prove to ourselves how strong we are, and we can inspire others in the process.