I don’t entirely know how to start this. Do I tell you how terrible of a race day I had? Do I share that I finished but had to fight like hell to cross that finish line? Or do I share that though it was the hardest thing I have ever done, I wouldn’t change a single thing? I have been struggling with the words to say for a few days. Honestly, if I could, I wouldn’t write a single thing and continue to tell people the race was hard but I survived. But that would go against everything that I stand for. If we don’t share how our experiences really went, we will continue to live in a world of fake people and I want to break down those walls. There is power in vulnerability.

I am finally starting to become proud of the accomplishment of running a marathon. A week later and it still does not seem real. I think part of this has to do with the dark hole my  mind has been in around the race. Though people are congratulating me, it doesn’t seem like I am worthy of praise. Some have gone right into analyzing my race and telling me part of my shortcoming was starting too fast. For those people, I recommend you not do this to anyone else until you ask them how they are mentally doing post race. You threw me into a deeper spiral and I am lucky to have climbed out of that hole in a short amount of time. Some people are telling me how proud they are of me, but it still doesn’t seem like running is something you should be proud of. Even though I know not many people will go out and run a marathon.

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The Chicago Marathon broke my spirit and everything else along with it. The day was hot, the miles were long, and I spent 11 miles during the first half of the race not knowing a single person cheering for me. I hit the wall at mile 6 and wanted to walk off the course. I spent miles 10-22 convincing myself not to cry and to keep moving forward. If you know me personally, you know it takes a lot for me to cry and to be in a spot where I don’t think I can keep going. I tend to be the person telling others that we can make it regardless of if it is true.

The little things that kept me moving forward were knowing I would see familiar faces every few miles once I reached the half way mark, getting random texts of encouragement, and having Oiselle/November Project/Team Nuun teammates come up to me and say hi. I had to learn to rely on the kindness of strangers in the harder miles. From the person who gave me chapstick and body glide at mile 16 to the kids handing out tissues outside their house, the city of Chicago came through for every runner on the course like I have never seen before.

I had to dig deep into my memory to remind myself of why I was running. I had to keep telling myself I was doing it for the girl I used to be, the one who only dreamed of being able to do something and changing her life for the better. I had to force myself to reflect on every stage of my journey, from the first few Days with Jennifer emails to the training runs for this race, and everything in-between. I even had to toss my expectations out the window and roll with whatever came my way, because my expectations were bound to leave me broken and worse off then I currently am. I had to keep checking in with myself to make sure I was not going to pass out like the many people who were around me. And I had to make sure that the people cheering for me knew that I was grateful for their support.

Looking back I know that I wouldn’t change a single thing about this race. My watch didn’t really work from the beginning so I had to run based on feel, my family ran all over the city making sure I knew they were there, and the friends I had on the course gave me the encouragement I needed to keep going. I realize that it’s in the midst of doubt and fear that we find our ability to persevere. The tough runs will come. It’s our ability to move past the doubts that makes us stronger. And I am significantly stronger today then I was before the marathon.

I am starting to understand more and more that though the race was challenging, it is about more then just running 26.2 miles. It is about the community that came alongside me and encouraged me every step along the way. It’s about the dedication I threw into the race and my determination to not let anything stop me from doing this. And it’s about my willingness to let God lead when the journey doesn’t even seem possible.  Completing 26.2 miles was just the icing on the cake of a journey that I have been on for a long time.

Today I was able to cheer on my friends, teammates, and tribe at the Snohomish River Run and it helped restore my hope in the sport of running. I realized how lucky I am to have these people in my life, among many others, who believe in me and the things I am doing. It was an honor to be able to return the favor to them as they chased their goals. I know it will take me a little while to completely process everything that took place in Chicago and the emotional roller coast I am on with it, but I know I will make it through and will be ready for what is next.

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“You will struggle,
You will sweat,
You will cry,
You will want to give up.
But above all, you will overcome, because you were meant to be great.”

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