Last October, I ran the Chicago Marathon. It was my first (and likely only) marathon, and sometimes, when I think back on it, I get overwhelmed. The memories come back to me like scenes from a movie — seeing my cheering squad run out to me on the street, calling my name, my cousin holding a sign that said, “Run like a gazippo!” and me literally skipping up to him and my daughter when I saw them. Running past Lincoln Park Zoo and thinking, “I am all the way up by Lincoln Park Zoo!” Seeing my sister-in-law at about the halfway point and accidentally knocking her phone out of her hand when I ran up to her. Seeing the pace car pass me in slow motion and the realization I would be losing my course support. Seeing one of the aid stations being torn down as I approached it, watching in almost horror as an entire table of filled Gatorade cups was flipped over onto the street. The taste of warm Gatorade Endurance. Turning the corner and entering Chinatown, which seemed deserted. The taste of ice cold Coke. The angst I felt when I realized I still had a right turn to make before I could head north in the direction of the finish line. The actual physical feeling of exhaustion falling away from my body as I approached the finish line and the burst of energy I had as I sprinted across the finish line and collapsed, crying, into the arms of my friends waiting there for me. I can remember all of these moments clearly like they happened yesterday.
While I am proud of my accomplishment, sometimes I have these nagging doubts about it. I crossed the finish line 8 hours, 7 minutes, and 21 seconds after I crossed the start line. Here is a picture that haunts me:
This is taken on “Mount Roosevelt” — a small incline literally right before you make the turn to the finish line. It is at like mile 26, so you are so close to the finish line you can taste it. I am walking here. When I turned the corner and saw the finish line, though, I ran. Sprinted, actually. And that action is what haunts me. Every time I think if the marathon, I question myself — could I have run this race faster if I had just pushed myself harder, if I had run more and walked less in the last half of that race? I felt so good the first half of the race, but the second half, I was so tired physically and mentally and emotionally, and I was so hot, and I hurt so much, I spent a lot of time walking. I feel like I remember not being in that much pain or in a state of that much exhaustion. I remember so many things so clearly, but why can’t I remember the pain and fatigue?
Sometimes I am so haunted by the questions, the feelings of doubt that I really did need to walk that I feel like my accomplishment is somewhat dubious, or that the marathon ran me instead of me running the marathon. I hate that anything mars the memory of that momentous event in my life.
I wonder if I will always question myself on this.