Thursday, October 29, 2009

Marathon Diaries, Part 1: Perseverance: Get it.

I gave everything I had to get to that finish line. But, along the way I took in an incredible amount of perspective, insight and inspiration. So much in fact that to tell you about it, it will have to come in pieces. Here is Part 1 – Perseverance: Get it.

As I was carbo-loading the night before the marathon, my nephew was excitedly telling me that he can now skip a bar as a he swings across the monkey bars. His actual words: “Yeah. My friend taught me how. I couldn’t do it a first, but I just persevered. And then I could do it.” Yes, he uses words like persevere. He’s 7.

I never thought I’d be a marathoner, but after months of training I was there at the starting line of the Marine Corps Marathon with 25,000 others. I had hours of work ahead and the determination to get to the finish line. Words like perseverance, determination, hard, almost there, cramp, happy, dig deep, pain, finish - all of these words took on a new meaning last Sunday as I moved through all 26.2 miles of my first marathon. Inspiration and insight came from within this pack of people around me – runners, walkers, bystanders, Marines.

Mile 3

I saw him first in Georgetown on the hill up to the reservoir. A racer in a wheelchair digging deep to get up that hill. He was working hard but the progress was slow. Very slow. There was a battle between determination and defeat going on, you could see that in his face. But one thing was clear, he was getting up that hill. Every runner that passed cheered him on – Get it. You got this. Way to go man. A mile after that hill, I heard shouts from behind me. Get left. Chair coming through. Get left. We all started to yell it forward as he made his way through on the right side. We cheered as he passed. All of us happy to see that he won that battle. Each hill for the next 6 miles, the same would happen. He flew by me coming out of the water stop at mile 11, heading into Haines Point. I never saw him again. I would have loved to see him finish. That last .2 hill to the finish line was brutal, but I saw his determination and I know he got to the top.

Mile 20

Everyone says you hit the wall around mile 20. It’s true. It’s a brick wall built of extreme pain, self-deprecating thoughts and exhaustion. My foot was throbbing. My legs. Oh, my legs. It hurt everywhere. My time was much slower than I had anticipated and I was becoming more and more terrified of not being able to “beat the bridge.” (not getting to the 14th Street bridge by a certain time, meant not being able to finish the race) And as I turned onto 14th Street, I saw my dad, brother and nephew cheering me on. I burst into tears. My brother paced me for about a half a mile. He told me – this is the part I told you about. I know it hurts. But you’re there. You’ve done this. Now, you just finish it...Or something like that. What he didn’t tell me is that the 14th Street Bridge is the longest bridge known to man. It may as well have been a mountain. I felt like hell, and it seemed like I was making zero progress. This bridge was never ending! And, it wasn’t just me. So many around me appeared to be so relieved to beat the bridge that their paces slowed significantly. We were all just shuffling forward, giving into the battle of determination vs. defeat.

Then something switched. I just wanted to get off this bridge and finish this race, but I was going to have work for it. I asked a bystander in the crowd to tie my right shoe tighter. Delirious Race Logic: if you can’t stop the pain, just make your shoe tighter so you can’t feel it anymore. I turned up my music, and for the next 5 miles told myself, sometimes out loud, “it’s all in your head.” I dug deep, and I got to the top of my personal hill. I couldn’t do it at first. But, I just persevered. And, then I could do it.

Post Marathon finish with our nephew.


  1. Way to go Erica! What an awesome journey! Can't wait for the second installment :)

  2. This is so awesome! I'm so freaking happy for you! Well done!

  3. AWE is the word I texted your Mom on Sunday!! I am in awe of you!!!
    CinD :)

  4. Do you even know how talented and strong you are? I loved reading this =-)

  5. absolutely amazing. So proud of you!

  6. Thanks for the great post that helped me relive many things that motivated me through what could have been a horrible race-day experience at MCM. The wheelchair guys were amazing, and seeing fellow runners dig deep and keep going on that godawful bridge (it must be the longest EVER, no?) was inspirational, too. Congrats on the finish — hope you're still glowing from your accomplishment!