My Journey to 26.2

How does someone get to the point where they decide they want to run a marathon? Well let me first answer the number one question I am always asked…….How far is this marathon? Every marathon is 26.2 miles. That is what a marathon is. A half marathon is 13.1 miles. A 10k is 6.1 miles, an 8k is about 5 miles, a 5k is 3.1 miles. Okay, that is out of the way now. Why would I ever want to run a marathon? Well why not? How will I ever know if I can do it if I don’t try? Well here is how I got to that idea…….

I was in the Navy for 6.5 years. Honestly, I loved it. I was happy. The job I had was awesome. Sadly that is what everyone thought and my job was overmanned. Mr. Barack Obama decided to downsize the military. The Navy had a system called PTS (perform to serve) which would help downsize the overmanned rates (jobs). Pretty much, I got denied re-enlistment and could not change jobs. So I had to get out. At first I was bitter, then I got over it. Wait……where am I going with this…..So while I was in the Navy, I did everything humanly possible to get out of PT and I hated running. I think it was more that I hated being forced to run. Near the end of my service I would run on my own. It wasn’t until I got out that I found my love of running.

I moved back to Michigan and back into my parents house. My little brother decided to join the Navy so I would run with him to get him ready. Then I got a job in Virginia Beach and moved. Its hard moving to a place you have never been, where you only know 2 people. But I did it. Shortly after moving I had to check in at the Veterans Hospital to start my claim and other paperwork. I was assigned a rep because I am what they consider a combat veteran. I had to go check in with her every so often, she was a very nice woman. She determined that I have issues with re-integrating back into the civilian community. Makes sense because everyone I hang out with is military, I moved to a military town, and I worked back on base as a contractor with the Navy. I feel more comfortable around people like me, people that understand me. I don’t like people to thank me for my service or hold me higher than anyone else. So as part of my re-integration issue I had to see a counselor. It started out I was going once a week. Shortly after I got upped to 2 times a week because through counseling she learned of my drinking issue. So I quit drinking, was going to counseling 2 times a week, working, and about to start college. You would think I was a busy person, but I was still struggling with loneliness from not knowing anyone. As part of my treatment, my counselor recommended I start working out. I decided to start running again because I remembered when I ran before I would be able to sleep better and was in a better state of mind. So I ran. On my way to a counseling session one day I saw a sign for a 5k for Breast Cancer. My counselor asked how running was going and I told her well, I was sleeping well but still hadn’t met new people in school and was feeling really lonely. She said, there is a 5k this weekend right across the street. I want you to go. To see how you do with a crowd. We had talked before about my issues with crowds of people. I will walk out of a store if it is too crowded. So I agreed to try the 5k.

I paid my registration fee. I picked up my packet. I laid out my outfit with my bib pinned on the front. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. I showed up, alone, and walked towards the starting area. I immediately felt overwhelmed. I walked all around and couldn’t keep still. I paced, while looking around at all the people dressed in pink attire. My eyes welled up, I had to get out of there. No. I had to do this. I wanted to do it. I had to overcome this feeling. I call my mom. She answers the phone and I couldn’t say anything. I cried. She asked what was wrong, I had never told her of my issue with crowds because I don’t think people will understand. They will laugh and tell me I am being stupid. So I tell my mom that everyone is wearing pink and just being happy and that is why I was crying. Inside, my anxiety was causing so many overwhelming feelings. They call the start of the race and I go line up near the back, surrounded by strangers in a sea of pink. I put headphones on and look at the ground, breathing deep like my counselor told me to do to calm myself down. If I look down I cannot see all of the people. Now, I cannot be sure at this moment, but I believe that race was my PR (personal record) for a long time. I ran as fast as I could because I wanted it to be done. I wanted to get away from all the people. Retreat to my apartment where I would be safe and alone. I get my medal after the race and start walking towards the car. I get stopped by a lady asking me to take a picture of her. I agree, she starts telling me all about her race and where she is from and why she showed up. I tell her its my first race, she asks if I want a picture so I agree and thank her. We talk a bit then I leave. Somehow I come across her on Instagram and follow her. I see her at races from time to time and we say hi. She is the first person I met at a race.

So after that race I report back to my counselor and tell her how it went. She recommends I stick with it. Races will help me overcome my anxiety of crowds, so she says, I still have issues to this day but I love races and always look at the ground and deep breathe…..I think out of habit now. After that first 5k I decided I wanted to make a goal for myself. I wanted to run a half marathon by the end of the year. I decided this in February and started looking for which one I wanted to do. I decided on Women Run the D, one because it was funny, two because I wanted to run my first half in my home state, where my mom could come and watch me. It was decided and I registered and began training.

Training for my first half I was very vigilant. I ran almost every training run I was scheduled to run. All summer long I was dedicated to running and remained dedicated to my very first half marathon being in Michigan. My mom and grandmother were going to be there cheering me on. I was very excited. I decided on running a couple half marathons after my first, I wanted to do them in Virginia. So even before I had ran my first half I had signed up for another 2 weeks after the first, one a month later and another 2 weeks after that. So my plan of running a half marathon by the end of the year turned into running 4 half marathons.

Now, I am not super competitive, I run because I like it and because I can. I finished my first half marathon September 21, 2014. I felt great and was proud of myself. Then, I learned my cousin and aunt signed up for a half marathon…..they were going to walk/run it. Back up a little bit, I am not SUPER competitive. But no way was I going to let this happen. I feel like (even to this day) I have to be better. So my second half marathon was faster than my first and my third half marathon was faster than my second. My half marathon PR is 2 hours and 23 minutes. I am still happy with that time. I ran my fourth half marathon (in 2 months) with a friend and helped her cut 15 minutes off her PR time, also running it nonstop. December hits and its time to start coming up with a New Years Resolution. Most people make goals they never achieve but I am pretty good at keeping mine. Ive been a vegetarian for almost 6 years. Pretty good at resolutions. I talk with some friends and research some races. Then it was decided. The race my aunt and cousin ran also had a marathon. An international marathon. I decided, I would do it.

New Years Eve most people are drinking and partying. I was playing a board game with friends, eating snacks, and waiting for midnight to hit so I could register for my first marathon. HAPPY NEW YEAR and I am battling a slow server to register (lower prices to the first however many to sign up). Submit. I am in. Then it hits. I just registered for my first marathon. 26.2 miles. In Detroit. Detroit Marathon. What was I thinking? Well I have time to train, I can do this.

Train. Train for a marathon. Train for an October marathon in Detroit, over the summer in Virginia Beach. Humid. Hot. Needless to say, my marathon training was NOTHING like my half marathon training. Life happened. I got a boyfriend (also a runner) but did not get in nearly as many long runs as I would have liked to. Did not run nearly as much as I should have. How in the world was I going to conquer this goal of mine. This 26.2 mile goal. My longest run was 15.6 miles. I had began running the trails and loved it so much more than road running. But this marathon was not on a trail. It was on the road. It was on a bridge. In a tunnel. In Canada. In the United States. On an island. But no trails. I hadn’t been in Michigan in October in I can’t even remember how long. What to pack? What to wear? What to expect? These were all things I couldn’t really be prepared for. Things happened in life that threw me for a loop. I wasn’t eating properly, I wasn’t sleeping properly. Plans suddenly changed. How was I going to tackle this? Should I not do it? What was I to do? Why did I think this was a good idea?