On Sunday I ran the Santa Clarita marathon. For 3 years now, I have run a marathon during my birthday week, my own little healthy birthday present to myself after years of neglect. But unlike the previous 2 years, I hadn’t trained as well for this one. September and October were super busy months for me and our family, and while I was still running, I wasn’t running the long runs at all. As a matter of fact, I ran 13 miles 6 weeks before the marathon (my longest, when I would normally get to 22 miles) and I had to go back to the LA marathon to find anything longer.The Santa Clarita marathon has a 1/2 marathon that for the last 2 weeks I was really wrestling with considering dropping down to. But I knew that if I did that, and finished strong, I would be disappointed. 3 years ago, I would have just not gone at all. So after a lot of consideration, I decided to stay with the full. I was hoping for cool weather and muscle memory to pull me through.
Trying to come up with some kind of mantra that I could repeat to myself as a motivator, I looked to the DOC (diabetic on-line community). As November is diabetes awareness month, we started off the month writing “Wish” on our hands to let everyone know we were wishing for a cure. We have previously done the same with “Hope”. Then Tami from Conversations in Care (remember my interview here?) came up with Wish. Hope. Run. And I was sold. It was easy. It was relevant. And I could write it on my hand.
And for extra emphasis I added “Your race will end, Stella will still have type 1, Run your ass off” to my forearm knowing that regardless of what happened during my run, I would eventually finish, and it would be over. But not my daughters disease. I used both of these a lot. I looked at them often. And they powered me through a few rough patches. (more rough spots than I usually encounter).
I also came up with a plan. Normally I have a time goal in mind (and it’s to break 4 hours) and I have been training for weeks with that goal in mind. But this time, my only goal was to finish and not die. Secretly I hoped to at least break 5 hours, but I had no idea how my body would react to the damage caused by 26.2 miles. So instead of lining up towards the front, I stayed in the back. I have a tendency to start off faster then I should, and pay the price later. I found a pace group that was pacing to finish in 4:10, and all though overly ambitious for me, I thought if I kept up with them for 15-18 miles, I could walk/crawl to the finish. It worked to get me through about 18, and then we hit some hills/pedestrian bridges. Instead of trying to power up them, I made the decision to walk each one regardless of how I felt at the time. This meant I lost the pace group, but I hoped to be able to finish with a little gas left.
And then I saw this at mile 20. (I actually glimpsed it at mile 9, but I couldn’t stop). I was walking up a hill and saw a woman carrying a sign. I knew of her from Facebook, she follows our page, and she knew I was running. She mentioned that her best friend was also running this race, and it was her first full, so she was out there to support her. And she did this:
Thank you Kerri, that was a HUGE mental boost and motivator just when I needed it. And just amazingly thoughtful. I also ran behind a female amputee (her right foot was a prosthetic, and yes she finished ahead of me) and people mourning the loss of loved ones to cancer. I ran with a guy for awhile that had joined Racing for Recovery a year ago, and this was his first marathon. The inspiration in these races is amazing.
I was also running to help raise funds and awareness for my mom’s rescue, Leave No Paws Behind. She helps senior pets that have been dumped at the shelter so they don’t need to die a miserable death alone. A lot of these animlas still have much life left in them, like Evie, who is amazing! She is paralyzed, but mom was able to get her wheels and vet care, and the girl just can’t stop smiling
So with all of these different reasons to keep moving forward, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I got a text from my wife to check on me. I had some pretty low expectations going into this, so she wanted to see how I was doing, and be prepared for when I thought I might finish. I let her know when I thought I would be done, and asked her to meet me at the mile 26 marker. I wanted to finish off with Stella and Major. Laurie and the kids were there, but finishing with Stella and the crowd looked rough, so I grabbed Major. Which is fitting, as Major is my running partner, doing at least 90% of my runs with me. He doesn’t care that it’s early, late, cold, hot, on trails or on pavement. He just loves to run with me. Kerri, the woman with the #blackdogsrule sign, captured us crossing the finish, and my mom got the video. Grabbing Major made sure I was going to finish strong.
This was the toughest race I have run yet. Mostly my own doing of course, but not training properly. But it was also the most rewarding. I had my family and friends to meet me at the end, the love and support of a bunch of amazing people, friends that had Wish Hope Run written on their hands, lots of amazing Facebook posts, and the satisfaction that I didn’t give up.
What does this all have to do with diabetes? Well, the fact of the matter is, I don’t run if my daughter doesn’t get sick. If Stella was never diagnosed, I would probably still be smoking cigarettes and sitting on the couch. But because she wound up contracting diabetes through no fault of her own, I realized that I needed to change everything I was willingly and knowingly doing to myself. And since she can’t quit type 1, I can’t quit my race.
And now it seems that the only time I let myself have a beer is after a long run. And yesterday, it was a great beer…