Monday, September 29, 2008

2 States, 5 Cities, 26.2 Miles... Part 4

As soon as I crossed the 20 mile mark, I started scanning the streets for Steve's bright yellow windbreaker. Everybody cheered for me, and my Mom asked, "How are you doing?" I had to admit that I did not feel good. Again carrying Jack, Steve ran along side of me and asked what was wrong. He was afraid that maybe I was hurt - he told me later that he could see a difference - in my face, in my stride, everything - when I got off the island. I explained that I was really tired and that my legs were cramping.

"You can do this," Steve said. "You just need to run 3 miles there, then another 3 miles back. You can do 3 miles in your sleep. You'll be done before you know it."

Is he a great runner husband or what? You can really tell he's been listening and knows how to make the crazy sound completely reasonable.

The course went along side the river in Moline, a place where I have run many, many times. It was out and back, so I was able to see other runners headed towards the finish line when I was headed out and vice versa. I actually liked that a lot - it made the last 10K seem less lonely than it did when I ran in Des Moines. I saw my brother, then Kent, both of whom gave me high fives.

Still, you guys, I was tired. When the 22 mile marker was in sight, I tried an experiment in which I picked up the pace big time and headed towards it. Sweet Yoda, did my knees scream at me for that one. Lesson learned: slow and steady with walk breaks as needed.

A bit later, a guy in a hat came up next to me and started chatting with me. We agreed that my 4:30 goal wasn't going to happen, but talked positive - that most people in the world could not do what we were doing at that very moment, and that we were setting a positive example for our friends and family. I thought about Jack, his beaming pride at racing a fine quarter mile, and the way he says, "That lady is running like Mommy" every time he sees a runner. He and I stuck pretty close together for several miles. In the book The Non-Runner's Marathon Guide, they talk about a "running angel," someone who appears when you most need a boost. Maybe it's a spectator ringing a cowbell, or a volunteer with an orange slice when you desperately need it. In my case, the guy in the hat was my running angel. He helped me keep my mind off of how much I was hurting and helped me focus on why I was running.

On we ran, all the way through Moline, then basically did a toe touch in East Moline. There, the UTHS cheerleaders had built a giant wall for us to run through, which was pretty darned cool.

I struggled on, thinking, "Okay, I can do this," which I must have unwittingly said out loud, since another runner looked at me and said, "Yes, you can." I tried my best to focus on how hard I'd worked, how far I've come, and all of the reasons I'm a runner. I thought about other things that I've done in my life that have been physically difficult that I got through. And I looked at the runners headed in the other direction and thought how they'd change places with me if they could, to be as close to the finish as I was. I knew that 4:30 was no longer a possibility, but I knew that even if I ran slowly, I could still get 4:45 or better, which would still be a PR.

With one mile to go, I focused on runners ahead of me and did my best to pass them, catching two. My mom, Doug, and Andy were near the finish line, cheering for me. Andy looked tired and very happy to not be running. I picked up my pace, with the finish line in sight... and strained my eyes for the yellow windbreaker I'd been looking for all day. Steve and Jack went crazy cheering for me, but you can really see the struggle on my face at that point.

The announcer called, "And coming in to the finish line, Betsy Wasser of Moline!" I put my arms up in celebration, then heard, "Congratulations, Mom. Looks like you've got a little one helping you out." I looked down, and sure enough, Jack was running me in to the finish. Crossing the finish line of a marathon is a peak experience; having Jack by my side made that peak experience even stronger.

My finishing time? 4:38:23. I didn't make my 4:30 goal, but considering what a hard time I had at the end, I am very proud of the fact that I came so close. Even more importantly, I beat my previous time by almost 20 minutes.

After a rest, it was time to head home - but first, I spotted my running angel, the guy in the hat. I told everyone to wait and rushed (okay, shuffled at a slightly elevated pace) over to talk to him. I told him how much he helped me, how much easier finishing the race was because of him. I told him that on that day, he was my running angel. He smiled and said that getting a finisher's medal is a great feeling, but that knowing he'd helped a fellow runner was even better. We hugged, and I headed home. I hope one day to be able to do the same for someone else.

The rest of the day was spent dozing in bed, watching movies with Jack. We went out for a celebratory dinner, and Steve and Jack presented me with a new charm bracelet to congratulate me on a great race. I can't wait to add more charms to it as I finish more races.

"We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon."
-Emil Zatopek

23 comments:

*aron* said...

CONGRATS!!!!!!! what an awesome report (all 4 of them!) and what an amazing race you ran! you did such a great job, the end was bringing tears to my eyes :) there is nothing like crossing that finsih line and i imagine with your little man it was a million times better!

newsjunkie said...

Awwww, what an awesome race story! It made me cry. How sweet that you had Jack with you at the finish line--and that you got pictures of it!

Congratulations again!

J said...

I loved the way you split your race report up - it kept me wondering all day, waiting for the next installment!

Congrats on a great race and PRing. What kind of charm bracelet did you get? I love charm bracelets but I am looking for a new one.

Lisa said...

Wow... your post made me cry. What a great final installment. I enjoyed the others as well.

I am so jealous that your son was able to run in with you. What a fantastic experience.

Congrats on your PR. Congrats on finishing strong!

Meg said...

What a race! Congratulations! You ran an awesome race and there have been so many people following you that might consider you their race angel keeping your strength in mind later.
You really have a great family!

Ovens2Betsy said...

Yeah Betsy! Sorry you didn't make your goal, but fantastic PR.

Jennifer Burgett said...

Congratulations!!!! I am glad Aron said the end was brining tears to her eyes too because I thought I was crazy!!!

I can't imagine the feeling crossing that finish line - especially with your little man beside you!

You rock!

Run For Life said...

Congrats on the big PR and pushing through the tough miles! I loved your race report and the pic of Jack with you at the finish line. :)

Runnergirl said...

Congratulation on your PR!!! Your race report made me cry. I loved the picture with you and Jack at the finish line, there is nothing better than crossing that finish line, especially when you can do it with someone you love. Thanks for your inspirational story!

Marcy said...

Ooohhhhh Betsy!! The race report was most excellent, it made me get all teary! CONGRATS on the wonderful job! You did AWESOME ;D ;D

raceslikeagirl.com said...

Congratulations, Betsy! A 20 minute PR is tremendous. Yay, you!

I've had some running angels too, and I now try to be a running angel myself when I spot an obvious opportunity.

Laura said...

CONGRATULATIONS! I'm only commenting on this one, but I read all four parts of the race report, and am commenting on this because the finish is my favorite. HOW COOL that you got to run with Jack and that they announced you coming in :)

Nat said...

Congrats!!!
I got a tear in my eye when I read the bit about your little guy. That is just so damned sweet and special.

I love the idea of running angels, thinking back there is always one that seems to come out of nowhere...

Great race reports.

thebets said...

Yay Betsy! Great job! Your post made me all teary-eyed : ).

audgepodge said...

Congrats! I love the finish pic with you and your little guy. And that's amazing that you shaved 20 minutes off your time - wow!

The last 10K of the marathon has always been unbearably hard for me...

Tom said...

Is it okay as a guy to also say your race report got me choked up?

It's one thing to tell readers what happened on your race day, but your race report made us FEEL what happened. What a great report.

So proud of you for your courage in those final miles and of your PR.

You have a great supportive family--I can imagine how proud Steve and Jack are of your success.

Joe said...

congratulations! What an awesome race (and report). Soooooo... now what?

Joe
www.fitnessgeekga.wordpress.com

Lindy said...

Sweet! Sweet PR, sweet husband, and sweet Jack! What a nice race report, thanks!

Irish Cream said...

Congrats, Betsy!! That's a MASSIVE PR--great job!! I loved reading all of the installments of your race report . . . but I agree with everybody else that you crossing the finishline with Jack was by far the best part . . . kinda makes my biological clock start ticking. Oh dear!

RooBabs said...

What a great race report! Such a cool story about your "running angel", and love that Jack crossed the finish line with you- so sweet!

I hope you realize how lucky you are to have such a supportive family. Great job on the PR, too!!

suzee said...

Count me in as a cryer. What a lovely report on a lovely (if difficult) day. Congratulations to you, and thanks for reminding us all what great people runners are.

M*J*C said...

I'm totally late to this party, but congratulations!!! How beautiful that your son was there with you!!!! Great job!

Anonymous said...

wow! that's amazing! thanks for sharing a very well written account. I'm so happy that you didn't give up! -- Tomek