From a Marathon Mama
The day before my first marathon, it is snowing. My husband has used all of his travel reward points from his business trips to book a free room at the Ritz, and the kids are with their grandparents. They offer champagne at check-in and we don’t say no. (Longest-run-ever tomorrow be damned!) I start checking my wardrobe and the weather. I want to be prepared. All of meteorology PROMISES no precipitation tomorrow. But, I still cannot seem to find my shoes. When running a marathon, SHOES would be good. (Unless you’re one of those hard core “Born To” runners.) We head to the store and I instantly commit to a pair. My cool-as-a-cumber husband looks more worried than I am. He is concerned about my feet going 26.2 miles in a new pair. And I am uncharacteristically calm. “It’s not like my feet are ever going to feel GOOD after a marathon anyway,” I say. These will be fine. For once, I will not be led into anxiety. I WILL be ready for tomorrow.
Before bed, I lay out all of my paraphernalia on the bedside table. Most of these things I have ripped from running magazines over the last year. My training plan. A picture of a woman running in a field of sunflowers. An athletic goddess creature that I have begun to call Nike Jean. An article about an army widow with three children who runs marathons. A picture of our friend who died in Afghanistan. Oh yes…I’m ready. I think. The gift of fine weather and a healthy body is not lost on me. Four months of training has led to one chance to spend four or five hours in the glorious sunshine with people cheering, drums banging, and legs pounding the pavement. And I have the new shoes. But still, I’m unprepared.
I’m unprepared for how the sight of double amputees cycling their way through our nations’ capitol will stop my heart. I’m not prepared for how the osprey helicopters flying overhead will lift my spirits right up in the clouds. I’m not ready to run past my husband’s co-worker, who is pushing his terminally ill daughter to the finish. When I hit a wall at the twenty-third mile, I am unprepared for the sight of a blind soldier running up beside me with his guide. I am not ready, even at the finish, to walk past the Iwo Jima monument and receive a medal from fresh-face second lieutenants. The ones who look so much like my own husband, only seven years younger.
There is nothing like running 26.2 miles to bring you to your knees, but truly, there is nothing more humbling than the triumph of the human spirit to bring you to tears. And sometimes that spirit is yours. So for the last mile, I just cry.
Nancy Brown holds a masters’ degree in education and is a mother of two boys, born seventeen months apart. During both of her pregnancies, her husband, a Marine, was deployed to the Middle East. After one vacuum delivery and a c-section, she has found health and healing for body and mind in long distance running. Born in the same hospital, she and Charlotte Blake have been friends since Day One.