Posted by: rachelanne229 | October 6, 2010

when you’re full of LIFE

sunday, october 3, 2010, was one of the biggest days of my life.  i was desperate and forlorn at 5 am, exhausted and beleaguered at 11 am, and by noon i was elated.  triumphant.  grateful.  in the morning i crawled, a couple hours later i ran, and the rest of the day, i FLEW.

i woke up at 5 am on a futon in the basement of my mom’s college roommate’s house.  my right foot seared with pain as i stood up to walk to the bathroom.  i had pleaded with God all nite to let me run this marathon, but to have to strength to let it go if i wasn’t meant to run this race.  i tried to accept that this day might not be the day i had waited for so eagerly.  i was embarrassed by the thought of having to tell my parents, who had driven 5 hours, that my foot hurt and i might not be able to finish, or even start.

but i got ready just the same– eating my oat wise cereal with chia seeds and getting into my race clothes i had set out the nite before.  Dee and i set off for the USM campus center at 6:30 am.  the sky was dark and it was only 40 degrees outside.  we parked at the campus center and walked down to the start on baxter blvd.  not many people were milling around yet, but a few volunteers were getting food ready and setting up stations for coffee.  we sat on the cold bleachers and watched some guys put up the American flag and balloons over the starting line.

my parents arrived around 7:15, around the time that the medical tent opened for business.  i hobbled over with  my mom, and got my foot wrapped up tight to hopefully remedy what the sports med guy thought was a case of plantar fasciitis.  i profusely thanked the guy, and took a step.  it felt better!  the pain flowed thru my foot, but most definitely did not sear.  i grabbed a 5-min pre-race massage and then lined up toward the back.  something big was building inside of me.   for the first time since the foot pain had amplified a few days before, i felt cautiously optimistic.  not quite excited, but calm at least.  something good was in store.

at 7:45 the gun went off, and i shimmied past the start line with the crowd.  the course took us along back cove for awhile, and i enjoyed the warming action of the sun and the gentle pounding of the runners passing me, and the ones i was passing as we jockeyed for position.  the pain in my foot was ever-present in the first 3-4 miles, but not debilitating.  i said a silent prayer, telling God that i could deal with this level of pain if he could please hold off anything worse.

and suddenly, before i knew it, the pain had dissolved.  where an angry heat had been apparent at every footfall, only a dull twinge remained.  “i feel…good?” i asked myself in disbelief.  and then i stopped thinking so damn much and ran my race.  i ran and ran and ran, cutting seconds off my time every mile and getting more and more pumped.  i passed a couple who had been married only 2 days before, high-fived approximately a bajillion kids, and even saw my friend Saylor and other members of the USM xc team hanging out on the course.

i saw my mom, dad, Dee, and aunt Becky for the first time at mile 6, and was absolutely floored.  my family can make NOISE, and make noise they did.  i waved my arms around a bit and flashed a smile to let them know i was feeling just peachy, and then kept on cruising.  the next time i saw them was mile 10, and i was heading down a long hill.  i felt like a million bucks.  “thank you, God, thank you, thank you, thank you, i feel so –whoa, girls playing trumpets on the side of the road– i feel so good, and i’m friggin pumped you’ve brought me this far!”

by now the course had brought us runners up through falmouth and into yarmouth, where we neared the turnaround point.  the scenery consisted of beautiful houses, beautiful foliage, and beautiful water.  even the people cheering on the side of the road were beautiful.  soon i was on a dirt road, about 0.1 mi from the turnaround point, and i did a happy little shake-my-booty dance for the poor volunteer chilling at the cone directing runners.  i was gonna finish this mother, baby!  wooo hooo.

i kept on cruising till mile 15-16, where i hit the biggest hill of the course.  i passed a few people who were walking on it, but slowed down significantly.  luckily for me, my family was perched at the top, and waving their brains out.  i waved my brains out too, and then something troublesome happened.  the tape that was holding my potentially PF-ed foot together started to feel like it was pulling away from my skin, or that it was pulling my skin away from my heel.  at this point i actually started to focus on the discomfort in the rest of my foot to take my mind off the heel pain.

these shenanigans continued till about mile 21.  i tried to stop thinking for these 5 miles, because at mile 16, all i could think was “shitttt,” and that was not a productive thought.  even though i was not very tired, aerobically-speaking, i had 10 miles to go, was beginning to feel some real discomfort, and decided it would be best to go on auto-pilot for awhile.  at mile 21 i snapped out of auto-pilot.  “this is farther than you’ve ever gone, Rach!  efff yeah!”  i took a few lines from the delightful “what about bob?” and cheesily told myself, “i feel GOOD, i feel GREAT, i feel WONDERFUL!”  only 5 miles to go, that’s a fresh pond run–piece of cake.

then i got to mile 22, and all mental hell broke loose.  i hadn’t seen my family in awhile, and realized at this point that i wouldn’t see them till the finish.  the water stations seemed so far apart now, and my body felt like it was starting to shut down.  the knees didn’t want to bend, my abs were sore, and the insides of my upper arms were starting to chaff against my t-shirt.  finally mile 23 came.  i was still ahead of schedule as far as pace went, and i told myself to keep my chin up and just keep doing what i head been doing.  it wasn’t hard to run.  i had been doing it for 3.5 hours.  just keep doing it, just don’t stop.  it’s the easiest thing in the world not to stop.

mile 24.  residential area, getting close to the finish.  2.2 left– that’s the distance to the charles river one way, or the distance to a little past porter sq. and back.  two freaking miles is nothing!  yet i still let out a little sob.  my body was revolting and my feet hurt everywhere.  even my boobs hurt, what the hell.  ask for more strength, just don’t stop.  think about your family waiting at the end.  think about the moment where you cross the finish line, that split second after the screaming pain of the sprint and before the victorious fist-pump.  the quick and quiet moment of affirmation in which you know you have reached not just a goal, but a dream.  it sounds crazy, but i was running this race to experience that split-second.

and then my wild thoughts of mile 24 had brought me to mile 25.  i let out another small sob, because 1.2 miles seemed like a very far distance.  but then i ponied up and gave myself a mental slap– back to reality.  i was heading back around the cove– it wouldn’t be long now!  this was fun– this was exhilarating–this was a pretty ballin’ experience for a sunday morning.  soon i was at mile 25.2.  ONE MILE.  one little baby mile.  one time i ran a mile in 6:05 in high school.  those days seemed very far gone.  one time i told chris blackistone, the star xc runner, that he was out of his effing mind when he asked me to go for a 10-mile run with him.  those days seemed pretty far gone, too.  all that mattered was right now!  time to lay down whatever i had left inside, sore feet or not.  i passed a group of 3 people.  i turned a corner and saw the 13 mile marker, which meant i had 0.1 to go.  got passed by one of the people i had just passed, but couldn’t have cared one little bit less.  one of my favorite songs, “hallelujah” by rufus wainwright, was playing on the pod, and i knew my moment was coming.  i couldn’t think, but i felt “hallelujah” in my every motion.  after 5 months, 650 miles of training, and a 4:09:58 race, my moment had arrived.

the moment was blinding, like a bright light, but quiet. it was held out to me, like a gift, and i accepted it, embraced it, gave that moment a little hug:)

and then i was throwing my arms up and getting a medal placed around my neck by a soldier.  someone put a space blanket on me, and i found a poland springs water bottle in my hand.  how’d that get there?  the girl who had passed me moments earlier shook my hand and we congratulated each other, and then i bent over and happy cried.  my pain-riddled body had seized up with joy.  i stood alone for a few moments and reveled in this strange feeling, almost overwhelming in its power, and waited for my family, who had been cheering at the finish.  Dee got to me first, and she hugged me, and then my mom and dad and aunt were there, and then my cousin Will and his fiance Ella, and i had flowers and hugs pushed on me, and it was wonderful.  i felt so blessed to have been able to start and finish, and to have my family supporting me.  i thought of my friends on Daily Mile, and was thankful for them, too.  during this period of training, i had stumbled upon the coolest community/support group/awesome collection of athletes, and i couldn’t wait to share my happy news and read about their races later in the day.

i had just received my moment, and nothing could be better.  especially when it came topped off with a bagel and pb from the snacks tent!

halle-freakin-lujah!  this race for me was about putting mental strength over physical pain, and about putting spiritual belief over mental weakness.  i felt humbled because my many weaknesses had showcased themselves pretty well throughout this race, but somehow my fervent prayers had still been answered.  weak or not, i still found my moment, and all was right in my world.



  1. Way tonight through the pain! Well done! Welcome to the Marathon Club!

    • darn auto-correct on the iPhone, that was supposed to be “way to fight through the pain…”

  2. So well-written! You really are a great writer, Rachel. And it must be said, this makes me so pumped/scared/anxious/excited for my own race! Those last 6 miles scare the crap out of me because I know it’s going to hurt so bad. Gah! Must put some killer tunes on a playlist for that part of the course. I can’t wait to tackle this beast and experience my split second of glory too! Like you said, it’s been 18 weeks and hundreds of miles in the making. 🙂

  3. Terrific post about a terrific race. Well done. You are a definitely a winner. I especially liked your closing thoughts …

  4. Absolutely love it. This was really fun to read! I’m so incredibly proud of you Rachel! You are pretty bad ass. WOOOO!

    Give your body (and foot) a much deserved rest! 🙂

  5. Rachel, thank you for sharing. What an amazing experience! I’m so happy for you. Awesome job!!

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