On 11/11/11 I registered for the Madison Marathon, 198 days before the race. I put a plan into place to train differently than I did 2 years ago when I ran my first marathon.
However, as the race date approached Mother Nature had different plans for me. The predicted heat on race day was 95 degrees which caused the race organizers to question canceling the race all together. My 6 months of training, my hundreds of miles, my numerous hours of training were about to be washed away like sand castles caught in the tide.
Then the official announcement came on Friday afternoon that the full marathon had been cancelled “due to predicted extreme weather conditions”. The half marathon would still proceed as planned because the race would be over before temperatures reached the “extreme danger zone” as defined by the race officials (cue Kenny Loggins).
Was I upset that my 6 months of training were wasted? Was I disappointed? Sad? Bummed out? Nope, because I had a Plan B.
When you have a dream, sometimes life will come along and tell you that you can’t have your dream. However, that’s when it’s up to you to pursue your dream despite what life throws your way.
It’s YOUR dream and nobody can take that away from you. You have to pursue it with all your heart. Create your own path to follow your dream and don’t let anyone stand in your way.
In my case, I wasn’t about to let the weather or the race officials’ cancellation of the full marathon derail my dream of running another marathon.
So I went to Plan B.
Plan B was generated by my uncle. He emailed me with a “crazy idea” that if they cancelled the full marathon we could get up early on race day and run 13.1 miles by ourselves with the intent that we’d finish right before the start of the “official” 13.1 miles of the half marathon. Therefore completing the 26.2 miles of a full marathon.
I’d be able to achieve my dream of running another marathon, but in an unconventional way. I said “hell yes, let’s do it!” Not only was it an awesome idea, but it would make for a great story of how we didn’t let the weather or the race officials deter us from accomplishing our goals.
On race day, my alarm went off at 3:45 am and I bounced right out of bed. My uncle and I were outside ready to start our first 13.1 miles at 4:45 am, exactly when we wanted to. It was a perfect morning to run, a slight breeze with the temps in the 60s.
We began our run through the quiet streets of Madison with the sounds of our footfalls echoing off the buildings the only sound we heard. We ran along Lake Monona which was still and tranquil, a stark contrast to the whitecaps we saw on the lake yesterday. The trail we chose to run on was a 12’ wide asphalt paved trail that wound through wilderness areas with a mix of open land, marshes and forest. We saw more deer than people that morning.
It was special being out on the trail with my uncle, a man I love and respect tremendously. He later described our morning run as “sacred” and “that was church”. I couldn’t agree more! I will forever cherish those miles we ran together that morning!
The miles melted away and soon we were back at our hotel having finished our first 13.1 miles of the day. We refilled water bottles, grabbed a snack, met up with my aunt (who was running the half marathon), and the 3 of us were on our way to the starting line for the start of the official half marathon.
The Second 13.1 Miles
At this point I was cautiously optimistic. I didn’t want to say it out loud or even think it, but I was feeling strong and ready to run an amazing race! I was ready to go!
We timed everything perfectly today. We got to the starting line and 2 minutes later the gun went off to begin the race. I said goodbye to my aunt and uncle, since I was going to run a quicker pace, and told them I’d see them at the finish line. Smiles and high fives were exchanged and then I was off on my own.
A lot of the race was a blur, but I felt consistently strong the entire race. In fact it never really got that difficult and never did I feel like walking or giving up. I never hit the proverbial “wall” that everyone talks about. Around mile 23, it really began to get tough, but I told myself that I had already run 23 miles so I could run 3 more. Suck it up buddy!
I hit mile 26 and only had a quarter of a mile to go, but that last quarter mile was all uphill. I trudged up the hill one foot in front of the other knowing that the finish line awaited me at the top. I persisted despite my legs screaming at me to stop running!
I rounded the corner and I could see the finish line and I got tunnel vision as I focused. I crossed the finish line and I was overwhelmed with emotions. From exhilaration to pride to relief to happiness to exhaustion, but all that came out was a fist pump and a huge yell. I was officially on cloud nine!
See for yourself (that’s my brothers and cousin yelling):
I had not been paying much attention during the race to my overall time, but I knew that I was doing well cause I felt so strong. When I looked at my watch to see what my overall time was, I was ecstatic! My final time was 4:19, a 52 minute improvement from my previous best!
I’ve tried to come up with the words to accurately describe how I felt when I finished but I can’t choose the right ones. I know it sounds corny, but it’s the truth. Similar to how you can’t put the Grand Canyon into words, the same goes for my emotions after I finished my marathon.
If you are an athlete or performer, then you can understand what it feels like to have all of your training, sweat, and energy pay off perfectly when it’s time to perform. It was a perfect day that could not have gone any better for me. I’m still smiling now a few days removed from the experience writing this post!
Perhaps the best description I can give is what I wrote in my journal on Sunday:
So that I can have moments like these. To feel on top of the world. To have the run I had today where everything goes right and you run strong from start to finish and never hit the wall. To remind you that you are an amazing human being who can do amazing things. I go through all the tough times to be rewarded with a moment and race like this. It’s the one of the best feelings in the world!
The point of my long winded story is to tell you that you too can accomplish your dreams, even when someone tells you that you can’t do it. I didn’t let the fact that the race officials cancelled the full marathon stand in my way to achieving my goals.
I made my own plan so that I could still chase my dream. You have the power to do the same thing.
Don’t let anyone stand in your way when it comes to what you want and what your heart is seeking!
Create your own path and you will be rewarded as I was with my marathon experience. You can have the same flooding of emotions that I experienced.
It’s all there for you for the taking. Don’t let anyone stand in the way of your dreams!
Has there been a time where you’ve had to create your own path to your dreams?
I would love to hear your story in the comments!