Friday night was the Team In Training Inspirational Pasta Dinner. While we loaded up on carbs we watched an inspiring slideshow of honored teammates who have conquered cancer, are still fighting, and those who sadly lost their battle. It was great to be reminded of why we were all there and who we were really running for. After dinner we had a couple of wonderful speakers. First was John "The Penguin" Bingham, author for Runner's World magazine and national spokesperson for LLS. John told us his story of how he became a runner after years of being a sef-proclaimed "couch potato". The great thing about John is that he truly represents to average runner, and proves that pretty much anyone can run a marathon if they set their mind to it. My favorite thing about him is that he proudly declares that he is slow - and couldn't care less! For him, it's all about enjoying the experience and crossing the finish line, no matter how long that may take. He pointed out that although the elite runners will finish the marathon before many of us are even halfway, none of them has ever run for as long as we will to finish our marathon.
The next speaker was meant to inspire us, which she certainly did, but not without bringing a tear to eye of everyone listening. The woman told us the story of her son, Luke, who was diagnosed with Leukemia when he was just a few years old and is still battling it. Her heart-wrenching story was followed by a wonderful slideshow of Luke and his family, a smile always on the little boy's face. You could easily see what the cancer had done to his little body, and imagine the struggles he'd been through. This became my mantra for the race: If they can fight cancer, I can run another mile. After a very emotional evening, Sarah and I were more than ready to head back to our hotel and get some sleep before our 3am wake-up call!!!
Things went quite well at the beginning, as I tried to get in my stride. Tom and I stuck together as planned and encouraged each other. The quaint little neighborhoods we ran through were so cute and many of the residents were out there cheering and offering there support. A unique feature of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series is that there are live bands every couple miles so we had some great entertainment along the way : ) From about mile 5-9 the course took us along the beautiful shores of Lake Washington with spectacular scenery! We saw my parents for the first time at mile 7 and it was just the encouragement I needed at that point. One of the highlights of the race was along this stretch - a bald eagle was perched in a tree right above the course! Tons of runners paused to take a quick pic - it cause quite the traffic jam! At that point my feet really started to ache, and would continue to do so throughout the race.
Miles 10-12 split the half and full marathoners and took the latter along a "floating" bridge over Lake Washington. It sounds much more fun and beautiful than it was - it was like running on a never-ending freeway! The bridge was like an optical illusion, the miles looking shorter or longer than they actually were. At that point it was really starting to warm up to I started pouring full cups of water on my head to keep me cool. Along the way Tom and I passed a woman whose shirt said she was a recent survivor - nothing like that to keep you moving forward : )
The next few miles got us to the halfway mark and then the course took us toward downtown Seattle where we met my parents again around mile 14. Then around mile 15 Tom began struggling from the heat and lack of fluids. He decided to walk a few miles so I reluctantly moved on ahead by myself. I have to say that I'm pretty proud of myself for running almost half the marathon by myself. It definitely tested me mentally and physically. But honestly, it hurt more to walk so I had to keep running! Miles 17-19 were on a steady incline and were pretty difficult, but I just kept telling myself that at least the next few would be downhill! I started running with this old TNT runner, Stu, and had some great conversations with him about TNT, running, and life. We kept passing and catching each other all the way til the end! Passing the 20 mile marker was a weird feeling since that was the most I'd ever run up til that point. The next 6.2 miles would really be a mental test. Around mile 22 I spotted Sarah's mom, Karen, and her friend up above the freeway and that pushed me through another mile.
And then there was miles 23-26. Not only did this stretch take us right past the Finish Line, but they continued on a long, straight road, right past a railroad depot, with no shade and awful scenery. Clearly not the best part of the race. Around this point Sarah and I met up and ran mile 25 together, both in shock that we were so close! The last half mile took us down a freeway offramp and into Qwest Field. Despite my throbbing feet, I started sprinting as fast as I could down that hill and toward the finish line. One of our mentors spotted me from the crowd and started running with me. I checked my watch and saw that I could make it under my goal of 5 hours, 30 minutes, so I kept pushing! As I neared the finish line I glanced at the sideline and saw some of my teammates and my parents cheering for me. And then I was there, arms raised, smile plastered on my face, emotions running high, body ready to collapse. AMAZING!!
I don't know if a shower has ever felt so amazing in my life...it was glorious! Despite being exhausted, napping wasn't as easy as I'd hoped. Every part of my body ached and throbbed, making it almost impossible to fall asleep. Eventually I napped a little and then we headed out to a team dinner at Mama's Mexican Restaurant. We enjoyed some much-deserved margaritas and stuffed ourselves with delicious food to replenish all the calories we'd burned. It really was a great night, with amazing people and good conversation. I couldn't have asked for a better team to experience this with.
That night Sarah and I spent our last night in our fabulous hotel, and then said goodbye to Seattle the next morning, which was in the midst of the wonderfully colorful and exuberant Pride Parade. Lucky for me I didn't head home right away. My mom and I headed to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington to stay with my grandparents at their vacation home. It was just what I needed, a relaxing and peaceful week in a beautiful place.