As I look back at all of my marathons over the next 2 weeks leading up to my 14th marathon, I have realized just how much the marathon has made me into who I am today. Even more importantly as I look back, I have seen how God has used the marathon to grow me physically, mentally and most importantly, spiritually. Each day over the next 2 weeks, I will share the story of one of my previous 13 marathons and how each of these have led me to where I am today.
My decision to run my first marathon came out of a very difficult first year at college. I spent the year injured and unable to compete in cross country and track, and academically, I was struggling for the first time in my life. I was questioning my major and ultimately, in the spring of 2004 I decided to change majors and to change schools. I wanted a clean slate and the same went for my running as well. A high school teammate of mine encouraged me to sign up for the Twin Cities Marathon in October and he and I could train together over the summer. It sounded like a great idea, so I jumped at it.
Having no idea how to train for a marathon, I sought out advice from anyone who had run one before and tried many things I hadn't done in my running before. Some worked, some didn't. Eventually, the taper period came and I was really getting excited. However, a week before the marathon, some of the worst news I have ever received came to me...a high school teammate of mine had passed away very suddenly. I was in shock. I couldn't believe it. The next morning I skipped classes and just went for a long run (probably too long for it being 6 days before the marathon, but I needed it emotionally) to clear my head and let some of my frustration out. I was mad. Specifically, I was mad at God for taking my friend away like this. However, that run sparked an idea in my head of how I could still run this marathon.
I made the decision to sow a patch onto my jersey in honor of my late teammate and I wrote his name on my shoes. Every step I took would be in his honor. The day before the marathon, we laid him to rest, and I began to turn all of my thoughts to the marathon.
The race itself was a bit of a footnote after all that had transpired but a moment I'll never forget came at mile 17 on West River Road, I yelled out to my parents that I wanted to go to Boston. I knew I was running well and was on pace to qualify for the Boston Marathon on my first attempt, something not many people are able to do. Perhaps I spoke a little too soon, because the run on Summit Avenue was brutal. However, I reached the finish line in 3:10:47, a time that qualified me for Boston by a mere 12 seconds!! As I crossed that finish line, I threw my hands into the air and I cried. The tears were more about the emotional journey I had been on over the past week than it was about the race, but it all culminated in what is now one of my favorite places in the entire world, the Twin Cities Marathon finish line.