On Friday February 23rd, I carefully laid everything out I would need for my race the next day. I said goodnight to my family and tried to get some sleep, which is really hard the night before a big race.
Friday night I slept pretty well, only waking up around midnight and then early at 2:10am. I quickly dressed and headed out, anxious to arrive at the race pick-up early enough to actually get a parking spot. With 2,225 people running the marathon, there’s only so many available.
I rode up on the first bus, arriving at the starting line 4:30am. I was pleased to learn that all runners would be allowed to stay on the bus so we could be warm and actually have a place to sit. Normally we’re asked to exit the bus immediately upon arrival and spend the next 2 hours waiting for the restroom and shivering in a trash sack or emergency blanket next to a propane heater to stay warm. At 5:00am Coach Paul showed up and joined me on my bus.
Coach Paul promised me that if I started the race conservatively, and stuck to my 8:15-8:20 mile pace, I would have enough strength left in me at the end of the race to hit my Boston qualifying time of 3:45. He reminded me that I needed a strong final 10k (last 6 miles) and that if I went out too fast, I would raise my heart rate too early and cause myself gastric distress sooner. I knew he was right, as that was exactly what had happened to me last year. I felt prepared and confident but in the back of my mind, I still wondered what my gut would do when I refueled at mile 13.
The morning was fairly cool for the Phoenix area at 36 degrees. I had said a prayer and knew my family would also be praying for me. The race began at 6am up Usury Mountain in Mesa. It was still dark so I was running slightly blind; trying not to trip or crash into people for a few miles as the racing pack began to thin out.
I wouldn’t see my family until mile 10, so I focused on pacing myself. As the miles passed, I thought of others as I listened to specific songs that reminded me of them; helping me to run with gratitude and humility.
At mile 10 I saw my family for the first time. Their presence gave me strength as I knew my real race would be starting shortly. At the halfway point, mile 13; I opted for a quick potty stop as I refueled.
At mile 18, I started to feel some familiar queasiness in my stomach. While I’ve run with an upset stomach before, this is often a warning sign of intestinal issues. At this point, I realized I had truly done everything I possibly could to prepare for this race. I decided to reach out in prayer to God. As I was running, I prayed, and asked God to not only take away my upset stomach, but send some guardian angels to run with me.
Praying while running isn’t new to me. Last year during a 12-mile training run, I got sick, threw up and tried to keep running, but my body would not have it. I prayed and asked God to help me finish my run, but every time I attempted to run again I would simply dry-heave. I was dehydrated and my body would not respond no matter what I tried. So instead I had a 3-mile walk, crying all the way back to my car. Saturday though, was different. I hadn’t thrown up yet, had worked to keep my heart rate low and was just starting to feel sick. Shortly after I finished my prayer my nausea subsided as I kept running.
As each mile passed, I still felt strong and I knew I could hit my time goal. When I saw my family for the last time at mile 22, I told them, “I’m going to qualify…” and they smiled and said, “of course you are” as they cheered me on. With each half mile, I started to see my time slow just a little. I realized that even though I could feel my heart rate rising as fatigue was setting in, I knew I was going to qualify for Boston.
The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon (it’s been operating for 120 years, since 1897) and ranks as one of the world’s best-known road racing events. The entire city of Boston Massachusetts turns out to cheer runners on, lining the entire 26.2-mile course. The race is always held on Patriots Day, the 3rd Monday in April.
Qualifying for Boston is only the first step. Once you’re able to submit a qualifying time on a certified course, it’s still a lottery selection based on a preset time for your age group. For the 2018 Boston Marathon, qualifiers who were 3 minutes, 23 seconds or faster than the Qualifying time for their age group and gender were accepted to run into the marathon.
When I hit mile 24- I started to feel dizzy. I ran past a guy who was completely passed out on the ground and being attended to by emergency medical personal. I knew if I stopped running or passed out, my race was over. Again, I said a prayer and asked for strength to be able to finish the race. I was so close to the finish and knew Coach Paul and my family would be there waiting for me.
When I spotted the finish chute, I was happy to see that I was not only done, but I had hit my goal with a 5-minute time buffer. I heard my family and Coach Paul call my name, cheering for me my last few steps. All that effort, time and hard work had paid off, just like we are promised it always will. My official race time was 3 hours 45 minutes and 1 second, with an average pace of 8:24 per mile.
I immediately headed to the medical tent and met my family right outside. The Phoenix and Mesa EMT’s and fire departments took great care of me. After a liter of IV-fluid and a nice warm blanket, I was ready to take a few pictures and head home.
In this race, I felt a divine presence strengthening and sustaining me. I am grateful for the tender mercies and grace of God that attended me Saturday. I was once again reminded, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me…” (Philippians 4:13)