Well, here we are. Twelve hours from now I'll be shivering at the Runners Village. Add on a few more hours and it will be official. I will be a marathoner. I started this crazy journey back in February when I sat at a computer, constantly refreshing the registration page until the stroke of noon. When I finally got through there was no hesitation before clicking "submit registration." I probably clicked it without thinking at all, so there was no change of chickening out. And as soon as "CONGRATULATIONS, YOU'RE IN" appeared on my monitor, I yelped out loud at my desk, printed the screen, and proceeded to start freaking out. Since that day, I've had that sentence taped to both my refrigerator at home and my monitor at work. This race, for 9 months now, has never been far from my mind.
Training started in June, although I'd be running on and off since early April. My first long run was a mere 8 miles and it was a struggle. I remember, so many times, asking myself how was I ever going to do this? I would try a short 4 after work and every step was agony. It felt like I had blocks tied to my legs and I didn't understand what was happening. I'd never been a fast runner but running had never come so hard to me before. It was like I'd never done it before in my life. I didn't think that phase was ever going to end and I thought my negative mindset was going to spell the end of this race before it even started.
Things turned a corner, thank goodness, after my first 16 miler. It was the longest I'd ever run before and it felt great! I have a picture from that morning, post-run, all smiles and two thumbs up. On longer runs since I've tried to go back to that moment and how it felt to be so happy and proud. Telling myself "girl, you've got this." That and a few other mantras are in my back pocket for tomorrow. The last few weeks of training haven't been ideal. As I'm sure has been the case for many a runner, the training caught up with me and that plus nerves and a taper have tested my mental game. I don't really have a goal for tomorrow aside from finishing. Yes, I do have a good, better, and best time in my head. But I'm not pushing it and I'm not running with a pace group. I'm just going to do my thing and see what happens.
After all the hard work this is supposed to be the celebration. What I've heard most, more than "no crying," was "have fun." Savor the experience. The music. The crowds. The Marines. Take it all in. I'm not going to stress about looking for family and friends on the course. I know they'll find me. Speaking of, this seems like a good time for acknowledgments. Friends and family, you've gone above and beyond. You've tolerated every blog update, every complaint, every worry. You supported me when I didn't support myself. THANK YOU. To the CAR crew, I was a late arrival and you welcomed me with open arms. You made every track workout bearable with your words of encouragement and essential advice. My fellow bloggers and followers, whom I am proud to call friends, you have been amazing. I can't tell you how much it has meant to have my words read and feel heard. I've learned so much and been so inspired by you. I'll be carrying you with me tomorrow, trust me.
Lastly, to my DSG family. I didn't think I was going to make it. Honestly. I saw a DNS or a DNF in my future. Now? I see nothing but the words MARATHONER and it is because of you. Whether it was laughter, tears, or comfortable silence you made the miles memorable and bearable. Sometimes even enjoyable. Duyen, I know you won't ever read this, but you're amazing. I couldn't have asked for a better running partner with whom to spend my Saturday mornings. Tuan, there are no words. You were all laughs and smiles and self-deprecating jokes. When the going got tough and there was crying, I was surprised to find there was another side to you. A friend and fierce competitor. I've saved every email I've gotten from you. Every word of advice and every crack about being a cat lady. Without a doubt, I wouldn't be toeing the line tomorrow if it wasn't for your leadership. Thank you doesn't seem like enough.
My bag is packed, my bib pinned to my shirt. Dinner has been eaten and one calming beer is about to be had. There is nothing left for me to do but sleep and show up. I don't think I'll get a wink of sleep but that is okay. I know there are thousands of others out there tonight going through exactly the same thing. And I'll see all their smiling, crying, laughing, nervous faces tomorrow. Whether I'll be planning for the next one or cursing the first one, I'll be a marathoner by this time tomorrow. Say what you will about the running boom and surging popularity of marathons. Yeah, maybe everyone has done it. Maybe it isn't such a big deal anymore? I doubt it. At least, it still is to me. And that is all that matters. I've got this. MCM, I'm coming for you. Get ready.