The Joplin Memorial Marathon was today. This event honors the lives lost in the May 22, 2011, tornado and the rebuilding process since. The slogan is “Run. Remember. Rebuild.” Beginning and ending each distance-marathon, half-marathon and 5K, runners pass 161 banners with the names of each victim. It’s an inspiring and kind of gut-wrenching sight to run through those banners. It stretches almost a full mile and I always search for names of people that I knew.
Our family has been a part of this race since the first year. Ken always ran the longer distance while the kids and I ran the 5K. I have done that distance with friends and students who were running their first 5K races. It is a race that I always enjoy. It’s humbling to run in remembrance of the tornado and all that it means for the spirit of our city.
This year, I decided to run the half-marathon distance along with Zane and a few other friends. Ken was running the full and Angelina chose the 5K. The half-marathoners I was running with planned to start together, then run our own races and meet back at the finish line. Everything started off better than planned. The weather was perfect- sunny, but not hot. No wind. I slept well and felt ready to run.
I felt strong and wanted to see what I could do on my own, so I took off from my friends in the first mile. Although I usually have earbuds with my Running Playlist pumping in my ears, I opted to simply run and soak in the crowds until I needed a musical boost. I waved hello to spectators, gave high-fives to volunteers, sang along to the music blaring at water stops. This was my race and I was killing it.
Until mile 7 when the wheels fell off! I stopped to stretch my IT band. The tightness was starting to affect my knee, so I wanted to work it out. I stopped again to stretch. And again. Nothing was working. My pace slowed tremendously, but I held out hope that I could pull it back together. The friends that I left in mile 1 caught up to me. They stretched with me on the curb. Another friend was passing out cold towels and he worked over my knee. I felt some relief, but it didn’t last.
The final 6.1 miles of my half included more shuffling than running and two more stops in medical tents to have a professional stretch my IT band in hopes of getting lasting relief. Volunteers noticed that my gait was awkward and started to ask if I needed assistance. I politely thanked them, but refused. I was going to do this. Thoughts of an awesome time were out the window, for sure. It was all about finishing now.
Ken was coming in from his full when he saw me struggling in the last mile. I know he is super fast, but still–that’s how much my pace had nose-dived! He slowed down to see if I needed him to finish with me. I didn’t. I wanted him to finish with his own time. He had his own race to run. I was determined–no matter how much pain I was now feeling.
I limped along-half running, half walking- until I could see the finish line in sight. That was the point when a volunteer jumped in to make sure I ran it in. I don’t know her name–she wasn’t even from Joplin–but she saved the day. She kept my eye on the finish and my spirits high. So close! I heard my daughter yell my name. My new pacer friend called her over and said, “Run your mom in!” So, that’s exactly what we did. My son, his friend and Ken were waiting at the finish with hugs and cheers. They knew what I went through to finish the race.
They stepped in to get ice and a chair for me. They made sure I had a water bottle and some food as they sat down on the ground while I iced my knee. We took pictures. We laughed. We told stories of our runs. I was definitely in pain, but I felt awesome! Best support crew ever!!
So, this wasn’t my best race. That’s for certain. However, I learned a lot about myself as I dug deep to find strength. I chunked those last miles, at some points into mere blocks. Each one was its own victory. I’m feeling pretty badass right about now…as I lay on the couch with my ice pack!