Grace and Grit: The Salt Lake City Marathon

I’m home. And it’s good to be home.

But it was great to be there, too. If you’ve ever wanted to fly across the country to run 26.2 miles I mean, who doesn’t??? consider the tale of of Mommy who hates to leave home. Mommy had to be brave.

Last Friday morning I awoke at 4 a.m. and drove to the airport in the pitch black, headed toward a race. After four months of training through the coldest and snowiest New England winter ever, it was finally here. I was excited for the adventure, feeling both invincible and like a complete hypochondriac.  In flight, every sneeze, cough, and possible measles contamination was aimed at me. Every step was a potential fall and twist of an ankle. The day before I left Paige had a possible and contagious(!) case of strep throat and Brynne had cried, bursting out that she thought my plane was going to crash. I took two of Paige’s antibiotics and hoped it covered both scenarios. I know. It was bad of me. I still feel guilty. And probably killed all good gut flora.

 The big bird in the sky carried me west, where already the nerves were starting to tingle with fear and an excited anticipation.

IMG_3024Of course I had to take pictures, marveling at the Sky Guy’s great work. I read about the Boston Marathon, just two days after SLC. I read about all the spectators who lost limbs. How hard this year has been. I read about the little boy who wrote about peace, then died because of that stupid, senseless bomb. I read about the heroes. And try not to weep. I close my eyes and imagine a finish line. #BostonStrong now feels intrinsically tied to this thing Marathon Glenn and I are about to do.

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We land at the base of the Rockies. It’s just wow. My rock star sister picks me up and takes me to the expo where we serendipitously run into Marathon Glenn and family. Destiny! Glenn is my brother-in-law, the optimist, the instigator of this race, the inspiration for us all. He’s driven eight hours with his family and flown me across the country with a flight voucher when he could have gone to Disney! Just so we can run 26.2 miles the next day. It’s a little…wacky? Yeah, and we’re almost jumping up and down with excitement.

IMG_3031We eat free yogurt, try on race headbands. This is Finny! We pick up our bib numbers, 689 and 690 out of 5000 runners and cyclists.

The nerves build. But so does energy and this feeling that we’re almost there. We once again discuss strategy, hills, altitude, and correct fuel. We pick a conservative strategy: start slow and if there is anything left at mile 20, go for it.

That night the gear is carefully laid out; part of mental preparation. Wicking socks, shorts, shirt, bib number with four pins. 2 vanilla GUs and 1 salted caramel, GU belt, Body Glide, hair bands, watch. Tunes. And then. The Shoes – pretty run fasters!

That night each one of my brothers texts, sends a YouTube video, or emails. Sisters-in-law, New England running buddy and I exchange emails and well wishes. I feel surrounded by love. My mom and dad call, wishing they were with me. They are.

IMG_3032I eye the band I’ve worn for four months. “I Will Go Faster.” please?

IMG_3034Sleep comes, though I glance at the clock every few hours. Finally we arise at 5 with no need for an alarm. Peanut butter and banana for breakfast. I can hardly get it down. It feels like the dead of night when Sister drops us off. Glenn and I walk past the parked Bomb Squad van. Can you believe this? Then there is the line of port-a-potties. Which is good since I visit the potties five times beforehand. The body is amazingly good at knowing.

IMG_3040The last picture before the outer wear comes off, and one last pit stop. I find a tree. Don’t care. At this point it’s akin to childbirth. We head toward the start and the national anthem is sung live. The crowd swells toward the start. Out of the 5000 racers, only 888 are running the full marathon. The rest will do the half or cycle. I wonder why? Do they know something I don’t? Marathon Glenn gives me a fist pump. Go gettem’. So we try. See you at the finish line!

The first 5 miles come easily. Time flies as I run without music, wanting to save it for when I really need it. There are some downhills. Love that. I run through water stops the first few times. Police officers, EMTS, the Bomb Squad, the firemen; all of them arose at 3 a.m. so we could do this. Geez, we’re blessed.

The whole first half I’m holding myself back, whoa Nellie! I make myself go slow, wondering if altitude or the hills are going to kick my butt. We have studied the map countless times. Miles 6-15 are the hills. But mile 9-10 is supposed to be the big one. Streets are blocked off so the race is pretty quiet. The sun is coming up over the mountains and I run toward the light. Until we turn and are left in the shadows with hills to climb. I feel utterly alone. Me against myself.

We pass a church and I ponder the word Grace, a topic I’ve been obsessed with for months. We casually fling out phrases like, “by the grace of God” but I’m just starting to get it. Grace is his strength, something bigger than what we can do on our own. This is what I’m going to need – some Grace. More than me. Many of my friends tell me that when they run, they talk to God, Allah, or Buddah, or the great unknown Universe. I nod enthusiastically – I thought it was just me! Our words are different, but our meaning is the same. We pray for Grace out there, mile after mile, because this is when you begin to suffer. You descend, are humbled by this really hard thing – whether it’s to run one or 26 miles. You somehow know that you’re just not going to get it done on your own.

Humility brings you to your knees. As my legs move and my feet hit the pavement I think of all the people who wish they could run. You GET to run this race. You have legs! You’re so lucky. But I also know – it’s not just a gift. Every single mile is earned. It’s Grit. And woo-wee, Grit combined with Grace is an unstoppable combination. You give what you’ve got and he’s going to give you back a little bit more. You stop asking the wrong questions. Instead of asking for more, you say, please help me run my best race.

I see Kim twice, with little Tate and Finn. I’m so happy to see them. I realize I have never been alone. All these runners and spectators are running with me. It’s deep, cathartic. There are so many meanings with each mile marker. So we run and we suffer together.

Mile 20 and I’m not feeling the final kick I was hoping for. I’m asking, where are the downhills??? The map indicated downhill! They don’t come. Those final miles are just about holding on as the sun beats down. I look down at my watch. I’ve got to hang on. You came for a Personal Record (PR). Now RUN! Oh, I try. I run through the pain until finally, the finish line looms. I can hear my brother-in-law cheering, see my sister in tears. Because that’s what finish lines do to us. It’s a genetic thing. We cry.

I wobble through the finish line and see Ashley. She ran a full marathon four months pregnant and looks like she took a lovely stroll in the park. I whimper something that sounds like congratulations! She’s amazing. Four months pregnant.

IMG_3064This picture says, I’m going to throw up.

IMG_3065This picture says, I’m still going to throw up.

But then I have to get up and go find Marathon Glenn. He had big dreams! Where is he?

IMG_3066I find Marathon Glenn! He beats his PR by 25 whole minutes – HUGE! I’m so proud of him, even though this picture says, I still feel like throwing up. But strangely, it’s kind of an awesome feeling.

See you next time, he says. Will there be a next time? I’m still trying not to throw up.

As sister and family go to an Easter egg hunt, I shower and rest. I am terribly homesick, wondering how to stow myself in the wheel compartment of an airplane. But then Daddy calls and tells me that the stomach bug hit the house. I ditch the stowaway plan in a heartbeat second. Daddy says this makes me sound bad 🙂

IMG_3045Okay, so here’s random picture in the middle of marathon weekend. That night I recover by going to a Brandon Mull signing. Cool! I want to interrogate him on his writing process, but am hardly coherent. I just snap a photo. He’s really nice. Even as I droop around the Fablehaven display.

IMG_3071That night the sun sets over the mountains. We sit for hours as my sister shows me her garden plans, the newly plowed soil. Her husband Curt makes me the most delicious tomato soup and I’m such a pig I eat almost the whole pot.(recipe coming!)

My sister chases her kids, calls them in for bed, snuggles them, stays up late making gluten-free Easter muffins. In many ways, my life is just easier than hers because I feel good and her stomach always hurts. Yet she just keeps on going, being a mother to five children, running her own race on a different course. She says she’s proud of me. I say I’m proud of her. So it’s win-win 🙂

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The trees are in full bloom in Utah on Easter Sunday. The kids call me from their sick beds and give me all the important news – I threw up at church! Three times! Poor Daddy is running his very own marathon, too…

The next morning I board the plane, and come back to where I came from. Thousands of miles across the sky. Parking is paid and I drive the 45 miles home, on highway that turns into country roads.

IMG_3080This is the reason Mamas should leave every one in awhile. Those cherub devils realize they want you to come back.

IMG_3081Mommy!!! I missed you sooo much! “Did you win?” they shout. I laugh. One person actually wins a marathon. And I stand in awe. But for the rest of us, we hang a finisher’s metal around our necks. “Yes. We won. BECAUSE WE FINISHED.”

We hug, kiss, and then they run to the backyard to finish a baseball game.  Daddy has made dinner. I swoon with gratitude. Never in my life have I been so happy to unload the dishwasher. I do a load of laundry. Mom is home.

IMG_3117All week I find notes around the house.

IMG_3116All sorts of notes.

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It’s so good to be home.

It was bittersweet, but right after the marathon, I took off my “I Will Go Faster” band and carefully tucked it into a small zipped pocket of my bag. It’s time to slow down for awhile, time to recover, water the tomato seedlings, read Curious George, and think about the ideal compost ratio.

But dang it, a slow burn has already begun. Here is something I know: We have not yet reached our potential.

The call hasn’t come yet, but I know it will. One of these days Marathon Glenn is going to come calling again…I’m so glad 🙂

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12 thoughts on “Grace and Grit: The Salt Lake City Marathon

  1. Nina

    Congrats! IT’s such a major accomplishment to set a goal like this and complete it. And I love the symbolism of taking off the bracelet. They really are times to slow down, too. It’s so powerful to recognize that.

    Reply
  2. thewalshies

    This is an amazing piece of writing – I was teary eyed through the whole thing – congratulations on your run!

    Reply
  3. Marathon Glenn

    This was great! I feel so much stronger heading into the summer. Maybe a nice say half marathon in June or July?

    Reply
  4. Lindsey

    Amy! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post! Beautifully written and SO inspiring! It gives me inspiration for the upcoming 5K! 😉 I love the notes from your kids – they are all so proud of you and you are showing them how to be strong and brave and chase your dreams.
    My only problem with this excellent piece or writing is your lack of bragging that you DID get a PR and you kicked that marathon’s bootie! Congrats again! xoxo

    Reply
  5. Kim

    YEA! I love this post. Beautifully written about a beautiful and also nauseating experience. Congrats Amy. You were and are amazing. Thanks for being there when Marathon Glenn comes calling. I’m so not ready to answer his calls and I’m so glad he has you to coerce into marathon torture.

    Reply
  6. Tina Muir

    Beautiful post, do not ever doubt yourself for that race. Running a marathon IS a HUGE achievement, and even though we all struggle with it, we should not compare ourselves to others, it is all about doing the best you can do, and you did that….the trying not to throw up photos show that.

    I remember last year when I ran my 2:49, I thought everyone would be disapointed in me as I was saying how I was going to run sub 2:40, but you know what? Noone really cared about the time, it was all about the fact that i RAN A MARATHON! Most people cannot complete that, so you should be proud…and your kids clearly are…such cute notes by the way.

    Stay strong, you have a lot to offer this world, and so many of us who love reading about your life 🙂

    Reply
  7. Cindy

    Wonderful post, Amy! Amazing that you ran the whole thing!! Wow! Loved the homecoming and the notes from your kids. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder… 🙂

    Reply
  8. Patrick

    Great post, Maisy! You are a great writer because you can explain deeper meaning in everyday life…. and make it interesting and engaging to read.
    Well done on the marathon.

    Reply

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