When the wake up call came at 4:30am, I was already awake. I get up, try to eat a marathon bar for breakfast, start getting dressed, put race bib on jersey, start hydrating, getting the kids ready, and just somehow trying to contain the amount of nervous energy pouring out of my body. We all meet in the lobby at 5:30 am and head to the start line. When we arrive at the meeting point, we realize that Sarah's stroller never made the journey from the hotel. It was about a 20 minute drive to get there. I was beginning to panic. My mom, God Bless her, planned on watching Sarah. Now my youngest is 40 lbs, and full of spunk and Life and has absolutely no fear. I was worried how my mom was going to handle her without a stroller to contain her in. Not to mention the fact that she was a very tired girl, and holding a sleeping 40 lb child is EXHAUSTING. My mom and my sister calm me down, ensure me that they will be just fine, and tell me to let it go. Easier said than done, but bottom line I trust my mom and sister, and I knew they would handle it. We have our morning prayer, and then head to the start line.
I had partnered up with another gal who was hoping to finish her first half-marathon around the 2 hours and 15 min mark, which was my goal as well. As we are heading to the start line we take off jogging, for a warm-up I follow my husband and his partner, who is Bishop Paprocki. We get in line, check our gear, and then head for the actual start line...I asked if I could just go to the finish line, and got a good chuckle out of the group. I gave Steve a kiss, and we separated. Liz and I started wondering our way through the massive crowd of runners trying to get to the 2:15 pacer. It was so tight with people, we could hardly walk, let alone run. We get to where we can see the 2:20 pacer, and call it good.
My stomach is in knots...... I actually feel like I want to vomit, but I hold it together. Somehow in the massive crowd, my sister finds me, she comes running up and gives me a hug, and one last word of encouragement. A few minutes later, I hear the start of the race. We begin a slow jog to the start line. I ran probably 200 to 300 meters before we even reached the start line. The first two miles of the run were on a gradual uphill. I remembered thinking, "I thought there were only two hills on this coarse?" The good news was that I was completely consumed with what was going on around me. Before I know it people around me are cheering, and that is when I see the two mile marker. What a strange thing...I thought, "WOOHOO! Only 11.1 more to go." Liz and I were talking comfortably and then she broke off to use the bathroom. At this point I'm on my own and I am just taking it all in. I am completely surrounded by other runners, and enjoying the crowds and the signs that they are holding up. One of my favorites I saw between mile two and three said "DON'T POOP YOUR PANTS!" I know this is going to sound strange, but I immediately thought of my hubby. When running 13.1 or 26.2 miles your body does strange things, and many runners have had that experience. I never have had trouble in my training runs, so I said a little prayer that I didn't have trouble in the race. Between mile 3 and 4 there was a HUGE hill. As I was running up the hill I thought, "Oh my gosh, I can't do this." I was panicking a little because I was huffing and puffing and hadn't even reached mile 4. So I started to walk at the steepest part of the hill. Just then another LIFE runner came by (Jason Peters), and said good job Tina you can do this. I decided at that moment that I would run the rest of the race...no more walking. So I started running after about 10 feet of walking, and I kept running.
When I reached mile four there was a live reggae band singing, "Every things going to be alright." It was like a little message from heaven for me. It helped me take a few deep breaths, and calm down. I tried to get lost in my prayers like I did in my training runs, but it was very hard for me. I was too distracted by the people around me, the crowds, the signs, and the live music. It was just a really cool to be part of this environment. At somewhere between mile six and seven, Rob Rysavy came running up beside me, (he was running the Full marathon) and he put his arm around my shoulder and said, "I'm praying for you right now." I smiled and thanked him. I needed that so much, because I was beginning to panic. I knew we broke off from the marathoners around mile 7, and I had myself so scared that I was going to miss the separation, and that I would go the wrong way. It was very clearly marked so I didn't miss it, but I "didn't know, what I didn't know".
At mile 8 I had to stop and use the bathroom, all I can say is those were some of the most disgusting portapotties I had ever seen. When I reach mile nine, I start thinking for the first time that I am actually doing this..... I'm actually going to finish a half-marathon. I start crying......then I tell myself to pull it together. At this point I start praying, or trying to pray, until another sign grabbed my attention. This one said, "Chafe now Brag later"..... I smiled, because OH MY GOODNESS, have I struggled with the chafing! I come up on mile 10, the star spangled banner is playing, and I see a sign that says, "Run because you CAN." I was reminded of the dream I had earlier in my training, when some rare disease took my legs and caused me to not be able to run. I also thought of all the people in wheelchairs who had physical limitations and could not run.
At this point I was starting to cramp, but it wasn't bad. I thought, "Wow....maybe I wont hit the wall everyone talks about at mile ten." That thought made me happy. I never did hit the wall at mile 10, but boy did I hit a MAJOR wall between mile 11 and 12. My legs felt like lead dipped in cement casing. Trying to get them to move took every ounce of my will. I felt some pop around my ankle and shin in my right leg, and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to finish the race. I said a prayer. At this point God showed me all the times in my life where I gave up when I could have kept going, where I didn't think I could do it.....where I didn't feel I was good enough for God to use me in a powerful way. I saw how many times I turned away from what was being asked of me, because I didn't feel worthy. I saw how fear has controlled me, how doubt has held me captive, and I decided NO MORE, and I kept running. I'm running for the babies, I'm running for Jesus, I'm running for all of those that are hurting, and I am finishing because God asked me too.
My sister and my kids were some of the first people I seen as I rounded one of the two corners to get me to the finish. I saw them yelling and cheering, and of course I was crying. Ann asks, "Why are you crying?" In typical Ann fashion she starts running while carrying her youngest son, and tells me, "If I can run carrying Donny you can do it!" It made me smile, and I picked up my pace. As I rounded the second corner, I could see the finish line. I had told myself that with the pain in my right leg,there was probably no way I could sprint it in, but that I would finish. Well I heard my sister-in-law Angi yell, "You got this....spread your wings and fly!" So I did. It was like my angels came down, and flew me to the finish. I was able to finish hard and strong, despite the throbbing pain in my leg. As I was about to cross the finish line I remember raising my hands to the skies and just praising Jesus! I DID IT! I finished 13.1 miles, and in the process I had one of the biggest emotional victories in my life. GOD IS GREAT! Here's my finish...click here for 30 second video.
I was so emotional because, I didn't sell myself short. My time was 2 hours 31 minutes and 32 seconds. There was a time, where that would have devastated me that I was 15 minutes behind where I wanted to be, but I honestly didn't care. I had finished, and I celebrated that fact. As I was walking "the chute" I got my medal, my chocolate milk and banana, it was like I was in a fog.....almost like the past two hours were a dream. I met my family and was able to cheer my brother-in-law Pat in as he finished his full marathon. Pat came to find me after his race and he tells me about all of the miles in his past races how he prayed for me, and about the times he appreciated me cheering him on, and how I was the best cheerer out there. He then he tells me how happy he was, that I wasn't cheering today, and how proud he was of me for running/finishing my race. It is a true blessing that my brother-in-law is a brother to me in every way.
Then it was time for Mary and Sam to run their 1.2 mile. They started their race at 11am, and that was about the time Steve was going to be coming across the finish line. Luckily the two finishes were along the same stretch of street, and I was able to run between the two and cheering for the kids and watching for Steve. I saw both Sam and Mary finish their races, and then I was able to see Steve coming in as well. Steve ran over to the gate where I was screaming and yelling like a lunatic. It doesn't matter how many times I've seen him finish, I still get emotional. I love that man! He runs over and gives me a kiss, and I swat him on the rear, and tell him to get going and finish hard. Steve ran his personal best marathon. I was so proud of him.
As I look back on my race, I think fondly of all of the runners that commented on my jersey. I thought of the man, who said " Thank you for your shirt, We should all be running for the babies..... I know I am." God is using the jerseys to change hearts, and he is using our prayers as well........ more to come! Check out the awesome LIFE Runners video of the race set to the song "Courageous".