Oh man…you guys, I don’t even know where to start. This was no where near the race I had been dreaming of, but in it’s own way, it was still the perfect race. FYI: This post is longer than long. Grab a mug o’ coffee, and settle in.
Let’s back up a bit. Over a month ago, I woke up to a super tight feeling in my hip. It’s something I’ve felt before, and never from running (I think it has to do with sleeping position?), but I’ve never run with that feeling. I woke up to this feeling the day I had an 18 miler scheduled. It hurt for the first several miles, but eventually loosened itself up, and it was fine.
Then a week later, I woke up the morning after a 14 mile run with a horrible pain in my knee that was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I called Coach Susan, freaked out a bit, took a week off running, then came back to run a killer 21 miler that felt absolutely perfect. After that perfect run, I got sick, and didn’t run for an other week until I ran an 11 miler that left my knee back in pain. I took more time off, and tried to run my final “long” 8 mile run, but stopped after 5 because my knee hurt.
I thought that I was okay, that I was not in too much pain, and I was just being cautious. I took a week and a half off running before the marathon. I iced, rolled, stretched, went to PT, and I swore to myself those 10 days off running would cure everything. Then on Saturday morning I ran for 15 minutes with Nicole, and my knee hurt. It hurt while I ran, and it hurt all day afterwards. Regardless, I showed up at the starting line hopeful, and ready to achieve my 4:29:59 goal that I never announced publicly, because I didn’t want to be disappointed if I didn’t reach it.
Nicole and I got to the start ridiculously early, and after over an hour of hanging out, we were on our way to the starting line where I saw Nacho. I screamed when I ran into him, cried a little, cried more during the national anthem, and then we were off. I kept telling Nicole I couldn’t believe we were running a marathon! Almost as soon as we’d taken off, I hear a man call out my name. I turned around and he said “I read your blog!” I about died. I was sosoSO excited! His name is Scott, and he ran Whiskey Row also. He saw my name on my shirt, said hello, and made my day! HI SCOTT!! I hope you had a great race!
Let me tell you, we had such AMAZING support! At mile 1, we saw Nacho, and he told us he’d be waiting for us at mile 9 (I think?), then around mile 3-4 we saw Emily and Lance, and Steve with my mom and Hank. I screamed when I saw my mom because I knew she was coming, but I didn’t know where she was going to be. They were screaming their faces off and taking pictures. I was still so happy here!
All of our long runs, we have been great at starting slow (usually 10:40ish), and gradually working our way down to around 9:30s, averaging around 10 min/miles. For 9 we were perfectly on track, regardless of the fact that my knee started hurting before the mile 1 marker, and that I had woken up with that same tightness in my hip. Our first mile clocked in at 10:30, and we were slowly getting faster, walking through all the water stations, and staying on target.
Mile 9 came in at 10:01, and then we stopped to use the porta potties, and I don’t know if it was the stop or what, but the pain in my knee got bad. Really bad. Like, every step was so painful, and I was starting to limp run. Luckily, we soon ran into Nacho. I was starting to take walking breaks really often, and I told him I was struggling. I tried to convince Nicole to go up ahead, but she insisted we were staying together. As much as I wanted her to go on and get the time I knew she was capable of, I was so relieved that she didn’t leave.
I have never been in so much pain while running, and I was legitimately scared, and even started to wonder if this race was worth making an injury worse. I decided it was. There is no question that this was not the “smart” decision, but for me, it was the right choice. When Nacho saw how badly I was doing, he started to run with us. In his jeans. He ran with us for miles. Between miles 10-14, I was just in a bad mental place. I was in so much pain, and I was upset about being in so much pain, and I felt an intense amount of guilt for ruining Nicole’s race. She was staying positive, and trying to snap me out of it. At mile 14, I saw my dad, Hermano and Cindy, and I started crying, but shortly after I finally accepted the fact that I was injured, and I needed to stop waiting for the pain to go away, and focus on running the best I could on that day.
Nacho stopped around mile 15, and told us he would see us on our way back (this was the only part of the course that had an out and back section). At the turn around at mile 16, we saw one of Nicole’s cheering sections, and before we knew it, we were on our way back down Indian School. Then, my stomach started bugging me, and around mile 17, we stopped for the bathroom again. We continued with run/walk/stretch over and over and over.
Just before mile 18, we saw Tim, and when he walked with us for a little while. He is such an inspiration, and he put a lot into perspective for me during this process. It was so nice that he walked with us for a while and encouraged me! He said this was the toughest part of the marathon, and that we were doing great. Soon after, we caught back up to Nacho, and he ran with us even MORE. He refused to let me get down, and kept saying “The Ari I know doesn’t give up”. At mile 19, I saw my dad, Hermano and Cindy again, and I knew that my big cheering section was coming up soon. Nacho continued to run with us up until mile 20.5 where he said goodbye, and said he would see us at the Mill Avenue bridge. I was so amazed, and overwhelmed by his support, and how he was there when I needed him.
Just before mile 21, from almost 1/4 mile away, I heard my mother-in-law (I wish there was a cuter term than mother-in-law PS) shout my name. I started pushing with all of my might, and it was almost like a mirage. A HUGE group of friends and family with signs for days shouting “GO ARI AND NICOLE!” I hugged my adorable niece, cried more, and Jason came up beside me, and told me that I was doing great. Steve had told them that I was having a rough time, but they were all great about not asking if I was okay, and just staying positive. Lisa (who is pregnant as can be) and Bethany started running with us and chanting with their signs. It was unbelievable. I felt so incredibly loved, and I was so grateful that I had decided to keep running. I knew quitting wasn’t an option, and mostly because I knew I couldn’t disappoint everyone who had given so much for me to get here.
At this point, exhaustion crept in. I didn’t expect to feel so tired because I had been walking so often, but the pain in my knee had traveled up to my hip and basically my entire left leg had been feeling a mess regardless of stopping at a medic station for ibuprofen, and being handed a mysterious prescription pain pill at mile 19 (don’t try this at home, kids). Every time I tried to pick up my leg, it felt impossible, and all of the sudden it wasn’t just hard because my knee hurt, it was just hard. From this point on, Steve stayed right by us on his bike. He had been on and off throughout the course. Originally I told him I only wanted to see him a few times so I could focus on the race, but when I started struggling, he showed up more and more often, and I was so grateful.
At this point he stayed by our side offering encouraging words. He happened to be wearing a shirt that made him look like he was a medic and someone thanked him for his service! Cracked me up. We saw Nicole’s cheering squad at Mile 23, then Lisa and some other BTB members at mile 25, and Jaime right after. Nacho was waiting at the bridge, just like he promised, and he ran the rest of the way with us, even through the finish line. If you ask me, he deserved it. After 26 miles of pain, we had finally made it. Nicole and I grabbed hands, and ran through the finish line holding hands, just as we had set out to do.
At first, it didn’t seem real. It wasn’t until I found Coach Susan that it started to sink in, and I started sobbing. I told her that my knee had hurt since the beginning and she hugged me, told me that I was a marathoner, and said “You ran your first marathon in 5 hours with an injury? That makes you a fucking badass. Excuse my language.” Then she told me she loved me, and that she really felt like it was her daughter who was out there. At some point in New York, we decided that I could be her daughter, so now she’s my running mom
There is so much about this experience that I still can’t even explain. Nicole stuck with me as we watched all of our time goals slip out of sight. Even at the end when the 5 hour pacer got out of our sight (that one hurt), and we watched our last time goal go by the wayside, she never left my side. After five hours and four minutes of running through pain, we became marathoners together, and I couldn’t have done it without her. It may not have been the race I dreamed of, but I experienced love and generosity that blew me away. I discovered a determination and dedication I didn’t know I possessed, and I finished.
I will say this: No matter how much pain I was in or how short my spurts of running were, I never gave up and stopped trying. Even when I could only run for a minute at a time before the pain got bad, I would run for a minute. I am still ridiculously happy, and proud to be a marathoner. I am proud that I pushed through something that would make so many people stop, and I’m proud that after 7 months, it finally became possible. Regardless of the physical pain, I managed to have one of the happiest days of my life, and I feel so undeserving of all of the kindness I have received. People told me that I am an inspiration, but it is the love and kindness I received from the people I love that I really find inspiring. Damn, I am lucky.
Thank you for all the support, and for all the love and comments along this journey. It has been incredible, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.