4 hours and 51 minutes later I crossed the finish line with a huge smile, arms in the air, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. And then the floodgates of tears opened. I cried because I was so tired, so excited to be done, but also so emotional that I could check something so big off the bucket list.
And it all began eight weeks ago.
I'm not sure what possessed me to wake up one morning and decide I was going to run a marathon. Somehow I felt inspired to lace up the running shoes, go for a jog, and decide that I would start training right then and there. I never stuck to the training schedule (as you may have read in previous blogs,) but I endured cold weather, blizzards, being chased by dogs, getting stuck in drainage ditches, and the most painful shin splints.
And all for what?
Since Sunday I've been asked many times, "Was it worth it?" and "Would you do it again?" People just shake their head and laugh as they watch me hobble by in pain, wondering why anyone would ever put themselves through this. At first I didn't understand it either. Some days it would be so hard to get out and train and I would almost convince myself that it wasn't worth it. But now I get it. While everyone in the race is unique and runs for different reasons, I feel like there are two types of marathon runners: those who race, and those who run. I am a runner. I am not in it to win it, or in it to accomplish a certain time; I simply run until I stop. As I ran on Saturday I watched people around me and saw myself in so many of them. They were in the zone, practicing what they had worked for for so long, and telling themselves "you're almost there." Many shirts said "Running in remembrance of..." or "In it to finish." I ran behind one girl for almost 22 miles and her shirt said "The feeling of pain is nothing compared to the feeling of quitting. Keep running." I read that one over and over again to myself. Just keep running.
I felt very moved and inspired by all the spectators on the streets of Fargo and Moorhead. People smiled and cheered us on, many of whom I'm sure knew no one in the race; they just felt compelled to cheer on thousands of strangers. My bib had my name on it so it was quite surreal to run by and hear "You can do it Jenny!" "Come on Jenny, you're almost there!" I was sweating, red in the face, and breathing hard but I didn't care because I was surrounded by thousands of others just like me. Every racer was putting his or her pain on display for the whole city to see. Raw pain, humility, passion, and desire.
And then it was over. I crossed the finish line alone, completely elated, and then stopped. I thought I would be so glad to stop running, to be able to sit down, but it didn't feel right. I felt like I should keep running, just keep moving. The rest of the day was hazy and surreal. Everyone kept asking me, "How was it?" but explaining the experience was like reliving a great dream. Details were blurred, time seemed irrelevant, and I felt very alone, but in a good way.
So was it all worth it? Imagine waking up from a great dream and being able to slip back into the wonder of it all a second or third time. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Wouldn't you?