Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My First Marathon

This past Sunday I ran my very first Marathon!  I ran the Denver Rock and Roll Marathon.  It was an overwhelming experience that did not start the moment I began the race but early on in my training.  I have wanted to run a marathon for a VERY long time.  I would say this race was much more spiritual for me than physical.  This race recap is unusual.  I do not know how many will read it, but if you do, know that it is more a reflection of what God taught me over the last few months.

I decided in mid July to finally take the plunge and sign up for the race.  You can read about that decision in my previous post.  I am a nurse, and I cared for a 50 year old cancer patient who died within weeks of his diagnosis.  He died in my care.  In some ways, I saw my own life and my priorities through his passing.  It broke my heart. I had been taking a break from running blogs, and my obsession with running.  Yes, you can get TOO much of a good thing.  However, running is not bad in and of itself.  But any good thing can become an idol in one's life.  I had been dealing with mine.  My heart had refocussed itself on my Heavenly Father.  I believed I had the go ahead to sign up for my first Marathon.

Within weeks of beginning my training, I suffered a left hamstring injury.  "Ok, God, was I not hearing from you?"  I was VERY DISCOURAGED.  AGAIN I had to give my goal back to God, saying, "Your will be done."  I was certain I would have to change and run the 1/2 marathon instead.  I was praying for a positive attitude in spite of circumstances.  Thank GOD for amazing, supportive friends, one of which is a chiropractor.  I have ALWAYS been skeptical of chiropractic; EVEN though I know a ton of chiropractors that I really respect.  It's just the thought of someone cracking my body that wigs me out COMPLETELY. After a few weeks of not running, I saw my friend Richard at the advice of my husband.  My left hip was completely out of alignment.  MADE TOTAL SENSE TO ME.  I have had issues with my left hip, hamstring, knee and foot since the birth of my son.  He adjusted me, checked me out and said as long as I did not have any pain running, I could resume training.  Ironically, the hamstring pain was only with stretching or strength training.  So I ditched the strength training with my legs and stuck to gentle stretching.  Kept it strong with core work, push-ups and planks.  Anyway, my left side is doing AMAZINGLY well!  Such a little fix for something I have been struggling with for 2 years!

Training resumed.  I alternated tempo and speed work each week.  Basically I scaled back my intensity, to avoid injury.  Ha, God was my coach this time around instead of the internet.  Laugh if you want, but it is true.  I really tried to listen to my body and to what felt right.   I tried to focus on running ONLY when running instead of obsessing with it ALL day and EVERY day.  I did use the Hal Higdon Marathon plan, but modified.  I ran 2 twenty milers and maxed out at 54 miles, 3 weeks before my race.  No pain, no injury!

The taper began.  I got a required flu shot for work durning that time (do not recommend that 2 weeks before a marathon).  I got sick for a few days leading to my last longish run of 8 miles a week before my race.  I felt well enough to run the 8 miler and so I did it.  I felt ok for the first 6.  The last few miles were challenging and I was so tired.  I was praying for strength and feeling so weak.  Something just told me to focus on God.  I was listening to Pandora and Colten Dixon's song, "More of You" came on.  The words totally shifted my focus.  I thought about my entire training and what all of it was really about.  I thought about my running goals and how I have had to give them up over and over again.  I thought about God and surrendering everything to Him.  The song said it so well:

I made my castle tall
I built up every wall
This is my kingdom and it needs to fall
I want you and no one else
Empty me of myself
Until the only thing that's left is

More of You
Less of me
Make me who I'm meant to be
You're all I want all I need
You're everything
Take it all I surrender
Be my king
God I choose
More of You and Less of me
I need more of you
More of you

[Verse 2]
This life I hold so close
Oh, God I let it go
I refuse to gain the world and lose my soul
So take it all I abandon everything I am
You can have it
The only thing I need is
More of You

Read more: Colton Dixon - More Of You Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

I started praying out loud, "God, YOU are AMAZING!  YOU are WORTHY of PRAISE!  There is NO ONE LIKE YOU!  I WORSHIP YOU and YOU ALONE!  Be GLORIFIED IN MY LIFE."  I cannot really explain it, but some kind of sensation went over my entire body, and I had a surge of strength that carried me through those last few miles.  I cried when I got home.  I felt His presence all day.  God was WITH ME!  I realized that my eyes on Jesus and NOT MYSELF would carry me through anything.

After that run I decided to run my marathon WITHOUT my gps watch, and to trust God to carry me through my race.  I have nothing against GPS watches.  But this race was going to be my first marathon, and I wanted to enjoy my time and focus on God.

RACE DAY!  I was nervous, and I'm pretty sure I OVER CARBO LOADED!  LOL.   My husband kept telling me to "take it easy".   Ha!  But,  in spite of that there were so many little things that God took care of for me the week before the race.  I knew that He would be with me.  The first 13 miles, I was feeling just OK.  This made me nervous.  I was really trying to not go out too fast.  I began obsessing about my pace, when I had to remind myself that this race was NOT about my pace but about trusting God to carry me through it.  I was worried about hitting the wall and not finishing.  But, I kept reminding myself that He was with me.  That He would give me the strength that I needed.  

I carried a water bottle with me.  I wanted to avoid the water stations for the first 13 miles when they were crowded with 1/2 and full marathoners.  Around mile 15, a man at one of aid stations ran up to me and asked to refill my water bottle!  Wow!  That was so amazing!  I must say, the race spectators and volunteers were simply amazing!  All through my training runs, I would sip on my water about every mile.  I was worried about how I would feel the last part of the race, when water stations were every 1.5 to 2 Miles.  God blessed me with that man!  THANK YOU whoever you are! 

Miles 18-22 were the hardest for me.  I think I needed salt!  I drank Gatorade at the water stations and would feel better.  I felt like I was slowing.  Again, I was worried that I would not finish.  But, I kept reminding myself that God was with me.  Mile 20 and this was the furthest I had ever ran!  "Take one mile at a time!"  "Just get to mile 22."  "Once you get to mile 23, it will practically be over."  When I hit mile 23, I started really praying and thinking about all that God had taught me over the months.  We are studying the life of Moses in my women's Bible study, and I was thinking about how insecure Moses was about His speaking and leading abilities, and how God used Him in spite of them.  Moses' faith increased as He focussed on God instead of his own strength and talent.  Here I was focussing on my ability to finish and I needed to focus on my God instead.  I started praying out loud as I did in the end of that 8 mile run just one week before:

"God, YOU are AMAZING!  YOU are WORTHY of PRAISE!  There is NO ONE LIKE YOU!  I WORSHIP YOU and YOU ALONE!  Be GLORIFIED IN MY LIFE."  Yes, I was saying this out loud.  No, I wasn't shouting, but I'm sure some people thought I was a little crazy.  I didn't care.  Strength came, and I GREATLY picked up my pace.  Mile 25, I was running faster than the entire race all the way to the finish line.


Thank you, GOD!  He did carry me through, just as He promised.  What is more important than this race is my faith in my Heavenly Father increased so much.  His ways are always the best.  Another song that I had on my running mix by "For King and Country", "Fix My Eyes",

The things of Earth are dimming
In the light of Your glory and grace
I'll set my sights upon Heaven
I'm fixing my eyes on you
I'm fixing my eyes on you
I'm fixing my eyes

Love like I'm not scared
Give when it's not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on you
I fix my eyes on you
I fix my eyes on you

Running is such an amazing analogy on life.  The bible uses it often to compare how we are to live our lives with God.   Of course I want to be the best runner I can be!  But whatever the Lord asks of me in all aspects of my life, is most important! 

I have the "Verse of the day" app on my phone.  My husband (who was there for the entire race and knew all of what God was working in me) also has it and told me to check the app on my phone.  He read it after I started the marathon.  I read it when I was finished.

I was blown away!  

Isaiah 40:29-31 "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Praise Him!  For HE is good!