It's been ten weeks since I completed my first marathon, but I continue to get stoked as I reflect on the entire experience. From the first time I saw the OBX Marathon ad to the moment I crossed the finish line, I felt the Father's pleasure and encouragement every step of the way.
Coming off a yearlong case of plantar fasciitis (heel pain) and with little more than two months to train, a marathon seemed out of the question. But overriding all of my reasonable objections was the conviction that my Daddy was inviting me to run and that He would enable me to achieve my goal.
My training started well, but along the way little aches and pains crept up, challenging my belief that I could run a marathon. With less than a month to go, a right calf strain forced me to cut short a long training run and take a week off. Due to responsibilities at school, I was unable to train during the week leading up to the race. In spite of the setbacks, I had a sense that I was destined to run my first marathon.
The site of the race, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, holds a special significance for me because many of my ancestors were born there in the 1800's. My great-grandfather and namesake also built several cottages there in the early 1900's that are still standing. As I started the marathon along a country road lined with tall Carolina pines, I felt right at home.
The race itself was an incredible experience. I usually run alone, so starting a race with over one thousand fellow marathoners was a blast. There was a real sense of community - each runner encouraging the other in the pursuit of a common goal. Outer Banks residents lined the course to offer encouragement all along the way. One gentleman even offered cups of beer to passing runners.
After running several miles through a light drizzle, the clouds burst open at Mile 16 and I sloshed through a torrential downpour for a couple of miles. The rain was refreshing and I reveled in the challenge of pressing on through the driving storm. My previous longest run was twenty miles, so when I passed Mile 20 two thoughts hit me - "you're in uncharted territory now" and "you're going to make it!" I choked back tears and pushed ahead with renewed strength.
The most challenging part of the race was Mile 21 - the long bridge leading to Roanoke Island. The steep grade taxed every muscle in my legs and forced me to push through the pain. On the way up the bridge I pulled alongside an older runner who was maintaining a nice, steady pace. I decided to let him lead me across the bridge and we ran in perfect lockstep. Ironically, I spoke with him after the race and he remarked how I had helped him make it across the bridge.
Miles 22 and 23 were pretty tough. The nearness of the finish line inspired me to continue putting one foot in front of the other when every fiber of my body was screaming for rest. A couple of gulps of Gatorade and a packet of carbohydrate gel helped replenish my body for the final stretch. At Mile 24, something exploded inside and I felt a sudden burst of physical and emotional energy. I was so pumped that I broke into a full-bore sprint all the way to the finish line. This was my freedom run and with every stride I felt like I was being released into my destiny as a child of God.
The finish of the race was almost anticlimactic. There was a real sense of accomplishment, and my heart was filled with gratitude towards Father for enabling me to realize my dream of running a marathon.
Live free! Live in Daddy’s affection!