Three years ago on March 16, 2014, I ran my first full marathon with one of my best running buddies, Belinda, at the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. For both of us, it was our first ever full, and we were terrified–the farthest we had gone in training was 20 miles, which is sufficient, but I couldn’t imagine what those last 6.2 miles would be like because when I was finished with my 20 miler, I didn’t want to take another step.

When the long run was over, I hobbled to my car in amazement that I actually ran what I should have driven and got something to eat. All I wanted after a long run was to sit and sip a peanut butter chocolate smoothie and eat a flatbread sandwich at Tropical Smoothie. I daydreamed about that smoothie on the run, and it wasn’t good if I started to fantasize about food when I still had 5 more miles to go. Belinda and I discussed recipes we wanted to try on the run, which was wonderful for sharing ideas, but made us both hungry. Those gummies and GUs did not suffice, nor did a banana or a muffin near mile 18.

And that’s just it: after 20 miles no one wants to take another step, but they do anyway. That’s why I run marathons: I’ve proven to myself that my mind can make my body do something it doesn’t want to do. At some point during the race, my mind wanders, and sometimes I think I’m not actually running in the cold and the rain and the wind, but somewhere else. I feel like it’s some sort of out of body experience until I look to the side and say something to Belinda in order to draw me back to reality. Thank goodness for running buddies–I might lose my mind otherwise.

Half way through the marathon, Belinda felt her knee give out. Prior to the race, we agreed that if something happened, an injury, stomach issues, etc., that the other person would go ahead and finish the race even if one of us couldn’t. A marathon is a long way after all. Belinda wasn’t sure if she could finish the race, but she decided to keep going and take it slower with plenty of walking breaks. My worst fear had come true: she told me to go ahead and run a good race. I hesitated for a few miles, but by the half marathon point, I decided to run ahead and finish the race. She gave me a big hug and reminded me to say hi to her husband near Fort Story–he had goodies for us to eat.

Around mile 18, I waved to Kirk with truck full of food and kept going. I turned into Fort Story and into the wind. This section of the course is the toughest. Since it’s on base, civilians can’t cheer you on, so crowd support is nonexistent, especially with the current weather of near freezing temperatures, wind, and rain. Only a few people ran near me, a group of three women. Two of the women were trying to encourage their friend who kept stopping to walk to continue. A lone runner with a sweatshirt over her head moaned as she walked past the EMS vehicle. I thought about helping her, but the ambulance was right there if she needed it. I ducked my head a bit and kept running into the wind. I missed Belinda and wondered why I went ahead.

We both finished the marathon about a half hour apart, but we finished, which was something I thought was impossible when I started running in 2012. Now, Belinda is training for another marathon, and I’m preparing for my fifth marathon in Chicago this October. We’ve both come a long way, and we’re still running buddies.

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