One morning, about a month ago, after a killer 19 mile run in the heat, I sat in a cold tub of water, looked up at Sweet Husband and said, "I don't know if I can do this."
"That's ok," he said without a trace of his typical wise-ass humor. "If you want to quit, honey, you can totally quit."
Even as tired as I was, my whole being rebelled at that word, as he had known it would.
"I don't think I'm very good at that quitting thing," I arched an eyebrow up at him in mock displeasure that he had suckered me in with his reverse psychology.
His eyes crinkled into a smile, "Nope, you're not."
I had a lot of time to replay that conversation on Saturday, as I ran my first marathon.
It was a perfect day. I was feeling amazing. Looking back at the splits even, I couldn't have planned it better.
And then, sometime right around 21.5 miles, I stepped wrong. There was a little divet in the road--not even enough to trip over--but it ganked my knee sideways. I could tell it wasn't good, so I headed over to the curb.
I stumbled down and gingerly stretched my leg out. Unfortunately, my tummy was a little queasy anyway, and...well, running gummies aren't yummy the second time 'round.
A few of Kansas City's finest headed over to check on me. I was afraid they were going to make me stop, but I was only 5 miles from the finish--so freaking close. With no aid station nearby, one officer offered me his bottle of water and his lunch. I accepted the water, but nothing else was going in my stomach just then. Seeing that I had my cell phone in case I needed to call someone, thankfully, they eventually decided I was OK to go on.
As long as I didn't bend the knee I could keep moving forward, peg-leg style, but each time I tried to run a few steps my knee screamed and the nausea came back. So, I started walking. I knew that any time-goal was shot-to-hell, but I still just wanted to finish.
Not gonna make it pretty, it was about the most depressing 5 miles of my life.
I was on pace to be done in about 4:40 when I hit the 21 mile marker. I ended up finishing in just under 6 hours. Sweet Husband came out to walk about the last quarter mile with me. I had texted him to say I was hobbling in, but as the full story spilled out I started to cry.
"Hey, don't think about that now. You're almost there."
And then, not at all in the way I envisioned it, I stepped over the finish line.
I'm still trying to process how I feel about it. On the one hand, "Yay, I finished!" On the other, I'd be lying if I said I'm not a little down about the difference between the race I had and the one I almost had.
I'm also a little worried about how soon I'm going to be able to run again on my bunged-up knee. Ibuprofen and ice have helped, but it still feels like the ligament is going to snap when I'm walking around. Giving it a few days before I head to the doc, but it sucks.
To end on a happier note, though, a few very heartfelt thank yous....
First, to Ms. Cara Combs. She's a kick-ass friend, in general, but these past few months she's been taking the Kid to the park and for coffee/chocolate milk so that Sweet Husband and I could both finish our long runs. If you leave your kids sometimes to run (or do whatever your hobby is, really) you know that can take a huge toll in mama-guilt. But Cara and the Kid were having so much fun together that there wasn't a thing for me to feel guilty about.
Next, to her hubby, Nick. Although we've only known him for a year (inside joke), his good humor has quickly become essential to all our adventures. Had he been along, I would have, no doubt, spent those last miles laughing my ass off at some crazy story about his dysfunctional co-workers. Also--although he might kill me for saying it--dude can write. (To post it again here would be vanity, but he penned a pre-race pep talk on my Facebook wall that made me cry.)
Then, of course, to my boys. The Kid, who I hope grows up seeing that the minute you catch yourself wistfully saying, "I could never do that," is right when you should start trying. And Sweet Husband...because of, well, everything, but mostly because of how amazing it is to get to walk (and run!) through life with someone who really knows you.
Last, but not least, thank you all of you (and Patti, too!), for showing up on Saturday, with awesome signs and cowbells, to boot! I know I made it a long day, but being aware that my people were waiting at the end was a pretty big chunk of what got me through it.