So, a recap. This was my fourth Chicago Marathon, and my fifth overall.
The first 8 miles were good. I followed my plan of 4:2 run/walk and that was comfortable, I felt I could keep going just fine. The pace allowed me to eat and drink as I needed to easily, and also gave me a chance to cool down each time I walked. I knew it would get hotter as the day went on so that was important.
And then, suddenly, my left ankle twinged. Loudly. Angrily. The same feeling it had given me six weeks before. Back then that pain wasn't what had stopped me (the foot bruising on my right foot was the ultimate culprit), but I recognized it immediately. I kept going, cautiously, but within a mile things were much worse.
Excruciating, in fact. Make me cry kind of pain. It was clear I wouldn't be able to continue for another 17 miles. I stopped. Hobbled forward. Stopped. Texted The Dude to let him know I was calling it. Just like that, my marathon was over.
Except I wasn't willing to wait at the side of the road, so I kept limping on to the next aid station. Only it didn't come. I kept going, stopping from time to time to rest, rotate my foot, start again. I reached the Gatorade/water area and asked about the aid station only to be told it was past all the drink stands, so I kept going...
And somewhere between the beginning of the water area and the end I realized my foot didn't hurt as much as it had been. In fact, enough so that I didn't look for the aid station and decided to go just a little bit farther.
After all, it felt lame to only be out there for two hours. Could I possibly do 3? Four? Could I get to 10 miles? Eleven? A half? Or even 16 (the length of my longest runs to that point and the place where I'd sometimes had trouble in past marathons)?
And underlying all that, I remembered what an online friend had written me early that morning:
I woke up thinking about you. Today is going to be a very good day because you will be open to possibilities- and I know in my heart that you will be a blessing to someone else on the course today, simply by being YOU.
Well. If Laurie thought I would be a blessing to someone - but I didn't know where, or how, or when - then I needed to stay out there on the course for as long as I possibly could.
I put on a podcast and kept walking.
I was resigned to not finishing - I figured I was going so slowly I would get scooped off the course when they needed to shut it down. But that was okay. That was out of my hands. All I could do was keep walking, and so I did.
At about mile 15 I thought I might try to run a little, walking was getting tiresome. Keeping my feet very low I tried a little shuffle run - and it was okay. So from there I ran a little (shuffled a little), walked some. Shuffled a little, walked some. Made sure I was still taking in enough to eat, to drink, taking my salt tabs.
I had never been so aware of the course as this time and it was glorious. In the past I had remembered some parts of it as being bare. Desolate, even, and I kept looking for that and couldn't find it. All along the way there was something to see, to remark on, to enjoy. I recognized people on the course - passing them, being passed by them - more so than ever before. This was a whole new marathon.
At some point I realized I could probably do it. My God, I'd already endured 10 miserable miles, what was another 8 really? And with each mile it became more and more within my grasp, even the possibility of finishing within the cutoff.
Make no mistake, this was rough. Painful. Tiresome. Hot. (I was doing okay on food, but I spent easily the last eight miles fantasizing about a cold Coke.)
And then it was 20 miles and I thought, okay, this is going to happen. Then 22, 24, and then there was the turn and the rise and the last stretch and I was done. Despite the pain, despite my disbelief.
And in (almost ) all my photos from the course, I am smiling.
Six hours and thirty-six minutes. Over the allotted time, so not an official finisher. But. I have my medal. I know what I did and what it took. And I wouldn't change anything about it.