This morning I felt old.
Last night’s sleep was a time of bodily reparation. I was in and out of dreams, processing the experience of the race.
For those of you curious, I finished the race in 4 hours, 46 minutes, and 43 seconds. I ran the last two-tenths of a mile. Some new energy came coursing through my body once my feet stepped over the large chalked “26” on the asphalt, like my legs hadn’t been jelly worms for the last six miles. I crossed the finish line and finally stopped moving my body. For the first time in nearly three months, I drank a beer. A cold, bubbly, local microbrew, for free, out of a plastic Coors Lite cup, while I stood in an ice water kiddy pool and soaked in the feeling of doneness, all this shared with several dear friends.
Some of the more memorable aspects of the race were the entourages that accompanied me near the beginning and near the end. I started the race in the beautiful sunrise time at Emigrant Lake. I ran slowly the entire race. It seemed like almost everyone passed me in that first mile or so. Frank and Elizabeth were at the bottom of their driveway, cozied up in sweatpants and drinking coffee, cheering me on and giving a few last hugs. Their encouragement boosted me all the way to the intersection of the bike path and Mountain Avenue, where in the distance I saw my beloved bike. Not only my bike, but a young, strapping lad atop the bike. Not just any young, strapping lad, but my friend Travis Puntarelli, who had borrowed my bike to greet me and ride with me for a time. He had a tambourine and a big smile. I took the melodic shaker for a while, rattling it as I ran.
Travis and I had made it to around mile seven when I heard a cheerful ding from behind. I turned and saw B-Flat John and our friend Scott-from-Bend on old mountain bikes, cruising with the morning sun at their backs. It felt wonderful to be able to chat for a time. My energy was boosted and I felt loved and encouraged. They left me at one of my favorite stretches of the bike path, the several miles between Wellsprings and south Medford. I had been training on this section for the past few months and had ridden it countless times. It felt familiar and welcoming.
How did it feel to run for so long? It felt easy. I never felt like walking or slowing down. I never told myself I couldn’t do it, or that I could be running faster. Pains came and went: incredible all-encompassing knee pain, persistent pain in both feet, shoulder inflammation and tightness, headaches, stomach emptiness. Eventually I had those jelly worms for legs but somehow they kept pumping, back and forth, a seemingly tireless rhythm of forward motion. It’s not that I felt particularly strong. What kept me going was a blessedly still mind. I felt completely at peace for the entire race. I smiled at everyone along the track who was there to encourage or provide water, I smiled at the creek and at the trees and the warming sun, I smiled at my progress, I smiled at the other runners. I felt like my inner smile is really what carried me gracefully to the finish line.
When my body carried me over “20” I almost started crying. I spoke aloud: “Mile 20! So amazing!” I was awash in emotions, so proud of how far I’ve come in the race and in my life. Running this year has changed everything for me. And, in all honesty, I was pretty thrilled that there remained only 6.2 miles. That was nothing! A blink! And the surprises weren’t over.
I was between Medford and Central Point when I saw two hooligans approaching me on bikes. It was Dan and Jacqui, come to ride with me the rest of the way. They are, hands down, some of the best cheerleaders around. After running with them for a bit, I heard a familiar voice say “passing on your left”. It was Ian, wearing only boxer briefs and an old white shirt, running up next to me. Finally, about a mile from the end, Dani and Eowyn popped out of the grass with signs: “We ❤ U!” “Go Sara!” This six-person conglomerate followed me to the finish, Ian sprinting with me to the very end and all joining me for the foot ice bath beer experience. Elizabeth came with a little vase of roses. Eowyn eventually stripped down to swim in the foot bath. We all sat in the sun and relaxed together.
I fell into bed last night with the beauty of accomplishment and of a circle of incredible friends who wholeheartedly supported me through one of the most thrilling physical endeavors of my life. I woke up this morning barely able to rise up to join Dani in a cup of coffee and gingersnap cookies, but somehow I managed to join one of my dearest, most beautiful friends in a steaming mug and sweet delights before her daughter came bumping down the stairs, sleep in her eyes, wanting to snuggle.
Already planning my next marathon.