Thursday, March 29, 2007

Running on Empty

On Sunday, March 25th, my husband, my best friend and I all set out to defeat the impossible: we were running in the ING Inaugural Atlanta Marathon. My husband had been injured since the Miami marathon in late January, so he hadn’t actually trained for about 2 solid months. Regardless, his awesome attitude was so refreshing – he just wanted to finish the half marathon. I was so proud of him because he is generally an extremely competitive individual. EXTREMELY. And I don’t mean competitive with just other people, he is competitive within himself. You would think that this is a good trait, and generally it is. But I have witnessed some grizzly bear-like behavior from him in the past because of this competitive streak. The man would probably eat his own young when in this competitive trance. I have to smile when I think about how laid back and relaxed he was about Atlanta though. He finished in less than 3 hours, which is pretty darn good given the fact that he didn’t train a lick the 2 months prior! Way to go Meat, I am proud of you!

As for Jason Simoni and I, the race definitely tested our limits. I am a goals oriented person, so I prefer to be running FOR something or FOR someone. The Miami half marathon, for example, I ran for me because I hadn’t run for myself yet. The Atlanta race was indirectly for me because I ran for my brother, Paul. Paul was killed 3 years ago in Ohio and the tragedy has forever changed our family dynamic. I do not have any other siblings. My parents do not have any other children. Every day is a constant reminder that we no longer have Paul with us here. He would not graduate college. He would not get married. He would not have his own children. He would not be there with me when my parents pass away. Paul is gone and he is not coming back.

The first 18 miles went well, given the fact that Atlanta is covered with hills. Simoni and I attacked the hills going up, and coasted/relaxed on the way down. The problem was, after you ran down one hill, you found yourself going up another… and another… and another. The Atlanta course was by far one of the prettiest and friendliest races, but it was also extremely challenging. I had on a shirt that said “FOR PAUL” on the back, in green to represent the organ donation ribbon color. My shoes were also green with a lapel green ribbon pin I had attached to the right one. My reasoning was that when I wanted to quit, I would probably look down at my feet. That pin was there to remind why I was doing this and whom I was doing it for. People would pass us and say such nice things like “C’mon girlie, you know Paul wouldn’t quit!” and “Paul would be so proud of you.” Every time someone said anything, I would get choked up and I would fight back tears. Simoni would literally hold me up (he was helping me walk for a few miles at this point) and there was a time, at mile 25, that Simoni was holding back the tears too.

Simoni is truthfully the real reason I didn’t quit. After stopping at a med station at around mile 24 or 25 (I truthfully don’t remember which because I was dehydrated, shaking and delirious. Papa Smurf could have been the doctor checking my pulse for all I knew) Simoni and I informed the doctor that I wasn’t stopping now. “I’ve made it this far” was my response. And Simoni wouldn’t let them take me either. After that brief pause, Simoni continued with his motivational speeches. He wasn’t necessarily yelling at me, but he would speak in an intense tone and use cuss words to express his seriousness. “I’m serious, Timmons. You’re not going to quit! If I have to carry your f*+%ing @ss across that damn finish line! I am going to punch you so f*+%ing hard!” What are friends for, right? At that time, I would just nod my head in agreeance, half wondering if he would in fact hit me so hard in the kidney that I would piss blood for a week and half wondering if the Snorks and the Easter Bunny would be waiting for me at the finish line. If I didn’t have Simoni, I probably would have laid down in the grass and wished for the slow van, an ambulance or the Mystery Machine to come pick me up. I am not sure if it was because of the hills or the heat (they had record highs that day. Go figure.) Or because people kept reminding me why I was there, but that event was the single hardest thing I have ever done. I have never wanted to quit anything so bad before in my life – and I am not a quitter. My mother would never let me quit anything I started (including softball, but repressed memories from little league sports might have to be its own post someday), so I couldn’t quit then and I wasn’t about to start now.

Upon finishing, I slammed on the brakes and began my staggering descent towards the asphalt. Yep, I was going to be one of those weenies who has to get wheeled off the finish line. I was shaking and couldn’t breathe because Simoni and I ran the very last mile together. He was so positive and strong; I have a tremendous amount of respect for him for what he did for me. As if being wheeled away in a wheelchair wasn’t embarrassing enough, a man with prosthetic legs beat Simoni and I and was being treated for his sores in the medical tent right next to me. There were people being given fluids with IV’s, people were getting ice wrapped to body parts and the man with no legs. There were 400 people treated in the med tents and I was one of them.

I guess the funniest thing is, once the marathon was over and we had a day or two of recovery, we already started discussing which marathon we were going to run next. I remember telling my mom that I wasn’t entirely sure why on earth I continually do this to my body, but somewhere in the depths of my brain and my muscles, I must like doing it. Otherwise, why would I want to do it again… and again… and again? Our next race will hopefully be New York. I hope you are proud, Paul.

1 comment:

Simonisays said...

Thanks Jess. If it had not been for you i know that i would probably never even consider running a marathon. You have made such a positive impact on my life. It was very fitting that we were able to help each other finish that race together. Thank you for everything.