running past yesterday

November 17, 2009 at 3:37 pm 4 comments

i was born and raised in washington, DC. not maryland, not virginia. actually in DC. one by one, my family has all gone in different directions and four years ago my mom finally followed through on the threat to sell my childhood home of 30+ years ~ a move that ripped up the last of my hometown roots. though i still have friends in DC, trips “home” now take me further north and i never allowed myself a reason to go back. so for me, running the marine corp marathon in DC wasn’t just about the 26.2. it wasn’t just the challenge of another marathon or the finishers medal. for me, it was about going home.

i got into town late friday night and though saturday i went to the race expo, i made a very conscious effort to not venture further. i’d thought long and hard about things and i wanted my homecoming to be unique. i wanted to revisit my life in a way that really couldn’t be explained, only experienced. every runner runs for their own reason. and i readily admit mine is often about running away. so this was going to be different. very different. i was actually choosing to run through my life instead of from it. and to be honest i wasn’t sure if the emotional journey i was going to embark on would be a blessing or a curse.

sunday morning, standing at the starting line i felt no recognition of my surroundings. the race could have been anywhere. i was one of twenty-two thousand runners, energized and nervous, ready but not. i found myself focusing on the training. the preparation. and i started to not just wonder, but actually hope, that i’d been mistaken and that maybe it was simply going to be about running.

the national anthem. a starting gun. the shuffle to the front. typical run.
or not …

within a mile i knew i was home. the familiarity of the parkway, the creek, the bridges. even the smell was familiar. a strange combination of nature and city enveloped by a crisp mix of the fall chill. a couple of times i actually believed i saw myself ~ a tow-headed little tomboy ~ down playing in the water, searching for crayfish alongside my brothers. skipping stones, hopping from rock to rock. hiding in a magical oasis that most visitors fail to see. to many DC is merely a city. buildings and a hustle and bustle of crowds. but there’s a whole other side that filled my childhood. there was ice skating on the canal and riding horses through rock creek park. hikes along the potomac and picnics in the woods. tell me i grew up in a major metropolis and to this day i’d question it. i  look back on my childhood with mostly fond memories. and it was here, in the trees and waters of rock creek park, where many of those days were spent.

trees turned to row houses and water to brick roads as we came into georgetown ~ a place that offers up some stories of my past that are, at this moment, better left untold. we ran past the exorcist stairs ~ i’m sure very few runners recognized that landmark ~ and past the building that once was the art gallery i worked in. past what had been fino’s and crazy horse. past the first bar i ever talked my way into at the way too young and should have been innocent age of thirteen. many of my old stomping grounds were replaced with retail stores, but as i ran down M street the memories that instantly flooded over me were intense. some good, some bad. teenage years of angst and emotion. broken relationships. late night fun. if those sidewalks could talk i wouldn’t have wanted to listen. many of those days are better left forgotten.

i was so caught up in the nostalgia, i hardly paid heed to the fact that i was running a marathon. the only time i seemed to really acknowledge the run, was at each 5k marker. there i made a conscious effort to not simply run but to actually step right on the mark. i knew that in an instant my split time would be delivered by text to my two biggest fans; sab ~ back home in florida at her friend juju’s house and jc ~ sitting in a hotel room in pittsburgh, as i found out later, watching me live online. in my head, each 5k milestone sent a story. an insight into the memories the run was eliciting. and i wanted to share everything i rediscovered with them both.

it was somewhere around mile 13 or 14 that i first felt a preface of what was to come. the tendon i’d battled with for months started to bother me but it was familiar. a pain i’d come to know quite well and i knew wouldn’t stop me. i made a quick detour to a red cross tent for tylenol. better to be safe than sorry and it was a move that had fared me well in training. but there was something else that i couldn’t quite place. a stiffness, a dull pain that had no specific definition in my legs but i knew was there. i hoped whatever was lurking would be silenced along with the tendon.

by mile 18 i was really feeling the distance but i was far from done. i had more city to see. more memories to recapture. to many, i’m sure this was the most inspiring part of the run. memorials and monuments. the capitol building. history surrounding us. there is no other city that tells such an emotional story of our great country and the men and women who have fought to secure our safety and freedoms. but for me it wasn’t just about the buildings or the statues. i’d been here many times. sung at the white house. climbed the washington monument. waded in the reflection pool. many a time i’d played tour guide to friends. and it was here that i came to appreciate the unique beauty and culture of the city and of myself.

it was right before mile 24 where everything changed. the cursed mile 24. at disney it’s where i hit the mental wall and i have to wonder if mind over matter took me down again. i went to take a step and in almost slow motion i felt the lack of support my leg was about to give me. i’m not sure how i stayed on my feet. the cramp was so severe, the pain so intense, it stopped me dead in my tracks. i heard a woman on the side of the road ~ a race spectator~ ask if i needed help but i assured her i was ok. i tried to stretch my calf but immediately knew it to be a bad idea. had i done it, had i pushed through that stretch, i think my leg would have locked up. i had no other option but to keep moving. i walked for about 30 seconds and then decided i had to try and run through it.

i made it about half a mile before i had to walk again. i could barely bend my legs and my pace had dropped well below what i needed it to be. it wasn’t long before i knew without a doubt that my goal was gone from reach. i felt someone tap me on my shoulder and turned to see JJ. i would have thought him to be far in front of me and was shocked to see us side by side. come on, he motioned, and i fell into step beside him. but within seconds i was pulling ahead. i slowed down but he shook his head and gestured me on. “i’ll stay with you”, i told him, “you ran me in at disney, i’ll run you in here!” but he wouldn’t hear it. “i’m done,” he said, “you need to go”.

just past mile 25 i turned a corner and was surprised to see eko in the crowd. he ran in beside me and assessed my situation, told me that almost no one in our group was having a good race, and assured me the end was near. i wanted him to stay with me. i wanted someone to keep telling me i could make it in spite of the pain. but i knew JJ was somewhere back behind me and i knew he needed it more. i waved eko on. told him to drop back and support and almost as quickly as he’d jumped in to run with me, he was gone and i was back on my own. for a moment i was worried. unsure if i could run another step without reassurance but it was at that moment i vowed to run every last step of the race in spite of the voice inside my head telling me i wouldn’t make it. ironic ~ i spend most every day of my life wishing i had someone next to me, but pushing away anyone who wants to be just so i can prove to myself that i can do it on my own.

for months i’d agonized over the cruelty of the elevation chart. taped above my desk i often found myself cursing it silently ~ really? a hill? at mile 26? i knew it was coming and i knew that i had to ~ for whatever bit of pride i could walk away with ~ i HAD to run that hill. i watched runner after runner stop to walk and i weaved my way through them as they fell off to the side. and as much as i wanted to join them, somehow i didn’t. somehow i ran every last step of that hill and when i crossed the finish line i was surprised to find myself fighting back uncharacteristic tears.

physically i had succeeded again. i didn’t make my goal but i finished in 4:15:10 a PR by six and a half minutes and i had pushed through pain that would have stopped many. statistically i finished 6,822 overall ~ the top 30 percent ~ and among females and in my age division i was in the top 22 percent. but more rewarding was what i had embraced emotionally. there’s a lot i can’t ~ or maybe won’t ~ explain. specific memories that often make me question who i am today. but fact is, every step i took in DC ~ in the race and in my past ~ has made me the woman i am today. it’s not always easy and i don’t have it figured out. but in 26.2 miles i reread my story and learned without a doubt that i can and will always run the last hill.


Entry filed under: running. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

one today at a time the finish line

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. sarah  |  November 17, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Fantastic! You are amazing and inspiring!!

  • 2. a pain in the butt « becelisa  |  June 8, 2010 at 9:26 am

    […] avoidance started last september when i was training for the marine corp marathon. my ankle threatened to sideline me from a race i wanted so much out of. i ignored it for a […]

  • 3. 30:11 « becelisa  |  February 21, 2013 at 11:16 am

    […] and number four on 14- hours notice! MCM was a powerful race for me. born and raised in DC the run was a journey through my life i’ll never forget. it’s an experience i likely never can duplicate and one i never expected i would even try to. […]

  • 4. mcm x2 | becelisa  |  November 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    […] the first time i ran the marine corp marathon was a life altering experience. running through my childhood home and seeing it from that completely unique vantage point was like running through the story of my life and i didn’t dream i could duplicate it so i fully expected this time around to be more about the physical side of the run versus the emotional. […]


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the best of times

5k pr ~ 24:23
10k pr ~ 52:49
half marathon pr ~ 1:55:10
marathon pr ~ 4:10:41
half ironman pr ~ 5:57:50
50k pr ~ 5:33:23
50-mile pr ~ 11:32:39



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