Column: First marathon was a learning experience
"We learn geology the morning after the earthquake." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
|Sara Falkiewicz (left) and Christopher and Kayla Heimerman enjoy the warmth preserved by their Mylar blankets after completing the Wisconsin Marathon on Saturday in Kenosha, Wis. (Angel Sierraemail@example.com)|
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That quote speaks to me. When I woke up this morning, less than 24 hours removed from my first marathon, I descended the steps at our house one step at a time.
On my posterior. No joke.
I tried the first step upright but, despite supporting myself with the banister, it felt as though someone thrust a dagger into my left calf.
But the quote doesn’t just resonate because my body continues to feel the aftershocks of running my first marathon Saturday.
We spent 4 months training for that bad boy. We spent more than 4 hours running it. Yet it’s taken 24 hours of reflection to truly realize how much we’ve learned throughout the experience.
And what an experience it was. It was colder than the forecast, an average of 45 degrees and featuring some stiff winds, no sunshine and, just for variety, occasional drizzle.
We knew the conditions wouldn’t deter many runners, but figured the peanut galleries would be thinned. Not so much. They were comparable to the numbers that turned out when Steve and I ran the half 2 years ago.
And their support was incredibly vital.
Steve’s wife caught us with about a mile and a half to go and let us know how loud the crowd was at the finish line. That alone gave us some jump.
Despite my body’s betrayal of me having reached unforeseeable proportions, we pressed on. Over the next 1,600 meters or so, I must have told myself five times, “You’ve come too far to stop now.”
I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times that showed up in my inner monologue throughout.
But we managed to pry open the throttle over the final 800 meters and tear across the finish line. I hugged the heck out of Steve, then I vaguely remember unleashing a loud, celebratory holler. We didn’t set any records. In fact, we finished toward the middle of the pack. But we finished. That was enough.
Our good friend, Jillian Ketterhagen, volunteered to give out medals, and it was extraordinary to see her – even if I knew she would’ve run circles around Steve and I. After another emphatic hug, I bent over a bit and she slipped the medal around my neck.
I caught up with Kayla’s parents, and her mom showed me a video of Kayla battling at about the 19-mile mark. I started to cry. As I joked, I’m going to end up being that awful parent who puts their child back in their bubble every time they skin their knee. Meanwhile, I didn’t even realize I’d torn layers of skin off my heels and was bleeding all over my bright-orange shoes. But at that point, that was just a drop in the bucket.
The bottom line was I couldn’t bear to watch my girl struggle. But I had nothing to worry about. She and her running partner, Sara Falkiewicz, finished in high spirits. We posed for some pictures, shot some video with SVM online editor Angel Sierra, then enjoyed our free brat and beer.
No big surprise, after burning about 3,500 calories, the free meal didn’t last long. So after cleaning up, we had lunch with Sara, her mom (whose cowbell was like clanging caffeine the four times we saw her during the race), her best friend and Kayla’s dad.
Then we began the long, contemplative trek home.
We felt so proud, yet even more grateful for all the support we’ve gotten. Not just on raceday, but since training began Jan. 2. As challenging as the race was, training wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
But we stood by each other. We pushed each other. And, somehow, my respect and love for my wife reached greater depths.
I now know that, with her help, there’s nothing I can’t accomplish.
We learned a ton from this experience. I learned that my knees aren’t built for marathons. I’m honestly not sure I’ll do another one.
So where do we go from here then? I don’t know, but we’ll never stop learning. That leads me to another quote I’ll close with, from the late, great Eartha Kitt:
“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.”
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