Found Myself Running: The Way It Was…

A continuation of a previous post by Found Myself Running entitled: Greater than the Sum of my Parts.

Okay, everybody knows I’m an “older” woman…but one day,  if I am lucky, I will be a REALLY old lady.  I will no longer be able to run, to walk or maybe even to dream.  But if I am lucky, I will remember.  I will remember a day in October, 2013, when I tried to make my dreams come true.

I will remember lining up at the starting line, eyes getting misty and heart palpitating as I waited not so patiently for the race to begin. The weather was perfect…Sun was shining, air dry and just a touch of cool briskness.   How could I be so lucky?  How could this really be the day?  My heart was ready to sing for 26.2 miles.

And then we started to move forward.  Very slowly at first…stopping every few yards as the, waves of runners were released onto the course.   And then our turn came.  We crossed the pad and, with a cheer from the crowd,  we started to run.  I took off slowly,,,very slowly…and as planned, I stopped for a walk break after a minute.  I was gasping for air and was starting to feel my head pound and my breath was labored.  My Gymboss signaled and I started again, but this time it hurt worse.  I felt just AWFUL. I knew I was getting behind.  I was starting to panic.   I kept up the intervals past the one mile mark and I wasn’t really worried.  Because my walk intervals were so fast, I wasn’t really falling off my pace.  I decided to walk an extra interval–and the running got harder and harder.  I had made a fatal mistake–not a fatal mistake for me–but a fatal mistake for my marathon.  Each time I would try to run my legs got heavier and heavier.  As long as I was walking, I was making good time.  But when I would try to run I would start to hurt all over.  I was done for.
So I just kept walking.  Walking as fast as I could, but walking.  I passed people doing intervals.  I passed people running continuously but very slowly.  I felt okay.  I was doing it!  I was doing it!! When I saw my cheering squad first at mile 6 or so, I was walking but I was jubilant!!  I was doing it!  I was doing the CHICAGO MARATHON!!!!

Around mile 8, it appeared.  It was a car with a clock on it.  There was a loudspeaker coming from the car saying that if the car passed you would not be on pace to finish the race in the allotted 6 1/2 hours and you would be required to move to the sidewalk to finish the race.  In a block or two the pace car stopped.  I passed it and I did not see it again for a long time.   Evidently the pace car had gone a little faster so as to give us warning but when it stopped I was able to get far ahead of it and stay ahead of it.

I was ecstatic!  I was doing it!  I was walking, but I was doing it!!  I have friends that walk faster than I can run, so I was not that concerned!  I was going to finish the Chicago Marathon.  When I saw my cheering squad at about mile 13, I was starting to get tired.  I knew I was slowing down but I hoped I could get a move on it and get my pace back.  I finished the half in 3:25–about 10 minutes off pace.  I knew I was going to have to pick it up.  I tried a few intervals and felt pretty good, so I did a few of those and felt like my pace was starting to improve.

Then it happened…At around mile 15 the pace car passed me…
My heart dropped.
Several police cars were following the pace car and they were making the people behind me move to the sidewalk. In a last burst of desperation, I tried to run.  That 1/4 mile jog all but destroyed me.  I had felt like I was running from a demon and when the demon passed me, I felt utterly deflated.  I moved to the sidewalk.  Only then did I look back and see that there were hundreds of people behind me.  I was not nearly last.but I was on the sidewalk.

One thing I had learned in training is, “I HATE NEW ORLEANS SIDEWALKS”.  It turned out that Chicago sidewalks are worse.  The sidewalk was uneven and I had to watch my step.  But, worse of all, there were PEOPLE on the sidewalk.  Lots of people.  I got to a point where the other people were not in the race, but they were obstacles that I had to pass and weave around.  There were strollers, there were people chatting, there were homeless people.  And there was me…no longer on the verge of tears.  There was me, openly and shamelessly sobbing.  I had lost and I was still 10 miles from the finish line.

I saw the peeps again and I melted into a sobbing mess.  They comforted me, fed me, gave me water and offered to walk with me.  I stopped to go to a portapotty with no line–and I stayed a little extra time to sob uncontrollably.

THIS WAS MY RACE…THIS WAS WHAT I HAD PLANNED ON FOR YEARS, FOR MONTHS.  AND I HAD LOST.  BUT I COULD NOT STOP BECAUSE THAT WASN’T AN OPTION.  So in the ultimate humiliation, I had to walk as quickly as I could down a sidewalk full of people who, at best, just shook their heads.

At one point my son joined me for about a 1/4 mile and I remember telling him how discouraged I was–humiliated, demoralized.  I will always remember looking at his face and seeing real pain…the kind of pain you feel when someone you love is in pain.  The pain that is worse than the pain you feel yourself, the pain you cannot make stop by forcing yourself to think of something else, by being strong, by willing it to be so.  The worse kind of pain.  The pain of someone you love.  His wife later told me that he thought I was going to quit…but she told him that there was no way I would quit. Something tells me he wanted me to quit…to make the pain stop.

At mile 24 my Garmin quit.  About that time, Rick, my husband, and my sweet friend Belinda Loo were waiting for me to travel with me to the end.  I remember the look on my Rickster’s face when I told him he was wrong–that the finish line was not just right up ahead.   That it was two miles away, two long painful miles.  I remember that his face looked triumphant and that I could not believe he was listening to me.  I  remember that he said, with a crack in his voice and tears in his eyes.  “You are right.  You are ONLY two miles away.  ONE LAP AROUND THE PARK!! You are ALMOST finished!  You have done it!!”  “NO,” I argued, “I am TWO MILES AWAY!”  And he gave me the brightest smile I have ever seen on his face…”What is it you always say???  YOU GOT THIS!  There is no other choice!!!”  And, although he insists that I am the salesman in the family, he sold me.  And I knew he was right.

I will remember the last hill.  The LAST HILL, really only less than a quarter mile–straight up–that stood between me and the finish line.  I will remember saying to myself…I can do this, I can do this, I can do this….all the way to the top.

I  will remember the finish line.  The finish line that looked like a giant space walk up ahead…and how as I got closer I saw the barricade that was in front of it.  I will remember the finish line clock…frozen in time at 8 hours.  More than 8 hours since the first person crossed the starting line, about 7 hours since I had crossed the starting line, more than the required six and one half hours since the last person had crossed the starting line.
The clock that shouted out silently to me…”You lost.”

In what felt like a drunken stupor I was escorted AROUND the finish line, to a table where I was handed a box lunch and a bottle of water, down a little further to where I was wrapped in a shiny space blanket, and directed, wrapped in my sweet husband’s embrace, to a man who posed with me for the camera while he draped the blue ribbon with the medal around my neck.

The rest is be a blur…it isn’t really important.  I walked in a daze to a corner where we hailed a cab and were driven to the bar where my friends were watching the Saints football game.  When I walked in they stood and cheered–and I smiled.  I laughed.  I went through all the motions of someone happy.  But the clock with it’s bright red “8:00” still glowed in the back of my mind.

And it stayed there with me for the next few hours until my friends went on to catch the train home..they seemed jubilant and treated me like a celebrity.   I will never forget their kindness.

For the next few days I lived in a daze.  I limped thru a visit with my aunt in WI and kept up a happy face.  I joked and laughed–after all, that’s my way.   I  saw beautiful countryside and had late night chats with my aunt about life in general.  But always, there was an elephant in the room.  I did not get to cross the finish line.  I had not won my race.

Finally, five days after the race, I caught a plane to come home.  Rick met me at the airport and drove me home.  I didn’t talk much on the way home.  My daughter-in-law and son who had gone to WI with me chatted a bit with Rick as we drove them to their house and dropped them off.
When we got home,  I was in the kitchen, glancing through the mail, when Rick gathered me up and gave me a big ole hug.   And the healing began.

Once home I went through de-stressing.   I spent hours–days–trying to figure out what had happened.  I had set a goal to finish a marathon–the Chicago Marathon–and I had done it.  But i realized that i had not named my goal correctly.  My goal had been to be proud of myself for doing the Chicago Marathon.

Besides not being accurate in the description of my goal, I had also not been realistic in what it would take to fulfill my goal–to finish the marathon in a way that I was proud of.  I was woefully undertrained, but it wasn’t because I did not do all I could do.  I was undertrained because I was not physically able to do what I had asked my body to do.  I needed to give it more time. I was not realistic.

But now I know what I really want.  I want to finish the Chicago Marathon in time to finish ACROSS—not around–the finish line.  I want that more than anything I can think of right now.

I just have to figure out how to do it.
But I am sure I will.
Cause I got this!


carolynCarolyn Guhman is a 61 year old, retired insurance agent who is a mother of five and grandmother of six. She lives in suburban New Orleans, LA with her husband, Rick. When health issues forced her into early retirement and severe depression in 2008, she decided it was time to grab the reins of her own life. After a couple of years of trying to figure out where things went wrong and how to set them right,she laced up her shoes, filled out some race registrations, discovered a whole community of helpful people and finally found herself–running. Follow Carolyn on Facebook at Meemaw the Marathoner.



*** Be sure to join Moon Jogger’s 2014 Mission: VOYAGE TO VENUS! Looking for 25,000 crew members to help us run 25 million miles next year!




This entry was posted in Carolyn Guhman, Found Myself Running, Guest Post and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.