And you can stop whining too now that Linda has provided her webmaster with the text for this story!
Since I was a little girl, I have wanted to do something special for my sister, Mary Lou, who had died of Leukemia at the age of 6. That sort of trauma leaves its mark. This time, when I received info in the mail for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I decided to act.
As I sat there at the 1st meeting I went to, I was moved by the stories, enthusiasm, and commitment of everyone. When I made that decision to run a Marathon, I had only one thought, and that was to do this for Mary Lou. If I had been in my right-mind, I might have reconsidered, since I have never been a runner, and I had some physiological challenges to consider. But, no not me, I came from a passion to remember. So this is my story. I hope that it may inspire, motivate and draw out your own courage.
New Jersey Shore Leukemia and Lymphoma Marathon- 2004
Having never been a runner and having no perception of distance I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I certainly have a much greater appreciation to anyone participating in any of the events from runners to walkers, triathlon to the 5/10K, and especially the 26.2-mile marathon.
At this point my hips started crying, and the pain was almost unbearable, and I thought to myself that I would surely end up crippled, if I continued. It was at this point where all my doubt and fear of failing challenged me. I will never forget the words that haunted my mind, "What in the World were you thinking girl", "What made you think that you could do this" and the best was "If you quit you will always fail at following through". Of course, that was when the greatest pain hit me, the thought of failing. What got me through this challenge was all those who where part of my TEAM, whether through Sponsorship, or those who kept me in their thoughts and prayers. The energy I felt from their love and encouragement got me through the next 6 miles.
In order to stay in the race I needed to get to the 16th mile marker within 4 hours. I had started out good with my goal being 5 miles every hour, but by the 10th mile and 2 hours later I was losing ground. (Up until the 10th mile I was able to continue running, but as the pain intensified each step became more difficult and I shifted to walk/run).
By this point, I was getting to know some of the other runners, and ended up hooking up with a runner who was feeling the challenge. It helped me to support him on keeping his focus and pace and keeping my mind off my own pain.
My niece, Heather, was planning to come down to cheer me on, and I prayed that if she came she would meet me somewhere between the 17th and 18th mile marker. (Little did I know, she was also saying a prayer) As I breathed a sigh of relief, when I saw the 16th mile mark, (3 1/2 hours) I knew I could not be pulled out of the race, and my commitment grew stronger than ever.
My son, George, had seen me off at the starting point and was waiting for me at the finish. My niece had her cell phone with her and kept him posted as to how I was holding up and expected time of arrival. By the time I took my 6th Advil (or was it my 8th), Heather asked if I wanted her to massage the area (at this point I had hoped it might help). My niece, is really cute, as she was working on my knee she informed me that she didn't think it was muscular, but cartilage and I would be able to finish the race, but would probable need surgery at some point. So with that to look forward to, I decided that I could worry about that latter, and needed to get back to my goal and that was to finish.
As I continued to hobble between running and walking, Heather continued to encourage me and helped me to keep a good pace before leaving me to continue my journey to the finish. She reminded me to call upon my sister, Mary Lou, who was one of the honorees' I was running for. I can't say that I could feel her presence, but I know she was with me, along with my father (Dayton DePue), and my father-in-law (Malcolm Mitchell) who passed away 2 weeks prior to the marathon of liver cancer. (I knew they were waiting for me at the finish, and I also knew that I was not alone)
By this point, I had no idea how much further I had, maybe 5 or 6 miles, maybe less. The only thing I knew I needed to do was to finish within 6 1/2 hours and I had 1 1/2 hours left. With the pressure still remaining, I noticed the woman behind me holding the 6 hour flag (there were several flag holders throughout the marathon holding flags that indicated the time you would finish at, if you kept the flag holders pace).
As I continued to keep my focus and pace, a woman from the (TNT) Team In Training (she was one of the mentor/coaches from the Leukemia Lymphoma Society) was walking the opposite way. When she saw me she turned around to join me and said "I'll walk with you to the finish". Being fearful to ask the question of how much farther, I found the strength to ask anyway. When she turned to me and said, "Honey you've only got 2 blocks left", I wanted to cry, because I knew in that moment I was going to make it, and had accomplished something that would transform my life forever. In my breath, I said "Thank you God" and as I rounded the last corner responded with "I'm running the rest of the way in".
With each step was another "ouch", and the woman from TNT turned to me and said, "You don't have to run. You can walk and you'll still get to the finish in plenty of time". But I knew I needed to run, and nothing could stop me and she began to run with me. With each step, the pain lessened and I felt like I was running on air. As I caught eye contact with my son, whom by this time was jumping up and down yelling "Oh my God mom you did it". The expression on his face was priceless, for in that moment I could feel his enthusiasm and see how proud he was of his mom.
As we did the "High Five", I continued to run like the wind, and George started to run to try to get ahead of me to take pictures. (It was kind of comical to watch him, because he was having a hard time keeping up with me). By this time, I was so on; the adrenaline rush was exhilarating. I am sure my Honorees were with me during those last 2 blocks as they carried me over the "Finish Line". The sense of achievement was incredible, and I will carry not only this moment, but the whole journey it took to get there.