On December thirteenth, I had the privilege of running twenty-six-point-two miles - a marathon. The furthest I'd run in preparation for the marathon was twenty miles and that alone had tired me out to the point where the idea of six more miles added on sounded like it would be the death of me. To make things worse, all in-person marathons within over fifty miles were either canceled or postponed. I had my heart set on running my marathon this winter, so I took matters into my own hands. I created my own training schedule, mapped out a route, and had everything ready for a one-man marathon. The biggest downside was that I was to run the entire run alone.
On the day of the run, it was below forty with a heavy windchill and mild rain. The first two miles ended up in the rain and the rest of the run took place during an off-and-on drizzle. My dad was to bike beside me for the whole run and my mom would be at every fourth mile with water and Gatorade. Besides my family, that was it. I was to run in some pretty bad conditions for twenty-six miles. Then, around mile four, the strangest thing happened. Two of my teammates from school rode up beside me on their bikes. I thought they'd just come to say hi on their way to the store or something. But, for some reason, they had backpacks stocked with extra socks, food, water, and a first-aid kit. My heart was warmed (though my hands were frozen) at the fact that they'd given up their Sunday morning to come run with me.
About a mile later, I looked ahead and saw a familiar car. Two more of my teammates got out and biked with me. My mind was mostly focused on the run so I didn't fully realize what was happening, I was just glad to have more company. This marathon wasn't meant to be a world record or anything, I was simply trying to run the whole thing without walking. I went relatively slow and held a conversation most of the way. A few miles later, two of my teammates broke off of the growing pack and another took their place. That was when I fully realized what was happening.
My closest friends from my team had looked at the route I'd planned out and broken it into shifts. Every water station, the group would change and there would be hop-ons and others would hop off. Upon realizing what was really going on, I suddenly stopped feeling so cold and was able to hold a smile for nearly every step of the run.
To my further surprise, one of my coaches even showed up and ran four miles with me. We passed families with encouraging signs and lots of cheering. What had begun as a terrible day to run a marathon quickly became the best possible turn of events.
A little past mile twenty-two, I began to really feel it. Of course I was sore before, but this was on another level. I had started seeing spots and dizziness began to set in. To make matters worse, I'd gotten so cold that I couldn't move parts of my face. Luckily, there was one more surprise in store before the end. Not only had everyone who'd run with me thus far hop back on for the last few miles, I heard someone behind me call out a familiar joke. Three of my team's old alumni biked up beside me, back home for the holidays, to help me finish out this run.
Though in some of the worst pain in my life, I was able to laugh and smile because of the kindness everyone showed me. I've been a part of similar surprises for others, but being the recipient was something else entirely. I will be forever grateful for everyone who braved the cold wind, the rain, and gave up a part of their weekend in the busiest part of the year to run beside me.
Every one of my articles has looped itself back around to teamwork and the aspect of relying on a team. This was the pinnacle of everything I've written about and I couldn't have asked for a more supportive group of people on my path to this accomplishment.
When I finally finished the run, I fell to the ground and laid there like a starfish. I was done. So, as the year winds down at last, I encourage everyone who's worked all year, who've run in the worst conditions to lay down as well. Track season is coming, but we're done for now and we can finally take a break. We've crossed the finish line of this year and can now look forward to what comes next.