When I think about Milwaukee's Lakefront Marathon, Mile 14 will forever be emblazoned in my mind as the mile that broke me and made me at the same time. I hit the proverbial wall at Mile 14, which is quite early in the 26.2-mile race, and thought for sure I would not be able to finish.
I spent Mile 14 shifting through fears of heat exhaustion and uncertainty about dropping out, a really awful leg cramp and several volunteer workers who thought finishing the race might not be in the cards for me.
But, then I got mad. I deliberately signed up for a marathon in October because I know I don't run well in the heat. Then, of course, a heat wave had to come through and ruin marathon hopes for a lot of people.
I guzzled some Gatorade, had two very kind locals douse me with cold water from hoses, and then I made up my mind that global warming wasn't going to get the best of me and all the training I had done. Some way, somehow, I got an uglier version of a second wind (I still had my leg cramp and the heat didn't show signs of stopping, but I had made it through feeling like I might pass out) and continued until the finish.
Although I ran slower than hoped, and had to stop and stretch a bit more than I would have liked, I am proud of myself for fighting through the pain to reach my goal.
Mile 14 broke me down to a new level of exhaustion and pain that I have never experienced, and made me find out just how tough I really am. Without the help and support of the generous volunteers at the aid stations and my friends and family that brought me extra provisions, especially my dad running with me, I wouldn't have made it. I hate to say it, but I also think my iPod might have saved my race a little bit, too.
I had respect for marathoners before my debut. But, after such a grueling race, my respect has doubled. As I was leaving the race, hobbling to be exact, I realized I had been sucked into the world of marathons. Only a half hour earlier I was thinking how much I wanted this crazy race to be over, and then I caught myself saying, "I need to do another one. I know I can run faster than that."
I am officially a marathoner.