With legs of jelly and pain in places that I didn’t realize I had places, I’ll never forget turning that final corner. Wiping away the stinging combination of sweat and disbelief, two things simultaneously came into focus that, just a few minutes earlier, I was sure I’d never see again. Yet, with every step, my eyes told my brain that they were both what I needed to see most.
My family and the finish line.
It was well after 12:00. The majority of the field and the crowd had long since gone home or made their way to the various hospitality tents scattered throughout the city.
I saw my family take a cautious moment to confirm that it was me. I certainly couldn’t blame them. For over an hour they’d been burned time after time when I wasn’t the one who made the turn when I had expected me to. It wasn’t just my first time running a marathon, but it was their first experience as well. They didn’t know what to expect, other than that I’d be there when I said I would.
An 11 and 13-year-old don’t account for the wall.
When it’s your Dad, you don’t factor in the pain.
You don’t anticipate things not going as planned.
Over 480,000 people finished a marathon in 2013.
But, I was the only one that mattered to them in that moment… in many moments.
When I finally crossed the line and officially became a Marathon Finisher, I quickly grabbed my medal from one of the still chipper volunteers and scrambled to find an opening in the security barricades.
The medal was great, but my prize was on the other side of that iron.
Jumping and contorting myself through a maze of banners, gates and eschewed Gatorade cups, I got the longest and most honest squeeze from my family that I can remember.
In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the tightest hug.
Maybe it wasn’t the longest.
But, I don’t remember one that felt better.
As I get ready to dip back into training mode for my rematch with my 26.2 mile demon, it took me months to really come to grips with that first experience.
You read the blogs and the stories.
You watch the motivational YouTube clips.
You devour everything that’s out there before running a marathon.
You go into it expecting to cross the finish line a new person.
You anticipate that grand moment that will alter your existence.
The day… the moment… the moment that everything changes.
Running a marathon didn’t change my life.
When I think back and replay that October day in my head, I can see and feel almost every mile.
I remember the pain, the joy, the fear and the doubt that seemed to come around almost every turn.
But not a single step… not a single second of the five plus hours that I pounded the pavement that morning changed my life.
That joy in their eyes when I turned the corner.
That’s my life.
And I wouldn’t change it for the world.