Sunday, April 29, 2012

Finding myself before the finish line

Saturday I finished my first marathon.

I finished almost a full hour slower than I was anticipating, but I crossed the finish line.  The course was intensely hillier than the elevation map implied, so my legs were done before I had even reached mile 10.  It was 80 or so degrees out, which kept me from running at my best pace, which is 8:30-9:30 minute miles, and kept me feeling dehydrated the entire run.  I walked at least 5 miles of the whole 26.2, but I crossed the finish line and learned so much about myself in the process.

I lost my training buddies before mile 2.  I thought we were keeping up with the pace group, so I got carried away on a downhill to catch up with the group.  When I turned around to look for my friends, they were lost in the sea of runners.  I kept with the pace group and felt good until the 6th mile when a narrow neighborhood street bottlenecked the thousands of runners, and my momentum was broken by being forced behind walkers.  After that, I never really recovered.  Then I made the mistake of thinking I should drink some gatorade, which immediately upset my stomach.  I had to take a bathroom break before mile 10, and almost died from the stench and heat in the port-a-potty.  At the split, I was ready to quit at the half.  I plugged on towards the marathon course anyway.

The next few miles were a rotation of ups and downs, walking and running, pushing my dead legs on towards the finish line.  I hit a wall around mile 19 and let my emotions get the best of me.  I let a tiny little insecurity take a grip of my emotionally stretched brain and body, and I just started crying.  Hysterically.  I was embarrassed and discouraged.  I wanted to stop at a medical tent and pick up a DNF.  But then I decided that if I did that, I would be validating the cause of my insecurity... so I decided to walk to the finish line.  I decided that a 6 hour finish would still be better than not finishing at all.

At mile 22, I got motivated to run again, but my lungs were not ready.  I ran about 10 yards before I almost had an asthma attack.  I started crying again. Then I decided that I could continue to be upset with this issue in my life that was probably never going to go away, or I could decide how to deal with it and accomplish the greatest thing I've ever done in my life.  I decided to take deep, yogic breaths all the way to mile 23, and when I got there I would start running and encourage every runner I passed until the finish line.  I realized that I am stronger than my insecurities.  They do not define who I am.  I am an amazing, strong, and powerful woman with my heart in the right place... focused on changing the world and the next generation of women.  I am not a disappointment.  I am a marathoner.

When I got to 23, I took off running at an average 11 mile pace and embraced the empowerment of passing runners and cheering them on and renewing their spirits and belief that they too could finish this thing.  Along the out and back, I met my training partners and gave them sweaty hugs.  Knowing they were still in it gave me the courage to press on.  The next few miles were a bit of a blur, except for the moment when I noticed a sign held by a spectator that said "You are no longer a runner, you are a marathoner".  I let out a few tears and kept moving.

Mr. Crowe caught me just before mile 26 and joined me on the journey to the chute.  I remember overwhelming joy that he was there for me.  When I crossed the finish line, I pulled him over to the side and almost collapsed in tears in his arms.  It was the most relief and pride in myself that I have ever felt in my life.  The road to my recovery has been much longer and harder than the 26.2 hilly miles in Nashville, but this part of the process has been the most rewarding.

"When you cross that finish line -- no matter how slow, no matter how fast -- it will change your life forever." -Dick Beardsley


  1. amazingness. that's really the only thing I can say. you are amazing, Ashli.

  2. Awesome!!! Revel in your accomplishment!

  3. So proud of you. You're going to keep amazing yourself. :^)

  4. ASHLI. you are amazing. i am grateful i got to be there for your life-changing experience. and see you shine. namaste.

  5. Love your story ashli! I am so happy for you!

  6. I got all teary reading this. So proud of you Ashli. And I can't wait to rock another marathon with you!

  7. I am swelling with pride that I can call you my friend. You're amazing.