Goodbye Old Me

Yesterday, I finished a marathon.

I won’t bury the gruesome details: I finished in 4 hours and 58 minutes, a solid 50 minutes slower than what my training told me I was capable of. I started throwing up at mile 10 (reason unknown) and continued to puke right through the finish, and nearly onto the feet of the medics at the finish line (sorry, guys.) I fought off near-constant gagging, this horrible acid feeling in my throat, stomach cramps,  and, most heart-breakingly, the knowledge that I was was capable of doing better.

I’m not going to give you splits and bore you with the play-by-play, because I haven’t looked at my splits yet. I’m not ready to see them. And the mile-by-mile details involve a lot of stop, vomit, run, repeat. That was my fate for 16.2 miles.

What I will tell you is that I started out on track, with my head in a great place. I was confident, but not cocky. Ready. Excited, but grounded. I’ve never felt more mentally prepared for a race. I hit the 10k mark a few seconds per mile on the conservative side of my 4:10ish goal, and I felt incredible about it. I knew I was running smart, within my means.

To clear up any questions you might have, my sickness wasn’t from nerves. I was rock solid Sunday morning. And I ate a nearly ritualistic replication of what I did before my 20-milers (which both went wonderfully) so I’m really not sure what the culprit behind my ordeal was. What I do know, and have accepted, is that I wasn’t meant to run a 4:10 yesterday.

I’ve cried so very many tears since crossing the finish line yesterday, and they’ve all been for the same reasons: shame, disappointment, frustration, anger, etc. I mean, how does a 1:56 half marathoner struggle to get to the marathon finish line in 5 hours? NOT FREAKING FAIR, right?

But it is fair. And here’s why: I fought harder yesterday than I ever have in my entire life, for anything, ever. I never, ever, not one time considered quitting. And I didn’t know I had that in me. That’s something I never would have discovered otherwise.

As soon as I started throwing up, it was like I went into auto-pilot. I remember telling myself, “Ok, we did this in Fargo. It’s not new.” And surprisingly, I stayed calm. Puke. Run. Repeat. I was living one of my very worst nightmares, but somehow, I was able to accept it immediately.

At mile 12 I went into survival mode. I cut my pace back because I knew I was struggling. I distinctly remember thinking at one point while I was hunched over hurling that I didn’t care if I had to close the course down. There was no way in hell I wasn’t finishing.

The things that matter:

I told Amy I’d run 17-20 for her. I’m sure you all know that her MCM experience wasn’t what she’d hoped for, and she hit a particularly rough spot around 19. When I hit 17, I thought of her and started crying, because I knew I wasn’t running my race plan anymore. Slow pace notwithstanding, knowing that I had promised these miles to someone meant something. I never dreamed I’d be re-living her nightmare-race experience, but somehow, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

At 18, Janelle (my college roommate who lives in Philadelphia) jumped out and ran with me. Every time someone yelled my name, she’d put an arm around me or grab my hand and yell “They’re cheering for you! Because you’re running a MARATHON!” I couldn’t fully appreciate her enthusiasm at the time, but wow did that help me. I kept apologizing for how slow I was going, but never once did she allow me to get down on myself. Janelle, you saved me.

After a particularly rough spot around 23.5, I was walking off the burn of another puking-up-stomach-acid episode, when a guy I’ve never met before ran by me, grabbed me by the arm, and simply said “Come on.” I was about to protest, that I needed a minute, but I thought, hell, why not? So I went with him.

When I slowed, he pulled me. When we needed to pass other runners, he silently pointed me to which side to go to. I wasn’t thinking. I had nothing left.

As we neared the finish, I learned his name was Juan, from the cheers that erupted for the two of us as we made our way through the final stretch. We never spoke. As the cheers grew louder and louder and the crowds became heavier, I knew we were finally, FINALLY almost there. He picked up the pace, and so did I. Silently, we ran on together while the spectators’ words rang through my ears. I swallowed over and over to hold back the next wave of puking that I knew was inevitable.

I have no idea how fast I was going at the end. I remember raising my hands above my head as I crossed the line, and smiling through my tears. I had always said all along that my goal was to finish the marathon with a smile on my face, and I tried my best to muster one.

I had to stop and throw up again at the finish line, and by the time I had gotten back on my feet, Juan was nowhere to be found. I looked for him, but never found him. If somehow you’re reading this, Juan, thank you. I promise if I ever get the chance, I’ll pay forward what you did for me yesterday.

Just a couple hours ago I finally got to a place where I can tell you I’m damn proud of what I did yesterday. No, I’m not happy with my time, but if numbers on a clock are the only thing I can take away from a race, then why the hell am I a runner? As Amy pointed out to me, some races show us how fast we can run, and others show us what we’re made of as humans. And I can tell you I’m made of something tougher and gutsier than I ever imagined.

My boss pointed out to me today during one of the eight million times I burst into tears that it was okay to feel the way I did–that I was grieving. I thought it sounded crazy at first, but she’s right. I’ve nurtured this amazing thing for MONTHS, let it take over my life, and now it’s over. I’m mourning the loss of something. I’m not training for a marathon anymore.

What I AM, though, is a marathoner. A MARATHONER! I’m crying as I type these words because I’ve never had to fight so hard for anything. I’ve never had to put aside my pride and accept the hand I was dealt quite like I am now. But I did it. I crossed that line.

Once I get the itch, I’m looking forward to spending some time on the road without my Garmin. After months of exact paces and obsessing over splits, I just don’t give a damn anymore. It’s time to run because I love to run. Never again will I look at your time and compare it to my own. Everyone’s journey to that line is different.

So goodbye Jenn who thought time was the true measure of strength. Goodbye Jenn who wasn’t a runner just 7 months ago.  Goodbye Jenn who didn’t know if she had what it takes to finish a marathon. Goodbye agonizing mile 22. Goodbye self-doubt. Goodbye fear. Goodbye shameful, frustrated, angry tears.

Goodbye old me.

Happy running.

22 Responses to “Goodbye Old Me”

  1. 1 Megan November 23, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Still so proud of you! (And of course I teared up reading this!) You’ve inspired me to put my all into my upcoming marathon training but to be realistic – all we can do is give it our all and be proud to say that we did. You’re a MARATHONER!

  2. 2 PunkRockRunner November 23, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    My first marathon took me 5:45 and the only issue I had was being slow. You ran a sub-5 hour marathon when most would have walked off the course.

    I can’t wait to read about you’re sub-4 hour marathon. Trust me, you have one in you.

    All the best and be proud.


  3. 3 Jeff November 23, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Great post Jenn. I love the wrap up at the end. Nicely put.

    If marathons were easy everyone would do it. You finished your first. Time for rest, recovery, reflection and your next goal. Keep living the dream!

  4. 4 Stefani November 23, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    I am not a marathoner; I can not even fathom even trying a marathon. I cried reading your blog at first because you persevered through your puking spells and kept on going. I was flabbergasted that you were upset because you didn’t run the times you wanted and were upset because of it. Then I realized the hard work leading up to what you did an understood the disappointment but was disappointed that you didn’t seem to realize what you still accomplished. Then I cried some more once you were able to look back and accept that the times weren’t the most important thing after all. It is a great post, very thoughtful and very honest and I thank you for writing it. As much as I can’t imagine running a marathon I find myself thinking about it more and more all the time. I don’t even know you and I am proud of you! Congratulations on the race as well as becoming a new you!

  5. 5 Yasmin November 23, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. It was your FIRST marathon, and not only did you finish, but you finished under circumstances that would have made most people give up.

    Serious congrats to you. I’ll remember what you went through when i run mine in March.

    • 6 Gabriel November 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      I used cocoa powder the other day too and woednr why I don’t use it more often so delicious! And those waffles look excellent. The best thing I’ve eaten lately is probably the froyo at 16 Handles, which I visit far too much!

  6. 7 Brooks November 24, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Jenn –

    Amazing post and inspiring! Ron made a great point….you ran a sub 5 hour marathon when anyone would have walked off the course. I know I would have. It shows the character you have as well as the drive and strength. You definitely are now part of an elite group of MARATHONERS…enjoy your time off and just enjoy running to run – no splits, no pre-determined miles, no fuel belts full of gatorade and pockets full of Gu’s….. 🙂

    Go Yotes!

  7. 8 Bill November 24, 2009 at 6:03 am

    I love this post! Well, except for the part about running without the Garmin. You can have my Garmin when you pry it from my cold dead hand. LOL

    Seriously, what an amazing accomplishment! I’m so impressed that you kept pushing, kept going no matter what. I loved the stories about people helping you finish, too. Just wonderful.

  8. 9 Bret Stevens November 24, 2009 at 8:11 am


    Wow, you did amazing. To finish the race after all that, you accomplish anything. Congratulations!


  9. 10 Erica November 24, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Even though it wasn’t what you envisioned, it seems to me that it was a perfect first marathon experience. If you had crossed the line in close to 4 hours flat, smiling and comfortable, it would’ve been just another distance conquered, no different from your first 5k or 10k race. Your next marathon would’ve been about beating your time – and you know now that time is just as random a goal as distance. Instead, you pushed your body and your will far past the logical stopping point because you needed to prove something to yourself. You fought for those miles, and you won. That’s what finishing a marathon should be, I think.

  10. 11 ultrarunnergirl November 24, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Congratulations Jenn! What an accomplishment. One can never take a marathon finish for granted, no matter how long you’ve been at it. Your tough go with this one not only showed you what you’re made of, but left you room to PR next time!

  11. 12 carola November 24, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Hello Jenn, I really loved your story! Thanks for sharing it with the world.

    I don’t know you, but I can relate to your story, I finished my first marathon myself in Chicago this year.

    I never was a sporty girl, and I always thought I just sucked at anything that involved the use of the body. But one day I decidad that my past would not determine what I could or couldn’t do in the present day. So I started training, with the goal to finish the marathon and enjoy the race. And I did! I did it 4:51, I probably could have done a better time, but blisters were hurting terrible, and that would have meant not to accomplish my goal of enjoying it… so the hell with time… I’m proud of myself that I had the discipline to go through all the training, despite what many people told me, I flew by myself and ran alone, and I made it! Marathoner… sounds good, doesn’t it?

    I too run for fun now, but I’m flirting with the idea of running a second one… If you had asked me right after I crossed that finish line, I would have said that never ever again would I do something like that… but us humans have a tremendous capacity to forget the bad, and keep the good… and the good of such an experience is great, isn’t it? and the body also recovers pretty quickly… so why not? (that’s what I’m asking myself lately)

    Congratulations on your awesome accomplishment, you really rock!

  12. 13 Kristin November 24, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    You have a lot to be proud of, Jenn! You are now a marathoner! Way to perservere and get through the sickness and pain. I’m hoping you have many more marathons in your future…plenty of time to prove to yourself that you’re capable of a 4:10. What you proved out there on Sunday is so much more significant than a PR. Keep your head up and be proud. Happy running!

  13. 14 amyreinink November 24, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Oh, man … reading about how you felt during “my” miles made me weepy all over again — for you, for me, for everyone who’s ever been brave enough to state her goals, only to discover they were the wrong goals altogether. My new marathon goal isn’t going to be about time (though I’ll certainly have finish times in mind) – it’s going to be about answering Peter Mahre’s question: Are you going to be a wimp, or are you going to be strong today? Sometimes, that means pushing the pace. Other times, that means sticking with a race when you’re feeling sick and slow rather than fast and fierce. You were strong that day, and you’ll always know that.

    If that didn’t work, just remember: Even within the running world, unless you’ve run a marathon yourself, most people have no idea what marathon finishing times mean. It’s like talking about the national budget — the numbers are too big to even make sense of. To most of the world, you’re a badass marathoner, time notwithstanding!

  14. 15 Kari November 24, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    What a heroine you are! And thanks be to Juan, wherever he may be. This is the sort of thing that shows just how awesome people can be (whereas I’m typically cussing out all humankind on a daily basis.)

    Many, many congratulations to you. I am in awe of your accomplishment.

  15. 16 John Bergan November 24, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Hey Jenn, who’s this “Yasmin” girl? Her picture is by far the cutest among those leaving replies–no offense to Jeff, Amy’s shoes, or patchwork quilts.

    Oh, and way to run your guts out. That takes guts.

  16. 17 Michael C (Casual Jogger) November 24, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Holy Cow! You are amazing for not stopping. Great race report.

  17. 18 Alishia November 25, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Hey friend! Couldn’t help but cry while reading your post! I am so so so proud of you! You inspire me as you have accomplished so much and persevered through the ups and downs in life. Keep believing in yourself! Love ya!


  18. 19 jeri May 12, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    ok, so just going through your blog and reading about your training/running adventures. my heart pretty much broke for you reading this report. it made me that much more pumped for you to be 100% in control of Fargo. can’t can’t wait! And seriously…..uh… we’re pretty much the same runner, and we have to get together for a run or two or coffee. Or both. 🙂

  19. 20 Boacqh November 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    >That must be it then. Why I cam kinda conflicted. I mean if I took the model out of the ptuicre I would’ve gone OMFG! AMAZING! Hahaha!The model for the first one looks great, but this one is meh! I am thinking the cut off face is really working for covers. They shouldn’ve continued with that look! =DDDDDD

  20. 21 Tubebe November 13, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Sathish Mohan – Beautiful pictures Aaron! Your wife and you make a loevly couple. I have already wished you in person, but again, wish you a great, happy, prosperous & fantastic married life! Regards,Sathish

  1. 1 I did something crazy… « purpleshoe runs Trackback on September 29, 2011 at 3:21 am

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