The Marathon That Wasn’t

This past Saturday, Wes and I had plans to run the Gusher Marathon in Beaumont, Texas.  This was to be our eighth marathon leading up to our ten year anniversary in December, which we will spend running our tenth marathon.

The weekend began quite wonderfully with a surprise from Wes.  For Valentine’s Day, he told me he’d made future plans for something special.  Then, this past Friday, he surprised me with the fulfillment of those plans, which involved whisking me away the night before the marathon to stay in Beaumont without our children.  Always a treat!  And it was… until we tried to go to sleep.  I had no trouble nodding off, but between slamming doors thanks to a wedding party on our floor, a super noisy air conditioner, and all kinds of random noises outside, Wes couldn’t sleep. 

And when he can’t sleep, I can’t sleep.  This has nothing to do with my compassion regarding insomnia (because I have none, y’all).  It has everything to do with the fact that Wes wakes me up when he can’t sleep so that he can tell me, “I can’t fall asleep!”  (Seriously.  It’s a miracle that I can remain sweet and kind to him at times like this.)  My usual go-to in this situation is a sleeping aid that will knock him completely out for the whole night, even if a freight train enters the room.  Giving him that wasn’t possible that night, though, because we had to run in the morning and he wasn’t going to be able to do that while groggy.

So, I stayed up with him, sympathetically bemoaning the unfairness of insomnia with him, until he mercifully nodded off at two.  Right before he embraced the Sandman, I told him, “If we don’t sleep soon, I won’t be able to run tomorrow.  I can’t do this thing on two hours of sleep.”  Which made it very unfortunate that after getting Wes to sleep, I found myself unable to sleep until 4am… with a 6am wakeup call. 

I was more than a little grouchy when he woke up singing show tunes at dawn.  (Well, he wasn’t that bad, y’all.  But close.)  I was even more grouchy when I realized I had left my Froot Loops in Pasadena.  Horror of horrors!  I can’t run without them!

But still, on I went.  I ate two bites of a McDonald’s sausage biscuit (which isn’t so tasty at 6am after only two hours of sleep) and schlepped my way to the starting corral.

Confession time.  Our last marathon was in February.  Guess how much I ran between that marathon and this one.  Go on, guess.  If you guessed nothing, you’re almost right.  I ran the 10K at Disney and walked the half marathon… but that was it!  I had reasoned with myself that since this was marathon number eight, I knew what to expect and could get it done without training.

Which I might have… had I gotten more than two hours of sleep!  (Do you hear how often I’m repeating that?  Do you hear it, Wes?!)

Before we started running, Wes asked me how I felt, noting that I looked a little pale and sickly.  “I’m tired,” I said.  “I’m not sure how this is going to go.  A 5K seems impossible right now.”  He told me, “Hey, after you stayed up last night, I owe you.  You can make me carry you all twenty-six miles.  Blank check.” 

I should’ve taken him up on it.  But before I could jump into his arms, the race clock started.

We started off at a steady ten minute mile pace.  The course was two 13.1 laps, and not even two miles in, we found ourselves keeping pace with Olympian Jeff Galloway.  Woo!  We were so impressed by this that we kept that pace… when we probably shouldn’t have.  Wes even asked me at one point, “Are you good at this pace?,” noting that it was faster than normal at this point in a marathon.  I nodded and said, like an idiot, “Yeah!  I’m good!” 

And I was all good… until I started getting these weird shooting pains in my chest, shoulders, and upper arms at mile eleven.  I’ve felt some weird stuff on race courses before, but this one was new. I started seeing spots, felt a little dizzy, and was already feeling more sore than I usually do at twice the distance. 

Cue the tears at mile twelve, y’all.  Twelve!  I told Wes, “I’m just not feeling right today.”  He lied and assured me that I looked awesome (which does, in fact, always help, y’all), but I continued blubbering.  “One of the cyclists back there stopped and asked if I was okay!  That’s how bad I must look, Wes!”  Because the course was two laps, I had an easy out at 13.1, and I told Wes that I was taking it.  He offered to go with me, to just count this race a loss, but I told him to finish, especially since, at our pace, he was set up to run his fastest marathon.  He held my hand as we ran and argued with me for a while… then finally agreed.

“Well, let me at least kiss you before you go,” he said at mile thirteen, and I smooched him until the finish… when he left me behind to do the second lap.

You know what I was thinking, right?  He LEFT me!  After ALL those races where I’ve stuck by him when he was falling apart, he LEFT me!  Yeah, I know I told him to.  But, y’all, I wasn’t thinking clearly!

I made my way off the course, crying like a big baby and feeling like an even bigger loser.  And as I walked back to the car to get a change of clothes, I thought about all the ways I had failed.  I hadn’t respected the mileage.  I hadn’t trained.  I had let myself get too thin to run any real distance without feeling like crap.  I had a “whatever” attitude about it.  I had kept pace with an Olympian.  (Which was a slow pace for him.  But still!)  And I had let my husband keep me up all night.

That, y’all.  That was the problem!

I continued thinking about it and stewing on it for the next two hours, even as I changed clothes, got back to the finish line, and waited for Wes.  I cheered him on (begrudgingly), snapped pictures (with great irritation), and heard all about how the second lap had gone and how incredible he felt, and how he was an amazing eight-time marathon runner now and… grrrrrr…

When we got back to the car, I felt free to shed a few more tears and tell him very quietly, “I’m a little sad about not finishing.”  And Wes said, so kindly and sweetly, “This is all my fault.  If I’d let you sleep last night, you could’ve finished.”

And I said, “No, sweetheart.  You were perfect.  This was all me.”

Please.  You know me better than that.

No, instead of saying that, I shrieked, “Yes!  Yes, it was all your fault, Wes!”  And I wish I could say that I was done after that, but two hours of sleep meant that I was emotional and weepy for a good long while.  This prompted Wes to ask, as he always does in these situations, “Are you pregnant?”  Which didn’t help, believe it or not.  (Seriously, did the man want to die?!  In hindsight, this was a legitimate question as I only act like a rage-filled harpy when I’m a) pregnant, b) sleep deprived, or c) both. But still.  Know when to ask these questions and when to just sit there and say nothing, Wes!)

Anyway, we were halfway back to Houston before I could honestly admit that the lack of sleep was the least of my problems and that this failure of mine wasn’t his fault.  Sanity restored.  So, when we stopped for lunch, I pulled him close, hugged him, and whispered, while still crying (maybe I am pregnant, y’all), “I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry,” he whispered back.  “I shouldn’t have left you.”

“I told you to,” I said, still blubbering.  “But I was dizzy and I was really tired and I wasn’t thinking right!”

And he kissed me, choosing to forget all the mean things I’d said to him, and told me, “You’re going to finish the next one.”

I hope he’s right.  And I’m hoping that, even if I don’t, I can keep my marbles this next time and not act like a crazy lunatic if I quit early.  (Seriously, y’all.)  I’m taking this great lesson in humility, re-evaluating just why I started running in the first place (to be with Wes, to help him stay healthy, to be a good wife), and reminding myself that one failed marathon does not make for a failed marathoner. 

Looking forward to training for this next one.  And for the next one, which Wes has already said I’m running solo, so that he and I will each finish our tenth marathon next December, together, provided he doesn’t leave my crazy self between now and then.

And with that?  I should probably get out and run…

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