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Tri-City Marathon. October 30, 2011
by: Leslie Wolff
The best way I can describe the TriCity Marathon is this way; I had the race the Lord blessed me with. Wasn’t my plan but was 100% His. This race was the most ‘difficult’ race I have ever done. Ever. It trumps my long run of weeks past with my running partner Cari at a Women’s Retreat when I named that run as ‘the worse run I’ve ever had to date’. Trumps Ironman. Both times. This race, for me, wasn’t about digging deep, it was about completely and utterly focusing on the Lord because without Him there is NO way I would have seen the finish line.
It was a cold, brisk morning. I felt good. Zero nerves. Just ready to see what the Lord had planned. I had thoughts about how I would feel since I had been so sick this past week. Never in a zillion years did I anticipate what was to come.
Literally minutes before the start my mid-back went into a complete spasm; something that has never happened to me before. It doubled me over and I was gasping for air. It was completely out of character, completely weird and very painful. Despite this interruption Cari and I were ready with our permi marker verses on the back of our legs in honor of Christ (Mine; Heb 12:1-2. Cari’s; Phil 3:14.) as was Ryan, my nephew. Standing on the starting line, Cari was digging her finger into my back and I kept thinking that if I started moving it would loosen up.
And then the start. Someone asked about the verse on the back of my leg before we even got to Pasco. My first indication that something was ‘off’ with me was when I couldn’t tell the person what it said. Cari came to the rescue and the woman was delighted and encouraged. Yea God! The first 4 miles or so my body started to warm up as Cari, Ryan and myself ran side by side. Cari and Ryan were pretty chatty and it inspired me, despite having zero amount of chattiness within me. My back had loosened up although I could still feel a huge knot where the pain originated from. Between mile 5 & 8 ½ I felt decent. Not great, but moving and staying well under 9 minute miles (our goal was anything under 4 hours). I hit the blue bridge when I first felt my IT band (a previous injury I had been battling). It had been a little bit achy the first 8 ½ miles but nothing to serious and I assumed the only reason I was feeling it at all was because of the brisk morning air. Climbing up the blue bridge I knew that it was only a matter of time before the achiness turned into something more. Along the way, up until this point my family was scattered throughout the course, chasing us down, and SCREAMING. My little cheerleaders/daughters were positively amazing. Each and every time I heard their precious angelic voices my heart filled up and my steps felt infinitely lighter. Around mile 10 my nephew sped up and from that point on he gained more and more time on us. He looked like the race was effortless for him. His smile was huge and my heart danced for him. He ends up running his marathon in 3:51; a huge improvement for him. So proud of you Ryan!!!
Then mile 11.
Mile 11 was a game changer for me. Cari and I were running side by side and without warning my IT band sent a wave of electrifying pain into my knee causing me to skip a step and forcing me to stop to stretch it out. I knew from previous experience with this injury that once that first flash of pain entered the picture, my run was going to end up being about survival. 15 miles left. Just 15. Cari put considerably distance on me while I stood on the side of the path stretching. It took me the next mile to catch her. From that point on any time I hit any type of incline or decline; anything other than flat ground I was in excruciating pain. There is something about the angle my knee was bending when running any incline/decline that caused the IT band to scream in such a way that it took me down. Running or walking through that pain was impossible. I had to stop, stretch and try to convince my body to start back up. This went on for miles. Cari and I started together on the cable bridge (mile 16) and again because I had to stop to stretch she put a gap in between us. By the time I got off the bridge I knew that my original goal for under 4 hours was done. I could see Cari run off into the distance and I was so proud of her. She was having a great race, looked strong and my heart was jumping for joy for her. Between mile 17 & 18 my entire left leg started cramping between my knee and my hip. I obviously had been favoring my IT band injury which was then causing further problems. None of this could have been avoided though. I, at this point, was surviving. During moments of severe bouts of pain I would raise my right hand in praise of my God knowing that He was with me, enduring this with me, and giving me the perseverance to move forward. Just keep moving forward. At one point a man ran up bedside me and asked what my verse said. I shared it and he pointed to Cari up ahead and said, “and that is Phil 3:14”. He then lifts his sleeve and shows me his tattoo in honor of our Savior. Yea God! You are everywhere!
Mile 18. By this time, thinking the pain couldn’t possibly get worse, it did. The cramping in my left leg extended itself to my pelvic region and into my lower back and my sciatic nerve. Every single step I took felt like I was being ripped apart inside. It was excruciating. Agonizing. The next 2 aid stations Cari had stopped, stretched and waited for me to catch back up to her. She was amazing. I felt so humbled by her sacrifice for me. She could have ran on. But she waited for me. Encouraged me. Reminded me of the Source of my strength and how much more HE had given to me. To find it. Reach it. Embrace it. I told her to please run her race because I didn’t want to hold her back and my blessed sister in Christ uttered words that will forever be etched into my heart, “No, we will finish this together Leslie”. Mile 22 I saw my parents for the first time. That is when the tears started. I fought them back because at this point, even with 4 short miles left, I knew that my tears would consume energy I couldn’t afford to waste. Between mile 22 and 24 the pain with every step magnified. The pain had intensified so much that if I stopped I wouldn’t have been able to start running again so I was forced to run with the pain. Cari pushed me and I fought to match her pace. It was excruciating. My mind was blank. All I could feel, think of, concentrate on was each painful step. We made it to the Richland/Pasco bridge when I heard the screaming voices of my precious cheerleaders. Their little voices brought a smile to my face despite my insides crying out for the pain to stop. My thoughts often went to Jesus and the pain He endured climbing Golgotha. This time running up that hill, I embraced the pain and took it stride for stride with Cari. Coming down the hill, I wasn’t sure if my IT band/knee would hold me up. The pain was electrifying as it shot through my body. I hobbled down the hill. One mile. Just one more mile and then it’s over. That last mile I was in a daze. I just kept thinking, get to the finish, get to the finish. The agonizing pain was still there with each step, but my focus was 100% on the Lord and that finish line. Almost to the finish a lady in front of us stopped and Cari and I yell at her to keep going, to run with us, we are almost there. At that she started running again. Yea God! We finally turn into the Shilo Inn parking lot and once again through all of the cheers and screams I can hear my baby girls as if they were standing right next to me. We finished in 4:04. I crossed the finish line and all of the pain that I had been feeling finally turned into tears. Cari and I raised our hands in unison to give praise and honor and glory to Christ. I hugged her, thanked her for getting me to the finish line and then sat down. As I sat crying, because of the pain in my body, the girls came up to me so I quickly fought back my tears as my 7 year old, in a fearful concern, took my sunglasses off. I rubbed my face, held the tears in and smiled at her. I had nothing left in me. I couldn’t stand any more. My knee was killing me. My back was shot. I was exhausted, freezing and very much out of it.
And that was my race. A race where ‘my goal’ wasn’t achieved but a race I am not disappointed in. A race that went far beyond running and into new territory of endurance/perseverance/relying on the Lord. I will admit that for one small moment during this entire 26.2 miles of gut wrenching pain I got irritated and wanted to stamp my feet in protest for what was becoming of ‘my race’. As quickly as that thought entered it exited. I wouldn’t give it a resting place in my heart because my heart is firmly planted at the feet of my Savior. For me, I discovered through each mile that this race had nothing to do with ‘the finish’. It was the journey. It was about trusting what the Lord was doing, knowing that He was with me, knowing that He suffered alongside of me, feeling the Angels carry me when I saw my family and friends supporting me. It was about enduring. Trusting. Believing. Being content with the journey. And I was. This race looked nothing like I had anticipated it looking like. From start to finish it was full of adversity of every imaginable kind BUT with My God that gave me the strength I got to the finish line.