Finding the Light at the End of the Tunnel – a Post Marathon Reflection

All I remember, is burying my face into a dry wash cloth and sobbing.

I had just crossed the finish line of the Tunnel Light Marathon and I was exhausted – mentally and physically.

I’d finished in 4:40:03.

And I felt like a failure.

I knew I could’ve performed better but I let my mind win in the last 10K. I’d allowed myself to walk, which triggered a calf cramp. The isolation and loneliness I’d felt on the course had dragged out my depressive tendencies.

I’d let mental weakness win.

“You’re just not cut out for this,” I told myself. “You’re not a natural athlete. You overpronate too much. Your flat feet are too weak – no matter what you do.”

Today, it’s almost two weeks since the race. The soreness has subsided and so has my sadness.

When I started this journey a year ago, my goal was to finish uninjured and to overcome my fear of running another marathon.

My first and only marathon in 2013 had left me injured and sidelined for months and I was terrified of going through that again.

So, at Tunnel, I had in fact far surpassed my goal! The opposite of failure.

Why was I being so cruel to myself? Where does this harsh and eager-to-punish voice stem from?

I ran 26.2 miles on a flooded forest trail through relentless rain, mud, and rocks. I ran two of those miles through a pitch-black tunnel. And I finished 35 minutes faster than I had 6 years ago – on a perfect sunny day in Pittsburgh.

And I learned a lot about myself.

I learned that I really rely on people. On their energy, eye contact and smiles.

I may be an introvert – but I need assurance. I need to know I’m not alone.

That I can dig deep and bounce back. At mile 20, I’d dropped from a 10ish min pace to a 14 min pace – but each mile after, I crept back up, finishing my last mile in 10:17.

And I learned that I really don’t like running on uneven ground.

At the finish line, as I sobbed into the towel, my husband Tommy embraced me, and I wept into his shoulder.

“That was so hard,” I kept saying. “I’m never doing that again.”

A few days ago, sitting on the couch, I found myself googling 2020 marathon dates.

“Hey … I’m going to enter the lottery for the New York City Marathon,” I said to Tommy. “I know I said I’m never doing that again… but I didn’t mean it.”

He looked at me and laughed, “Oh, I already knew that.”