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To be clear: The Day After is not one of my favorite movies! Living as a very young person in Austria when I saw it in a small movie theater, I could not sleep afterward!

marathonThe Day After is the day after my 18th marathon when endorphins have settled in nicely and my sunburn from yesterday has given a little color to my face. It’s the afterglow, and given that training can last for months, and the race itself and everything before and after can pretty much consume most of the weekend, I like the glow to stay for at least two days!

It was rough out there for those 26.2 miles in a way I did not expect. Although I had an internal goal, this was the no-pressure, no-fuss marathon where most of my training was on the treadmill at the local YMCA where my family also likes to play. A good buddy helped me through two pre-marathon long runs, took me to a fun packet pick-up, and drove me at 3:45 a.m. to the start line. I had a mild cold that was gone as the weekend rolled around. My outfit was on the couch for two days with my race number and school logo pinned on it.

I met a new friend at the start line. Together we laughed about training, our goals, expressed concerns about the national election, were jolted by the fireworks before the race. For the first 15 miles I took in a lot of the course’s stunning scenery, my head high, my posture really good.

At this stage of my life, a personal best for distance running isn’t going to happen. I had that about 8 years ago before my daughter was born but in the city in which she was born. That race will always be my favorite.

But with things going so well early on yesterday, I was peaceful, focused, offering encouragement to other runners.

Then it happened: at mile 16 one huge cramp ran through my entire right leg. I staggered and felt like I could not move. For the very first time as a runner, I thought it entirely possible that I might have to step or crawl off the course.

I took a few tentative steps forward. I said a few prayers. The legs started to move again, slowly but consistently. I kept reinforcing my brain with positive thoughts, with all the conversations I have with good friends, with images of my husband and daughter, with the knowledge that I was in decent athletic shape for a weekend warrior. By mile 19 I knew I would finish. By  mile 22, I thought I could still make my personal goal.

When I crossed the finish line and received my medal, I raised my arms high. It felt like a personal best because it was my hardest marathon ever.

A short time later I joined my family and a good friend for a celebratory meal. I didn’t change out my runner’s attire until we made it home hours later, and I kept my finisher’s medal on most of the day. Very kind people at the restaurant and a grocery store stopped to congratulate me. A few asked about the race. A few told me about their own dreams of completing a marathon and for my advice.

After  yesterday, these are my words of wisdom: believe in yourself!

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