It’s over now. Finished.  Done.  Fini ou fait.  Finito.  Twenty weeks of training, nearly 100 training runs, 30 strength workouts, countless early mornings, hundreds and hundreds of miles, one frostbitten ear.  All for one 26.2 mile race.

This race was a big deal for me.  Last year, while training for my second marathon, my goal was to finish in under four hours.  After all, I can run a half marathon in under two hours so it only makes sense that I could complete a full marathon in under four hours.  Right?  Except that the marathon laughs at simple math like that.  The marathon is more than the sum of its parts.  Regardless, I trained for it.  I did my tempo runs and marathon pace workouts.  I toed the line feeling confident.  I crushed the first half of the course.  And then the course crushed me.  It chewed me up and spit me out 26.2 miles down the road from where I started, battered, exhausted, pissed off. Because I finished in 4 hours and 12 minutes.  Twelve minutes!  Seriously.

Fast forward a few months and I was taking on the marathon again.  This time with a coach and a renewed sense of commitment.  We laid out a plan that included tempo runs, marathon pace runs, speed workouts, long runs, core work, strength work.  We analyzed nutrition and hydration.  We debated the merits of a 20 mile long run vs a 22 mile long run.  We discussed mental strategies.  I listened to podcasts and audiobooks about getting mentally tougher and developing useful mental strategies for attacking the marathon.  I was immersed.

I approached the start line feeling cautiously optimistic (one should never feel totally optimistic about a marathon).  As we started running I noticed that my legs felt a little more tired than they should.  Hmmmm.  A few miles later I noticed that my intestines felt a little more crampy than they should.  Double hmmmm.  But I had mental strategies I could use and I had a pace to keep.  So we soldiered on.  Soon enough, though, the intestines were unable to be ignored any longer.  They received the attention the needed, at a cost of a few minutes.  Then my favorite running partner and dear friend noticed that her intestines weren’t feeling so great.  Another stop along the way.  I even encouraged it because really, I was tired.  A break sounded good.  A break?!?!?!?  Come on, brain, we are running a race here, not waiting for lunch delivery.  Back to trying to keep my brain on track.  That’s a lot of hard work by the way.

There were some really great things about this marathon, though.  It was a beautiful, rolling course through the Napa Valley vineyards.  The countryside was peaceful.  There weren’t any big hills.  The spectators were fun.  I played a drum along the way.  The weather wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  My nutrition and hydration strategy worked out better than ever.  I kind of had fun.

I finished stronger than I ever have before.  My legs were burning and cramping, my abs were tense, my neck and back ached.  I crossed that finish line.  Exactly 4 hours and 5 minutes after I started.  Initially, I was really happy.  This was my best run marathon ever. My best time ever.  I managed the mental game better than usual.  My sister was waiting at the finish line for me.  I was satisfied.

Then, a few days later, it hit me.  I really wanted that under 4:00 finish.  And I was fit enough to do it.  Any runner knows what this means…….I haven’t finished marathoning yet.