As I crossed the start line of the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon, runners started passing me. I laughed when a pack of Elvis(s) passed me. Typical.
“Slow and steady. No one to beat. Nothing to prove,” I told myself.
My shirt was drenched with sweat within 3 miles. Soon my hands raisined and it became hard to grip my phone. There were rock bands, cheering squads and fun signs along the course. One sign read: YOU CAN AND YOU WILL. This stuck with me the rest of the race.
Early on, I had the opportunity to run alongside Harriette Thompson, the 92 year old woman making history that day, on her way to becoming the oldest woman to complete a marathon. Harriette’s positive energy and strength of spirit shined bright. She reminded me that boundaries can be trampled over. YOU CAN AND YOU WILL.
Running a marathon is a bit lonely. To pass the time, I imagined the faces of all my friends and supporters cheering for me. My throat clenched multiple times thinking of the amazing people with narcolepsy around the world. What a huge honor to represent our community in this race, sporting my NARCOLEPSY: NOT ALONE t-shirt and supporting the Jack & Julie Narcolepsy Scholarship.
I giggled when I passed Elvis and company back around mile 12. Of course, the Elvis(s) were drinking beer by then, but still, go me! YOU CAN AND YOU WILL.
Around mile 18, I felt a tingling in my head, different than the tingling of cataplexy… Or was it cataplexy? Or light-headedness? Or dehydration? I wasn’t sure. I am so very used to being “sick” in one way, narcolepsy’s way, that to feel something different in my head was strange. I panicked slightly but I had diligently written my medical info with doctors’ names and numbers on the back of my bib. So I kept going and made a point of staying extra hydrated.
The competitor in me wanted to cross the finish line in less than 5 hours, but 2 miles from the finish, my quads tightened slightly, on the verge of cramping. I slowed my pace slightly and tried to stay steady and un-cramped. YOU CAN AND YOU WILL.
Running toward the big Rock n Roll banners, I smiled big with my heart and eyes wide open to take it all in. Crossing the finish line, I raised my arms up in triumph. I DID IT! In 5 hours, 4 minutes and 54 seconds, I crossed the finish line of the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon.
My head tingled again, I stopped and bent forward to catch my breath.
“Can you walk five more feet?” the medic asked.
I nodded and continued forward like a zombie to collect my medal, water and snacks. Away from the medics, I sat my sweaty butt down in the dirt to rest. My tummy hurt. I was tired. Really freaking tired.
When I felt well enough, I hobbled along to pick up my official “Marathon Finisher” jacket. I took a few selfies and found a nice curb to rest again. I called my mom, she wasn’t home but I broke down crying on her answering machine.
I cannot fully express what this race meant to me. It was my second marathon with narcolepsy, but I faced unique challenges this spring unrelated to narcolepsy that made this particularly meaningful to me personally.
I didn’t walk away into a perfect sunset afterwards. I wasn’t cured of narcolepsy or any other challenge. Life goes on and I continue forward best I can.
But for one glorious 26.2 mile stretch, I was in control. I was not defined by my narcolepsy or anything else that has brought me down at times. I was an anonymous runner racing only myself, defined simply by my ability to put one foot in front of the other, over and over, slowly but surely. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast, but I rocked it!
As I discovered early in my training: Sometimes your best YOU is hiding at the edge of your comfort zone, waiting for you to catch up.
For a moment, I caught up with my best me, my happiest me, my strongest me. And she was awesome. Dare I say, she was super FLY!
Thank you to all my supporters who have shared this journey with me. You’ve lifted my spirits and given me the courage to keep moving forward. Ever onward we go.
My journey to the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon: