26.2, The Sequel…

One week and a day since my second Marine Corps Marathon and I am fully recovered. Well, that happened by Wednesday but you get the point. I still can not seem to get full though lol. I have been eating like crazy since finishing the race. Had pork bacon for the first time in months and it was delicious!! Ok, enough about food(before I get hungry again), here is my story…

If you have no clue as to why I run, may I suggest you check out this link(kassienetteskorner.com/2012/09/05so-what-if-i-lose-another-toenail/) to understand why I run. Moving right along, in June, I began training for the Marine Marine Corps Marathon, again. Before I began, I prayed that I would not suffer any injuries as a result of training. Prayer works :-}. Unlike in 2010, my training went great this year!! Outside of the occasional aches and soreness that came along with long runs, I experienced very little pain this year. I had almost no trouble with my left IT band, that caused me so many problems in 2010. I was even able to do my 20 mile training run this year!! I was on a natural high.

The week leading up to the marathon was greeted with an anxious Kassie who was ready to go and do this again and finish in no less than four hours and 30 minutes. I  focused and determined!! This was before I learned a hurricane was threatening to make the challenge of completing another marathon a very difficult task. Oh Sandy, if only you would just make a hard right turn and go back into the Atlantic, we(Marine Corps Marathon competitors, volunteers, spectators and military members) would be so appreciative. The same week I also experienced an emotion I did not plan on facing: sadness.  At the beginning of the week, I found out my mom, aunt and cousins would not be able to go to DC with me due to unforeseen circumstances. To say I was bummed would be an understatement. My mama has ALWAYS been there for my big events. Shoot, my mama has been there for everything and even though I knew she would be there if she could, it was still hard to accept. While I run my marathons for others, I do realize what a huge accomplishment finishing one is and it is only natural to want to have someone there to share those accomplishments with. So while I understood the why, I was left to wonder if there would be a who at the finish line to greet me.

So I set off to DC with three bags full of shoes, shorts, long and short sleeve shirts, jackets, ponchos, shot blocks, my fuel belt, hats, socks, gloves, etc. Everything I needed to ensure that I crossed that finish line in Arlington. I love DC, when it is not cold. I think it is a beautiful city and I was excited to be back. I was excited to see my college roommate and one of my best friends, Jeneen. I was excited about going to the National Mall and seeing the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. I was excited about going to Ben’s Chili Bowl and getting a half smoke. Most importantly. I was excited about crossing that finish line, again!

My Roomie, Jeneen, and I at the MLK, Jr. Memorial.

So here we go, Sunday morning. I woke up in a tizzy. I had no idea what to wear!! The meteorologists essentially were all saying different things. Chances of rain early. Hurricane Sandy would not arrive until that afternoon. Hurricane Sandy would not arrive until that night. Hurricane Sandy decided she needed a vacation and decided to hang out in the Atlantic a little while longer. Talk about lost. I checked the temp on my phone and it said 61 degrees. Huh? At 5am? Really? Thinking maybe it had not refreshed itself, I refreshed it and it said 62. Grrrrrrrrreat!! Now I was really lost. I got tired of staring at all my stuff so I went with my gut feeling…leggings, long sleeve poly tee and my race day TNT singlet. I would carry my fuel belt which allowed me to stash a poncho and I would wear my TNT hat. I decided against sunglasses since it was cloudy outside and I assumed Little Miss Sunshine would not show her face that day. So after partaking in my hearty breakfast that consisted of a blueberry muffin and a banana, I met my teammates downstairs to take pictures and head to the Metro. I step outside of the hotel and it was WARM!! I was thinking in my head, “you can not be serious. I am going to roast in these leggings.” When we got off the Metro at the Pentagon, my legs were thanking me. It was like 15 degrees colder at the Pentagon. DC weather man! So off we go to find a spot to relax in before we head to the start. I am taking in all the sites and sounds….the people, the music, the Marines(whom I took pics with), the long lines at the Porta Potties, the Marine flyover. I was doing everything I could to get rid of the anxiousness I was feeling and then it happened. I do not like to put my running shoes on until I absolutely have to. That morning I was wearing flip flops and I had my shoes and socks in a bag. At some point, the water from one of my water bottles leaked and my socks got soaked!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I could not believe it. I am not sure if you all understand how important a runners socks are to them. I had to have these socks to wear because they were the ones that prevented me from blistering on my feet. There was no way I could run in them though so I had to settle for my backup pair. Squirrels(you know how people says rats when they are bummed about something, I say squirrels).

My teammates and I. Can you tell we are a little excited about potentially running a marathon in a hurricane?
MARINES!! OORAH!

So while I would have loved to have a dry pair of socks that I wanted to run in, I had to get focused on the task ahead. So I sucked it up, put on my dry socks, said a prayer and off I went.  I officially started the race at 8:05, 10 minutes after the gun went off. I started chugging along. I was chugging along so good the first two miles that I did not even see the mile markers. I do not know what it is about mile three in the MCM but I started having trouble. In 2010, my IT band started hurting. This year, I started getting hot. I was burning up!! It was in the upper 50s but I felt like I was running in 80 degree heat. I had to make a decision quick. Do I keep running in this long sleeve shirt or do I toss it even though it is cool outside?I  After I dodged some roadkill(still not sure what it was but it was HUGE), I decided to lose the shirt. I really hated to part with it because it was one of my favorite running shirts but I would not make it to the end in that thing. I chucked it and continued to chug along. Miles four, five, six, seven, eight. I was making good time. Approaching mile nine we entered into one of my favorite sections of the race M Street in Georgetowne. The people there are amazing! There are bands, kids with signs, people handing out snacks and water, just an all around fun time. Miles 10 and 11 were one word, WINDY!! The breeze coming off the Potomac River made me wish I still had that shirt. I could not focus on that though so I kept taking in the sights and sounds. Mile 12 is when everything shifted. I was hongry! Not hungry. Hongry!! I knew I would not see my Coach Elaine until mile 17 so I did something I had been doing throughout the race, I begin to pray. I needed strength to make it to mile 17 because at that point if someone had offered me a T-bone steak, I would have demolished it. So I kept chugging. I caught up with some Team in Training ladies from South Carolina, one was a fellow NC State alum, who made miles 12-13 seem a lot easier. We chugged along together. Miles 14, 15. Still chugging and then mile 16 came with a pleasant surprise, Elaine!! She was early and I was definitely glad to see her. Food at last!!

Once I was done, it was off to The Gauntlet which are miles 17-19, where we ran through the National Mall. I love the Gauntlet. Great place to take pictures :-}.

Seen in The Gauntlet, my favorite sign!

Then it was off to the infamous mile 20 where it was time to Beat the Bridge and I did just that!!!

I BEAT THE BRIDGE AGAIN!! OORAH!

I could not stop there though because I still had 6.2 miles left so after my photo opp with the Marine, I kept chugging but I would not chug for long. Fatigue, pain and hunger begin to set in at mile 21. My left knee and ankle were hurting, badly! As I stated before, I had very little issues with my legs during training and here I was in aching pain with 5.2 miles to go. Quitting was never an option but at that moment I was wishing a marathon was 21.2 miles instead of 26.2. I went back to what I know works  and that is prayer. I prayed that God would continue to give me the determination and drive to get to the end no matter how hard it was. I had to keep chugging. Miles 22 and 23 were not easy but having so many people out there to cheer you on definitely made it easier. Then I saw it. The Mile 24 sign and right up under it it said “Food Station, Dunkin Donuts.” WHAAAAAAAT!! You would have thought it said T-Bone steak as fast as I ran to that station. I am a Krispy Kreme girl all day but Dunkin Donuts will always have a special place in my heart for providing me with the extra boost that I needed to go get my medal.

Thank you Dunkin Donuts!!

By the time you get around mile 22, you are pretty delirious. At that point, something is always hurting and one mile always seems like two. Mile 24 took me pass the side of the Pentagon that got hit on 9/11. It is always a sobering reminder of how precious life is and serves as motivation for me to keep pressing on as I fight to help save others lives. Mile 25, 1.2 to go! All I have to do is go around this long curve, hit the straightaway and run to the Marine down the street.

When you see the Mile 26 sign, the reality sets it. I did it! I am here! I ran from Arlington to DC and back to Arlington without passing out! The hard part is over! Now the only thing left is to make this left turn, run up this hill(yes, up a hill), high and low five all these people and run like somebody is chasing me so I can get my medal and that is exactly what I did!

I DID IT!!

I crossed that finish line with the biggest smile on my face and pep in my step. Once again, I had done it! As the Marine put the medal around my neck and saluted me, I could not help but think of my granddaddy, who was on of the first black Marines, my grandmother, my loved ones, those who I ran in memory and honor of, all of our service members and those who had supported me in this journey. As I hugged the Marine, I let out a deep breath, looked up towards Heaven and said thank you! And guess what, all that crying I did earlier in the week because I thought no one would be there at the finish line was not necessary because my friend Adam, whom is like a brother to me, met me at the finish line. At that point, I was so ready to get out of my shoes and get my jacket so I could be warm that I did not take the time to cry but I was balling my eyes out on the inside :-}.

Adam and I. Crew!

I do not like to toot my own horn but I was proud of me. I knew what it took to get across that finish line and I am not talking about the actual training. Unbeknownst to most, this has been a year full of ups and downs, twist and turns, curveballs and homeruns. I have had to deal with some circumstances and situations I never imagined having to deal with. I have had to make some hard decisions about life. I have had to re-evaluate some things and people. I have been told no more than I have been told yes. I have had people doubt me. I have had people turn their back on me. I have had to swallow my pride more than I have wanted to but I am still standing! When I got into mile 21 and the pain started, I started crying. After everything I have been through this year, I was upset that I once again had to struggle to my reach my end goal. I could not understand why just for once, God could not make it easy for me. All I wanted to do was run the race in 4:30. That was my goal but I knew that was impossible at this point. So I prayed and I asked God why? He simply told me what He had told me years ago, “you are an endurer and those that endure fight to the end no matter what.” I did not necessarily like what I heard but I knew it to be true. I have never been one to give up no matter what the situation looks like. Let my struggles be a lesson to you. Keep fighting! Keep pressing! Keep believing! No matter how hard the road may be, I promise you it is all worth it in the end. I have TWO Marne Corps Marathon FINISHER medals to prove it.

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