Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Need inspiration?

I'm stealing this from Mike who stole it from Priscilla who stole it from someone else, who read it in the local online paper.

THIS is some good stuff. And yes, I cried.

Last place marathoner shares story
By Pamela LeBlanc
Monday, February 23, 2009, 10:41 AM

Lara Newcomer wasn’t the first across the finish line of the Austin Marathon last weekend. She wasn’t the 100th or the 1,000th or even the 4,000th.She was the last person to officially cross the finish line, and she did it with the help of her husband, other people in the race and a whole lot of folks who saw her go by and reached out to offer encouragement. It took her 7 hours and 20 minutes.Here is her story. Thanks for sharing, Lara. And congratulations!

“Last Sunday’s marathon wasn’t my first, but it was certainly my hardest. About a month ago I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, which makes walking very painful at times. I stopped training and started treatments to try to let things heal up a little, but was still struggling with it. Then a week before the marathon I came down with the flu. I spent Monday and Tuesday in bed coughing and wheezing, with my fever hovering between 100 and 103.My parents tried to talk me out of doing the marathon. But, I’ve been doing the Distance Challenge, a series of six races that started in October and totals almost 100 miles. The Austin Marathon was the last race in the challenge and if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t get any credit for the Distance Challenge at all. So, I decided to give the marathon my best shot.I knew when I got up Sunday morning that I wasn’t 100%, but I thought I had enough in me to do the marathon.

I met up with my training partner, Shae, and two of her friends at the starting line. It all started pretty well —- I thought it was a good omen that there was a guy playing the cowbell on the Congress Avenue Bridge. It only took about three miles before I realized that my body was not going to let me keep up with the pace Shae and her friends were setting. Shae realized this and sent her friends on ahead. We slowed down a little, but I could tell that the pace was still just too fast for my poor recovering body.

By mile 8, I had decided to send Shae on ahead. I really thought I was done. I had texted Adam, my husband, that my body just couldn’t keep the pace and that I was going to quit. Shae said she’d stay with me until mile 10 because that’s where our husbands were. At mile 10, she went on ahead, but I decided that I had nothing to lose. So, I told Adam that I was just going to keep walking until I couldn’t walk anymore.

A lovely woman named Marissa had overheard me talking to Shae and to Adam and she was walking about my pace (very slow) and decided to walk with me — we decided that we would help and encourage each other. I don’t know her last name or where she’s from, but she walked with me from mile 10 until mile 23 and was a great encouragement.

By mile 13 my feet were killing me. Each step was painful and my knees were beginning to hurt because of the way I was compensating for the pain in my feet. A woman I don’t even know looked at me and told me she could tell by my face that I was dehydrated. And then my dear friend Edgar rode up on his bike. He just happened to be riding first aid and gave me a bottle of water with electrolytes and some of his wife’s “magic” pierogies. Thank God for Edgar and the water and pierogies! It was like someone flipped a switch and I suddenly had more energy and I was pretty confident that I was going to make it.

By mile 17 I wasn’t so confident anymore….the police car and official race vehicles had been right behind us since mile 15…..I knew I was the very end of the line. Everything below my hips was hurting and I really thought that something was going to seize up and I just wouldn’t be able to walk anymore. But, Edgar showed up again at mile 17 with more water and pierogies and my switch flipped again and I kept on walking.

At mile 20, I thought— heck, 6 more miles?! That’s just a 10K — I can do that in my sleep! My pace picked up a little and I really felt confident. Marissa was starting to slow down and I did all I could to encourage her.Mile 23 nearly did me in. At that point a motorcycle policeman rode up next to us and told us that we needed to pick up the pace and catch up with the ladies in front of us or we’d have to move out of the street and on to the sidewalk and would probably not get credit for the race. Well, I nearly quit right then —- I knew my body didn’t have enough left to catch up to those women. Marissa tried to encourage me, and she found some sort of inner reserve and powered right past those women in front of us. I picked up my pace, but I couldn’t breathe and my body felt so weak. I just wanted to sit down on the curb and give up.

Adam had met me at several different spots on the course to encourage me and see how I was doing and if I needed anything. He showed up again just past mile 23. I was ready to quit, but he hopped out of the truck and started walking with me. He just wouldn’t let me stop.Then Edgar showed up on his bike again. And there we went —- Edgar on my left, and Adam on my right (in his blue jeans and work boots). Every time I wanted to quit (which was pretty often), they talked me out of it. Edgar coached me through the hills and helped me catch a breath when I was having trouble.

Every time Adam saw spectators he shouted, “You know what we have here? A marathon finisher!!! We’ve got a finisher here!!” or “You know what I see? I see a woman who looked inside for some quit but couldn’t find any!!”

There was a police woman at 23rd and Guadalupe who reminded me that pain is just weakness leaving the body. And another police woman at 20th and Guadalupe who shooed pedestrians out of the crosswalk so I didn’t have to break my stride (slow as it was). The motorcycle officers on MLK began cheering with Adam as I made my way down the hill.

And then I had less than a mile to go. My body wanted to quit so badly, but I was so close.When there were 200 meters left, a race official with a walkie talkie approached me — I was sure he was going to tell me that I was too late, they’d already closed the race. But, he held out his hand and said, “Lara, I’m the race organizer and it’s my honor to escort you across the finish line.” I burst into tears — and Adam did, too. I turned the corner on to Congress Avenue and Adam shouted again, “Do you know what I see? I see a woman who looked inside for some quit and couldn’t find any!”

And the DPS trooper standing there looked at me and said, “That’s the kind of determination we need. You should be on the force!” Adam clapped his hands, looked at me and said, “I am more proud of you than I have been in the 18 years I’ve known you. I’ve seen you do some remarkable things, but I have never seen anyone with such determination, will power and grit. You made a conscious decision all day long to keep at this and you never gave up.” I cried, he cried … and stepped away from me, for the first time since mile 23 … so that I could have the finish line to myself. I felt like a celebrity — there were photographers and race officials and people cheering.

Once I crossed the finish line, the race organizer put the medal around my neck and we had a photo op (guess there are some advantages to being last) and the workers started tearing down the finish line.

I want to thank the police officers who spent all day sitting at intersections to keep my slow butt safe. And a special thank you to those who were so encouraging to me. I also want to thank the families who stayed out in their front yards for hours to cheer on even the slowest marathoners (especially those at Rutgers Avenue and those on Avenue H). Fellow marathoners Marissa and Walt were incredible inspirations to me — I wish I knew how to contact them and thank them.

And I just can’t thank Edgar and Adam enough — without them, I’m fairly certain that I’d have just sat down on the curb at 24th and Guadalupe and given up.It took me 7 hours and 20 minutes to complete the marathon. I was the last “official” finisher. But, I did it — I conquered my weakness and my doubt and I accomplished my goal.

It was an epic journey — and one I’m glad is over — but I will never forget the feeling of confidence from finishing what I set out to do.”

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