Mile 26.2 – Life Lessons

Leslie Anderson Oregon

Leslie Anderson Oregon

On December 2, 2018, I had one of the proudest personal accomplishments of my life. I ran my 15th marathon, and this one was set to be a personal record, and Boston Qualifying race for me. I had put in all the work. I was ready. The weather was perfect that day in Sacramento, it started in the 40s and was set to get to the mid-50s which is perfect running weather. The sun was set to shine, and even though California International Marathon always starts before the sun is up, the sunrise didn’t disappoint that day. I’ve run that race on many occasions, and this was truly an ideal race day set up.

Oh, before I go on, one thing you should know about me if you don’t already, is that I only speak in marathon and running metaphors, so you’re going to need to bear with me here. Also, I was in Sacramento this last weekend (no CIM this year due to Covid) and I spent the weekend reflecting on previous experiences in that race, so it’s fresh on my mind.

I started out that day in 2018, and the miles were ticking off in perfect times. I was controlled, rested, and ready to go. My pre-race carbohydrate loading was on point and I had the perfect outfit and my favorite running shoes on. I know a good running outfit is key, so that was so important!! Every time my watch beeped, I would look at my split time and it was right where it needed to be, 8:45ish for each mile. It was magical. I knew I was having a good day from the start and I kept smiling when I saw those mile splits and the other runners were inspiring me as we all ran for our personal reasons, but together in this race.

I did have one major issue that day though, that worried me from the start. 10 days before the race, I had busted up my wrist in a fall. After 16 weeks of really good training for this race, I was on my last longish run of 10 miles and I tripped HARD on a sidewalk and landed on my hand. It was instantly painful and I almost threw up because it hurt so bad. I’m pretty tough, generally speaking, I went through childbirth of 4 of my 5 children without medication, and come on, I train for marathons for fun, so pain is my friend. This injury hurt bad. I knew it was bad when it happened, and 10 days later on race day, I couldn’t move it and I had a brace on it. I had trained so well, and this was so unfortunate. You could say unfair, but I say unfortunate. It was an accident. Life happens, you know?

This was not a good place to be in for a marathon, because you really need to have both hands for holding water, and eating during the race. The only worse thing would have been a leg injury, but the hand was a tough break (pun alert!). Also, the constant jostling of running was hurting it as I ran that day. Every step reminded me of the pain. I was distracted with worry, but I didn’t want to let it stop me from having the day I wanted. I adjusted my race plan to walk through the water stations so that I could drink one handed. Normally I carry my own water bottle, but I couldn’t do that with only one available hand.

The miles were still ticking off perfectly as I ran more and more, and I started to feel confident. I ignored the pain in my wrist, trusted my training, and just ran. Running is spiritual for me, and that day was no exception. That cool sunshine was there, and the crowds on the course at CIM are incredible and I got so much energy from the cheers and signs of the strangers that were there.

I think generally people know about the ‘wall’, even if you’re not a runner. But, just in case you don’t, here’s the explanation. The ‘wall’ is the point in a race that runners refer to around mile 20, when you’ll know if you’re going to finish well, or just finish. Sometimes you might even quit. Your body’s energy stores are physiologically running out by then, and depending on your training, how rested you are, and how well you’ve run the race up to that point, you may or may not hit that dreaded wall. It’s pretty scary, because you just don’t know if you’ve done everything right, until you get to mile 20, when the wall tells you exactly what your fortune will be.

Well by this point in your reading of my story, you might be thinking I hit the wall that day. Nope. I got to mile 20, and I was still spot on with my splits. I was tired, but things were going so well. I knew without a doubt at that point I was going to finish well. I had 6.2 miles to go, and I ran them as well as I could. Anyone is so dead tired by that time in a marathon, but I was running through it, and I could visualize the finish and the possible BQ time was in sight. I knew it would be close, but I was fighting with every step. I continued walking through the water stations and then running my heart out and ignoring the pain in my wrist.

At CIM, you round a corner at the end, and you run up the last .2 toward the state capitol. There are thousands of people there cheering and it’s an amazing finish line experience. I was there! I had done it. I was finishing another marathon. I felt amazing. I didn’t know exactly what my official time was, so I needed to see that clock at the end to know. As I got closer, I could finally see the official time on the clock in those red numbers and as I crossed, I saw 3:56. I needed a 3:55 or better to qualify for Boston.

I knew at that moment that I had missed my goal by one minute. I was so happy with the race I had run, and it was such a proud moment, but that time on the clock stung. I crossed the finish line, got my medal, cried the happy tears of a marathon finisher, and finishing with a sub-4 hour time. I met up with Jason and literally hobbled to get coffee and food and sit down. I had run so well, and my legs were done for. I knew the next days would be painful, but that good kind of accomplished pain. That missed goal hurt though. It was a black cloud over that day. It was hard to be happy when I missed my A goal time. I chose to revel in the B goal and not let it ruin my day.

I looked a little while later and I actually missed hitting that 3:55 by only 4 seconds. 4 seconds. If you consider the water stops I walked through, I could have found 4 seconds!! Come on. Seriously. What a cruel twist of fate. I had trained so hard, and that stupid accident had cost me my BQ.

I continue to think of that day as a proud accomplishment. I hope to get back to marathoning one day and try again in the future, but that 4 seconds has taken me some time to process and I’ve had some other challenges, aka a broken leg this year, to deal with, so it hasn’t been in the cards for me yet. We’ll see if that happens. It is still a fond memory for me, and I love telling the story, and reflecting on how well trained I was then. Nothing can ever take that away from me. Even if I never ever run another step again, I am proud of this accomplishment as the best personal non-family accomplishment of my lifetime thus far. Even though I messed up, it was still a great race and I had done the very best I could.

The point of this post isn’t really even about that race, although I was reflecting today on how that race shaped me, and has changed me permanently. I learned a lot about myself through this unfortunate incident.

Sometimes life is just like that mile 26.2. Things are going along well in life, and then either the unexpected, or a mis-step, or a big fat mistake happens, a monumental screw up, or an unfortunate accident and then realize that things are going to go differently than you thought. Or you think you’re going to do something really well, and nope, it’s a disaster that you didn’t even see coming and didn’t want and wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Sometimes those things just happen and it doesn’t make us any less or bad people. It makes us people. We succeed, we fail, we screw up big time, and sometimes we get things we don’t deserve (whether good or bad). Embracing those lessons and learning from them has been the key for me when I find myself in these types of situations in my life. I’ve learned a lot, even this year, and here are some of the key things I do when I’m processing a difficult marathon, or a difficult time in life, generally.

  1. Faith – I need it. I have it. I believe in a God who is bigger than me, and who loves me, no matter what. I can be much meaner to myself than God would ever be. He loves me even if I fail, and His love for me doesn’t change. My faith is my compass and I rely on prayer and reading the truth of the Bible when times get tough. I accept what it says and I work to accept the grace that God has for me.
  2. Music – I love music so much. It’s part of the fabric of me, truly. Sometimes it’s Limp Bizkit’s Break Stuff (give that a try if you are pissed off, it’s a good one) and sometimes it’s Hillsong Worship’s No One But You (when you need encouragement). I listen to music to center myself. I listen in the car, in the shower, on a run or walk, and when I’m writing.
  3. Loving family and friends – I hang with people who love me unconditionally. I have two good girlfriends who know every single little thing about me, good, bad and ugly. I have Jason also, who also knows everything about me and we choose everyday whether we will move together in life, or move away from each other. Letting myself be loved in hard times is a key, and it feels good. Other times, I love them when they need it most, and sometimes there is no return on that. When I’m down and have nothing left to give, I know I can rely on those who love me unconditionally. If you don’t have those people in your life, you need them. If you don’t have unconditional love in your life, go to a recovery group, you’ll find unconditional love there, I promise.
  4. Boundaries – This one is simple but hard, and I’m still learning. Keep the good in and the bad out. Be around safe people. Recovery groups are great about teaching this too. You don’t have to hate people to have boundaries with them. It’s actually a loving thing to do, to keep boundaries with people who aren’t kind or who are hurtful. It shows them where you start and end. You’ll get to know that about them too. You’ll also see where you fall short and can improve and become more safe to be around. We all need that. We can all be unsafe sometimes. I can honestly say I don’t hate anyone. Not one single person, and that’s because of boundaries. Trust me.
  5. Do fun things – When times get tough, do the things that make you feel good. One foot in front of the other is sometimes necessary, but it’s no way to live long term. When I find small ways to enjoy my life, even when I’m coping with something it helps me to remember who I am. It’s ok to have fun and even laugh. I often choose the outdoors, music, running, walking, reading, or writing. Stupid movies help too. Spending time with my family is right up there too, and laughing with Jason and the kids is the best medicine.

Thank you for reading along with me. These are a few of the things I want to remember going forward, and lessons I am learning. I really wrote this post for myself, but if it’s helpful to you, take what you want, and leave the rest.

Love, Leslie

One thought on “Mile 26.2 – Life Lessons

  1. I love this very much and Love you even more! Love this 1st post, I remember this like yesterday, so nice to see it through your eyes.


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