U Learn 2 Run

Catherine Michael

About David


I canít tell you the day I decided that I wanted to run a marathon.  I can tell you that Sunday, November 28, 2010 was the day I decided that I would never run a marathon.  I had just crossed the finish line to my first half marathon, the Space Coast Half Marathon in Cocoa, FL.  I specifically remember meeting up with my husband shortly after I finished.  I said, ĎI sure am glad thatís over.  Mark my words, I will NEVER run a marathon.í

386 days later I crossed the finish line to my first marathon.

Iím standing at the start line.  Itís dark and cool, about 55 degrees.  Iím surrounded by 2500 very nervous race participants.  Itís like every other start line.  Family, friends, ipods, gels, waterÖ Except my bib says ĎJacksonville Bank MARATHON, 428, with my name in tiny print at the bottom right corner, Cathy Michaelí.  I know itís my name because I checked it at least a dozen times the day before.  The start line is an arch of gold, black and white balloons.  Itís about 100 yards ahead of me.  The National Anthem plays.  I see a white balloon float off into the sky.  The announcer sends us off.  Roughly 16 weeks ago I started this, and today Iím going to finish it. 

I immediately remember a piece of advice a friend gave me.  He said, ĎHead, Legs, Heart.  Run the first 10k with your head.  Do NOT start out to fast.  If you think you are running to slow, slow down.  Run from miles 6.2 to miles 20 with your legs.  You have done the training, your legs are ready.  Stretch out and relax.  Just run.  The last 10k you must run with your heart.  You will find out who you are made of in the last 6 miles.  That is what keeps me coming back to the marathon.í

The first 3 miles were text book.  Slow and relaxed.  I managed to maneuver myself around some women dressed alike wearing jingle bells.   I got water at the first water stop even though I didnít need it.  Shortly after the 3 mile mark I found myself behind the 4:15 pacer, holding a white balloon.  The sun was starting to come up.  I look to my right and think, why does there always have to be a man running in a tutu?  At some point this gets old, and even when I ran the Princess Half Marathon at Disney, it was old.  I notice a man running with no shoes.  Yes, there is always one of these too.

I hang out behind and beside the 4:15 pacer and her crowd.  They are literally running right on her heels.  Her white balloon is bobbing behind her.  We hit the 6 mile mark, I am ready for it.  Finally feeling warmed up and ready to stretch out my legs a little.  Head, legs, heart.  Iím good.  Iím ready for this.  The next 7 miles were uneventful.  Barefoot guy drops off, tutu man is still beside me but breathing labored.  Somewhere around mile 8 the half marathoners split from the full marathoners.  Iíve heard this is a very lonely feeling.  I didnít notice.  Mile 14 I remember thinking, Ďthis really isnít that bad, Iím definitely doing this againí.  Mile 16, ĎIím pretty sure Iím doing this againí.  Iím still hanging out beside the 4:15 pacer.  Her crowd has dwindled from 20 to 6.  Tutu man is long gone.  Iíve chatted with some of the others around me.  Of the 6 of us, there were 3 first timers.  Iím kinda impressed by that.  I look at my garmin for the first time in several miles and notice Iím at 18.5.  The first time I begin to feel lonely and challenged.

I see the sign for mile 20.  I smile for a minute.  What a huge accomplishment!  The last 16 weeks I had learned more about myself than I ever thought possible.  I wasnít sure I could find out any more about myself in the next hour than in the past 16 weeks.  Heart.  My original goal of a sub 4 hour marathon was beyond reach in this race.  I knew it from the beginning.  The runners seem even more spread out and the 4:15 pacer is about 100 yards in front of me.  I attempt to get closer, but I donít.  I notice people all around me walking.  I remember my goals were to #1- finish and #2- not walk.  Iím at mile 20 and I havenít walked yet.  I remember a lot of things about the last 6 miles.   I remember every mile marker, gagging on my last gel, the waves of nausea in between pure elation.  I remember the head wind on the last 3 miles, the weird pain in my left ankle that caused me to limp a little, a song that reminded me of an extra special friend that was so important to me and my training.  I remember the jolly rancher I had in my pocket, saved for mile 20.  I remember the woman who I considered was Ďcheatingí as friends rode beside her on a bike.  I remember David (my coach) telling me over and over Ďjust runí.  My pace had slowed down a little, just as David told me to expect.  I still felt great.  At mile 23, a guy I had been running near for several miles walked over to a police officer.  Several minutes later he is in the passenger seat of a white truck.  He waves at me.  He gave up, at mile 23. 

The past few weeks had been challenging.  I had developed knee pain which had ended me up in a physical therapists office.  Christmas was coming and the added stress to my training plan wasnít welcome.  I found myself more tired and more hungry than ever before.  All of my Ďsupportí had evaporated.  Mile 24 was a challenge.  Close enough but yet I still needed a good effort to push through.  No matter how much support I had or didnít have at the race, no one could finish this for me or with me.  This was my accomplishment.

Ironically enough the race ends on a track.  A track, where I spent countless hours with David.  He would yell from across the track at me about my form, my arms, my legs, and of course, to go faster.  We talked and laughed on the track, I cried, I hurt, I challenged myself.  Today was no different.  I finished my first marathon.  Regardless of my time, I finished.  I met my goals.  I immediately call David and pour my heart out.  I ask him whatís next.  He says ĎCathy, enjoy this.  You just ran your first marathon! There will never be another first, this one is special.í   The medal around my neck says ĎJacksonville Bank Marathon finisherí.

 Wanting to run a marathon is on 90% of peopleís Ďbucket listí.  50% of those people cannot tell you how far a marathon is.  Less than 1% of the population ever runs a marathon.

My dreams were made possible because of the support, love and encouragement from one person, David Freeze.  He believed in me when even I had given up on myself.  He responded to countless e-mails a day addressing my concerns, my worries and my ailments.  I call him my life coach, but he is truly much more than that.





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