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By Elizabeth Braatz
The moment happened…I crossed the finish line and heard these words over the loud speaker, “Elizabeth Braatz, you are a marathoner.” The race director placed the golden medal around my neck, shook my hand and congratulated me on my first full marathon. I wanted to cry, but couldn’t stop smiling. After 18 weeks of training, I had crossed the finish line, in good time and in one piece. Wow…I actually did it.
Am I Built for Running?
Now, after maybe the most accomplished athletic event of my life, I have come to some conclusions about my body. The most important one is that my body is only as strong as I think it is.
I am almost 34 and have three children. I had twins five years ago and another child two years ago – all via cesarean. Less than a year ago, I had emergency gallbladder surgery and only eight months ago, I had two surgeries to remove a major vein in my legs due to swelling and circulatory problems. That’s five surgeries within five years (three of them less than a year ago), and I experienced injury during training as well.
And yet, I just ran a marathon! In fact, I have run three half marathons and a full marathon in the past year. My legs are certainly not built for running, but my head and my heart want it, so my legs have to come along for the ride.
This journey wasn’t easy and much like others who venture to longer distance running find, it’s far more about conditioning your mind and self esteem than it is about training your body. One year ago, I was racing in my first half marathon – scared and seemingly prepared, but unsure. With every mile of that race, I doubted my ability to finish. “Why didn’t I just do the 10k? Who do I think that I am?” But I finished well. One year before that, I was a “5k girl” and had a newborn baby. Longer distances were out of the question, if nothing because I did not think I could run any farther.
My marathon training was daunting and hard. I got up four mornings a week and ran before my husband went to work and the kids got up. My Saturday long run started by 6 a.m. and went into the mid-morning as the distances got longer. I also taught three spin classes and a boot camp each week, but I always put my heart and dedication into the runs. I even got excited when my alarm went off. The air was crisp in the morning and it was me and my playlist (and maybe a deer).
As the seasons started to change, so did the leaves and my view. This was my time to reflect on my life, my career, my children, the recent loss of my grandpa and my decision to become a runner. I knew I had made some great choices, especially when my feet hit the pavement with ease and I felt the energy radiate to the tips of the hair on my head. I was in the zone, I was a runner, and I was strong.
If you would have asked me if I could run a marathon a year ago after my first of many surgeries, I would have shaken my head emphatically “no.” Now, I look at my golden medal and think, “Of course I can run a marathon!”
Whether you are embarking on your first marathon or a 5k, it’s less about the distance, but rather more about your dedication to training for this adventure that you’ve set your heart on. I’ve learned that my body is strong, really strong, 26.2 strong, MARATHON STRONG.
So, tell me – what are you made of? What have you learned from running?