Of hopes and dreams and marathons

Yesterday I ran a marathon in Ireland. My official finish time was 3:47:22, more than nine minutes faster than my previous best time. That feat was completely unexpected.

I drove about five hours today, and my friends and I weren’t jabbering the whole way, so I spent a while trying to figure out what happened in yesterday’s magical marathon. I was not being pessimistic when I originally thought I would finish in 4:15. And then, when I found out that the women’s course record is a rather slow 3:22, I wasn’t being pessimistic when I lowered my expectations to 4:30. I did get into a very bad place mentally (apologies to my travel mates and the people I sent messages to) the day before the race. I hadn’t run in three days, I’d done a ton of walking, hiking and a bike ride. Even on race morning, I didn’t want to run. In my weird pre-race angst, someone had told me, “You’re running a f’ing marathon in f’ing Ireland!” and that popped into my head as I walked to the starting line. I also thought of my grandmother, whose lungs are giving out and will die in about two years. I can run and she cannot. So I ran because, hey, I was in f’ing Ireland.

I ran through wind and rain and sun. I kept passing people as I kept running up hills. I passed the 4:15 pacer and the 4:00 pacer. I reached the halfway point in 1:53 and knew I would likely crash and burn, but I kept running up another hill. When my watch beeped at mile 15 and I saw an 8:25 mile, I actually said out loud, “Holy shit!” I didn’t know what was happening, but I kept running and kept breathing calmly.

I reached a low point at mile 20, but I knew it would pass so I kept running and made myself smile at people and look at the spectacular greenery. I never walked until mile 22, when I was halfway up the two-mile hill that everyone dreads and talks about in this race. But then I found myself running again while still going up that f’ing hill in f’ing Ireland. I walked the last part of the hill, then took off down the backside of that hill. I had three miles left, down a long road that threatened to derail my exhausted quad muscles, but I pushed through the pain. I had spent the entire race passing people, and I kept doing so in the last three miles — all men, actually. One said “nice legs,” and I realized my bad legs, which had worn special shoes and gotten me excused from PE in childhood, were in fact doing nice things.

I ran the last two miles faster than my goal half-marathon pace. I ran the last 0.34 miles at 10k pace. And I had a huge grin on my face as I reached the finish line. I stood there for a minute with my hands up to my face, in true shock at what had just happened. In the finish area, I was stopped by several of those men I had passed in the later miles. They weren’t flirting, but simply wanted to congratulate me and said they had tried their best to keep up with me. I was merely a runner on equal ground — a runner whose legs and lungs and heart and mind did not give up.

As I walked slowly and gingerly to my car, I looked around at the brilliant greenery and the quaint town and the waterfront. I was in f’ing Ireland and I had just taken nine minutes off my best f’ing marathon time. There, as I walked, I started to cry. They were tears of happiness. Of surprise. Of joy. And they were tears of hope for future dreams not yet realized.

12 Responses to Of hopes and dreams and marathons

  1. Avatar Grampa Ben
    Grampa Ben says:

    Fantastic performance! Both your body and mind made this happen. You keep them both in great shape, aimed in the right direction and you know where you want to go!
    Those are three factors which many people do not have, would love to have but do not have the will power to achieve. You’ve got it all!!!
    Love, Grampa Ben

  2. EEEE such a touching recap! ::Wipes tear from eye:: So proud of you!!!! This race will be one to remember for so many reasons! Congrats!!!!

  3. congratulations! I once had one of those marathons – it was 2001 – Jersey Shore – and I thought I was just doing a training run marathon. was faster at the 1/2 than my 1/2 marathon pr, and it just kept going. I ran a 15 min pr – a 4:02. Never got near that again, but I know the feelings you are describing. I wish you many more marathons like you just had – just as amazing – just as magical.


  4. LOVED this. Beautiful recap and congratulations on a spectacular race!

  5. You just PR’d in effing Ireland!!! H*ll’s yeah! Way to go girl, seriously, that is amazing!!!! SO proud of you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. So awesome!! Congratulations on an **AMAZING** race!! 😀

  7. I am so so proud of you! What an amazing and unexpected accomplishment (although I KNEW you had it in you). Trust in your abilities – you have it in you!

  8. Way to go Layla. What a cool place to run a marathon, and to kick so much ass while doing it!

  9. I love this recap — so proud of you! May life continue to surprise you in the best way.

  10. It’s amazing how the human body can surprise even it’s owner!

    Maybe it was the luck of the Irish…or maybe you were secretly drunk and thought that the marathon was really a pub crawl.

    In college (during a mile run for my basketball team) once I took some time off my mile cuz I was still drunk from the night before. I wouldn’t encourage people to do it, but I still remember feeling so relaxed and having that whole “I’m f’ing running” feeling you had during the race is exactly what I was feeling that day.

    Great work!

  11. Wow man! First I heard of the incredible marathon time!

  12. Wow, what a race – Ireland is amazingly gorgeous, and that is awesome that you not only got to run a race there, but had what sounds like the best race of your life.