Having completed Grandma's Marathon on Saturday, Julie and I have one final post on this blog. It's been a great experience, and we can't thank everyone enough for the support. Here is the final effort, which features thoughts from both of us -- written separately -- and pictures from raceday:

JULIE

The marathon is over!  Training is over!  Rejoice!

It's no surprise, but I'm in pain. We are both sore, but I had some kind of muscle strain that nearly buckled my right knee around mile 12. I was afraid I'd have to walk the rest of the way, but Michael assured me that either way, he would stick by me. I was so thankful. Luckily, we didn't have to walk much more than a few short bouts, and finished under 5 1/2 hours. 

The entire time I felt at ease in a way I've never experienced during a race before. I felt as though we had plenty of time, and that we were there to enjoy the race. And we really did!

It started out rainy, but I brought some tall kitchen bags that we could wear over our shirts, so we kept relatively dry and warm. The rain subsided about midway through the race, and the sun peeked out just long enough to boost our spirits through "the wall" (the point at which the race becomes the most difficult). Then a fine mist like tiny cold pin pricks accompanied us for the final miles to the finish line. It almost felt good. Maybe it was our attempt to escape the rain--more likely our knowledge that starting to run after having stopped to walk was the hardest task during those final miles-- but we ran the last four miles without stopping. There was not much conversation at that point--and most of what came out of my mouth likely resembled gibberish. 

Nearing the finish line brought on the culmination of every emotion I've felt over the past year and beyond. Tears flooded my eyes as we crossed the finish line hand in hand. Nearby, our sitter waved to us. She held our sleeping baby in the rain. I kissed Anabel's warm head-- we had come full circle. Two years ago, I stood in the same place, and in the time that's lapsed, my life has completely transformed. It's a thrill to have another marathon under my belt, this time post-baby. It was at times frustrating, daunting and -- even at the starting line -- nerve-wracking. Even harder than childbirth (it'd be nice if you could get an epidural mid-marathon...), and not half as joyful... I'd consider another pregnancy before I'd register for another marathon. Until we meet again, running shoes. 
 

MICHAEL

I had hoped to write a post culminating the Grandma’s Marathon experience (and really the entire training experience) sooner than three days after the event ended, but truth be told the thing you forget when you haven’t done a marathon for a few years is just how much it takes out of you.

On Saturday after the race, all I wanted to do was eat (a lot), take a shower, sit in the hot tub, rest and eat (a lot) again. On Sunday, after driving back home, my mind and body were still mush. I watched like five hours of U.S. Open golf. It was glorious.

On Monday, I was trying to get back into a routine, but after being out of the office for three days there was a lot of catching up to do. And my poor legs were still sore. It’s hard to concentrate when it hurts to move.

Tuesday – today – I finally feel about back to normal, which isn’t really all that bad considering what the mind and body goes through when training for and completing a marathon. I could go for a run today (I am not planning to). I might go for a run tomorrow.

The biggest sense of relief right now comes from not HAVING to run on a dictated day at a prescribed distance, which I have been doing for the past four months to stay on target to successfully complete Grandma’s (which Julie and I did do on Saturday. Woo hoo!).

Part of me was tempted to eschew the training program at various points this year because I had run four previous marathons and I knew I could do it, but I’m a stickler for following directions and the nagging voice in the back of my head said, “You followed the plan for the first four marathons … why wouldn’t you follow it this time?” There was also the thought that because this was my first marathon since being diagnosed in 2014 with multiple sclerosis, I wasn’t going to leave anything to chance.

Having three weekdays and a Saturday (plus, ideally, another cross-training day on Sunday or Monday) devoted to running, with the mileage increasing as the weeks go on, is daunting. It was easily more daunting logistically this time around because Julie and I were both training at the same time and had to either match our schedules or match our time off to account for how we were going to train and take care of our daughter, Anabel (now almost 15 months old).

Anabel, it should be noted, was the ultimate trooper. She went as far as 14 miles in the jogging stroller with me on one Saturday run, and she probably logged at least 250 miles in that contraption during the course of our training. I’d estimate 90 percent of the time she loved it; the other 10 percent, we hustled and soothed and made it through.

So not having to run tonight (I typically ran Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) is a welcome relief. Instead, Julie and I are going to eat and drink tonight. It will be glorious.

As for the marathon itself? Maybe glorious isn’t the right word, but it was an unforgettable experience from start to finish.

It started with the 4:10 a.m. wakeup call to ensure we had enough time to get up, eat breakfast and get to the shuttle bus by 6:15 a.m. (we were staying in a cabin about 45 minutes south of Duluth). It continued around 7:10 a.m., when we stepped off the shuttle into a downpour (most runners had been fretting about the ominous forecast for days), protected only by regular running gear, baseball caps and plastic kitchen garbage bags (yard bags or better yet ponchos, in retrospect, are a better choice). By the start of the race at 7:45 a.m. the rain had started to dissipate just a little, a sign of things to come. It slowly tapered through the first 10 miles, giving way to sunshine for much of the rest of the race, and then a minor but pleasant drizzle through the final few miles.

With a commitment to running together and with no stated time goal – only a goal to finish – Julie and I were free to enjoy (as much as it is possible to enjoy running 26.2 miles) this marathon more than we had in past races. We stopped to take pictures. I stopped to eat bacon. Julie gulped down beer. We slowed down as Julie worked through some knee pain. We had a 5-hour conversation. And suddenly (as much, again, as five hours can be suddenly), it was over. We crossed the finish line and Julie burst into tears, as she said she would. I was close, as I thought I would be.

It was the culmination of an overwhelming period of time, and the emotion at the end was raw. For better or worse, though, those raw moments are the ones we tend to remember. I will never forget so much of this journey – and the wonderful support from so many of you that we had along the way.

And I’ll never forget the finish, even if I’m already thinking about starting again.

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