Why I Decided to Run the 2019 Outer Banks Marathon

After a couple of years of signing up for marathons and things not working out, I'm believing that the 3rd time's a charm. 

Two years ago, in 2017, I signed up to do the Rock and Roll Marathon in DC, and then within a month, I found my perfect dog to adopt, which was amazing news!  She was being brought in from Arkansas and the only day available for pick up happened to be the same morning as the marathon. 

Anyway, the universe works in mysterious ways and thank god I got my precious pup -my Cali, who you can see is now my CFO (Chief Fetch Officer)

Then, last year, in 2018, I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon - same thing - I was ready - I even did the half marathon in March to bypass the lottery system to insure I got in. I did the North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon with my mom in April to keep my training going strong.

And then in July 2018, my mom had a recurrence of cancer. 

Let's rewind.

My mom taught me how to run. When I was younger, she would run and I would ride my bike, holding onto my shirt so I felt secure (as I was afraid of falling off my bike). 

Around 7th grade, I made the transition to running with her, and it was awesome. We had so much fun talking, laughing, falling, and most importantly, getting back up. 

One time I even ran into a huge fallen tree branch on a trail run that she warned me was there... I still ran into it with my forehead and fell backward! We were both bent over laughing. 

Running was such a special part of life that I remember with her. We did it growing up on every weekend, every vacation, and so often during the summer. 

After the news of her cancer returning in July, part of me felt paralyzed. Paralyzed with fear of the future and losing my best friend. Losing the woman who saved me and took me in when my own biological mom couldn't take care of me. 

She had been there for me every single step of the way, and now there was a chance she could be taken away from me forever. 

It was hard for me to run. Running was normally my outlet, my place where my mind went calmly blank, yet I could still process my feelings. 

However, last summer it changed. I was almost scared to run because of the emotions it would bring regarding running with my mom. 

In August, I got back into it, running when I was home in Ohio visiting her and when we went to Lakeside with our extended family. 

I remember feeling so bad that she couldn't run with my aunt, uncle, cousin, as she normally would be the most enthusiastic person to do so. 

Instead she was tired, not feeling well, and there was not much I felt like I could do to help her. 

October came and my extended family and I all went to the beach for a week to the beloved Nags Head in the Outer Banks. We grew up renting one big house and got to be together there every summer. 

Since I can remember, it has been my favorite place, full of laughter, love, fun, and family. 

On our last trip there, I got some prickers/thorns in my foot.

Thinking that I didn't see anything, I still ran about 10 miles the next morning, in training for the marathon. 

However, when I got home from the run, I couldn't even put weight on the foot it was so sharp at the specific spot where the thorns had been. 

I'll spare you all the details, but needless to say I went to urgent care, got a tetanus shot, and the kind doctor there dug the tiny shards out of my foot. A few days rest, and it was slowly healing and feeling better. 

I still thought I would be able to power through and run the marathon that was later that month. 

Throughout my childhood, running with my mom at the beach was our special thing. We would wake up early, run along the water, past the pier, and then turn around. I would sprint at the end and she would cheer for me. 

"Go little bear!! Run like the wind" 

She was my biggest fan. 

Even though she wasn't a big fan of the water, we would both quickly take our shoes and socks off, jump into the ocean immediately after our run, cool off, jump over some waves, and be proud of our accomplishment. 

Last October, she couldn't do that. She was able to come down to the beach, sit in her chair in a half reclined position, quiet and smiling, happy to be with the family and still ever present. 

Saying it was hard for me to see her that way was an understatement. I still felt shocked by the whole thing, not knowing exactly what to do, how to act, or what to say. I wanted things to go back to normal but unfortunately that's not how it works. 

Upon leaving the beach after that trip, I remember her saying how proud she was of me and all our cousins. She was so grateful to have such a wonderful family. 

One week later, my mom passed away. 

It was shocking, devastating and heartbreaking for all of us. 

I lost my mom, my running partner, my best friend and my rock who I had always leaned on. 

While running was my joy, it still took strength to run again. 

I realized that I probably could get myself to run the marathon that was less than 2 weeks away, but when asked why I would do it, it would be more about keeping up appearances and my ego than for my own goal. My heart was broken, and wasn't in it.

At home in Ohio after my mom's death I had to stop and ugly cry regularly on the side of the route my mom and I always ran around Shaker Lakes. 

Every time I go back home and run our loop, I always think about running with her and I know that will never change. 

This year, I didn't even think about doing a marathon. It wasn't until my boyfriend posed the question "how would you feel if you didn't run a marathon in the next 5 years?" 

"Bad" I said, feeling in my heart that it was a goal I wanted to accomplish. 

"What about in the next 4 years?" He questioned. 

"Still, not good" I said, surprised with my immediate answer. 

We got to the point where it looked like I wanted to run a marathon in the next year. 

Upon googling marathons, I saw the Outer Banks Marathon, November 10, 2019. 

The route goes from Kitty Hawk, through Nags Head and across the bridge to Manteo. It's where we spent some of my favorite memories with my family, my mom, and running. 

I couldn't think of a better place to run my first marathon, and have my mom cheering me on the whole way. This time, it's just from a different place. 

While I still experience sadness that comes up when I'm running, I now work to embrace it as a time of processing. I let myself feel, and cry, and tune into that heartbreak and missing her. I realized it's okay if I stop to release the feelings. 

And after I feel that release, I fly. 

I run for her and let her spirit carry me. 

I'll run this marathon in honor of my mom, who taught me how to run, I love you. 

Sarah 

 

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