Lessons from the Kona Marathon

Kona-Sticker-e1375066637251-225x300Back in June, I finished the Kona Marathon without even looking at the race results or taking one of their post-race pictures.  My Garmin had run out of battery and the watermelon at the finish line was warm, both signs that I took way too long.  Deflated and discouraged after a bad run, I headed back to the hotel without even looking at any of the fun stuff waiting for us at the finish line.  Not only did I run out of battery, I took so long they ran out of my shirt size.  I got stuck with one that I think all three of my boys could squeeze into, TOGETHER.

Why would my Kona Marathon Finisher’s Medal end up being my favorite one?  There were lots of reasons I should try and put this run behind me and never speak of it again, yet I can’t help but smile anytime someone asks me about it. I think the challenge of Kona made the finish line that much more spectacular for me.  I’m not saying any marathon is easy, they all have their challenges, but this 26.2 took a lot more out of me.

IMG_3358The heat, lack of shade, stagnant, sticky air and sun beating off the asphalt and lava rock made me have to dig a little deeper.  Honestly, I had to dig way deep.  I made sure I hydrated the days before and had enough fuel and sleep to start off strong.  Going into it, I felt great.  I had done a couple of short, easy runs on the Big Island and even thought I might be able to pull off a PR at Kona.  I was confident enough I just might be able to do it, that I texted my plan to a girlfriend.  Her wise reply would help me get through the mental challenges I faced with this run, all part of the journey to make that medal my favorite.  She had experience with heat and humidity after running the Barbados Marathon and told me to just go enjoy the run.  She said to pack my phone and take pictures along the course, forcing me to slow down and just enjoy it, instead of setting myself up for disappointment.  The stubborn Taurus in me ignored that advice.

I didn’t take my phone for pictures and set out with a steady pace that I really felt like I could maintain.  Feeling strong and solid, I got through the first half without any problems.  I sipped on water every mile and was keeping an eye on my Garmin.  It wasn’t much after the halfway point where I decided I should have packed a camera and run this one for fun, not for time.

The second half of the marathon is a blur.  I know I had a nice gentleman come up and grab my hand and encourage me to keep running.  I lost count of how many people offered me salt tablets.   I wasn’t asking anyone for help, which makes me wonder just how bad I looked along the course.  I really think I was hitting the point of heat exhaustion and knew that if I told anyone I was seeing rainbows, they would encourage me to go to an aid station, not press on to the finish line.

Instead of dropping out, I decided to lie down, not once, but at least 3 times along the course.  Once on a clean bench behind a Sports Authority, next on some lava rock and finally in a shady spot off the road.  I know I was sharing my temporary pad with some vagrants.   Clearly, each one was a little more desperate.  I have Sheldon Cooper tendencies with germs. (Check out The Big Bang Theory- you’ll LOVE it).  I laugh now that I didn’t care it smelled like urine and I was probably surrounded by cockroaches- it was soft and out of the sun.  The shade was worth the risk.  When I joined back in, another runner came up and pulled the leaves out of my hair.  How often can you say that?   For me, one time too many, but I’m chalking it up as a great learning experience more than a great run.

IMG_3361-225x300I learned there are some amazing people out there. Of course, I think they’re pretty awesome for running a marathon, but add that they’re running a marathon while encouraging, pushing and helping others.  That inspires me.  No one had to offer me their salt tablets, which I SHOULD HAVE accepted.  No one had to stop and suggest I try some flat soda or hold my hand to give me a push.  It took time for the woman to pull the leaves out of my hair and the guy to pour his water on me.  It reminded me there are still plenty of great people in this world.  If I had listened to my girlfriend, packed my camera and just run for fun, I would have missed that.  It’s probably good that I’m stubborn and a very slow learner.   It took me forever and a day to get to that finish line but that’s part of why the Kona Marathon medal is so special to me.  I didn’t get any pictures of the course or a respectable time, but I did finish and was inspired in a new way.  When you have to really dig deep, that memory lasts and I can still picture the people offering help along the way.  There are lots of amazing people out there.  Sometimes we’re in such a hurry to get to the finish line we don’t notice them, but Kona opened my eyes.  I realized how much harder I was able to challenge myself and discovered the run is more about the journey and less about the finish line.  That’s why my Kona medal is my favorite and I smile every time I think about it.

A glamorous finish.
A glamorous finish.

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