Only a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure I could do it. I just kept telling myself, "Keep going, and if it's the Lord's will, He will get you through them." So I kept going, trusting only in Him, because my training was nowhere near where it should have been.
But Jesus got me through more than I expected, and in better shape than I expected!
"5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." -- Proverbs 3:5-6
First, I signed up for the End of the World Marathon and Day After the End of the World Marathon last spring. I had just run the Little Rock Marathon and stumbled on the website for these races while I was running a super high marathon fever. The allure of a once-in-a-lifetime double marathon was too much to resist.
The website promised a four loop, out and back course on hard-packed dirt roads. Going over an out and back course four times, eight for both days, was a bit worrisome, but not enough to keep me out. Things turned out a bit different than I expected though, making the races even more challenging than I expected.
It was four loops, but that part wasn't as bad as I thought. What really caught me by surprise was the "hard packed dirt roads" ended up being a lot more trail and a lot less road. Most everyone there, and a lot of them were really experienced marathoners, classified this a bona fide trail marathon. My first trail race (and my second) ever!
Running trails is a lot different than running on the road. Dips, holes, steep inclines, roots, puddles, loose sand, gravel, and rocks make for an entirely different experience than the smooth surface of a paved road. Dodging, slipping, leaping, twisting, and turning to avoid obstacles all utilize muscles you don't even know exist in your legs when you're running on the road.
I learned a little about trail running on these two days. Mainly that you cannot maintain the same pace you do on the road! All those obstacles I mentioned before, they slow you down too. So trying to maintain what I considered a respectable marathon pace on day 1 turned out to be a mistake.
Turning into a trail race wasn't the only surprise we had in store though. In addition to running my first trail races, these back to back runs also became my first ultras! (For those who don't know, an ultra is any race longer than the typical 26.2 mile marathon.)
That's right! Those four loops turned out to measure 7 miles each on day one. That made for a 28 mile race. They did cut a little off the course on day two. The second race ended up 27.2 miles. Still an ultra, but I promise you, by the end, I was glad they chopped off that extra .8!
What's amazing is, like I said earlier, I was never sure I could finish these races. Last week I wasn't sure. On the drive down I wasn't sure. After the first race, I wasn't sure I could make it through the second. And after mile 20 of the second, I was wondering if I could make it to the end.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." -- Philippians 4:13
That's because I COULDN'T! Not by my own strength I couldn't! If I was counting on my strength and my ability, I would have dropped out when an injury kept me from training for two months in October and November. If I was counting on my strength and ability, I would have dropped out when I fell ill after the St. Jude Marathon. If I was counting on my strength and ability, I would have DNF'd in the first race when I realized I was going to have to do 28 miles, or at least would have chosen to not attempt the second race on day two.
But it wasn't me I was counting on. Not on my strength and not on my ability. As each new challenge reared it's head, I knew I'd only make it through these two races by leaning on the Lord. Letting Him push me, pull me, and carry me when the going got tough. And it worked!
"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." -- Isaiah 40:31
Jesus got me through in better shape than I ever hoped. I'd never done a double before, and when I went to bed after day one, my legs were killing me. I had no idea what they would feel like in the morning, but it didn't look good.
I woke on day 2 a little stiff, but with less soreness than I expected. After moving around a bit, the legs actually felt pretty good. That lasted the majority of the race, until about mile 20 my legs were holding out. The last 7 miles on day two were tough, no doubt. And after the race, I was stiff, sore, and exhausted.
But this morning, I again woke feeling much better than anticipated. After the 7 hour drive home, I felt pretty stiff and sore when I piled out of the vehicle. But again, a little moving around and things felt fine. I even had it in me to do a brake job on Janice's car this afternoon!
A lot of people told me it was a crazy idea to try to run two marathons in two days. They told me I needed time to recover. They told me I was going to injure myself. I even heard I was likely to die!
Maybe, just maybe they would have been right if I had depended only on myself to get through. But anything's possible with God, and this weekend proved that! Thank you Jesus for getting me through my first double (trail-ultra) marathon! I couldn't have made it without you!
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