MY Olympic Gold Medal

MY Olympic Gold Medal

by Tanya L.

I would never have thought that two years after dropping out at mile eight of a half marathon because I allowed my inner demons to win that I would train for AND finish the Chicago Marathon!

To think it all started with a phone call, an offer from Coach Joe to become a coached athlete with Experience Triathlon. I had always thought that coaching was for “experienced professional athletes.”  I could never have imagined the benefits, strides and successes that I have made since becoming Coach Suzy’s athlete. I could not have trained for this on my own.

My marathon dreams began when my ET buddy, Stephanie, informed me she was doing the Chicago Marathon on her birthday in October. She also told me she was going to raise money for ChildReach International.  I thought, how perfect – I can celebrate a good friend’s birthday, run a distance I never ever thought I would do, and raise money for a great cause all with one big race!  Of course, the training for the marathon was going to be squeezed in and around my triathlon training.

So in this year of the London Olympics, I decided to earn MY Olympic gold medal.  I trained and trained. Ran races of various distances in San Diego, the Morton Arboretum, and from Fort Sheridan to Great Lakes Naval base. I even completed my first Olympic distance triathlon, in New York City. All of it was amazing, and all leading up to preparing me for my biggest race.

Race day was finally here! I met part of the ET crew in the exhibition hall of the Hilton Hotel. It’s a great meeting spot because there are bathrooms and it’s warm. It was a 35 to 40-degree day, which makes for perfect running weather, but it’s too cold for standing around. And this meeting spot is right across the street from all the start line activities.

We made our way to gear check, took a few race day pictures, made our final pit stop and then headed to our respective start corrals to wait for the race to begin.

With the large number of people running the marathon, I always thought it would take a really long time to get from the start of my corral/wave to the starting line. I was very surprised that my race wave started at 8am and I crossed the start line/timing mat about 8:15 or so.

My first 13.1 miles of the marathon were great. I felt strong and had no odd aches or pains, but was surprised by an increased number of porta-potty breaks. I was thrilled to find the ET Cheer Crew at mile 2 and mile 13. It is so uplifting to see friendly faces you know cheering you on!  The block after mile 13 my classmates from school surprised me and provided hugs and cheers also. Then in the very next block, I was able to get high fives and cheers from my family cheering me on as well!  This was a great way to celebrate the race being half over.

Prior to race day, Coach Suzy warned me that the body begins to rebel as soon as you take that first step past your longest run. Well, the odd aches and pains started around mile 19. My ankle started to ache. It was a nagging feeling at first, but it became progressively worse. I found myself walking in an attempt to alleviate the ache, which then became true pain. By mile 21 it was unbearable, so I stopped at the medic tent along the race route and asked if they would wrap it. It was such a relief to have my ankle wrapped, but it was still slightly uncomfortable. I was able to get back to my shuffle, then jog/walk intervals.

I have never felt such joy at seeing a sign as I did when I saw “1 mile to go.”  Not only was the sign a welcome relief, but the faces, high fives and hugs from the ET Cheer Crew lifted my heart and feet!

As I made the final turn to head up the hill to the finish, the song “Unstoppable” by Rascal Flatts came on my iPod.  Wow! As I listened to the words I got choked up thinking about the 26 miles I had just run.  I hadn’t let anything stand between my goal and me.  I was unstoppable.  I did what I thought was impossible. I was about to finish a marathon.

As I headed down the finish chute, I saw my family sitting in the bleachers, cheering. That was really great, as my kids were thrilled to hear my name called over the loudspeaker.  I was thrilled to be done. It had been a really long day!

What a great end to an amazing race season! I was a tad nervous when I decided to tackle the marathon.  I had always told anyone that asked that I thought that running over 4 hours was crazy, let alone running 6 hours? Insanity!  I realized I have grown so much as an athlete and a person.  I have grown with the support of a fantastic team and the guidance of my coach, Coach Suzy.  My ET team and my family encouraged and supported me while I went for the gold and achieved it.  I earned MY Olympic gold medal in 2012!


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