On Saturday morning my alarm rang for the last time at 6:25 A.M.
Since the end of the June, my alarm has gone off at the same time each Saturday morning. Only a few hours after most people my age go to bed after wild and crazy Friday nights, I woke up to do my own wild and crazy things.
At the beginning, it didn’t seem so crazy. Eight miles, ten miles; it didn’t sound so bad, Then it progressively got harder and harder. As the weeks passed, the temperatures also climbed with the mileage, By mid-August, SLR totals ranged in the middle teens. Waking up to run 14, 15 and 16 miles all before many of my friends even woke up became a common feat.
But even as the temperatures started to decline, the miles did not to do the same. So, like weeks past, I laced up my sneakers and headed to Fleet Feet for 16, 18 and 20-mile runs. But even with those runs successfully completed, this past weekend’s SLR might have been the hardest.
For this last Saturday, I woke up to Pharell Williams’ “Happy” alerting me to my 6:25 wake-up call. The sun did not rise for nearly another hour, so by the time its rays began to shine on my shoulders, I was nearly halfway done with my last long run of my marathon training.
To call the run “bittersweet” would be an understatement.
Several of my fellow running buddies were not at this weekend’s run; many had already completed their marathons and were enjoying their first Saturday in months sleeping in. Their absence hovered as a reminder of the end of the program. For those of us remaining, the run was emotional. Our eight-mile course had us running down to the Lincoln Memorial, crossing the Arlington Memorial Bridge to Arlington Cemetery and then tracing the path of the final .2 miles of the Marine Corps Marathon.
As I ran in the shadow of the Iwo Jima Memorial, all I could think about was how I longed for it to be October 26. Under a picturesque blue sky, the American flag in the hands of the statue men fluttered in the wind. I imagined the lines of marines cheering and saluting the runners who used their remaining effort and energy to ascend the hill to the greetings of the marines. When the runners cross the finish line, they are welcomed by the arms of a marine who also place the medals over the finishers’ necks.
When that happens to me, I know that every ounce of emotion will pour out of me. I anticipate tearing up on the course as I search for the friendly faces of my parents and best friends. By the finish, I know that the tears won’t be able to keep themselves inside.
It’s been a long journey to this point. I have sacrificed wild and crazy Fridays for early morning Saturdays; I have eaten multiple bagels post-long runs and spent much of my Saturday afternoons cocooned indoors napping the hours away. But in the end, the fatigue, the calories, the pain, the friendships, all of it will be worth it.
I did not cry at Saturday once those eight miles ended, but it did feel very strange to say to some “see you next week” with a different meaning in mind. Whereas typically that would have met, “see you next Saturday,” this time it meant, “I’ll see you on Sunday: Race Day.”