Thursday, October 25, 2012

My journey to 26.2 miles!

A Tribute to a few special people in my life who have helped me get to where I today. May I make you all proud. 

I have finally made it to the final days before my first marathon. I find myself reflecting back on my journey, and I am proud of how far I have come but I find myself realizing that I have a long road ahead of me. I have goals and dreams before me but I know that in time, with discipline and a great deal of patience, anything is possible with God leading the way!

My journey to this marathon started well before most of you may think. As a child growing up my parents started running, and I remember going to races to watch my Dad run. I was so very proud! My aunt was, and is, an elite accomplished runner, and her influence spread throughout the family and inspired us all to take up running and lead healthier lives. My Mom and I ran the Susan G. Komen 5k together when I was in middle school. Once in high school I was on the track and cross country team. I was inspired and motivated by my family to continue running which eventually lead to my first triathlon at the age of 15.

                                One of my triathlons I did while in high school 

You must remember that my weight gain did not begin until I was in my 20's. My whole life I was fit and active and running was just another part of our life.  When I was 15 years old my Dad signed up for his first marathon, the Dallas White Rock Marathon. He trained and trained along side my Mom who would go out with him on his long runs, and she would ride her bike beside him cheering him on. They would tell me stories of how she would even sing to him! I remember the example it set for me of how a marriage should be: one spouse supporting the other with their dreams. It was a beautiful thing.  However, the night before the marathon my Mom became very sick and my Dad--after all of his training--could not leave her side. He missed the race.

I have no doubt it was hard for my Dad after so many months of training. But his love and devotion for my Mom far outweighed any desire to race. How could he run his first marathon and not have his bride, his best friend there with him? I always admired my Dad for making my Mom a priority, and the love he showed that day is something I will never forget. Nevertheless, I do not think I fully understood his decision until now.

Daddy, you may not have been able to finish your marathon but you just know that when I cross that line, you will be in my heart and I will make you proud! You have always been such an amazing example to me and for the many, many times you and Mom have encouraged me along this long journey, I thank you. Thank you for always believing in me and knowing that even though I lost my way, I would make it back to the girl you once knew, and I would be living the life God has in store for me. 

A few memories from our family races growing up...

I have no idea what I was thinking with the shorts and the big sunglasses....oh my! Don't you love old photos from the late 80's and 90's!! But it was an amazing memory running with my Mom! 

I have been training for some time now, and I can honestly say that marathon training is more than long runs, speed work and fueling properly. It is an emotional journey--one that requires a commitment you must make with all your heart and one that will directly affects those close to you. When you are exhausted, drained or injured it affects everyone. Your spouse has an important role to play. They can either lift you up and motivate you more than anyone else could or marathon training can take a toll of them as well. For me, I am blessed in that this training has only brought my husband and I closer together in ways we never could have imagined. 

In 2010, we were blessed with our little girl, and once again my life and this new journey I was on was changed forever. My running and workouts changed in the best possible way. I went from morning runs to running on the treadmill during her naps and running with her in the BOB stroller. When I look back at my weight loss after having my girl, they are some of the best memories I have in terms of the entire weight loss journey. We spent so many days together out on the trails sharing special moments while I was getting back into shape. In many ways, she was my training partner leading up to this marathon. She was my running buddy--something I will always hold dear in my heart. I feel as if we did this together. I cannot wait to tell her stories of our runs together and how her Daddy made my marathon training so very special for me.  Someday, who knows, maybe we will be cheering her on as she races towards the finish line! 

One of my runs with my girl in 2011 while I was losing my baby weight and making incredible memories as a new Mom! It was one of the happiest times of my life. 

A snowy run with my girl during our first winter here in Norway. 

The journey which lead me to where I am today was not an easy one. It was a hard journey with many heartaches, but my husband stood by me the entire time. While I felt embarrassed and so ashamed with myself, he always lifted my spirits and continued to make me feel so very loved. In his eyes, I was perfect. True, he did not see just how much weight I was gaining. Maybe he should have been tougher on me, but it is not in his spirit to do so. This devotion and love for me continued when I began my weight loss journey in 2006.  

I remember every day when he would come back from the office and could not wait to read my fitness blog and hear about what my workouts were for the day! He would get so excited seeing if I increased my weights or rep count when began focusing on strength training. He used to help me with my push ups, stretching after a workout or sometimes standing next to the treadmill cheering for me as I was doing sprint intervals. Consistently year after year, he was there. How does someone give so much of themselves? It was truly beautiful, and it was one of the biggest reasons I have succeeded with my weight loss the way that I have.  

My husband never seemed to lose faith in me. I remember sitting on the couch in Russia and signing up for what would be my first triathlon in years!! We were moving back to the US and I had not swam or biked in forever. I had lost about 70 lbs at that point, and I was bound and determined to get back to triathlons. Even though I did not even own a bike, I signed up and he was so very proud of me. He surprised me months later with a scrapbook that he made me for all my triathlon bibs and memories. Again, he showed me that my dreams, my goals are his as well. His heart is so invested in my journey it has truly become his own! 
Just as my father recognized my mother's love and devotion for him during his training. I too understand just how much this race means to my husband. When I struggle, he struggles with me. When I cross that finish, he will be with me in my heart just as if he was running beside me cheering me on all the way. I will never forget the countless long runs we had together during this training. My husband would drive to various mile markers, his homemade signs in hand and would be jumping around cheering like a mad man. Only true love can make someone do such things!

I am crossing this finish line for many, many reasons. But I could not have made it to this point without the support and dedication from you, my precious husband, Micah. You’re my everything. I run this race for you. I will try my best to make you so very proud of me and with every step you will be right there with me. I cannot thank you enough for the many early mornings you helped me get ready for my long runs. The countless times I cried and cried knowing we had to cancel another race due to injury. The days and nights I poured my heart out to you telling you my dreams and how I wanted to be more, I wanted to do more and yet I did not know how. You raised me up when I was down and you pushed me forward in my darkest hours.  

Thank you my love for ALWAYS being there for me, in all things.  I dedicate this race, this journey and this moment to you.  Forever, I will thank God for bringing you into my life. 

Here are some memories from a few of my runs during marathon training! 

Seeing my girl at the end of my first 16 mile run! She was holding the sign that she made with my husband for me and my heart broke seeing her standing there cheering me on saying Mommy! Mommy! I will never, ever forget this moment...

                                             Tears of joy holding my girl...

                                           During one of my 20 mile runs 

                                               Finishing my 18 miler!! 

My husband made these signs and had them on the side of the road exactly at the 10, 18 and 20 mile mark!! I cried so hard when I realized what they were as I was running past them! I was in shock. It was an incredible memory. He made everything so very special for me. 

Here I am finishing my first 20 miler!!! My husband had all the signs lined up for me like a little finish line with him cheering me on through the finish! 

                                    Happy as can be after my first 20 mile run! 

                       The sign and balloons I came home to after my last 20 miler! 

What an amazing journey this has become! I cannot wait to see what God has in store for me next! One thing I do know is that I can reach any dream, as long as I have my eyes fixed on Christ. 


Anele @ Success Along the Weigh said...

Jen, this is an AMAZING blog! I don't know what more I can say to convey just how proud and honored I am to call you "friend!" You will do great, I know it!

Donna said...

I had chills and tears reading your post. Amazing, just amazing!!!!

Jen's Journey said...

Thank you both so very much for your support and sweet comments!

Anonymous said...

I had my first ever morning run this morning, and read this after, tears in my eyes. Thank you, and thank you Micah!

Amanda Haws said...

What a beautiful journey! So inspiring!

Dad and Mom said...

We have been crying and reminiscing with you. Jen, this is just beautiful. You are such a precious daughter and we are so proud. Micah is such a treasure, what a huge blessing from God. You set your goal, you trained, now go have fun!!!

ty said...

This is such a wonderful post. As a fellow marathoner, I got chills and cried. It's such an emotional time, trying to reconcile your brain and your body, and then once you finish and realize that you completed something that less than 1% of the human race can do ... it overwhelms you. Congratulations and good luck :) can't wait to hear the race recap!

~Tara~ said...

WOW Jen..
This truly made me want to cry, and tears of happiness for you! What an inspiration I can't even begin to tell you. When you wrote about your runs with your baby girl, it made me think of mine with my two kids. Each one has special memories for me. And then your most amazing husband cheering you on like that. You truly are blessed with so much love, I can feel it pouring out of my computer!! Congratulations on ALL your accomplishments, and I GOOD LUCK on this amazing marathon your doing!!

discoveringstrength said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
discoveringstrength said...

Jen, I teared up reading this. What an amazing family you have such support and love and joy they bring to you. I am seriously constantly amazed at the support from your husband mine - he should write a book about how to support your wife so my hubby can buy it ;). You are so truly blessed and I want to thank you for sharing your honesty and story with us all. You bless the rest of us by sharing that and proving strength in your belief of God, love, family and support can truly get us over any mountain and help us conquer any distance. I have never met you in person but you are dear in my heart and I am proud of what you'll be doing. I cannot wait to hear about your marathon experience.


Patty Whiteman said...

Crying are so blessed to have the support you have. I'll be praying for you....I loved your photos as always!

Miranda said...

WOW - this is so special and so wonderful. I love reading your blog! This post made me CRY!!! I am cheering for you all the way in hawaii! :)

Val said...

I am not going to lie, I almost cried reading this!! You have an amazing husband and family! I have been following your blog for a while now, I've just never commented. You are going to do great!! You have absolutely inspired me, and I hope you know just what a great thing you are doing and the WONDERFUL example you are setting for your daughter.

I hope to have a story just like yours someday!!!

noomiy said...

Oh my!
I'm in love with your progress!
Very inspiring! I am young runner and I've never run more than 10K but I'd like to do that one day... I mean run 42K.
Thank you for lovery story!

Nancy Howard said...

Loved every word!!! Thanks for taking us on this journey with you!

Anonymous said...

This is an amazing blog. I felt every word and it brought tears to my eyes.

Congrats for staying strong and having the sweetest husband and baby girl ever.

I want you to know that you've inspired me today.