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This weekend will certainly go down in the “history of me” as one of the best weekends ever. A true “I made it” moment (or moments).

The preceding weeks have been super stressful. There’s been moving, work, volunteer, and training related stresses – among others, I’m sure, but I’d just as soon forget that stressful feeling! It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least.

On Friday, Brian suggested a walk to take advantage of the sun that had been obnoxiously missing for the past TWO weeks. We headed down to the river to scope out the finish line area of the marathon. We thought perhaps they’d be setting stuff up already, but less several random porta-potties, there was no indication of the hulaballo that was about to take place there in a mere forty-eight hours. We noticed a crosswalk just befor the pavilion area with an “F” spray painted on the ground. We both agreed this was the finish for the race. We wandered past, looking for any sign of marathon preparedness, but there was none, so we walked back to the finish and looked out over the river.

Then, it happened, he was down on one knee! He began talking, saying the most wonderful heartfelt things (sorry readers, SOME things are not for the whole internet to know), but overall it was perfect. Then came the ring, and the “Jennifer Cole, I would like to ask you to marry me.” To which, I most appropriately responded “I would like to say yes.” And…. YAY! It was perfect, it was the perfect memory to have sunday morning to bring me across that finishline!

Now – on to the race itself. I’d had this ridiculously painful back tightness since Wednesday night. It was becoming a real burden, and cramping my “relaxing” philosophy in the days leading up to the race. I resolved to give KT tape a try for the actual marathon (it worked, very little back pain while running), but the whole experience left me a bit amped up at the start line. The forecast had gone back and forth for Sunday regarding rain. However, the final result – chilly temps (perfect), overcast (perfect), and no rain. Whew!

Brian and I started the race together, with friends and family littering the start, cheering us on. We crossed the start line hand-in-hand, had a quick kiss and then he was off to try to meet his time goal. I was doing a 5:1 run/walk ratio, so I hung behind.

Then it happened, we approached the first mile marker and my left knee started getting stabby. Why? NEVER during training had I had any knee pain. Seriously, what gives? Frustrated but determined, I kept pushing on. It wasn’t until the 5th or so mile where I noticed the knee pain was slowing me down. At the same time, those first 5 miles did go by exceptionally fast. I knew I’d be seeing my family and Sara at mile 8 with my emergency baggies. I trudged along until I found them and put some Performance Biofreeze on my knee and off I went. The mental trickery that the cooling agent was helping lasted about 3/4 of a mile. My knee freaking HURT. I was irritated with myself for not taking the motrin from them at the 8 mile marker. I wouldn’t see them again until 14.

Around mile 10 I started to entertain the possibility I wouldn’t be finishing this race. It’s been a LONG time since 10 miles took me over 2 hours to complete. I started to get in my own head, tears welled up, the pain was excruciating. I even began hyperventilating a bit. Breathing was tight and wheezy. I had to get a grip. Was I really going to drop out of this race I’d been training so hard for, with Brian waiting for me at the finish, because of a sore knee???

No. No freaking way.

I trudged on, at every group of people that weren’t my family and Sara I got a bit more bummed out. Mile 14 was in the middle of the woods – there wasn’t ANYONE around, let alone the tall, runner-stature, body of my dad that I kept looking for off in the distance. His pitch black Oneonta State sweatshirt and mostly-salt-only-a-little-pepper hair was easy to spot from a distance.

Nearing mile 15, there they were! Mom was waving my emergency baggie asking if I needed anything. The motrin, just give me all of it! I threw back two with some water, and Sara joined in, running the next 5 miles with me. It was a perfect combination. I’ve never run with anyone before because I’m slower than most of my running buds and didn’t want to drag them down. But, the motrin kicked in, and Sara and I had tons to talk about – we’d barely spoken in the last few weeks due to the aforementioned stress-disaster that was my life. Adding Sara as a running buddy was the best decision she ever made for me! Ha! It was my turning point in the race.

At 19.5 I saw my family for the last time, dropped off Sara and picked up Natalie. I saw Nat at this same spot the previous year, when she ran this marathon. This is a tough stretch to the finish and I’m glad she and her experience were there to egg me on. At this point, all the usual suspects started to ache. This was normal, I told myself; keep pushing forward. I was still a bit frustrated because my energy level was great. If it hadn’t been for that dang knee I most certainly would’ve been at a much faster pace. When I started to get tired mentally, Nat kept urging me along “come on, we’re totally going to pass these guys, step it up.” And, we did.

The mile 25 marker seemed to take forever to come, but as we approached, someone off in the distance was walking toward us. Nat casually states “oh, there’s Brian, he said he was going to come back to 25 to meet you.” I was so happy to see him! The two of them shuffled with me the last 1.2 miles to the finish. I crossed the finish line and exclaimed “I got engaged right here on Friday!” Hands waving in the air, and the biggest smile on my face.

It was truly an amazing weekend. I did it. I’m a marathoner. A marathoner in love.

I wouldn’t call what I can do today “walking,” but who cares?

Today, I am invincible.

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