And now, the not so epic conclusion.
I had six months to get myself from couch to marathon shape. Needless to say I has skeptical. I hopped on the internet, found a decent enough training plan that I figured with a little tweaking I could handle, and started running the next day.
Two months went by and I had barely built myself up to more than three miles every other day. Things were not looking good. Slowly the miles started building and the runs were getting easier. Could I dare say that I was beginning to have fun? Things were going good, but I had yet to tackle that final hurdle in my training. The 20+ mile long run. The week came when I was finally going go get my chance. I was all primed to go, and then I got injured. Nothing serious, but enough to prevent a 20. A couple weeks later and it was time for another shot. Scheduling conflicts. Had to cut the run short. I was starting to get nervous. There were only a few weeks left before I needed to start cutting back and I still hadn't gone longer than 16. Finally, with four weeks before the marathon, I managed to hit the trails and get in 20 miles. Relief. I actually got one more 21 miler the next weekend and was feeling pretty good about things.
Race day finally came, and with conservative expectations, I started out to end my journey I had started six months earlier. With PERFECT weather and my family cheering me on, I crossed the finish line well under my goal. In fact, the race had gone so well that I destroyed my previous PR that I had set right out of college!
*Disclosure: I am about to admit to being a HUGE softy, so don't make too much fun of me!*
Now I'm not sure if it was due to the emotional drain of the afternoon, the elation I had at crushing my goal, or just the fact that I was glad to be done, but shortly after crossing the finish I broke down...in tears. It must have been pretty obvious too, because one of the finish officials noticed and asked me if I had PR'd, which I proudly said that I did. I quickly regained some composure and wrapped up my finish line activities. After a quick phone call to the family, it was decided that due to traffic it would be easier to take the bus back to the Metrodome and walk back to the apartment where I was staying from there (it was about a mile). As I sat on the bus waiting to depart, I finally had time to reflect a little on what had just happened. Again I was flooded with emotions, however this time I was able to hold back the tears. It had been a good day.
As I think back about that day, I realize that moment on the bus was the moment that I became a runner. It was the moment that the sport I loved so much back in high school and college had seeped back into my blood. From that moment, there was (and still is) no turning back.
It is now 2011, I have already ran a marathon since and I am signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon again. I am currently following an ultra marathon training plan and expect to attempt my first in 2012. As the miles start increasing and the training gets tougher, I find myself more eager to head out the door than ever. Not all runs are great and sometimes I really struggle to find the motivation, but at no time does it feel like work. Running no longer feels like a chore. Unlike high school and college, every step I take is one that I have decided to take, not for a coach or for a team. Those were all great experiences, but now I am running for me, and I can not think of a better reason to run.