Sunday, April 27, 2014

My marathon experience, my appreciation!

It is hard to believe it has already been two weeks since the marathon!  I can honestly say that it was a much more enjoyable experience than I ever anticipated it to be, and that is largely attributed to you and all of your encouragement and support along the way.  For those of you who would like to hear about how the actual event unfolded, please keep reading—I would love to share the experience with you!  My greatest worry going into the run was not that I wouldn’t be able to finish, but that the pain in my hip and knee that I dealt with throughout my entire training would cause me to limp my way across the finish line in extreme pain.  I had mentally prepared myself for this, but had also asked a lot of people to specifically pray for no pain throughout the race.

One of our staff demonstrates how to use the Personal Protective Equipment in the
event of encountering a person suspected of having Ebola
When I left Liberia for the marathon, we were in the middle of responding to the Ebola outbreak that had occurred in Guinea and spilled over into Liberia.  Our dependents and children of expat staff had left the country, and all hands were on deck to assist in a massive awareness campaign to get the word out about the disease, as well as preventions to take.  On one hand it was very hard to leave the team, but on the other hand, so many months of training and preparation had gone into it, that it was important to finish it out.  Unfortunately, Kendell was not able to come as originally planned, as he was needed on the ground in Liberia to lead the team.  Our response to the Ebola outbreak just highlighted the need for clean water, as well as proper medical facilities- the very two projects we were running to raise money for. 

Jamie and I heading out for the starting line!

My view at the starting line... oh the number of people!

The London Marathon is incredibly organized- I guess it has to be with 36,000 runners!  In fact, when the gun went off, it took me 23 minutes to even reach the starting line!  I kept telling myself, “Only 26 miles today. Only 26 miles today.”  Once I finally crossed the start line, it was hard to stay my scheduled pace, as everyone was so excited that they took off running really fast!  Thank goodness for a watch that tells me my pace, because I watched it very closely as the race began to not tire myself out faster than I should.

Coming in for some high-fives at mile 6!
(Photo by Christopher Laird)
Mile 6 was my first sighting of our SP cheering squad!  It was amazing to have thousands of people along the route cheering for you, but it sure gave an extra dose of energy to see two Liberian flags and familiar faces cheering for me!  I was feeling great!

The Tower Bridge

Adrenaline was still carrying me!
 I think one of my favorite places of the race was just before the half- approaching and crossing the Tower Bridge.  Just the grandeur of the bridge was surreal for this small –town Iowa girl to be running across.  Just after the bridge is the 13.1 mile marker- half way through.  The excitement of running over the bridge quickly faded as my body soon realized the journey ahead.  It was as if all the adrenaline faded away… and the real work was about to begin.

Getting my energy hug from Isaac.
(Photo by Faith Spinks)

Thankfully, the SP crew was waiting for me at mile 14.  I made a quick stop to say hello and receive a hug from Isaac, and let them know that adrenaline had carried me so far, but now it was time to pray!  At mile 15 I needed to use the restroom, and unfortunately stood in line for at least 15 minutes!  After waiting for 10 minutes I was tempted to just start running again, but figured if I had already committed to 10 minutes, I would be best for me to just wait it out, rather then stand in line at another mile marker down the road.

Never thought I would say I enjoyed running a marathon!
One thing that surprised me as I ran was the overwhelming emotions that I felt.  I had anticipated some emotion at completing the race, but didn’t expect it as I ran.  Several times along the way I would find myself brought to tears thinking about the overwhelming encouragement and support from family and friends- both at home and in Liberia, as well as our staff who were working tirelessly day in and day out to spread the message of Ebola, and the impact that all of the donations received would make- not only physically, but more importantly, spiritually.  An eternal impact. 

As I was passing mile 17, I felt my first sign of pain in my left knee.  I quickly reached for my Tylenol I was carrying and within minutes it kicked in.  Mile 18 was approaching quickly, and I began to get worried.  A month before the marathon I had come down with malaria.  That weekend I was sick was my scheduled 20-mile run.  So I had never gone past 18 miles in my training, and I didn’t know how my body would react past that point.  Well, God was again gracious, as mile after mile I still felt strong!  During the entire race I did a run-walk system- run for 10 minutes, walk for 2, etc.  Each time I started up running again I could tell my body was getting stiff, but once I was running, I really felt good.

Mile 21- stopping to say hi to the SP cheering squad. Starting to feel stiff... but doing well!

At mile 21 I again was able to see the SP cheering squad, and let them know that I was doing well- getting stiff, but all in all doing well.  As soon as I took off, they jumped on the train to meet me at the finish!

I really was surprised at my body and how good it felt after 20+ miles.  In fact, I was reaching the 23 mile mark and I even considered skipping my run/walk system and just finishing the whole thing out.  That may have been a bit ambitious, and God knew it- because when it was time for me to walk and I wanted to keep running, he literally blocked my path with people walking and I couldn’t get through!  So I continued with my regular plan.

Running along the Embankment, to the left is the London Eye, and Big Ben is up ahead.

At mile 24 my feet really started to get sore- again, I was shocked that it took that long, and that it was only my feet!  Mile 25 is all along the Embankment road, which runs parallel to the Thames river, where the famous London Eye overlooks the city, and as you run you are running straight towards Big Ben.  It was getting more difficult to enjoy the scenery at this point, but I was able to force myself to look around and take it in, no matter how sore and stiff my feet were.  Once you reach Big Ben, you make a right turn and you are basically on the home stretch.  Past Westminster and one more turn before Buckingham Palace.  Just knowing that I was within a mile of completing a marathon brought a whole new wave of energy!

Oh what a joy it was to see this view!

Once the corner was turned there is a big sign over the road that states “Only 385 yards to go!”  Oh what a sweet welcome that sign was!  Just after the sign is Buckingham Palace and the last .2 of the marathon course.  Again, I had really anticipated and expected to be in so much pain at this point- doubled over, limping my way over the last section of the course.  But the opposite was true!  I felt strong, pain-free, and alert to take in all of the details as the marathon came to a close.  God is so, so gracious.

Taking in the last .2

I could literally feel the prayers as I ran.  The fact that I basically ran pain-free for 26.2 miles was no small miracle.  It was even more evident at the finish line.  The very second my left foot landed on the finish line is when all of the pain that I had anticipated from the very beginning came.  That very second my foot hit the ground… God is good.

The very step that ended the race and the pain began. So glad they got a picture of this step.

I finished! 5 hours and 33 minutes... including roughly 20 minutes of waiting in line for
the bathroom at miles 1 and 15!
Oh, He is so good.  The marathon journey was amazing.  The reason for running was even better-- to see friends, family and church congregations come together to make an eternal impact in Liberia is something even more incredible.  As of today, the total funds our team raised for our water projects and ELWA Hospital have reached over $31,000USD.  Praise and Glory be to God.

The SP Liberia runners- Jamie did an amazing job, finishing at 4 hours and 22 minutes-
beating her personal record by 16 minutes!

SPUK runners at the finish line.

Part of our cheering squad--Elizabeth and Bev.
Thank you so much for being a part of this marathon journey with me.  I can honestly say I couldn’t have done it without you, and that as I ran, I prayed for you as well.  I know a lot of you may never step foot in Liberia to see the wells or the new hospital that your money is going towards, but I pray that He will bless you for your willingness to give.  

If you missed the opportunity to donate, there is still time!  Just click on the link below, it's that easy... way easier than running 26.2 miles :)

If you are from the UK, my fundraising page address is:

If you are from the US/Canada, my fundraising page address is: