My First Marathon

There are a thousand things I’d like to tell you about this race, my first marathon.  I could tell you what I did right, what I did wrong, the high points and the low.  I will write a real race report, but, for now my heart is saying that I should tell you a story, so that’s what I’m going to do.

There was once a girl who believed she couldn’t.  She was the last girl picked for kick ball, the one who broke her ankle playing her first organized sport, the one who sat on the sidelines while other people did things.  She tried running a few times, mostly when she was single and bored and needed something to fill the hours in between working shifts at the book store and the restaurant.  She loved how running made her feel, but she wasn’t ever very good at sports, so she set it aside, figuring that she might as well not even try.

The girl met a boy and they started a family, too early according to most.  They struggled with money, with balancing college classes and work and babies.  They tried to make ends meet, to be good parents, to keep growing.  All that trying made the girl tired, sad and lonely, especially when working opposite shifts was the only way to keep the house afloat. She gained weight, she ate to feel better, she stayed sad.  She visited a doctor who told her that her blood pressure and weight were too high, that it was time to make some changes.  She joined a weight loss group and heard about women who lost more weight when they ran.  She decided to give it a try.

She ran.  For 30 seconds.  For 30 seconds more.  She ran for a mile, two, then three.  She raced (not quickly) and got her first free t-shirt.  She signed up for longer races.  She got injured.  She signed up for longer races and ran them.  She tried to finish a marathon and failed.  She kept running.  And her life got better.  She felt more alive after she ran. Everything seemed brighter.  She laughed more.  She started to lose the quiet rage that had boiled in her veins for so long.  She started to feel calm more often.  She started to ask for help when she needed it.  She changed.

She started to think that the world was wider than she had imagined, that it was time to see more and do more.  She looked forward to the summer after a long, difficult year of work.  And then, when the phone rang, she ignored it.  The second time it rang, she got irritated and ignored it again.  The third time it rang, she knew something was wrong. Her dad died.  And so did part of her.  She held his hand for one last time.  She got angry again.  She got sad again.

She started to write again.  She decided to do what she loved, even if that meant she wasn’t doing what she went to college to study.  She decided to run more, to open herself up to her fears and to face them.  She took risks by making her goals public.  She found a new community of runners and writers and felt welcomed.  She trained for a longer race, with friends, with family and alone.  And then, nearly a year after losing her dad, she stood at the starting line and believed she couldn’t.  She stood there, still feeling like the last kid picked for kickball, and worried that she wouldn’t make it.  That her body would betray her.  That her mind would crumble.

She ran with a friend, a generous friend who offered to be there with her the whole way. It was hot.  The sun beat down from behind the clouds and the humidity started to climb. She started to worry that this race wasn’t meant to be.  But she ran, walked, ran more. She drank, stood in front of cold water being sprayed from hoses and fire hydrants.  She got to mile 15, 18, 22.  She saw people around her fall apart from the exhaustion.  But she started to believe that she could do it.  That she could finish.  And then her body took over for her mind and she ran more.  She crossed the finish line to the announcer saying “You are a marathoner.  You nailed it kid.”  It was like he knew what she needed to hear. She’s a marathoner now.  She is ready to face the wide world, to take risks, to live.  To believe she can.

32 thoughts on “My First Marathon

  1. mojamala2 May 20, 2013 / 2:34 pm

    Congrats Marathoner! I hope you sign up for more races and marathons! You did great yesterday and I love reading your blog and following your training.
    The kids picked last for kickball make great runners. (I was picked last too)

    • gorunjess May 20, 2013 / 3:17 pm

      I’m in it now! Already registered for my next marathon and might add more. Thank you for all of your support along the way!

  2. John May 20, 2013 / 2:37 pm


  3. jaspersma May 20, 2013 / 2:39 pm

    I am just sitting here crying. What an amazing story you have Jess and only an amazing woman like yourself could overcome so much and inspire so many. Keep up the good work and keep on challenging yourself to do things that you never thought that you could.

    • gorunjess May 20, 2013 / 3:17 pm

      Thank you Melissa! I’m so grateful for your support!

  4. RACM Pep Club Dance Party May 20, 2013 / 3:06 pm

    Yay Jess! Your story reminds us that every person that passed our location was on some sort of personal journey. Thanks for sharing!

  5. rn4atsm May 20, 2013 / 3:11 pm

    So very very happy for you!!!

  6. John Boris May 20, 2013 / 3:13 pm

    It has been a pleasure reading your blog and sharing your trials, tribulations, successes and injuries. I knew that someday you would achieve what you set out to. It is one of the many things that I admire in you. You truly are an inspiration to people out there who want to quit when things get tough. You have faced another obstacle in life and met it head on. Congratulations Jess! You rock!

    • gorunjess May 20, 2013 / 3:15 pm

      Thank you John! So good to hear from you. Thank you for your kind words.

  7. Jen @ Why CLE? May 20, 2013 / 4:46 pm

    Congratulations! Your accomplishment is awesome, as is this post. I am not a runner (even though I once tried to be), but this post is so inspirational and can apply so universally. Face your fears, find your love, do your thing and the people who will love and nurture and support you will naturally follow (or show themselves to have been there all along).

    • gorunjess May 20, 2013 / 5:38 pm

      Thank you Jen! I appreciate your kind words. I am so lucky to be supported by such a loving community-of runners and bloggers!

  8. elenavs May 20, 2013 / 5:40 pm

    well done Jess, you are indeed a marathoner! I am running my first this Sunday 27th May. Keep on running 🙂

  9. Tai Fung (@tai_fung) May 20, 2013 / 5:42 pm

    “And she lived healthily ever after.”

    (I thought I’d add my 2 cents before I clear out my twitter replies). But seriously, congrats. You never will forget your first one. Welcome to The Club. 🙂

    • gorunjess May 20, 2013 / 5:45 pm

      Thank you! And thanks for adding it to my (best teacher voice) “permanent record!” 🙂

  10. Kris Goe May 20, 2013 / 5:55 pm

    She is awesome. She is amazing. She nailed that marathon. She kicked that marathon’s ass!!! She is the best. She is JESSICA FLIPPIN HUMPHREY – watch out!!

    • gorunjess May 20, 2013 / 9:22 pm

      Thank you for being there-for being an amazing friend and such an amazing person. I love you!

  11. Crystal W. (@EatDrinkClev) May 20, 2013 / 7:27 pm

    Totally in tears. This is an amazing post – thank you for sharing your story. And congratulations on letting yourself be the person you always hoped to be.I’m so proud of you!!!!!

    • gorunjess May 20, 2013 / 9:21 pm

      Thank you for reading Crystal…and for your kind words!

  12. Emily May 20, 2013 / 10:43 pm

    I am so proud of you and so glad that our paths have crossed. I cannot wait to run the MCM this fall with you and to see your progress. You’re a marathoner! You are so freaking awesome! Congrats!!

    • gorunjess May 21, 2013 / 11:46 am

      I can’t wait for MCM Emily! It should be a blast!

  13. P.J. May 21, 2013 / 10:22 am

    Congrats on your race! I love inspiring stories and this definitely takes the cake today! By most accounts, you had a ton of reasons NOT to run – let alone train for a marathon – but you did it. You found a passion, made it important and went for it. At the end of the day, how great is that?

    Good luck at the Marine Corps Marathon – I’ll be there running it for the first time.

    • gorunjess May 21, 2013 / 11:47 am

      Thank you PJ! I’m thrilled to be running MCM. I love Washington, D.C. and am looking forward to honoring my grandpa who was a Marine!

  14. michads May 21, 2013 / 11:28 am

    Congrats Jess!!!! So glad I got to see you after you finished — you have much to be proud of, both with your running achievements and your family 🙂

    • gorunjess May 21, 2013 / 11:47 am

      Thanks Mike! I appreciate all of your support!

  15. masher52 May 21, 2013 / 3:34 pm

    Congratulations! Finishing your first marathon is always an amazing experience. I still remember that day like no other. I hope you enjoyed the journey and continue to run these fun, long distances. Welcome to the marathon club!

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