Welp, this is gonna be long! I wanted to commit to virtual paper my experience yesterday while it’s still fresh in my mind. So many thoughts and feelings! I’ll try to describe them the best that I can.
The start line: This is where my heart was pounding and knowing I was about to do something great, no matter what. I reminded myself to keep unattached to an outcome, to go out easy, and I thought of my Grandpa. People were shedding their hoodies, shirts, and other clothing items designed to keep them warm all over the place. It was real!
Mile 2, Chinatown: I had to pee so friggin bad — nerves! I had peed about 3 times earlier in the hour at our suite at Dodger Stadium. It was here that I said goodbye to Mary, Nancy, and Alexis thinking I’d catch up to them.
Mile 3, Japanese Village: I was by myself and was convinced that it was just meant to be, and I embraced my solitude with a fierce hug. I smiled and waved at a ton of people cheering, and my body started feeling alive and GOOD.
Mile 4, Disney Concert Hall Hill: This is where I learned that drums make my heart pound and fill me with power. Seeing the steep hill in front of me, I told myself to take it slow and easy, and just breathe. The Japanese taiko drummers were pounding a driving, compelling beat that propelled me forward. My heart was pounding but I think it had more to do with the drums than the hill. Goosebumps all over my body.
Miles 5-9, Echo Park through East Hollywood: Here, I was mostly having fun smiling and waving at everyone, and thanking them. Mile 5, I started my running intervals so I felt very swift and empowered. People were giving away so many things: bananas, oranges, homemade granola, chocolate, kombucha, chili dogs, beer – you name it! I vowed only to eat my Clif Bloks that I trained with. A guy from a local BBQ shack was so nice to me that I almost cried. The support was amazing!!
Miles 10-11, Hollywood proper: I saw a couple renew their vows onstage, and the crowd went wild. At Mile 11, the heat of the day was really weighing down on me and I started feeling uncomfortable. I poured water on my head and convinced myself to forge on. I ran into my first mental setback: the street sweepers behind me. Motorcycle police on bullhorns were telling us to move to the sidewalk, and it just felt like the Marathon was closing up shop. I was going to miss out on water/aid stations, spectators would pack up and go home, and I’d be straggling along. (I was wrong, so wrong as I’d find out much later on in the race).
This is where I started saying to myself “NOPENOPENOPE SHUT UP BRAIN, everything is fine, you are doing great, what’s your next job, Court?” I had a formula written on my hand: 15-30-1. This translated to every 15 minutes, I drink some water. Every 30 minutes, I eat my bloks. Every hour, I take a salt pill. I looked at my watch and said okay, I have to eat in 5 minutes. Thinking of my “job” kept me present, focused, and empowered. And distracted!
It was here that I ran into a familiar, loving face: Chico. I saw a red shirt, then his face, and then I thought I was hallucinating for a split second. I ran to his arms and hugged him so tight, I was so friggin happy. My flagging strength just boosted tenfold. He fed me my bloks, kissed me and told me I was doing great. Then I swiftly ran back on the sidewalk and continued my journey.
Miles 12-14, West Hollywood. Here I was really starting to feel the painful, humungous blisters that were forming all over my feet. I started worrying about how I could possibly continue to run on these pillows of pain and then I did my NOPENOPENOPE SHUT UP BRAIN technique and started chanting I FEEL FINE. I FEEL FINE. I think this is where I started to feel a little crazy and my chanting mantras were being said out loud. A mile would pass and then I’d feel it actually working. I stopped caring about how I probably sounded to my fellow marathoners. I was hurting but I was doing it.
It was during these miles that I also ran into some more familiar, beloved faces. I saw Guitar Center and was greeted by my teammates, Sergio and Lucy! They spent their day supporting, hugging, and cheering all of us on the team when we so needed it. Their energy and hugs made me smile and gave me the strength to continue for another 10 minutes, when my job was to drink some water.
At the Whisky A Go Go I heard a voice booming out “COURTNEY HAAAAAMILTON!!!!!” It was my Uncle Kyle!! My Auntie Karen, Uncle Kyle, and their friend Mario came out to cheer my along and boy did I need it. I felt so loved and supported and seeing my family members was another boost I really needed because this was the halfway point!
Miles 15-17, Beverly Hills. Here I officially ran further than I ever had in my entire life. That fact was not lost on me and I felt very worried about the “unknown miles ahead”. This is where my mental jujitsu came into play and I said to myself “OH LOOK! Mile 15! In one more mile you get to listen to music!” I am obsessed with music and I designed a playlist full of punk rock/speed metal/various weird power jams to get me through and I was SO looking forward to this moment!!! I plugged in my music at the 16 mile marker and started feeling alive again!!
Miles 18-19, Century City. I realized some water must have gotten into my phone because my headphones weren’t working properly and my music kept slipping forward and backward tracks. Frustrated, I ditched my headphones and played my music out loud. I ran into Alfredo, who kept me company and it was so good to chat with someone I knew again. It was here that I felt my first surge of hope: the recognition of the course from our team practices. This familiarity comforted me and made me realize the end was pretty near! Then I quickly pulled myself back mentally, reminding myself to not think of the end and stay present and OH LOOK THERE’S COFFEE BEAN! You know the bathroom code there, and you can go and take a luxurious dump! When I was exiting Coffee bean I saw my buddies Mary, Alexis and Nancy again!! It was so good to see them powering through and digging deep. It reminded me of how lucky I was to be a part of team of such great people and to have access to training, wisdom, and advice to get us through it.
Miles 20-21, West LA. I will never forget the squelching, squishing, stinging sensation of having a few of my blisters burst simultaneously as my feet hit the ground in my stride. It was an icky creepy feeling that I really didn’t enjoy. But it was here that something REALLY dawned on me: every time I’d do my running interval, it took away a significant amount of my pain. I started thinking of my running interval as my “pain pill”, and I finally understood the power of naturally-induced endorphins. It was an amazing epiphany.
Miles 22-24, West LAish/Santa Monica. I’m still not sure if I “hit the wall” at any point in this marathon, but I remember specifically slowing down at mile 22 and stopping for a minute to chat with someone at the water station. I remember not wanting to keep going, I just wanted to sit down and talk to this nice person for a few minutes. Then I literally punched myself in the quads and said SORRY I GOTTA KEEP GOING and I took off. This is where I also realized that I was going to finish. I was really going to finish!!! I kept looking forward to my “pain pills”. I ran into Coach Jimmy, who came over to see how I was doing. There were so many things I wanted to say to him, I wanted to tell him how grateful I was and how much he meant to me, but I honestly couldn’t find the words. I was really braindead and it was so hard to talk. I was just staring at the road and listening to him, feeling comfort in his presence. It meant so much to me to see him at this point, cognitively knowing the finish line was just around the bend but it really didn’t feel that way to my feet.
Miles 25-Finish. Rounding the bend, I was hooting and hollering like some kind of wild animal because I could see the finish line!! I was delirious with happiness. The marathoners around me all perked up and started cheering too, as did the last of the spectators along Ocean Avenue. Then I saw Alexis!! I ran to her and we decided that we would finish strong, and finish together. The finish line grew closer and closer and when we got close, we realized that they closed it. There was a moment of confusion but we just kept jamming out through this little passage way next to the finish line. A marathon worker said “step over this hump (sensor on the ground) here! You’re done!” We ran through and I was a little unclear if I finished or not, but then I saw a man with medals and it hit me so hard. I cried with Alexis as we put our heavy, awesome medals around our necks. I couldn’t wait to see my Mom, I just wanted my Mom!!!
I think this was the greatest thing I have ever done. I left so many pieces of myself behind on this journey… the pieces that are complacent, scared, lacking confidence. The pieces who automatically think I can’t do something. The pieces that paint me with a “you’re not good enough” brush. The pieces who feel alone and isolated. The pieces that don’t like to ask for help and are too self-criticizing. I did this with the support of so many people that believe and care about me. I am amazed that I got myself through something so physically and mentally exhausting. Those 7 hours and 36 minutes of transformation were a gift to myself that I never knew I could open.