I wrote about the beginning, now here’s a story about the finish line.

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.

marathon

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Day 1: FUCK! I Rolled My Ankle, and Other Thoughts

I begin this blog with a lot of hope and a lot to say.   I will preface this blog by saying that I’m a bit uncomfortable these days with “putting myself out there” online.  Maybe it’s because I used to disclose everything this way ten years ago (hello, Myspace!) and I burned myself out.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been so introspective in the past five years, that I’ve grown comfortable there, by myself… dwelling in my head and not having an audience.  This feels rickety and rusty, so please bear with me if my writing is a bit clipped or unclear.

I have recently been chosen for Team Nutribullet’s marathon training program, and I decided to document my experience with this here.  This experience will be fully public, with you who is reading this as my witness.  There is a lot background here, so again I will ask you to bear with me while I pour my thoughts out on these virtual pages…

I will start off by saying that as a child, I loathed exercise, playing sports, dancing, or being physical in any sense of the word — I’ll get to the “why” in a moment.  I was one of these kids who was happy to read, or spend time alone indoors.  I was a very sensitive, eccentric, intelligent kid who just didn’t fit in anywhere and I liked my own company.  Being around others during this time was painful.  You know how kids can be when there is someone around who is… different.  Confidence and faith in myself was a tool I never really developed.  I became a very resentful and angry kid who looked at others with a mix of envy, hatred, longing and mistrust.

At school we would have to run laps during PE and I hated it… I hated it because it highlighted the shame I felt in myself.  I felt slow and fat, with other kids running yards ahead of me with little effort.  I compared myself to them and just fell short.  I didn’t know any better and I tore myself up and down, just wanting to be as good as the rest.  I’d strain and push myself only to feel like “what the hell is the point of all of this?  I’m just not athletic.  I’ll walk the rest of this lap.”  And so began my negative association with all things physical.

Fast forward to the third decade, where adult Courtney has been drinking and smoking and doing god knows what else to excess since high school.  Self-medicating.  I’m just starting to feel like I want to help myself, and I quit smoking.  I really REALLY want to quit this time, and I read somewhere that to be successful, I must replace the smoking with something else.  An opportunity to join a local outdoor fitness group (“bootcamp”) comes up, and I jump aboard without any expectation other than I desperately want help and change.  With full remembrance of my negative relationship with fitness, I jump in anyway.

(2012) I get to a point where I am six months in this bootcamp, I am starting to feel strong and healthy and good about myself… dare I say, I like working out!! It took a very long time but I can honestly say it….  Aaaaand I relapse.  I start smoking and stop going to my bootcamp workouts.  I being a long and hollow two years of feeling shame about this and I become very dormant, shunning any kind of physical activity.

(2014) I quit smoking AGAIN.  This time, my lungs were gurgling in the morning from smoking so many damn cigarettes, and it was so scary.  My Grandpa had passed away in 2013 from emphysema and I told myself “you deserve better than this, and this needs to stop now.  This dread and worrying is killing my spirit…. and this will definitely kill my lungs in time.”  I just got tired of worrying every time I took a breath.

My good friend and fellow camper, Corazon, is now the head trainer of the bootcamp I stopped attending.  She invites me back, and I take her up on it because I want to jump on that change train again so badly.

I’m happy to report that for the first time in my life, I’ve worked out consistently for a whole year.  I have grown to look forward to my workouts in the mornings with a group of people that are so supportive, fun, and hard-working.  The feelings of shame I associated with fitness are demoted as I learn not be so hard on myself, and embrace what I’m doing and where I’m going.  This is working for me.

I will also say that at this point, running is still such a struggle for me.  It just kicks my ass.  It’s the part of our workouts that I like the least… but it’s a hell of a lot easier than it was a year ago.

In August, Corazon told me about an opportunity to apply to Team Nutribullet for marathon training.  She told me about the support, nutritional counseling, and guidance and I thought it sounded really cool.  Now please keep in mind…. I didn’t know A DAMN THING about marathons, other than that they a) involved running and b) that they were long.  Seriously.  So I say, “Hey, that sounds great, I’m interested.”  I figure it would be a way to improve on what I consider a weak point.

In talking a bit more about the training, I find out that a marathon is 26 miles.  Please don’t laugh, but this was news to me!!!  26 fucking miles?!!  How do people even do this?  I immediately start to recant my enthusiasm for this training program.  26 miles?  Me?

I relay these thoughts to Corazon, who responds as she always does:  with unconditional belief in me.  “Uh, yeah!  You can absolutely do this” is her response, and I in turn take this in with some serious consideration.  You see, over the past year, her support and belief in me has always made me stop and override my negative self-talk.  She brings me back to the present and helps me see so clearly what is possible… so when Corazon says something, I REALLY stop and listen.

I apply for the Team, and immediately have ambivalent thoughts… can I really do this?  Yes I can!  Why not me?  But 26 miles, really, that is frightening!  I suck at running.  But, by the laws of nature, if I keep at it, I will become better!  And dammit, I just might be able to do this.  What if they do pick me?  I will really have to do this and part of me just is SO afraid to… but a better part of me wants to see myself try something impossible and emerge though the other side, having actually done it.

Friday is the day they announce the decisions and to my surprise, I’m nervous.  The decisions are a bit delayed because it’s not an easy choosing process.  I had a conversation with my mother that night about it, and I said, “Well, if they don’t pick me, I can always do a Couch to 5k program, or something like that.”  As I said these words, I felt a slight disappointment at this prospective outcome.  I am finding that there is something deep inside of me that wants this afterall.

On Saturday night, I get a text from Corazon that says “CONGRATULATIONS, TEAMMATE!”  I am drunk on Santa Monica pier, and I just stop in my tracks when I read this.  This news floors me and brings about a lot of emotion (they chose ME). I am overwhelmed with a feeling of happiness and hope.

Fast forward again to yesterday, September 19, 2015 — our first day of training.  A lot of mental ping pong leading up to these days brings me to our first meeting with a barrage of thoughts and feelings.  There is a feeling of heavy power in the air, and my antennae picks it up immediately.  We are introduced to the mentors and coaches in the program, and they all impart such inspiring, empowering, and relatable messages… messages about believing in yourself, throwing away bullshit-garbage-negative self-talk, ditching old stories you tell yourself about yourself… overcoming obstacles, and the life-changing experience of putting your mind to something and seeing it happen.  After these speeches I am feeling ready and so motivated.

We start our run, and 5 minutes into the run, I roll my ankle.  I am so upset.  It hurts, badly, but I limp on and power walk the rest of the run.  I’m disappointed  — hey, I’m supposed to be running, right?  I calm myself down and say “do the best you can, Court.”

When I get home and take off my shoe, all hell breaks loose and my ankle is distended and feels stiff and just wrong.  I immediately start crying and an ugly thought snakes its way into my brain… “See, this is out of your league.  This is a sign that you’re taking on too much and you can’t and SHOULD’T do this.  Who were you kidding?”

And something from the meeting earlier just stuck with me and I immediately rebounded “BULLSHIT.  Yes I can, and really want to!”  It’s then that I realize that I’m crying because I really, REALLY want this and the notion that I wouldn’t be able to participate in this program because of an injury feels like a huge loss.

When I wake up, I feel better.  My ankle is still tender but the swelling has gone down and I realize the sprain is not as bad as I thought it was, and that I was having those panicky thoughts earlier out of fear.  I am going to be just fine, and I will heal.  The places fear takes me are so far off the path of where I want to be, and this is another lesson for me to stay present.

I have recently read the awesome “82 Commandments of Alejandro Jodorowsky“, one of my favorite movie directors.  Each item is profound, but onein particular really resonated with me:

37. Conquer your fears, for each of them represents a camouflaged desire.

Ain’t that the truth.  In examining my feelings about running for the past year, and especially these past few weeks, I have discovered that there is a core of desire within me that wants this BADLY.  It’s always been there, and it manifested as me grasping at chances to change — quitting smoking, eating well, trying bootcamp for the first time — these are all powerful desires I have had for change.  I would not have known these desires or seen them clearly without the negative experience of worry, shame, self-doubt, and injury.  In transforming the negative and extracting the shell of my will, I am able to see what I really want now.

Till next time…