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I was inspired by this post to make a plan for how to deal with the pain that will come with Saturday’s race. I’m a girl who likes a plan. And there will certainly be pain. So, without further adieu: the thinks I will think while I run.

Miles 1-4: “Keep calm and Run On”

This will be the part where I work the hardest at staying relaxed and on pace. I’ll treat it as a warmup. I’m planning to run music-free on this portion, so that I don’t get all Van-Halen-riled-up and run out of steam early. It’s also the part of the race that will take us by the Capitol and along the National Mall. I’d like to take that in, as much as I can while talking myself in. (we’ll be back here again miles 12-15, so I’ll get to experience it twice that day). Calm. Steady. Form, form, form. Here there will be prayers of thanks for the day, the beauty of spring, and the opportunity to do this. Breathe.

Miles 5-8 “Lead Left”

This is where the only sizeable hills in the race are. Luckily they are through Adams Morgan, which is a great neighborhood, from what I remember when I was there to cover the State of the Union in ’05, and from visiting my friend Lynsey there. It’s also the first place I’ll see Kristiana, my wonderful, wonderful friend who is flying all the way from Chicago to support me in doing this. (Insert more prayer because, as the magnet she gave me says, “When I count my blessings, I count you twice!”) She’ll be able to walk from our hotel to between miles five and six. I hope she’s packing something bright so I can spot her! Since hills + bad form are what set off my right side ITB issues a few weeks ago, here I’ll be reminding myself to lead with my left leg, and paying even closer attention to my form. Lead left, lead left. Even effort, not even pace. Turnover, turnover, turnover.

Miles 9-13 “Inspiration. Support.”

Another Kristiana sighting is planned for mile 10. Before and after that I’m going to think about those people in my life who have inspired me and supported me… My sister Lesley, ran her first marathon over a decade ago, and has inspired me and encouraged me. She believes that I can do things I have not even contemplated, and I love her for that–and so much more. Her husband, Clay, who is also a huge supporter and who, if we are running together, always asks “You doing ok?” My friend Cris, who has spend hours talking to me about, first, her 1/2 marathon experiences and then, as we have both upped the ante, her marathon experiences. She’s always been just enough ahead of me in distance to be able to look back and give me great advice. Lisa, my BodyPump instructor, who told me to “enjoy my 26.2 mile victory lap.” Don’t think that doesn’t already have my teared up just thinking about it like that. My entrepreneur friend Drew who is doggedly pursuing a dream and a business that most people would never have had the guts to pursue. Any number of friends who are parenting children with disabilities… the recent spate of people I know who have lost parents and other family members…and those I know who are currently fighting illness. Prayer. Prayer. More prayer.

Miles 14-18 “Haters Gon’ Hate”

I’d be a flat liar if I said I haven’t used running as a way to battle with old demons. And it’s been good for that. But despite being over it, you never really forget the ways in which cruelty and meanness shaped you. I’m grateful for what remains–it’s still great motivation for running. So these miles are for the haters: the girls that verbally bullied me out of an entire school district, the boyfriends (plural) that cheated on me, the girls I thought were my friends who enabled the cheating. Also: anyone who ever called me fat, big boned, or said “but you do have such a pretty face.” The college professor who got mad at me and took it out on my face. Oh, and the girls who physically stood in the way so my college crush and I couldn’t talk to each other, my daughter’s teacher who told me marathons are “for mediocrity,” and for the people who have mis-read my good intentions because their own hearts harbored so much meanness. PRAYER. For me and for them. Amen.

Miles 19-23 “The Journey”

I’ll see Kristiana again, as well as my online friend Lane at mile 18. That will make me happy, and remind me: Anger will only get you so far, and I’d like to leave that behind. For these miles, I want to focus on how I even got here in the first place. I want to think about my first inital weight loss and quest to get healthy just after I got married… and then my running journey which started in 2007 but only caught on for good in 2010. Going from sedentary, to active, to runner, to encourager of other runners has not been slow in coming, and it’s not nothing in the story of my life. I am pretty bad at feeling ‘proud’ of myself, but I’m going to need to dig deep at this point. So here, I will work on recognizing what I’ve been able to accomplish, and thank God for letting me do it.

Mile 24 “Katie”

My training partner will DIE when she reads this, which she probably won’t before the race, so that’s good… but I have to give her proper credit here. Katie is much, much faster and stronger than I am, and yet has never pressured me to go faster on our long runs, and has slowed her own pace way, way down for us to run together. I don’t know of another runner who would have done that. She has made me both a speedier runner and a nicer person, knowing that I’m going to need to do the same for other runners in the future. She has also been incredibly concerned for me when I was sick, and when I am doubtful she kindly, calmly says “You can do it.” We barely knew each other when we started training together, and I feel like I have been gifted with this wonderful, wonderful friend. In the end, I could get a DNF and still be pleased. But that is not the plan, so here, I will think of Katie, who will have long since passed the finish line, possibly having qualified for Boston, and hear her say “You can do it.”

Mile 25: “David”

I could write a book about the support I get from my husband. But that would make him mighty uncomfortable. Let me just say this: he has never once batted an eye at how much of our money goes toward shoes, race registrations, or travel. He has played with and cared for our girls so well while I’ve been gone, and whether I’ve been running my shorter runs during the week or nearly all morning on Saturdays, he always greets me with a genuine smile. If ever he has been exasperated with how much time this has taken, he has never shown it. And if he ever has been frustrated, I know that it is not because he’d rather be out with other friends, or because he doesn’t want to ‘babysit’ the children, but rather because he misses spending time with me. And good grief, what woman wouldn’t want to run home to that every time?

Mile 26: “My Sweethearts”

I am not going to be able to think about my daughters much before this, lest I miss them too much, or feel guilty for being gone. But hey, I’ll be emotional by this point anyway, so might as well buy in. I’ll think about my 4-year-olds sweet pink cheeks, grinning while she asked me today if I’m going to win. And the pride with which she still wears her Thanksgiving Day 50-yard-dash medal to school–four months later. I’ll think about my six-year-old’s first run with me a few weeks ago, and the pride that was in her big brown eyes afterward, when I bought her her first pair of shoes. They don’t know yet how far 26.2 miles is, and frankly to them it doesn’t matter if I run down the street and back. I am their mommy and they think I AM AWESOME. So, at mile 26, I’m gonna fake it for them and BE AWESOME.

The last 385 yards: “Enjoy It”

Cris gave me awesome advice the other night, that had been handed down to her… She said, you only cross the finish line of your first marathon once. Slow down. Enjoy it. So here, instead of a sprint… instead of picking people off, I will slow down. I will throw some high fives. I will smile. And I will finish!