With the Boston marathon occurring today on Marathon Monday, I feel maybe a year after I ran it, I should share my story of how the Spirit guided me before the race and during the race. It was one of the most memorable moments in my life.
As long as I can remember, I had dreamed of running the Boston marathon.. My dad would bring home medals, pictures and souvenirs from Boston and I loved hearing his stories of how he broke his 3 hour marathon, his feelings when he first saw the Citgo sign or the emotions he felt after he conquered heartbreak hill and finished on Boylston street.
HARD WORK AND TRAINING
Fast forward 15 years. in 2013, I qualified for Boston on my first marathon that I raced in Santa Barbara in 3:23:00 but then two weeks after the race became pregnant with my second child.
Training was hard work. Nursing non stop, living on very little sleep, dealing with a toddler on top of a newborn, and my husband was a full time MBA student. I was exhausted all the time and found it hard to fit in my workouts but I made a lot of sacrifices with my schedule and sleep.
Training went well for a few months. I had even been smashing many of my own personal records in my workouts. I was just excited to run Boston but found it possible break 3:10 hours because that is what I was pacing in my workouts.
I was high on life! I felt invincible as I ran the Malibu coast each Saturday for my long runs, I was very grateful for the opportunity to run and for healthy legs.
But what comes up, must come down. Heavenly Father found it important to test me at this time in my life because after all, I felt like I didn't really need His help.
INJURIES and HOPELESSNESS
Six weeks before the big Patriot's day run from Hopkinton to Boylston Street, I was on a 16 mile long run in Los Angeles heading towards the Santa Monica Pier. I felt an excruciatingly sharp pain near my groin and more tugging on my left hamstring. I had to stop and have my JJ come pick me up at mile 10. I was sitting on the lawn at Coffee Bean just sobbing. I knew that this may have been the end of my Boston journey.
I made a doctor appointment and with an ultrasound and MRI, they found I had a really severe hamstring tear on my left side and also on my adductor near my groin. In other appointments, I just kept getting diagnosed with numerous injuries. Piriformis syndrome, hip bursitis, sciatica, partial tendon tears. The doctor suggested that I don't run the race but instead take 12 weeks off of running and do an intense rehabilitation program. I was sickened because the race was in 6 and I had already made travel arrangements.
LITTLE MIRACLES and THE SPIRIT
The pain was severe. Picking up my kids or walking up the stairs was difficult for me. I truly felt that Heavenly Father had let me down on my dream after I had worked so hard. Then, the first impression from the Spirit came in this experience: "Trust in Him and go to the temple." I remember sitting in an initiatory session in the LA temple and reading scripture passages about "strengthening" and how the Lord will strengthen me in my weaknesses of Spirit but also body.
Then it hit me that I must strengthen my body in six weeks as much as I could. I started to cross train a lot and lay off of running. Doing P90X in the morning. It was torture for me considering I was running 50 miles a week and went to doing nothing related to running.
After a 2 week running hiatus I, in my ignorance attempted to run again. It was a disastrous. I ran 1.5 miles before I had to stop and walk again. It felt like someone took pliers and yanked my muscle away from my bone. I cried uncontrollably as hundreds of people stuck in LA traffic watched. I felt alone. I felt betrayed.
But then another miracle came during that dark and sad moment. Heaven decided to send not one angel but two and at the same time. On the corner as I was crossing the street near the LDS chapel, my friend and the Relief Society president was walking her new baby. She saw me and hugged me. Her husband was also our home teacher.
Then, our good friend David whose wife was my visiting teacher and good friend saw me. He asked why I was sad and offered to help me home. I declined because I was embarrassed and I needed alone time but he gave me some reassurance. Looking back, I never saw people outside that I knew in the early hours of the morning that I ran. These people probably just thought they should go for a walk but I believe it was the Spirit that maybe prompted them to. At that moment, I didn't recognize these miracles.
I found myself at the empty LDS chapel. I went behind a dumpster in the parking lot there and poured my heart out in prayer. I yelled at heaven and asked God if I should run the race or not, why He hated me so much and why He didn't want me to succeed after I gave 100%. I didn't get a clear answer back but I did get a clear feeling of peace and a warm,overwhelming feeling that Heavenly Father loved me and that this was His plan for me. Then this hymn came to my mind from "We Thank thee O' God for a prophet." This totally renewed my faith. Bonnie and I painted this when I got home and hung it on the fridge.
When I got home from the church, my visiting teacher and friend Karla (David's wife) had left a note and my favorite pink lemonade Trader Joe's cupcakes on my porch.
JJ asked me if I wanted a priesthood blessing. After the blessing, I got the impression that I needed to apply the atonement in my life and that the atonement was not meant for just healing from emotional and spiritual pain, but also physical pain. I decided I needed to take care of my body better. I switched up my diet, drank more water, got better sleep and didn't run at all. I also distracted my sadness by enjoying God's creations with my family. This helped a lot.
EASTER WEEK, THE ATONEMENT AND MY LAST LONG RUN
Coincidentally, this all happened two weeks before Easter. At church the next Sunday, our bishop gave an incredible lesson on the atonement and his findings from reading James E. Talmage's Jesus the Christ. The Spirit said to me, "Read this book." I came home and found the book in the LDS Gospel library. I listened to it at night and couldn't stop. It is one of the most inspiring and incredible books I have ever read.
I distinctly remember listening to the chapter about the physical pain Christ took on in the garden. Then, this quote changed my life and my outlook on my Boston predicament:
TWO WEEKS TO BOSTONI now had not run for around a month and Boston was in 2 weeks. I felt I needed to get a last long run in before the big day because I had made up my mind and was going to run the race or die trying. I set out early in the morning to attempt any distance but it was terrifying. I had been working out on an elliptical and swimming in a pool and it just was not the same as running. During my run, my pace was incredibly slow and I was discouraged but kept trying and my leg felt a little better. I made it past mile 1, then 2 and before I knew it, I was at mile 8. Pain came on like a pile of bricks as I reached the 10 mile mark right underneath the Santa Monica pier. It was excruciating. As I began to pout, the Spirit whispered the Jesus the Christ quote to me. Then it hit me. Here, I was constantly complaining about my circumstance but I was only getting a small taste of what Christ felt in Gethsemane and on Galgatha. I shaped up my attitude. God was doing His thing.
ARRIVAL AT BOSTON
The time had come for us to fly to Boston and I barely had run 45 miles all together in the previous six weeks from when my injury occurred, and walking was even hard still. I was a nervous wreck. The minute I flew into Boston, I knew it would be a rough race. The morning I arrived, I just prepared myself for the worst. That winter had been unseasonably cold with record snow fall. I jogged a few miles in rain and sleet, strong winds and 71 percent humidity. JJ's awesome cousins Kristine and Erik Haglund hung out with us, fed us, gave us rides and eased our burdens.
We decided to once again, distract ourselves with the good stuff that was around us! the awesome-ness in Boston!
We decided to once again, distract ourselves with the good stuff that was around us! the awesome-ness in Boston!
We headed to the Expo and I got all checked in. Another miracle happened. As I was standing in line to get into the expo, someone from California was standing behind me and wearing signature Boston jacket from the previous year. We made small talk and turns out he was battling the EXACT SAME INJURIES I was. How miraculous that of 35, 000 runners, I was able to connect with someone from where I was from and who was going through the exact same struggles I was? not a coincidence.
BOSTON MARATHON EVE
I woke up and got on the bus to Hopkinton. My hopes of finishing were small. I honestly did not think it would happen but I attempted it with a finish being my only goal, even if it meant I walked the entire thing. The rain was pouring and hitting us all hard, there were unbearable wind gusts of 25 mph, the humidity was brutal and soaked us all to the bone. I said many prayers and then the gun went off.
I kept my pace around a really conservative 8 minute pace. I once again felt discouraged but then another miracle happened. The Spirit whispered to me to "check your phone." It was raining and I didn't want it to get wet but I decided to look down at it. Text messages were rolling in one after another from my family and friends! They were all cheering me on and sending prayers my way. Then another person texted me this quote:
"The human body can only do so much. After that, the human spirit must take flight."
Everything from mile 1-20 was a blur. My quads and hamstrings were destroyed from the downhill drop from mile 1-15, then the last 11 uphill miles in brutal winds and sleet was wearing on me. I realized I was about to approach "Heartbreak Hill" They call it that because you ascend uphill at mile 20 in the race when you've run out of glycogen and the lactic acid kicks into gear. I was getting excited to see JJ with a poster since I had not seen him the entire race. I desperately searched for his face but I did not see him. I was so focused on looking for him that I didn't look at my watch or the terrain. By the time I looked at my watch, I was at mile 22. I asked a male runner next to me when heartbreak hill was. He looked at me with a puzzled face and said, "Girl, you just ran it! How did you not notice it?" I'd say that was another tender mercy in the race. It was like I was lifted through 2 miles of hill in the blink of an eye... and I know I didn't do it on my own.
|JJ waiting on Heartbreak Hill. He was cold and heartbroken cause we never saw each other.|
|the conditions running up heartbreak hill. Everyone was wearing ponchos.|
FINISHING BOSTON STRONG
For some reason, I had a huge surge of energy from mile 20-26. As I crossed the finish line in agony and awe, I looked at my watch. I had run the last 6 miles in a sub 7 minute pace!
It was impossible for me to understand that my body was capable of doing that especially with all of my injuries. But I knew instantaneously it was not me that did it. It was Heavenly Father who did it. I had run a Personal Record of 3:17:17. As I crossed the finish line covered in mud, sweat and tears the first thing that came to my head was a great scripture from Alma 26 in the Book of Mormon: "
Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.
My darling husband finally met me safe and sound at the finish line with posters that he had so lovingly put together and trudged around in the horrid Boston weather. My #1 fans were there all along.
I couldn't even walk after the race.. I couldn't walk before the race but somehow with 100% help from heaven, I was able to run it.
My Boston journey was a mix of so many emotions. I loved the Boston Spirit of camaraderie and love. My journey was tough but it solidified my testimony more than almost anything else had. It made me realize that the most important things in this life are relationships. Relationships with our Heavenly Father, His son, the Holy Ghost, our family, friends and strangers. Running was just another thing to teach me this truth.
This experience though hard prepared me for other heartbreaks. In October 2015 at age 27, I was diagnosed with arthritis all over my body which eventually will hurt if not end my running career sooner than expected. I still have a goal to break 3 hours in the marathon and to return to Boston... and I will keep an update on if that happens. For now, I will trust in Heavenly Father's plan because He knows it all and He can heal anything