A couple of months ago, I told you that my husband and I were going to run our first full marathon in November. I was so nervous to start this training program, because I knew if I did, I wouldn’t quit…and that it would be hard. I asked the Lord if I should even try something like this (mother of four young children, busy pastor for a husband, and recurrent back issues) and this is the verse he gave me: “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness.” I knew He would get me through. So, training began in July. It was a lot of hard work. There were many days that it was just too hot to run and others that I had to run in the pouring down rain. I would come back to the house sloshing in my shoes, or so worn out from the heat that I could hardly do anything else, but every time, I was filled with confidence that this was making me more ready to run my first marathon. God has this amazing way of growing your character and confidence in him-even while running-He doesn’t waste a thing!!!
Well, it’s November and we did it!!! We crossed the finish line after 26.2 miles!! Here’s my story:
We chose to run the Richmond Anthem marathon this past Saturday, because we had heard that it was a fairly flat course, had lots of great fans, and was held on a Saturday.
We arrived in Richmond a day early and pretty quickly went to the Expo. This is where you pick up your bib number and free t-shirt. There are loads of vendors selling everything from chafing creams to jackets, 26.2 stickers for your car and running shorts. There is also information about upcoming races etc.. in case you can think past the race you’re about to run.
This was my favorite shirt on display:
We went back to our hotel and laid out our race clothes. I was going to be wearing a running jacket I had recently bought, (you’d normally never wear a jacket for a long run) because it was supposed to be 28 degrees at the starting line!! What? It had been so beautiful in NC for weeks, but we have the “Polar Vortex” to blame.
Stomach aches and much anxiety ensued, so my husband and I spent some time reading scripture back and forth to each other. Then, we wrote favorite running verses on a piece of paper and put them in our jackets. Peace rushed over me. The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my victory! We slept pretty well and woke up to race day!!!
It was cold as predicted, but such is life. We wore extra clothes that we could discard at the starting line down to the race. There were thousands of people and almost everyone was standing in line to use the portable bathrooms! Of course, having race jitters, I needed to go. I stood in line while Scott checked a bag for us, which they almost didn’t take, because we were the only ones who brought a rolling suitcase instead of a clear plastic bag to the starting line. Newbies! What can I say? They took pity on him and took the bag after searching it meticulously. I was still standing in line at the bathroom with thousands of others.
The race was about to start and I just had to make the decision to get out of line and “hold it”. We ran to find our “wave”, jumped in with the others and 20 seconds later we heard “Marathoners, are you ready??”
Everyone was cheering and screaming. The gun sounded and we were off. One of us had a full bladder. Ouch!
The first mile raced by. Our legs were rested from the “taper” we had just experienced for the past couple of weeks. It felt amazing. People everywhere cheering, many with hilarious signs like “Don’t poop on yourself” (a real problem for runners) and “Run faster, I’m cold!” There were so many others, but I can’t mention many of them on here. Mile 2 was done. Then 3 and 4…and you get the picture.
My good friend Shannon, who is a multiple time “Ironman”, told me to “take it all in”. To look at the faces, watch the leaves fall, and take in the scenery. This was the best advice! I shared it with my husband and he did the same. Really seeing our surroundings made us feel so present. We couldn’t have enjoyed it more. We threw up our arms and danced along as the bands played at each mile and we cheered with the crowds when they cheered for us.
By mile 8, I was having some hip and achilles pain. It must have been the cold weather, because I don’t usually experience that until many miles later. I just prayed and prayed. My husband could tell I wasn’t my usual chipper self as I ran and he began to pray as well-right out loud, as we ran along the beautiful James River. It was something I’ll never forget. The Lord answered. The pain in both places was gone by about mile 14.
We crossed the coldest, windiest bridge at mile 16. It felt like forever and again the signs said things like “Isn’t this the worst bridge ever??!” We laughed as our teeth chattered. But just as we crossed over the bridge, we heard our names being yelled and two of our dear friends were standing there with excited faces to surprise us!!! We couldn’t believe it. It was just what we needed at that point. Amazing how God just knows.
By mile 20, we were thrilled with our time. In our training, we had only ever run up to 20 miles, so from here, it was all NEW. I was starting to get really tight hamstrings. As we ran, I shared that with Scott. He had been the best cheerleader through the entire race. He was having so much fun, I honestly could have slapped him. But, it was also just what I needed much of the time. I’m a pretty focused runner, so his diversions of yelling to the DJ’s as we ran by, were fun. We took a quick stretch break and kept going. We realized that miles 20 to 26.2 separate the “men from the boys”. People were beginning to walk and make noises that were seriously painful. We prayed for people as we ran and encouraged others. It was hard after 21. Our pace slowed slightly, but because we had run so fast our first 16 miles, we were making great time. This was the point where I was saying verses to myself and praying for lots of strength. This is where you just have to push through even though everything hurts.
At one point, Scott yelled out “Shanna! I will mount up with wings like eagles”. I responded with “I will run and not grow weary”. A woman running by us said, “mmmm”, like she knew Isaiah 40:31 like we did. Or maybe she was just encouraged by it. I hope so.
At mile 24, my hamstring felt like it might pop, or maybe I just felt a little dramatic at that point because I was so close to the finish. I stopped for 15 seconds to stretch it and caught back up to my husband. He was so kind to not leave me in the dust! He wanted to cross the finish line together….my power is made perfect in your weakness.
At mile 25, we saw our friends again. They were telling us about a few turns ahead and the down hill finish. It was so encouraging to see them again at that point! The turns came, the crowds cheered, and the finish line was within eye shot. We picked up our pace and ran faster than our legs seemed to ever go! Scott said, “can I hold your hand?” He grabbed mine and we ran together those last 20 yards or so. I was screaming, “We did it!! I can’t believe we did it!!”
Then we heard, “Here come Scott and Shanna Lehr from Raleigh, North Carolina!” the most beautiful words as we crossed the finish line! I began to cry and a lady put a beautiful medal on my neck. It was done. All that work. Four months of hard training. Nine pounds shed. Lost toenails-no really! And we were done! Oh, and I never did get to go to the bathroom!
We killed the time we thought we’d finish in and came across at 3:43:48. I could not be more pleased with the whole experience! Praising the Lord for giving me strength and for allowing our bodies to run!! And for giving us so many friends who have run marathons and were incredible encouragers along the way!!
I hope you were encouraged by my marathon story. If you’ve ever wanted to do something like this, do it!! Set a goal. Find a friend to keep you accountable and go for it!!! You’ll be so happy you did!!!