Thursday, January 1, 1970

Boston Qualified! 2014 - I crossed the finish line completely depleted, but filled with joy.

Sherry Spinks
I’m such a coward. At least that’s how I feel in the days leading up to a marathon. I start to get really anxious and even scared. I’m not scared of going the distance. I’m scared of the pain I know is coming. I know in a short time, I’m going to push my body to its limits. This is a fear I have come to accept. It’s become the norm. I’m starting to realize the marathon never gets easier. You just get better. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. That’s what makes it so special. However, when I toe the starting line there is a calmness that sweeps over me. It’s really hard to describe. I feel ready. I’m focused. I know I’ve done my homework. I have put in the miles and trained hard. I’m fit. All that’s left at that moment is me and the 26 miles 385 yards that lie in front of me. I’m going to conquer it! And I did. Here’s the story….

Passing Cape Henry Light
The Shamrock Marathon will be one my family remembers forever. It was truly a special weekend filled with so many memorable moments and experiences. One of the things that made this trip so special was having my daughter, Cheyenne, running her first half marathon. Last March, Travis and I ran our first marathon in Albany, GA. Cheyenne really wanted to go with us and be there when we crossed the finish line for our first marathon. We contacted the race officials. They were nice enough to allow her to volunteer at the finish line passing out medals. I think that experience made a huge impact on her. It was after that she said she wanted to run a half marathon. She was only 12. We told her she needed to wait until she was older. All year long, she was persistent about running a half. After praying about it, I finally asked myself “Who am I to hold her back?” We decided to let her enter. I’m so thankful we did. When I looked back at the pictures from the marathon, I saw how happy she was while running. Seeing that smile on her face, I knew I had made the right decision. She was as happy as she could be doing what she loves. My advice to all of the parents out there would be if your kids have goals/dreams (notice I said your kids…not yours for them), help them pursue them.

We flew into Virginia on Friday. We decided to head over to the expo to pick up our bibs on Friday evening. Travis happened to be scrolling through his Twitter feed on the way to the expo and saw that Bart Yasso was going to be running the half marathon and had asked if anyone would like to join him. Just for the fun of it (and not really expecting a response), Travis tweeted back to him and told him Cheyenne would be running the half and it would be an honor for her to get to run with him. To our surprise, he actually responded and said he would love to run with her. We were absolutely floored! First, at the fact he actually responded. Second, at the fact he really said he would run with her!

Bart and Cheyenne
Right after we saw his message, we turned around and he happened to be standing at the Runner’s World booth right behind us. We walked over and introduced ourselves (and of course got a couple of pics). The one thing that amazed me about Bart from the first time I met him, was how down-to-earth he was. He would talk to you as if he had known you your whole life. He truly is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. We really enjoyed seeing his slide show and listening to him speak at the expo. He is such an inspiration. I really don’t think he even knows how much of an impact he is having on the lives of so many people. God is really using him to do great things. There is no way I would have the energy to talk to so many people and shake so many hands weekend after weekend the way he does. I admire him for that. There was even this lady who came up to him about two minutes before he was going to speak at the expo and pulled him to the side to ask if she could get a picture planking beside him just because they were friends on Facebook and she wanted to be able to post it. He could have very easily told her it was not a good time (he was standing in front of the stage getting ready to speak in about two minutes.). But not Bart. He didn’t even hesitate to drop right down beside her and cheese it up for a picture while in the plank position. That speaks volumes about his character. What I failed to tell him that weekend, was just a few weeks before I had cursed his name while running Yasso 800′s around the track training to get a BQ. I had even put on Twitter a few weeks before I had a love/hate relationship with that workout. It really sucks while you are doing it. But, the payoff is great! I will definitely continue to use it for future marathon buildups.

The other reason this marathon was so special is because I finally hit my goal of running a time that would qualify me to enter the Boston Marathon! I had to run a time of 3:35:00 in order to qualify. My PR was a 3:43 from last October at the Southern Tennessee Plunge Marathon. I knew I had what it would take to run a 3:35. I also knew it would take everything I had. And it did. I cruised through the first 18 miles at an 8:01 average pace (I needed to maintain an 8:12 pace to hit a 3:35). Usually, by mile 18 the fatigue is starting to set in and I am already starting to have a hard time keeping the pace. Not this time. I had a burst of energy between miles 17 – 20. I felt so strong. I was picking up my pace and picking off runners one by one. All of those miles were around a 7:45 – 7:55 pace. I felt great and had a smile on my face.

Sprinting to the finish!
At mile 20, we made a turn as we headed back toward the last six mile stretch. It was during this stretch that I felt the pain of the marathon. I honestly believe it wouldn’t have been as bad if the wind hadn’t been in my face. The winds were SO strong throughout the race. When you had a tailwind, it was great! But, the bad part of it was the last six miles when I was already fatigued, I had to fight the headwinds. The winds were a steady 25 mph. with gusts up to 40 mph. and more. It was like trying to run with a parachute tied to my back. I kept thinking cadence, cadence, cadence. I remember thinking to myself, “Quick turnover.” Just keep the pace. At mile 24 my pace had slowed to an 8:17, and by mile 25 I hit an 8:34. I thought, “Heck, NO! You did not train this hard to lose it in the last two miles of the race!” I remember telling myself to just relax into the wind just like I would running uphill. I had to pick up my feet faster. So I did. I hit mile 26 at an 8:15, and then picked up the pace even more on the last stretch home.

I crossed the finish line completely depleted, but filled with joy. I finished the race with a time of 3:32:21 (a personal best by 11 minutes)! I had qualified for the Boston Marathon! And Cheyenne and Travis were both there to celebrate with me at the finish line. It was a day I will cherish forever!

I want to say thank you to everyone who prayed for me, encouraged me, sent me text messages to wish me good luck, and stood by me throughout my training to help me reach my goals. I am truly blessed to have such support from family and friends.

My advice to everyone would be to dream big and never give up on your goals. Stay focused and work hard! Eliminate excuses and surround yourself with people who will encourage and support you. YOU CAN DO IT!

Sherry Spinks
Aragon, Georgia