Getting Real With Sara Haley

This last weekend, I did something amazing.

I ran a marathon.

26.2 miles of running. 26.2 miles of quiet time. 26.2 miles to figure out exactly why I was actually running this marathon.

Running a marathon was something I never would have imagined doing years ago. No way. Not in a million years would I ever do that–even the thought of running around the block sounded completely and utterly exhausting. But on New Year’s of 2009, I made a resolution I would never forget: to run a 10K in 2009, a half-marathon in 2010, and a full marathon in 2011.

I did it. All three races, and then some.

Sunday I ran the Lincoln Marathon in Lincoln, Nebraska. During my divorce, it has been hard to find the time to properly train. Training for a marathon is like a part-time job. No joke. Getting the mileage in, avoiding injury, keeping the endurance going to be able to run for hours on end. It’s not easy. But that wasn’t why I was doing it.

You see, my divorce has been very difficult, very messy and very stressful. Running has been my saving grace in getting through the days. I was able to get a membership to a local gym, which provided me with daycare for my daughter while I busted out the miles on the treadmill during the winter to keep my endurance. I also threw in some strength training, some stair climbing, spinning classes and religiously attended two yoga classes a week with the “boot camp yoga” instructor. My local gym knows me by name. Yeah, they kinda have to when you’re there every day! (And the bonus is I am down to my goal weight and then some, having shed some stubborn pounds I had been fighting since childbirth!)

The persistence paid off. Although I wasn’t considered “properly” trained and ready because of my time limitations and child-restrictions, I was still determined to run it. Standing at the starting line at 7 in the morning with ten thousand other participants on a windy, cloudy day, I started to second guess myself, wondering what the heck I got myself into. But the starting gun went off, the group started migrating towards the start line, and I realized there was no turning back.

I did well. I did some splits with my music, running to one song, walking to the next, and kept up with the 4:55 pacer for quite some time. Stayed on top of fluids and food, chomping on a Power Bar around mile 8 and saving my next one for mile 16. The crowd was amazing, and cheered everyone on.  What a rush! Come mile 13, I was still doing great. The turn-off for the half-marathoners was coming up, and I knew it was now or never. Sure, I could have turned off at 13.1 and finished with the halfers, and would have actually had a PR (Perfect Race) beating my previous half-marathon time. But I ran forward, knowing I had to do exactly what I did the last 13 miles all over again to the finish line.

About mile 14, I began to think about exactly how crazy I was to do this. At mile 16, I slowed down to enjoy my second Power Bar. Somewhere between mile 18 and 19, my left knee started to give out. It hurt. Not too bad, but enough to make me stop running. I started to power walk it, as I knew knee injuries are never a good thing and didn’t want to push it too hard. Around mile 22, I wanted to cry. I wasn’t sure why–from the pain, the exhaustion, from the amazing realization of exactly what I was doing that day. My power walk slowly became a fast limp come mile 24. The Sag Wagon (the car that drives near the end of the race to pick up injured individuals or those who want out) was following closely behind me. The pacers for 5:30 passed me. But I was okay with that. I refused to let the Sag Wagon pick me up–I didn’t come all this way, prepare all these years and train all those months to drop out and take a ride on the Sag Wagon two miles before the finish line. I limped my way to the finish line. 26.2 miles behind me.

I got my medal, a rose, and a wave of amazing accomplishment. I did it. 5:47:10. That’s no amazing time goal by any means, but I wasn’t going for time: I just wanted to finish.

Before my run, I wanted to try and make it to the prayer service beforehand, but ended up missing it because I stood in line for a good 20 minutes waiting to use the bathroom. But even then, I stood in silence with all the nervous, anxious people around me and thought about exactly why I was doing this. What was my reason for running a marathon? What was my reason for investing the time and energy into running 26.2 miles? Was it insanity?!

I knew exactly why I was doing it. I was doing it for my daughter.

In reality, I’m just a boring, stay-at-home, work-at-home single mommy. My days are filled with tantrums, tears, meals, laundry, bills and coloring books. I spend my evenings cuddling with my daughter, reading to her, and playing Barbies with her. I keep thinking to myself that I’m nothing extraordinary. But then I realize, no, I am. I’m a mom. I’m my daughter’s superhero, no matter how much I screw up, no matter what sacrifices I make for her, no matter what I do right or wrong. I will always be her hero.  I’m a single mom. I’m making it paycheck to paycheck. I don’t have any luxuries in my life, but I am blessed to have a roof over my head, my daughter in my arms every day, and my health. She’s three, so at this point in time, she doesn’t quite understand the magnitude of what I did the other day. But as she gets older, hopefully this will be an inspiration to her. That no matter who you are or what your personal situation is, you can do absolutely anything you put your mind to.

This Mother’s Day, remember no matter how old your children, you will always be their number one hero. Whether you’re single or married, have one kid or two, you are–and always will be–a true superhero in their eyes!