Documenting Kate: Jacksonville Amerisbank Marathon
Daniel is always taking photographs of our family life. So much so that we don’t even really stop to notice. Today I found the photos below while searching for photos for our 2018 website update. I vaguely remember him taking them (Generally I ignore him when he has the camera and forget he has even taken photos.) I was impressed with how accurately his photos match my memory of the day. (Now he didn’t have any during race photos because he had to go back to the hotel, fetch Jackson, and make sure they were at the finish line. Also we got lost on the way to the race, and he didn’t have time to get out and take any at the start!) Nevertheless, I wanted to blog these photographs because seeing my own story convinced me that if Daniel and I can make photographs that mean as much to our clients as these do to me, then I’d say we’re doing exactly what we were put here to do.
“I’m not an elite. I’m not super fast. I didn’t win this race, and I didn’t set any world-records, but on this day I set my own record, and that is good enough for me.”
After an injury to my knee in 2016 we thought that my running days might be over. That was a scary prospect around the Pullen house. As Kenzey would say, “It ain’t gonna be a good day if Mom doesn’t run.” Happy wife makes happy life…. and running makes me happiest. So, a month or so of being pretty down (and things around the house being pretty tense) I was in a state of depression. It may sound silly to someone who isn’t a runner, but to me I just couldn’t conceive of not doing something that I enjoyed more than anything. By January 2017, I was neck deep wallowing in self-pity with depression yielding to unwelcome acceptance. Mid-January I flew to Texas for Foundation First Wedding Photojournalism Workshop. The workshop is 3 days of intense photography training, a “bootcamp,” if you will. It is an eye opening but very stressful workshop – you’re pushed to your limits – and without running to channel that stress, I literally felt like I was going to explode. So, the second night of the workshop, I made up my mind, I had to at least jog on the treadmill. I needed to clear my head, and that was the only way I knew how to do it constructively. So, down to the hotel gym I went. 20 minutes on the treadmill and suddenly I felt like I could take on the world. The next morning I went back in for a jog, and the result was the same: confidence and clarity. I decided then and there that whatever it took, I’d find a way to get back to running. It just meant that I’d have to go slow, train properly, and listen to my body. (All things I had never been used to, and patience was the least of my virtues.)
When I got back from Texas I was resolved. Immediately I started working on setting goals and reaching them. First it was run to the Lighthouse (2 miles) then to Ramp 43 (6 miles) then to Hatteras (13 miles) and the goals kept getting longer and faster. Each goal met was a little victory that gave me confidence to keep going. After running a few races, in April, before ever running a marathon, I woke up one morning and told the family, “I’m going to qualify for the Boston Marathon.” It was a far fetched but reachable goal, and I wanted to reach it more than anything. Every day for the next 5 months I pursued that goal training… rain, heat, cold, hurricanes… it didn’t matter.
Side note: If you’ve seen me training you’ve probably seen Daniel… he’s guy on the bike behind me who I would like to say is helping me keep pace, but usually he’s taking photos on his iPhone.
I began to see something really cool happening in our family, my commitment to a goal affected how Daniel and the kids saw goals in their lives. I noticed how the kids would say things like, “Yeah we lost (in soccer) today, but we really played our best.” They saw my highs and lows of good days and really rotten days. At the culmination of 9 months of training was The Eyrie Marathon in Eyrie, Pennsylvania. This would be the only chance I would have to qualify for 2018 Boston Marathon, because of the qualifying cut-off date. Due to Daniel’s work and the kids school schedules, I went to PA alone. I was going into the race injured and pretty stressed. I gave myself this ultimatum: You HAVE to qualify at this race. My training and race times leading up to the Eyrie race put me in a good position statistically to crush the time I needed. However, I defeated myself before I even began with my all or nothing attitude. During the race I kept up with my pacing group until after the half, and my leg completely gave out without much warning. Defeated, I had to walk the last half, completely shattering my goal.
During that long walk there were so many times I wanted to quit. Then, I realized, if I quit, that was it. I would be done. And I didn’t want it to be done. The Eyrie Marathon is in a state park. The scenery is beautiful – much like my runs on Hatteras. After about 15 minutes of walking, I literally said out-loud to myself “Well then why should I keep going?” I realized in that moment it wasn’t the race that meant the most to me, it was running and what it gives to me: peace, stress-relief, fitness, goal-setting, joy, and chance to be outside. I decided then and there that I would finish, because it was what I went there to do. I became determined that it would be a lesson for my family, that even when we work hard, sometimes we fail. And the only way we will succeed is if we finish with our head held high and try again another day. So, I walked for what seemed like an eternity, and I finished 50 minutes off my goal time. Victory and Defeat packaged in one shiny little medal.
Kenzey’s initial reaction was, “It must have stunk to have everyone passing you and beating you. I would’ve just wanted to quit. That must have been humiliating, Mom.” (She is my child that tells it like it is!) But then, both children started encouraging me with the same mantra’s I’d been going over and over throughout the year. Statements like, “Mom, you’ll get it next time.” “You did great just to finish.” and “Now you know what not to do next time.” So, after taking a couple of weeks of healing, I was back at training. New sights were set on the Jacksonville AmerisBank Marathon in December. I gave my training a much needed over-haul and began to focus on the physical, mental, and nutritional weaknesses that led to my initial injury. In the next two months I set PR’s in 5K, 10K, 1 mile, and Half Marathon races. Heading into December I felt relaxed, confident, and strong. I knew I had done the work. I knew I had the speed. I knew I could do it, because no matter what, I learned even if I had to crawl to the finish I would finish.
Jackson and Daniel drove with me to Florida. It was a LONG drive and we arrived pretty late the night before the race. On the positive side of things, that didn’t give me time to overthink or obsessively worry about things. I woke up the morning of the race relaxed. I wasn’t nervous, which was odd for me. I’m typically always nervous before a race. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and saying, “You did all you could. You gave it your best, now go give it your best today.” Now, if you’ve ever raced, you know that the morning of the race there are always little hiccups that occur that can totally derail you. First, you have to wake up really early to get to most races. Second, you typically don’t sleep well the night before a race. Usually, every little thing that goes wrong totally rattles me. But, I had complete peace the morning of the race, despite the fact that I had missed packet pick up the day before, forgot my nutrition gels for the race, my headphones broke, and we got lost driving to the race site.
(Everything worked out eventually: I did get my packet, and I found the race site before the race started. I decided not to run with music, and I just took the gels provided at the aid stations even though they weren’t what I normally used.)
The race itself was pretty incredible. Support from the crowd was overwhelming. In every neighborhood of the race course folks were coming out of their houses to cheer us on. I ran the PRs in my 10K and Half Marathon Splits. I knew that I was probably going a bit too fast, but I began to work out in my mind the math of how fast I had run, what my end time needed to be, and what speed I could run to finish the race. Looking back my pacing was a nightmare, but I knew what I needed to do and felt I was making the best decision at the time to get there. Around mile 20 I didn’t hit a physical wall, but I hit a mental wall of doubt. Just when a group of people started passing me, I began to think, “There is no way you can do it.” “Who are you kidding.” “You’re running too slow.” But when I looked at my watch I saw that my time was still on target, and I would make it if I just stuck to the plan. Still the voice of doubt kept saying, “Nope. You can’t do it.” Then, all of a sudden one of the spectators yelled out to me, “Go get that Boston!!” He didn’t know me or my goals, but boy did he say the right thing! I kicked the doubt from my mind. And reminded myself that I was running my race and everyone else was running theirs. I needed to focus on my goal. I mentally broke up the last 6 miles into 2 mile sections. (That’s the distance from my house to the Lighthouse. I literally began to visualize I was running to the lighthouse.) The plan worked until I started to run the last half mile. The race ends on a track inside a high school football stadium. I realized with my timing I was calculating for 26 miles and I hadn’t figured in the added time for the last .2 miles. As I ran onto the track and saw the clock, I thought, “No way. I’ve missed it by seconds. There is no way I’ll make it.”
Then, I looked up and Daniel and Jackson were standing right on the side of the track. I saw them and began to cry. I wanted to give into defeat. But Jackson started yelling, “Mom, you can do it!” He started sprinting beside me. He said, “Don’t let me beat you. Don’t let your son beat you. You got this. Run. Run Run!” And as we rounded the corner, I looked up, and I saw I was going to hit my Boston Qualifying Time. I’ll never forget that feeling of complete exhaustion and accomplishment. I ended up with a 3:38:54 official time and needed 3:40 to meet my goal. I had done it, I’d qualified for 2019 Boston Marathon.
I collapsed on the field and couldn’t tell if I was shivering from cold, exhaustion, or excitement. I imagine it was a cocktail of all three. They had given us an aluminum blanket to keep us warm after the race. When I kept it around me I overheated, so I started to walk around holding it up like a cape. We had watched Wonder Woman the week before, and I suddenly felt pretty powerful, like a super-hero. Now those photos, I do remember. I had fun posing for them in my power-stance! Rather than rest all afternoon, we headed to St. Augustine where I ate half a pizza and hobbled around town. I must have fallen asleep in the car – because there is photographic evidence of it. It was the end of a year, the meeting of a goal, and the beginning of a new set of goals. I’m so thankful that I have these photographs to look back on to remember that day. And I’m incredibly thankful for the support from all of the people who have encouraged, believed in, coached, uplifted, prayed for, and supported me. I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you all. You know who you are.
What’s next? Ok, so I have to admit after completing a goal there is a day or so of excitement, and then I’m already starting to suffer from goal withdrawal.. My finishing time at the Jacksonville Marathon may have been a BQ (Boston Qualifying time,) but due to the high number of applications for the marathon, in 2017, runners in my age group had to run an average of 2:09 minutes faster than their qualifying time. My next goal is to hit 3:35 in a marathon race (5 minutes faster than my qualifying time.) I’ve scheduled several training races in January and then in February I’ve signed up to run the Oak Island Marathon. We’ll see how it goes! After that race, I may try for 3:30 (That was my original goal time in Eyrie.I’d love to make that time, but one step at a time!)
As for other 2018 Goals, I will run my first Ultra Marathon and Ragnar Relay and Triathlon Relay this year and keep training for Boston 2019!
Ultimately, my 2018 year-long goal is to live a mindful and balanced life and work joyfully hard in my training, personal life, and for my clients.