By Danielle L. Krautmann

We all finished! My running club from left to right: Ricardo, Gladys, Charlie, Gaby, Jorge, Pak Peng, and me.

I can’t take my medal off. It’s bronze colored with a plain navy blue ribbon to hold it on my neck. It’s the cheapest, worst quality completion medal I’ve ever received from a race, and I love it. This one says Lima 42K, 2010 on it…my first marathon. After the race I took a nap and woke up with the ribbon strangling me. I adjusted it rather than taking it off. I wonder how long I can get away with wearing this around the house.

Although I’ve done plenty of half marathons over the past five years, I was hesitant to commit to training for a full marathon. For me, running is something I do to keep fit and clear my head. If it’s a nice day, or I have excess energy, I like to go for a run. If I’m on a run and feel tired, I prefer to turn around and go home. If I’m feeling good, I’ll go further. When I need to “train” for a race, running quickly looses its appeal. Something about adding discipline to the sport makes it feel like more of a job than a pastime.

My first month here I joined a running group through Charlie’s work to meet people and make friends with similar interests. The friend-making mission was soon accomplished, but I kept showing up as the runs increased in length. I enjoyed the camaraderie of suffering through the last couple miles of a long run with friends. So really, my initial training for the marathon was an accident that happened secondary to my efforts to make friends. Although the thought had crossed my mind, it was not until about six weeks ago that I realized I was logging between 60 and 70 miles a week. So I signed up for the Lima 42K.

Me and Charlie. Although he looks like a total idiot with that mustache (grown just for the race), he was my biggest supporter.

I’ve enjoyed running for about six years now. My prior race experience includes nine half marathons, and volunteering as a pacer in three ultra marathons (100 mile races…I didn’t do the races, just helped out). Through all of this, I have learned that there comes a point during which your body tells you not to go any further. Your joints hurt, your muscles hurt, your head hurts, body parts you never knew existed hurt! You feel like you’re running as fast as you can, but know you’re only jogging at best. From here, things can go one of two ways. You can acknowledge the pain and listen to your body, stop and stretch, or walk for a ways. OR, you can remind yourself that its in you to go further and keep running despite the pain. The little engine that could powered itself through positive thinking and I’m here to tell you, it really works!

For me, it was when I reached 28 kilometers and realized I still had 14 to go that I started to feel the pain. I knew completing the race would be more of a mental feat than physical. At that point, I began to fill my head with the most positive thoughts I could come up with to distract myself. Charlie suggested that if I got to that point, I find someone to talk to to keep myself distracted. Unfortunately, speaking Spanish still takes a lot of effort and energy so this didn’t seem like the best option. Instead, I noticed a Peruvian runner with a particularly cute butt going the same pace as me. I strategically paced myself behind him for 2 km until he slowed down and I passed him.

At 32 km, I saw my friend Vanesa and her dog Inca and was reminded of what great friends I’ve made here. At 34 km, our friend Brodie rode up on his bike and chatted with me for several minutes and told me how well my rock star husband was doing (he finished in 3 hours 33 minutes). At 38 km, I passed Charlie’s boss/fellow member of my running group, Jorge, and it occured to me that I was ahead of everyone in our running group except for Charlie.

I'm sprinting across the finish line!

Jorge seemed to think he was going to beat me in the race and thus made a bet with me that if I beat him, he would bring back a People magazine and US Weekly from every trip he takes to the States. The idea of settling down with a cocktail and trashy mag in English every month or so made me run faster. At 40 km I noticed many of the “runners” walking around me. They had hit their walls. I tried to calculate how much time I would lose if I walked rather than ran to the finish, but got distracted by someone with an enormous camera taking a picture of me. In hopes of becoming famous like my friend Gladys and getting in Cosas magazine, I flashed them a huge smile and decided if I had run this far, it would be a shame to slow down.

Just as the finish line came into sight in the distance, I saw my husband running towards me, already wearing his completion medal. “Yeah!” he exclaimed. “You did it! Four hours 35 minutes! You beat everyone from running group! And you look strong!” While I was still running towards the finish, he had a friend from work take a picture of us. He began to ask me questions about our friends. “When did you pass Jorge? How far behind you is Ricardo?” Even in my exhaustion, I adored his excitement for me. I had to remind him that I needed to cross the finish line.

“Charlie, we can talk later, please let me finish,” I huffed out. Then I looked up. There is was! The finish line! My body didn’t hurt anymore and I began sprinting. In the final stretch, I passed two people and completed my first marathon with a smile on my face.