I had survived the early miles – much flatter miles with what seemed like much prettier scenery. (It is strange how this happens, how your body has the ability to comprehend and appreciate its surroundings when you’re feeling energetic, but then this ability vanishes with fatigue.) I had run my loop inside Churchill Downs at around eight miles – I was even told afterward that glimpses of my stride were seen on our local television station running around the famed racehorse track. Later, at around the halfway point, I smiled going into and out of the hilly Iroquis Park. When I reached flatter ground again, I had settled back into a manageable pace that I was hoping was fast enough to get me to the finish line under my goal time of three hours but not so fast that I would crumble before I reached that 26.2-mile stopping point. I constantly checked my watch for feedback. And now, with just a 5K left – a distance I had raced so many times before – my mind was sure I was going to make it, though my legs told me otherwise. I continued on.
Rewind just two months and I was in one of the best shapes of my life. My race preparation was clicking just right and tune-up workouts and races indicated my fitness level was on my par with what I did before I ran my best marathon in 2010. But a knee injury almost exactly one month before race day changed all that. Instead, I had to take three weeks completely off from running and when I returned back, an easy run felt taxing and the race was less than 10 days away. I adjusted my goals but was still nervous heading into this one, not sure how my body would hold up in the later portions of the race. As I crested a big hill with 5K remaining, I found out. But I continued on.
With each step during that last three-mile stretch, my calves, quads and hamstrings seemed to pull loose from their bones. Even my arms felt the strain of the race. This is the point where your mind oftentimes drifts but also the point where you have to focus on something to get you to the end – for me, that focus was The Dream Factory. I thought about all the children I had been helping to grant dreams for during the past few months, the hardships they face on the daily basis, and I continued on. It didn’t give me any extra strength, didn’t allow me to dig deeper down and find some power I had in reserve – there was none – and it didn’t cease the pain from existing. The cramps were still there. But it allowed me to endure. This was nothing compared to what these children face, I thought, and continued on. By wearing The Dream Factory Marathon Team jersey, I was representing something much larger than a marathon in itself. It gave this race a little more meaning and provided me that extra incentive to keep putting one foot in front of the other until I crossed the finish line, which ended up being faster than my pre-race goal.
Now that the race was more than one week ago, I’ve had time to reflect on that last 5K – the real tough point in the race. My job has blessed me in so many areas of my life, put so many things into perspective, and on marathon day it blessed me even more. I know it’s on a smaller scale than those families I work with on a daily basis, but I was able to push on because I was representing The Dream Factory. And that – the logo and words written across my jersey, the ones I glanced out continuously in those final miles – is the reason I continued on.
Written by Tommie Kendall, The Dream Factory Director of Program Services. Thanks to all those runners who represented The Dream Factory in the Louisville Derby Marathon. If you’re interested in running for The Dream Factory Marathon contact Tommie at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.dreamfactoryinc.org/marathon/