I drove to Richmond to spend the night where the marathon would be held. The hotel that I stayed at was nice and neat. After checking in, I went to my room and started my carb-loading process by eating almost everything I had, such as bread and potato. But unfortunately, I felt nauseated with unexpected loose bowel motions. I was concerned because I was losing electrolytes which would not optimize my performance for tomorrow.
I started hydrating myself with water but I needed to replenish the electrolytes that my body had lost. Part of my running package was six calorie-gel packets that were supplemented with caffeine and electrolytes, so I decided to have one of these gels. Shortly after I took one, my body felt warmer and my heart started pounding faster and harder; then, I realized that the caffeine had kicked in and its effects were more prominent than I expected.
I thought the effects would wear off after a while, but they did not; so I became more nervous and anxious. I went to bed at nine-ish so I could get up early and travel to the race site, but I could not fall asleep because of the calorie gel and my nervousness. I do not even remember closing my eyes, and I know I did not get enough sleep. I even snoozed my clock before 5 AM which was the time that I set the alarm clock for.
I got up and put on my running gear; the most exciting thing about my gear was the sports bra, which for me, was the most effective method to avoid chaffing. I went to the hotel lobby to have my light breakfast, and went back to my room to do some stretches to warm up; It was like 25 F outside.
I packed my stuff and checked out at the front desk. I drove to the race site and parked where I was supposed to; I was walking to the start line by following the crowd; there were so many people coming from different streets from every direction. I got distracted for a second on where the start line should be, so I asked a young guy who was walking by me, and his reply was that he did not know where to go but we would follow the crowd. I had a running conversation with the guy, for whom this marathon would be his third. We warmed up together by having short runs. At the start line, the guy told me that we could start together at a slow pace but he would speed up shortly after we start, and I said that would work for me.
The race started and the cheers went louder. I ran at a slow pace and tried to maintain it till the end. It was my first marathon so my goal was to reach the finish line and not to achieve an incredible personal record. Gradually, the guy started disappearing in the horizon after two or three miles.
Throughout the race, I saw many runners passing me but I kept my cool by focusing on the fact that I was doing this for fun –
and it SHOULD be fun – so I started paying more attention to the cheerful crowds and their motivating signs, natural scenes, and beautiful music; at some point in the race, I took short pauses to dance.
Everything went well. I did not feel any pain or discomfort which could have been because of the cold weather. At the mile of 23, I felt exhausted suddenly and saw many runners suffering from muscle spasm, and many of them had to walk while others had to stop running altogether. I slowed down and kept moving because I felt that moment was the time to prove to myself that I could do this after almost three months of training.
Amid that struggle, there were a few people offering small cups of pickle juice to runners; my understanding was that pickle juice could help to lessen your muscle cramps, so I had one. I did not really know if it was the juice itself or just a placebo effect, but I was able to boost my run for one extra mile.
At mile 24, I was not really motivated to keep going and I thought of giving up by walking the remaining two miles. Then, an idea came up to my mind which was asking my self the following question,”How you feel, Bear*?” This was a question that my Krav Maga instructor asked us in class, and the answer would always be, “GREAT!” It does not matter how exhausted or tired I was; the answer should be, “GREAT!”
For the next two miles of the marathon, I would yell at myself by asking and replying to myself that question. It may sound weird but that was what pushed me to go beyond my limits.
I finally saw the finish line which was like a dream came true, and this was when I increased my pace and passed many struggling runners. I did it! I did! That was what I told a paramedic professional who approached me and asked if I was okay.
I got my finisher medal and started taking pictures to document that moment which felt really amazing. I went to the rest area to get fluids to hydrate my body and do some stretches to reduce muscle cramps and prevent joint adhesions.
After taking cool pictures and having good food, I went to the nearest gym that offered their showers to the marathon runners. I went and I took a cold shower which would help to reduce muscle inflammation and hasten the recovery process.
The Richmond Marathon taught me how attitude could push my limits. How confident I became to do another marathon in 2018!
*My nickname was Bear.
It takes only one person/ voice to confront wrongdoers whose actions are uninhibited. If we engage with them physically or verbally, they will know they are not right, and they may be held accountable for their acts. If someone attacks you physically, fight back to the best of your capabilities. Shutting our mouths is our validation to their mistakes. For example, one time I worked in a clinic back home and a doctor was giving unnecessary treatments to earn more money. I told him this was wrong and that he should stop, but he didn’t like it so I changed my job. Be brave. As another example, the #metoo movement started with one voice and it spread all over the country. Now we have an unbeatable army of survivors of sexual assault.
My traditional Iraqi costume is comfortable and straightforward; it consists of a loose robe with long sleeves and a head cloth. I don’t wear the head cloth, but I put a turban on my head instead. You see people wear traditionally more often in rural areas. I used to wear them when I do shopping locally or meet with my neighbors but not for school or work.
I don’t think I will wear these clothes in the future because they are unavailable where I live, and I don’t like the idea of being part of a culture that does not represent me. We are unique in how we think, process our emotions, and communicate.
Be unique from the inside and not from the outside.
I used to think that people who ran on the street were somehow Suspicious because I associated running with escaping from emergencies. For example, you run away from fire or from a crime scene. And also who would run in the rain?! or when it is hot.
I had that thought way back in the past when I was a child and crises could happen anywhere in anytime. Now, I still associate running with escaping but in a good healthy way as it is an outlet to release your negativity and absorpt the positivity from the natural surroundings.
Lecture me! I like to be lectured on topics that really interest me, or things that I do not know about. I am open to accepting criticism as long as we keep it civil. Last night, I was invited to a dinner with my friends, which I liked because it was the time to re-live my culture and tradition again to a certain extent.
After a delicious dinner, we had a regular black tea but the tea did not look really black as it supposed to be, but my host friend and I thought it was good; in fact, I had two cups of tea. The third friend did not like it and started complaining about the color and the taste, and he started making comments on how to make tea. The host friend offered to make another pot of tea just for the critical friend who refused the offer, but he would not stop wailing.
At some point, I could not tolerate this attitude and told the demanding friend that we were guests and we should be respectful and grateful to the host friend for having us tonight, and if you did not like the tea, then, please do not be a drama queen. The ridiculous friend did not like what I said and left. Later, he texted me to tell me that he did not want me to lecture him again, but my answer simply was that I would fix him as long as he keeps this rude attitude.
Some people tend to think that running is harder than it should be because we do not see its immediate benefits objectively. It takes a lot of work to reach the point when you realize that you are able to maintain your weight, modify your lifestyle, and know more about running. But there is something that motivates us to run until we reach that level of commitment, what is that thing?
Is it the post-race meal? Is it the selfie that we take after each run? or it is the fantasy of winning a race, or it is a mix of all of these. Personally, it is the feeling that I enjoy after each workout that drives me to run on a regular basis. It is about how we feel and not how we look.
Three weeks to go and a few miles to add to my training plan. During my training, I felt some soreness in my left knee which was not bad, however, I did not want to make it worse. After consulting with friends and searching online, I believed that the ideal thing to do was to make sure that I was using the right shoes that could support my feet and knees. I went to a specialized running store and the staff did a foot scan which was fancy, but I got to explore the dark side of my feet. The result was that my feet were not equal in length and their arch heights were not even remotely close. The running expert recommended me new brand shoes that I had never known before with a size of 11.5, could you believe that? All my shoes were between 9.5 and 10.5 in size and the new recommendation was beyond my rational expectation. Honestly, I put them on and I fell in love immediately once I stood up, maybe because they were new or just the bright red color. Additionally, I bought a few of calorie gels (the caffeinated ones) that would replenish my energy stores. I gave my self one week of rest to allow the left knee to recover, and to be mentally prepared for the next workout.
The night before the 22nd of October, I decided that tomorrow would be the day that I would hit the 20-mile limit. I woke up at 6:00 AM, got my food supplies in my running pack and put on my running gear, and took off with no hesitation. It was still dark and little chilly, but it felt just perfect for me. I started running slowly to preserve some energy for the final miles and increased my pace gradually as I could, and I used one of the calories gels every 45 minutes to fuel my muscles. Everything went smoothly; with the comfort of the new shoes and knee-pain free, I was able to surpass the 18th mile with excitement, but still, I had two more miles to go. I pushed a little harder believing that this would be my best chance to hit my goal. Within my sight, I saw a banner that said, “Congratulations, this is the finish line,” which must have been for another race. These few words created a mental image of me reaching the finish line in the Richmond Marathon, and I believe this triggered the runner’s high which alleviated all my discomfort and boosted my energy. The high level of the natural endorphins helped me running until I reached the 20th mile, which was my goal for that run.
I sympathized with my father who became unemployed because of his sickness, and I felt the same way for my mother who worked a second job and stayed late for many nights. But I cannot sympathize with myself that I should tame and move it the way I want.
I do not want sympathy to be a reason for me to fail. Do not tell me you are sorry for my pain or struggle; tell me that I can do it and you will see a beast comes out of me.
Running is mainly associated with knee injuries if precautions are not taken into consideration. There are certain steps that I follow to avoid such injuries. First, I pick the right shoes for me to reduce the impact on my knees and other joints, and I make sure that I land on the balls of my feet during a run, which helps to distribute the shock appropriately.
Moreover, I stretch before (warm-up) and after (to avoid adhesion-related injuries) a run and I gradually increase my distance over time. I believe that running is a lifestyle and this takes time to become a reality. During that time, I need to pay special attention to my knees and to my body as a whole.
In order to adopt a healthier behavior such as running, we should go through “stages of change,” which is a part of Transtheoretical model for behavioral change.
The stages of change are:
1- Precontemplation: We are not even thinking about a change in our behavior.
Me: I will never run.
2- Contemplation: We will make a change in our behavior within the next six months.
Me: Ah, I may run in the next six months.
3- Preparation: We will take a step within a month.
Me: I will try to run this month but I do not know when and where. Do not push for it.
4- Action: We are adopting a change.
Me: See, I am running. It feels good!
5- Maintenance: We are maintaining our new behavior for six months now.
Me: I love running! I will do another 5k soon.
Long story short, I needed a lot of time to make running part of my life and free from shock-related injuries.