The time is 4:58 in the morning on December 11th 2016 and I am standing in line to use the restroom before running the Honolulu marathon. The national anthem has just been sung and fireworks are blazing in the sky. I look over and see that the line to the ladies room is much shorter than mine, which means that my friend Sarah will be out and ready to start before I am. When I am done in the restroom I walk over to the start. The gun went of several minutes ago and when I start walking inside the starting area I realize that I am one of the last people in the marathon, just in front of the walkers.
As soon as I am able to start running I pass so many people along the way, so many different shapes and colors, so many different backgrounds. But now we are all here and we all have the same goal: to reach the finish line. My background is that I set out to run 40 marathons and ultra marathons this year, the year I turned 40, to raise as much money as possible for cancer research. This is race number 40, the big finish. I turn up the volume on my iPhone and pass more people. My legs are fresh and my body feels energized, but after about 10k of the race something happens; my brain is telling me to turn the music off, go slower, and take this whole thing in. I stop at a couple of places and dance to the music that they are playing. Spectators and other runners laugh and take pictures.
This year has had so many experiences that I will always be thankful for, but I haven’t been emotional at all about it, I have just enjoyed the traveling and the running. For a minute I find that elusive state of being, where I am just in the moment taking it all in not thinking of anything else, something that is very rare for me. I glide along and for that minute the world is mine and nothing can go wrong.
All of a sudden I am yanked out of my perfect state of being in the now. It is the halfway mark, the sign that tells me that I have ran a half marathon and that there is only the back 21,1k that separates me from reaching my goal. With no warning whatsoever I can feel a surge of emotions going through my body, and it is like everything emotional has been suppressed during the year and is now about to explode. I think of my aunt, who the week before the marathon, like both my grandmothers, my mom, and my uncle before her, died of cancer before I could finish the project and go back to Sweden and see her again. I can’t hold it in and i break down in tears. An older lady volunteer asks me if I am alright at the following aid station and I nod my head as I am sobbing like a baby.
We do a big loop before we go back towards town and I think of my aunt, who was a very special person to say the least. I think about her crazy antics over the years and I laugh before I start crying again. At around 31k a couple of guys are standing on their lawn splashing runners who want to cool off with their garden hose. I run up to one of the guys, hand him my phone and ask for a picture, which he is happy to take. As I stand in the water spraying me I can feel the sadness go away for a moment, as if the guy is washing it off for me. The sadness is gone and I feel happy to be alive.
With about 5k left to go some girls with ”free hugs” t-shirts give me a beer. I chug the beer as three of the girls give me a hug. I run down the mountain and as I get closer to the finish I realize how much I don’t want this to be over. I just want to keep on running. Forever. I soon reach Kapiolani park though and I can see the finish line in the distance. I get closer and hear my name being announced by the speaker just before I cross the line where a smiling girl hangs a necklace around my neck and congratulates me on my finish. Another girl hangs a medal around my neck with the same greeting and I walk out of the finishing area to try and find my fast friend Sarah, who no doubt finished ahead of me.
After walking around for a couple of minutes, I see Sarah in the crowd looking for me. I walk up to her and we congratulate each other, smiling, but the moment we hug I feel so empty and vulnerable that I don’t know what to do. For some reason, I want to seem cool and I barely manage to hold back the tears. Sarah has arranged a ride back to her house but I tell her that I’ll walk. After a picture together we part ways and I go to Starbucks and get a cappuccino, after which I get my finisher shirt.
My body is feeling good but my inside is in total turmoil. It is with an empty soul that I somehow end up on the beach, where I sit down and stare at the ocean. The sun is warm and welcoming and I take my shirt off to get some vitamin D when all those feelings start to come back again. I make my finisher shirt in to a ball, put my face in it and cry uncontrollably for several minutes. When I finally come to my senses I go down to the water and splash my face with the salty water of the pacific and I take a deep breath of the fresh ocean air.
Before I go, I take a picture of my medal in the sand, so that I have something good for my social media outlets. I smile and feel warm inside. The show must go on, I think, and whatever it feels like today, I realize that the sun will come up tomorrow and with it a new chance to make a difference. As I leave the beach for the 5k walk back to the house, I start thinking of next years project. While 40 races in a year, a total of 1843,8 kilometers (1176,9 miles) and 1858696 steps is a massive undertaking, I am looking forward to a project that will be REALLY wild. 😉
HUGE THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO HAS CONTRIBUTED TO THE 40@40 CHALLENGE FUNDRAISER!!! BIG LOVE!!! <3