Jane Williamson 35, Toronto
My full marathon started as a personal challenge and a test of my endurance. I’d run three half marathons and had much discussion with my husband before I decided to take it on. My best friend was so excited, she signed up on the spot. She’d be training towards a Boston qualifying time. We planned to motivate each other through training. We compared our training schedules, types of running shoes, cross training and the best flavours of Gatorade.
We talked every day, multiple times a day. One morning I couldn’t get a hold of her. After anxiously waiting for a response I was notified she had died. She was depressed and had committed suicide. My world crashed down around me.
At the funeral her friend/running partner and I decided that we would still run the race. It would no longer be about personal goals, it was about honouring her.
The training was nothing like I’d planned. I struggled to eat, drink and sleep. I was weak and weary. I spent many runs crying. The marathon had taken on its own life. Somehow I trained to 36K. Often I thought of quitting or laying down and never getting up, but friends came without fail to drag me out for runs. They listened to me debate the meaning of my life. The morning of the run I stood in my assigned corral wearing a pair of her running tights and a shirt with her artwork on the back. I reflected about how differently my journey to this place had turned out. Instead of my best friend, there were six companions standing in various corrals, all wearing the same shirt as I, all there for the purpose of love and support. I felt strangely calm and ready, more so than any other race I had done. Over the next four hours and 50 minutes I traveled 42.2 km. I went through every emotion possible and by the time I crossed the line I was exhausted and sobbing. My friends and family held me while I cried on their shoulders. The marathon brought me through intense grief by giving me a reason to keep going, one foot in front of the other. It kept me bonded to my best friend who I miss every day. It gave me closure on that period of mourning. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget.