This story is by Robert Toto and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I have always wanted to run a marathon. Whether it was by watching it on TV or just to take part of something significant, I knew that I had to get out there.
My hometown has an annual marathon every year around mid-September. I told my trainer about my plan to run in it, and he said, “Robert, it takes lots of practice to run a marathon. But I will help you and support you. If you want to do this, you would have to start now, and slowly.” He also recommended to sign up for a 5K run first, but I told him that I wanted to do a “full-marathon.” “No Tony, I want to go all the way!”
I woke up at 8 the next morning. Getting up was hard, but I told myself that I had no choice if I wanted to put running in my daily routine. It was an abnormal warm spring morning. I wore a blue Under Armour tank top, shorts, low-ankle socks and sneakers. I went to the park near my house where they had a lot of trails. For my first run, my goal was to run 1km. “Doing this slowly, but surely will get me to where I want”, I thought to myself. I downloaded a runner’s app on my phone to help me track my progress. I downloaded a workout playlist to help motivate me.
“3, 2,1, go!” the voice in my running app said. “This isn’t so bad”, I thought to myself as I started running. At that moment, it felt good to run in the great outdoors. Within a few minutes however, I started to slow down. I didn’t want to give up, but I felt like I had to slow down and walk. I stopped running to catch my breath. I tried to resume running, but the motivation to keep going was gone because my legs kept aching. When I checked the app to see my running progress, I saw that I only ran 0.5 km on my first try.
I kept a positive attitude and vowed to gradually get better despite my unsuccessful result. “This was only my first day,” I convinced myself. “I know that I will get better if I just keep at it.” I texted Tony to see what he thought. “You’re doing great Robert,” Tony wrote. “It does not matter of how far you go, as long as you keep trying.” Tony’s text gave me confidence to keep on running.
A couple of days later, on a cool but pleasant spring morning, I went back to the park to run. Since it was cooler than last time, I wore sweats instead of shorts, and a light jacket. The running began as soon as I heard “Go”. This time around, I felt more comfortable running, and not as fatigued. Although the objective was to run 1km, I went further than that and ran 1.5km. Afterwards, I thought it was enough so I stopped running for that day. I was so proud of my results, that I shared it on my Instagram story. “Great job, Robert!” “Keep it up, Rob”, were just some of the positive responses I received. The encouragement from my family and friends has helped me to keep on running.
The next few weeks went by, and I continued to make progress. My running strengths started to improve. Eating my fruits, and watching what I was eating helped me get into shape. Before I knew it, I started to run 2km, then 3km, and finally, I did 5km. My body felt extremely exhausted, but the pride I had was still there. No one believed that I ran that long, but they congratulated me anyway.
By mid-July, I decided to run 7km. It was a hot summer morning with little humidity. Since the weather was dry, I did not feel sticky, and was able to breathe the fresh air while I ran. I reached my objective of running 7km. Although I was exhausted, I did not feel thirsty and therefore did not drink any water. The next day, I started to pay the price. I woke up fine and ready to go on my day. As I went outside however, I started to feel strange. As I was standing out in the sun, I started to feel nauseous. My stomach was turning, and my head became dizzy. Suddenly, I leaned on the window sill, and before I knew it, fell on the floor.
I got up, and that was when my dad came out, “Are you ok son?” he asked. “Yes, I’m fine.” I then saw that my right knee got scraped. I couldn’t walk, and my dad took me to the clinic. There, I met up with my family doctor who told me that it would take a couple of weeks for my knee to heal. Shocked, I asked my doctor when I could run again. She told me that not only I should not run for a month, but to wait until next year to run the marathon. At that moment I froze, and millions of thoughts were racing through my mind. “Where did I go wrong?” “I was doing so well and this happened!” I was afraid that I would never be able to run the marathon and that it was all my fault since I didn’t hydrate myself before and after running 7km.
Over the next few days, I stayed home stuck in bed. My body was starting to slump, and that got me sad because I feared that if I did not get out of bed soon, I would lose all of my strength to resume my daily activities. My knee gradually got better overtime, and I was able to start walking again a bit.
It took several days for me to walk normally. At the same time, my wound started to become smaller. I felt confident that I could resume my running exercises very soon. I started to run again ten days after my fall. I just had to start running again, and so I did, against my doctor’s wishes. My first run went smooth and was able to run 3km. However, my knee started to ache again.
While I was laying down in bed at home, I allowed myself to rest my knee for three days before doing any exercise. Five days later, I gradually resumed running. From then on, I ran more further each time, and the aching from my knee went away.
One month before the marathon, I organized a mock half-marathon with my friends. The objective was to see if my training had paid off. My friends got involved to see how fast I can run. We organized checkpoints to show how far I had run. I had Matt at km 5, Tim at km 10, Kelly at km 15, and Stan at the finish line. Mike and Liz joined me in the run. That morning, I was feeling nervous as not only was I going to run the most distance, but I also had my friends who were holding me accountable.
It was a chilly morning, and therefore I had my long johns, shorts, and a hoodie. After hearing “go”, we started to run. The “marathon” was a breeze for me as I started to run faster than Liz and Mike. Matt gave me a cup of water at 5km. I drank the water quickly as I saw Mike and Liz catching up. I continued to run for 10km until I met up with Kelly at 15km. My body was finished. I wanted to stop but Kelly encouraged me to continue. “You got this Rob!” Kelly exclaimed. “I believe in you!” With Kelly’s encouragement, I continued on running. Just as I got to the finished line, my knees started to tremble. Suddenly, I started to slow down. Once I got to the end of the finish line, I fell to the ground, feeling all exhausted. Despite the fall, I felt that I was going to be ready for the marathon.
A month went by, and the day of the marathon finally arrived. I was surrounded by thousands of runners, which made me feel nauseous. I was so used to running alone or with friends, but not with this many people. Matt who came to support me told me, “don’t worry about the crowd. Just focus on the finish line. Just keep going, and do not rush. You got this buddy! I believe in you!”. After the announcer said “go”, the marathon began. I started to run as my friends and family cheered me on.