Our day yesterday was filled with overwhelming emotion. There is nothing that could explain the way John and I both felt better than that.
The day started at 4:00 am when Johnny woke up to mentally prepare for his race. He has always been the kind of person that wakes up early to eat breakfast, watch Sports Center, and be alone with his thoughts before chaos literally erupts in our house around 7:30 or 8:00. It wasn't out of the ordinary for him to do that, rather very normal. I stayed in bed but my prayers began immediately as he left my side. I knew that this marathon was something he had worked so hard for and I wanted him to be able to do his best. As he finished up his morning routine we walked upstairs to say goodbye. Right before he left our room he gave me a journal he had kept of every run he had been on in training for the marathon. I saw him write in the journal throughout the training but I had no idea was those pages really held. The journal included his mileage for each run, total mileage, pace, and he ended them all with a short letter written to me about how he felt on that particular run. At the end of the each letter he in some way thanked me for my support by putting the kids to bed, watching them during the day, or staying home during their nap so that he could get those much needed miles in before race day. The journal was completely unexpected and it is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. My eyes flooded with tears as I read each entry; it was better than any gift John could (or will) ever give me. It was evidence that he took time to recognize my small part in his training and thank me for that.
One of the greatest things a man can do for a women in a marriage (in my opinion).
I obviously couldn't sleep after I read the letters so I sat up and decided to go ahead and get in the shower. After my shower, I walked back into our bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed. I immediately noticed Johnny had left his watch plugged in to the wall. I cried. Again. If you are a runner you will know that this isn't just any watch (and if you know my husband you know this is especially true). This watch keeps pace for him and tells him if he goes out too strong or too slow and gives him the mental strength to keep going when he may want to stop. He had used it since Christmas when I gave it to him as a gift to start his marathon training. I knew he would be frustrated without it so my quest to get that watch to him began. Long story, short, his dad took his watch to him at the two mile mark in Newport where they said the hand off was smooth and the transition/stress was slim to none. Let's just say after that hour filled with worry my eyes were puffy but my heart was finally calm. He was going to make it (and he had his watch)!
From my perspective, this next part of the day was actually fairly uneventful. I got the twins up, fed them breakfast, dressed them in cute (matching of course) outfits, and prepared a bag that was filled with snacks, juice, and other miscellaneous items that would hopefully hold their attention while we waited for John to make it to the finish. Big John and Jim met me at our house and without much fuss we all made it to Newport where we parked and walked across the bridge to wait near the finish line. John was hoping to get to the finish in about 3 and a 1/2 hours so we thought they would be fine to be in the stroller while we waited. The babies were completely content in the stroller for about 45 minutes. We had received updates throughout the race each time he made it to a certain mark. He was great at the half way point, slowed down a tad at 19 miles and then we didn't hear or see him for quite some time. It was then that my pacing and worrying began. I was not AT ALL worried about his time. The only reason that ever even crossed my mind is because I know the competitive spirit in my husband is fierce. I knew that he would be disappointed if he did not get the time he had trained so hard for but I was more worried that he was not there because something was wrong. Something during the race had not gone as planned. Awhile longer had passed and finally we heard he was nearing the finish. When we did finally see him pass us the only way I can describe him and his demeanor was that he looked tired. He looked done. He looked like he was in pain and it was all I could do not to stop him right then and there and make him rest.
Later I found out at about mile 18 he started getting cramps in both of this legs. The extreme cramping haunted him until the end where he finished 26.2 miles at 4 hours and 23 minutes. He had two precious friends helping at this point in the race, which John will say is the only reason he actually finished the race at all. Nathan Clinkenbeard and Andrew Evans know the stress and anxiety your body goes through when you run a marathon and they knew he would need someone near the end. At one point John said they were almost carrying him and talked him into finishing knowing he had come to this race to leave it all on the course. He definitely left it all out there. He ran the last two miles by himself and finished as strong as he could.
I was beaming with pride. The babies were so excited to see "dada" and finally give him a kiss! We were all so proud and no time or expectation of a certain time could ever change that.
He finished. It was incredible.
At the end of the race Big John, Jane, Jim, Alicia, Emily, and Brian were all there ready to offer congratulations! He was really hurting at this point. The cramps had really taken a toll and his body was tense and stressed. I was tense and stressed. After we all shared our excitement with him we figured out a plan to get him home and in an ice bath. Those legs needed to rest! This is where Brian came in and truly saved the day with no words, just a helping hand exactly when he needed it. Brian walked a little behind Johnny as we walked back to the car and when he wasn't feeling his best or he needed to stop he was right there with him and he found paper towels, water, Gatorade, ice, or whatever else he needed. It was one of those things that only guys can understand about each other. He certainly didn't want me crying or asking if he was OK. He just needed someone to know what he needed without talking to him about it and do it! I feel like God placed the exact right people in Johnny's path that day at the exact right time.
To end (my also overwhelming) day I sat down once I had everyone laying down (for naps/to rest) and decided to take a look at the over 100 pictures Brian took as our "official photographer" for the day. I turned the camera on ready to relive the day and the words that flashed up on the screen made me sick.
"No Card in Camera"
Why in the world did my camera act like it was taking pictures if there was no card! We will never get those pictures back but I am sure that neither of us will ever forget the memories we made that day both good and bad. It was a day that we grew and learned a lot. It was a much more momumental day that I think either of us expected it to be. And as small as that day may seem to others, it was a time for us to learn that sometimes our plans are not aligned with God's perfect plan. We can be humbled when we least expect it and while it's hard to swallow, we know we have grown. We know that the pain we experience is a blessing and we will be better for it next time.