April 28, 2012 I ran a full marathon in Nashville, Tenn. I ran this marathon with a lack of training and I had no real conviction going into it. My nerves were running full steam ahead, and I felt horrible. Prior to the race starting, I was seriously second guessing myself. I knew that I hadn’t properly trained and that I was not anywhere near ready for the run, but I couldn’t back out. Starting the race was great and running with family made it better. My early jitters decided to fill my bladder so quickly within the first two miles that I began cramping very bad. I tried to fight it off, but had to stop for a pee break. The short, but grueling line felt like it took three hours to get through (really only about eight minutes). I decided that I couldn’t run this thing alone because I would never finish, so I stretched out my strides and zigzagged in and out of traffic like a drugged taxi driver to catch up with my running “team.” Everything seemed to be going fine when I caught back up with the group. We ran for awhile at a nice comfortable pace. At a water stop my cousin Jenny and Uncle Tim stopped to fill their drink containers…..I being unprepared had no water container. I instead chugged a few glasses of Gatorade and water and continued on my way.
I ran by myself from this point out…..really crappy idea with no iPod and no one to talk to. By mile 8 the sun was hot and my endurance was fading quickly. I decided that I could not finish 26.2 miles and intended to take the turn-off for the half-marathon. From the 8-mile point to the 11-mile point I was able to maintain a jog, but every step solidified my resolve to take the half-marathon turn at the 11.5-mile mark. As I approached the turn-off, spectators started yelling at me…a lot of them actually. Now at first i really thought it was weird that I would get singled out, but looking at this later i am quite sure that being 6’4″ 225 lbs. and wearing a neon pink shirt and neon yellow leggings probably made me stick out a bit from the other runners. The fact that the spectators were yelling did not phase me. What they yelled, however, changed everything about me at that point in time. People who I never met and don’t know started yelling and cheering, screaming “run for Cara” and “REFUSE to give in.” When I heard these cheers all I could do was think about a little girl who I had never met fighting a fight that I could never imagine fighting. I saw that little girl’s mother at the starting line so full of emotion and I COULD NOT turn right for the half-marathon finish. My body wanted to quit, my mind told me to turn right everything about me told me to stop, but I couldn’t. I don’t know why and I can’t explain it, but I turned left…full-marathon bound. For the next 14 miles, a little girl I have never met and her unknown support team in Nashville, Tenn., pushed me forward. Everytime I wanted to stop, someone would read my mind and yell those same two lines “run for Cara” and “REFUSE to give in”. By the 18th mile I had no steam left, I had no drive left, I had no motivation, I had no will, but my legs never quit. I did not run again until the last two blocks of the race. I walked in pain, agony and worst of all heat, but every time I wanted to quit, a new Cara supporter rose up from a curb, a porch, or right behind me as they made their way past me, and they pushed me to continue. This little girl who doesn’t know me from Adam would not let me quit, she refused to let me give in.
I finished my marathon, it was not a graceful finish or a fulfilling finish, but It was probably the only finish that I will always remember. I have never been a very spiritual person. I have went to church and I have read the Bible, but have never really known what my position was and I guess I still really don’t. I do, however, know this, at 27 years of age I did not finish a marathon because I was in the shape to do it. I did not finish a marathon because I had the will to finish. I DID finish a marathon because a little girl who I do not know pushed me harder than any drill sergeant was ever able to. I wish that I could do more for that little girl than just run wearing a shirt with her name and picture on it, because she has done something for me that no one else has been able to do. She gave me faith.