Running my first marathon was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I’ve had do a lot of firsts in my life. I had to relearn a lot of things too. Such as relearning how to walk, learning to run again, learning to control my bodily functions, learning how to speak and control my breathing. Running a marathon was a little bit different that it is for most people at least I think so. There’s a new movie out or it’s coming out called Brittany runs a marathon. Well in this story Kandi Kane runs a marathon. My marathoning idea began in December 99 when I was involved in a motor vehicle accident while on active duty. The doctors told me I would never walk again and I told them they did not know who my father was, referring to God, and told them that I would walk a marathon. The funny thing about this story is I had no idea how far marathon was. 26.2 miles is a long way to to drive especially if you’re living in the city it could take hours and most definitely a long way to walk.
The Decision to Start Training
I was on a trip with the guy that I was saying at the time in Las Vegas thinking about what would be next on my Bucket List. I returned home to find out the next thing on my list was a marathon. My rationale to start training was that my son was old enough to drive, he had had a license for year, if anything happened to me I was secure in knowing that he could transport me to the hospital. While sitting at work on my lunch break I searched for a marathon in my area. I didn’t know where to find a marathon. I didn’t know where people ran marathons, so I thought I would ask Google. I found that there was a marathon in my backyard in Sugar Land, Texas it was called the USA Fit Marathon. Without hesitation I signed up for the marathon while I was looking on the site I found a group Fort Bend Fit marathon training club. I signed up to join the training group and it changed my life. I met people from all walks of live and had a built in support system. When I joined the group I found out that they had supported weekly long runs and they provided us with a training plan all for fee. I was a speech therapist in the school and that qualified for a teacher discount. As I checked out the schedule I realized I had to run during the week. I wondered how would run solo during the week.
Knowing that there is safety in numbers I looked for a good local group and found Black Girls Run Houston. These ladies were a force to be dealt with. They were a tight knit group and would help you to reach your goals. My first two runs trying to join the Oyster Creek Pearl was unsuccessful I couldn’t seem to get off work in time. I decided to join the Tom Bass Pavilion 4 for Princesses and I was welcomed with open arms. I am equal distance between both groups and their times were different it was easier for me to meet at Tom Bass. So when I could run with one I ran with the other.
I trained for 30 weeks, some say that was too much. It worked for me and I didn’t have any injuries it took me from the couch to the finish line. When I started marathon training I had to learn the marathon and running terms because I was not a runner I had no idea what a tempo run was. I didn’t know what a speed workout was, I did understand the concept of hill training, but I did not know all of the other words runners use such as PR ( personal record) or sub 3:00. I spent time reading, I asked runners, I asked questions because I did not have a 5K pace, I did not have a 10K pace, I did not have a half marathon pace. I had to learn how to fuel my body.
I learned that I did not drink enough water. I needed to ensure that I had enough protein after a workout. I also learned that I had to cross train to prevent injury, stretch and foam roll. I couldn’t just go out and do a marathon because that was the thing to do. I actually had to train for it and I had to learn what to wear when it was hot what to wear when it was cold I also learned that running and preparation for a race are two totally different things while running is virtually inexpensive when you begin running races it becomes costly. I learned that I needed to have a fitted pair of running shoes just a pair of tennis shoes made by Nike would not help me to run a marathon I needed to get shoes that were fit for me for my gait and for my type of foot. I learned that you have to ditch your $120 pair of shoes after so many miles. I learned that your running shoes are not the shoes that you stroll in they are for running. When running is over you put on something comfortable. It was important to have good socks. You want to take care of your feet because you want your feet to take care of you. I learned that I always want to carry water whether it is for 21 miles or 1 mile.
I learned that training for a marathon was very time consuming. While dating I found that I had less time to date because I needed to go to bed earlier so that I could get up early and do my run. I needed to run before work most times because it was hard to run after work. Friday night date night was basically moved to Saturday night because I had to get up at zero dark 30 to run before the sun came up. I had to learn that not all significant others or supportive. I had never made a significant change in my life like that before. Because I wasn’t married it was an easy fix, after my first few marathons that relationship ended. He was happy in his sedative life and encouraged me to sit up and be sedative too. That time in my life I needed to complete that marathon because I said that I would back in 1999. Who knew how good exercise would make me feel and how that would help in my recovery?
It was my journey to becoming Kandi Kane, I had once walked with a cane and now I was going to run. When I began running I did not run with the leg brace. The first week of the FBF training you are instructed to complete 2 miles. It was the longest 2 miles of my life, but I knew I could do it because I completed the Army Physical Fitness Test years ago and was able to complete 2 miles in 14:17 however it took me over 16 minutes to complete one mile in June 2014. I was a member of the purple group and it was boring. Everyone set out to walk, they walked at different speeds some were fasters than others, but there didn’t beem to be any camaraderie. That was boring I walked alone and I didn’t feel any push to improve, just a push to move. I stayed in that group two weeks.
The weekend after the first meetup were encouraged to sign up and participate in the the 4th of July 5K in Sugar Land and I was ready. One of the members in the purple group told me that when we approach the start line we were to lightly jog over the start line for picture purposes and then commence walking. She said whenever we see a photographer we’re supposed to smile and I did that. There was a older gentleman running the race and as he shuffled while I was walking. We were side by side and as he began to pull away I started jogging. I was able to keep up with his pace for about a mile and a half before he dusted me leaving me in my feelings. I could not believe I let an old man beat me, of course with wisdom and with many years of running under my belt I now realize that A. He was in better shape than me, B. He could have been a runner his entire life and C. I am a disabled runner, it doesn’t matter whether I am disabled or not, he was not my competition; my competition was with myself. D. If I was competitive he was the wrong gender and definitely not in my age group.
After that race I decided if he could run with that little bitty shuffle I could run to with foot drop and right side hemiplegia. That was the day I set out to run a marathon instead of walk it. Besides the Purple group was happy with walking a marathon in 8 hours. Heck no, that is a full day of work with lunch and breaks. No thank you Purple, I am ditching you to head to Orange. I learned about Jeff Galloway and the Run Walk Method and decided that method was definitely for me. Every other week the mileage would increase. I will never forget the week we upgraded to 6 miles because that was the week that I face planted four times. It was so bad that finally the coach asked if I was hydrated enough because I was exceedingly clumsy. I explained to him that I was not and that I had foot drop from a spinal cord and brain injury and he told me that he had temporary foot drop and that I probably needed to go to podiatrist to get some type of orthotics for my shoe. Wearing an orthotic, an AFO or a leg brace was nothing new for me. The doctors at the Veterans Administration hospital told me that I was not to run and they would get me a leg brace for me to walk in. These words will always resonate with me, ” We will not equip you to run, but you can walk. You don’t need to run, running is bad for you especially with your injuries.” At that time there were no bladerunners so there definitely weren’t any spinal cord injury people running so I was doomed. I decided that I wasn’t gonna back down, I went to a civilian and the podiatrist told me that he couldn’t help me any said maybe you can find something on Google. It was a good idea, I found Turbomed and the FS 2000. That device changed the way I ran, which brought me some enjoyment. I finally enjoyed running it was something new and exciting. I was able to overlook the pain because I had something else to focus on. As I ran I learned how to place my foot and it got me through many training miles. I completed 5ks, 10ks, 10 milers and a few half marathons in preparation for the marathon. I ran a 25k and a 30k and I was so proud of myself. I found Team RWB, a group of veterans and folks that like veterans, I was super excited about that camaraderie. I had a regiment I would perform and specific workout I would do. It was the best time of my life. I was focused on completing something, I had a goal and I needed to attain it. The first time I ran 13 miles for a training run I was in tears. I was so surprised that I had completed it. The next day I went out and ran with another runner to keep her company, but we only made it 12 miles. We started too late and it was so hot that I had to call my son so that he could bring us ice and water. That was terrible because he took 40 minutes to find us and I swore I was near death from overheating. I had never experienced a hot weather injury, but I was well on my way. He arrived in the nick of time and I had to be transported to a cool environment. The next week I was at it again and I was unstoppable. I did not try any middle of the day runs that weekend nor did I complete a back to back run. The back to back run did not bother me, the heat in Texas is set on Hell and that got me.
The weeks leading up to the race I talked with my support team. I had driven the route, I had visualization going. I knew where I would be at specific miles and I remembered what I felt like during the training runs. I knew that I would want to quit because my body would be telling me , “No, you need to stop.” I also knew because I played with fueling that I needed real food. It was a two loop course which worked to my advantage. On a two loop course your friends and family can camp out and move along the course and see you multiple times or over many miles just by crossing over the street. I stationed one family member around the 3.5 miles mark for oranges ( it was sugar and pick me up) at mile 7 they were instructed to give me the peanut butter sandwich that I cut into fours. My next crew was set up around 10 and 20 for pickle juice for cramps and a sandwich for me to eat.
I stayed up making fake medals for the marathon because, there was difficulty with the shipment. When I heard that we would not get medals I made sure that when I was volunteering at packet up I took a really good photo of the medal.
Since I knew I was going to be there a long time I told my son I signed him up for the 5k. He was always telling me how fast he was and I wanted to have a recorded time for him. I also signed him up to volunteer, he had volunteered at every race I ran with the exception of the July 4th 5k. It was a great way to give back to the community and to get high school volunteer hours for college.
Feb 1, 2015 had arrived early. Around 4 am I was driving to Sugar Land and heading into the VIP area. I found the race director and gave her the 100 medals I made using the picture I took. I bought badges from Office Depot and printed the medal on the front of the card and strung a lanyard through the badge.
My first marathon was going to have no medal, I didn’t care it wasn’t about the medal. Oh my people were in an uproar about a medal. It was about whether or not I could complete what I started. Could I complete my goal? That was important, not whether I got a shiny thing that I can’t do anything with. Everyone has their reasons for running a marathon and mine was no because of a medal. Don’t get me wrong I take pictures with my medal. Then I either donate it to children with cancer or throw it in a box to be hung on the wall at a time to be determined.
After I dropped of the medal I entered the VIP tent. In there, I ate more food to fuel myself. They had bagels, muffins, cookies, granola bars, peanut butter and some fruit. Took picture prearace I walked Trevor over to his volunteer check in and told him where he needed to start for the 5k. I then opened my book, a friend of mine had given me the book the Little Engine that Could. She told me that I could finish a marathon and she believed in me. I looked at the book right before the race and I bought another runner the same book and told her the same thing. The race was getting ready to start and the race director gave her spill about not passing the pace car, about taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the marathon and that we were all winners, but we weren’t going to qualify for Boston (wrong, I did that day). Nobody considered me a mobility impaired runner and I gave it no thought. I was a runner, not a wogger, not a jogger, but a RUNNER! I ran that marathon. It was dark and there were people in front of me and behind me on Super Bowl Sunday in 2015. The water stations were still getting setup and took pics. I texted my friend who gave me the book and told her were I was. I knew she was coming to see me, but I had no idea she was coming to run with me and brought the whole Speech Department of Alvin ISD.
As I approached mile 3, I already had a blister, this was a first. I did everything the same. She stopped by the store to give me stuff for blisters out of the darkness I see four ladies and they say my name. Who the heck are these ladies and why do they know me? I say something to them and run a bit faster, that was spooky. Then I notice my friend running towards me in the darkness.
She is my hero by the way, but she always says I am hers. She hands me the stuff for my foot and I stop and put it on. Then as I get up to run and she continues with me. I ask her what she is doing and she tells me she’s going to run with me and that is what she did. She stuck by me as I took selfies and took in the sights, smells and sounds of the marathon as Coach Terrie told me to do. I smelled cow manure that was disgusting. I heard the sound of insects in the beginning, the car engine in the lead car, the pitter patter of running feet and much later, the laboured breathing of a few runners and the cheering of the onlookers. I then smelled the odors of the people that passed me. What I loved best was that Coach Terrie and FBF prepared me for the worse. When you don’t feel like you can go on always look to someone else.
If you have a helping spirit you will forget your own pain and reach out for another. That is something that kept me going, I ran back on the course and gave out peppermints. I shouted out pointers to the people on the course that were on the struggle bus. I had no idea how many people decided to complete a marathon and don’t train. I think that is insane. Your body recovers a lot better when it is trained to do something. I didn’t push myself on the marathon and I didn’t hurt my body felt like I had just completed another training run. Now those peppermints are the best pick me up. That little bit of mint and sugar get you going. I had a few and passed out at least half a bag along with some gum. I talked to the onlookers, cheered on other runners while running, smacked kids hands. I texted and took pictures until my phone died. As I headed out to mile 13 I heard my son’s name being called of the speaker. I am wondering what for. I had no idea that he won 1st in his age group and 2nd overall with no training, the gift of youth.
It was supposed to be overcast all day and my last message to my son was, ” Get my shades out of my car my fone bout to die.” My phone shut off . I thought he would understand fone was phone, I didn’t have time to add an extra character. At this point I am at mile 17. My son running to find me. As he runs up I hear the jingle from his medals. He said he was worried because he thought I was dying. I just looked at him strangely and laughed. I am dying and you would think I would ask for shades as my dying request? 18 years olds are special people, but mine was extra special. He jogged with me down to mile 18 where the guy I was dating surprised me with lollipops. Then he drove and parked every few miles to cheer me on until mile 23. Around mile 21 I felt loopy, I wondered if this was the wall. I had been talking and helping people so much I skipped my fueling. I could feel a nagging pain in my right foot, the drop foot. It was tendonitis that I would have misdiagnosed as a stress fracture later. As things become blurry I told my friend and she sprints off to get me something to eat. She came back in a flash and made me eat a banana and sip Powerade. I felt better almost immediately and I continued on. My other friend from work was on the corner with a large sign.
It was a big party that day in Sugar Land and I was going to finish this marathon. As I got close to the end I could hear more and more people cheering. My neighbors even showed up and were at the finish line waiting for me. My son paced me to the end and gave me a pep talk as my friend disappeared. He made my heart happy running the last mile with me. When I crossed the finish line I was alone and was quickly joined by all my friends.
The guy I was dating presented me with a box, everyone thought it was an engagement ring. I knew it wasn’t an engagement ring, so that thought never crossed my mind. It sure would have been an awesome proposal I was on top of the world at that time. It was a James Avery 26.2 charm with a chain that I know longer have. I gave it a way to a dear friend when she completed her first marathon because they stopped making them. Standing there after the marathon my feet were on fire. I needed to take my shoes off and that is what I did. They had a bucket with a little ice and water and I thought oh wow how nice a foot bath.
To my surprise it was not a foot bath it was where they had cold bottled water for the finishers. They had run out and I didn’t know, I looked up on the horizon and saw two guys carrying cases of water and bags of ice. I was so embarrassed that I stepped out quickly and told my friends I didn’t know it was my first marathon, they all laughed and someone took that picture. Shortly after that because I had raced and consider myself a back of the pack runner. I secured food for those coming in after me. Unbeknownst to me The Race director has volunteers that monitor the food and order more for the final finishers. I hid the food in my car and passed it out as they crossed the finish line. I stuck around to cheer on all finishers. Then I helped to tear down the sight and a few hours later I found myself heading to Katy to pick up my packet for the inaugural Katy Half Marathon where I ran my first PR 6 days after a marathon. FYI the medals came in and I received my medal on marathon day.
The Take Away
It is important to remember that you can do more than you think, you body can endure more than doctors say. It is wise to listen to the advice of doctors, but realize they are not God. Although they are educated in the field there is still so much they don’t know. I had to learn to listen to my body, when my body said hey this is enough I had to stop. There were weeks where I needed extra rest and it is ok to rest when you need to rest. If completing a marathon is something you want to do then do it. You must decide that for yourself. I had no idea that I would go on to run 13 more marathons including NYC, Boston, Chicago, and Marine Corp Marathon and handcycle 3. That was never my plan, but I learned valuable lesson when training for a marathon.