"This is it," I thought, "I am actually doing this."
My legs felt fresh, the temperature was a cool 48 degrees and the bands playing along the route kept my energy high. As the first few miles passed, my nervousness began to fade and I kicked into cruise control.
I tried to keep things in perspective, not knowing what the late miles would bring. I was keeping a good pace and experiencing very little pain. At the halfway point, the shade that had provided me a cool course was all but gone. Slowly, I started to feel the heat of the day taking its toll on my body.
I passed mile 16, 17 and 18 with relative ease. "I've done this before," I told myself, "I got this."
Just before mile 19, my leg started to cramp. The muscle above my right knee, called the vastus medialis (the teardrop muscle) was causing a lot of discomfort. I tried to run through it, thinking it would pass. The cramping continued for a half mile, so I slowed to a walk and took some salt and some liquids. The pain began to subside and I picked up the pace again, but my legs didn't feel the same. It was as if I had tricked them into running 19 miles and they didn't realize it until I slowed down.
Twenty miles into the race, I realized that my legs wouldn't be taking me to the finish line, it was going to take something else.
After having to slow to a walk at mile 21, I had a conversation with God. I asked God to give me something, anything that would give me energy or take away the pain. Another painful mile went by with no answer from God, but then I heard it.
Just ahead I spotted a tent with one of the bands playing. I could hardly hear the music that was being played but I instantly recognized the song. My legs were filled with energy and my heart started pounding as I sang "Blessed be Your Name" with my hands raised to God. He answered my prayer.
The energy that song gave me only lasted about a half mile, but the encouragement He gave me through the song carried me to the finish line.
The next four miles were the most painful miles I have ever run. My feet were swollen and covered with blisters, my mouth was dry and my legs were cramping.
I turned a corner and saw one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, mile marker 26. The pain was gone. I passed the mile marker and began to sprint the last .2 miles (which probably looked a lot more like a light jog to the spectators).
I raised my hands as I crossed the finish line. I did it.
I lifted my head, pointed to the sky and silently thanked God for bringing me all the way through this magnificent journey.