by Serena Burla on January 30, 2012
The Trials certainly lived up to the definition of the word: Trials- a test of faith, patience, and stamina. Of all the times to DNF, why the trials? Oh there’s that “why” question again, the one that sometimes produces answers, sometimes life lessons, sometimes a delayed response, and sometimes silence. The question that always makes me take a step back and remember, I am not the one in control. “Why” often comes to mind when my heart breaks or a momentary emptiness takes over my soul and there is nothing left to do other than put my hands together in prayer for strength.
During this trial it happened somewhere between mile 18 and 19 when my body refused to go any further despite the amazing roars of the crowd and my brain urging it to go. I experienced an out of body feeling that I was going down, and then I did. When I came back around I was surrounded by event volunteers and medical staff. After a while I was cleared to go, and in the presence of one extraordinary volunteer I sat down and sobbed and prayed, and interestingly enough gave thanks. Despite all the pain I was feeling from not reaching my goals and not finishing, I was reassured that I have great joy in my life. I have my son Boyd and my family who loves me no matter what, and I could still put one foot in front of the other, something that had once been in question.
As I got back to the convention center and the other finishers filtered in, I felt for each one of them: the joy for those who will represent a strong field of American women marathoners at the Olympics, and the grief for those placing just behind them. I also felt for those who PR’d, for those happy to finish, and for those who had mixed emotions on their outcome. After all, it’s the trials, and not just any trial, the Olympic MARATHON trials. To all those who played a role in the trials: the organizers, cheering wise, support, as a coach, family member, and participant- well done and thank you.
The next day I got out on the course as a cheerleader in an attempt to give back to some of those who lined the course the previous day (the crowds had been spectacular). I cheered on several friends and my incredible training partner, Yihunlish Delelecha, who had been my rock throughout the training cycle. I ended up getting far more in return. I flew home recharged with inspiration and hope, and affirmation that I really love this sport.
Later, my coach, Isaya Okwiya, who has endured all life’s ups and downs with me the past six years, and I reflected on what had occurred, reviewed medical data, etc. in an attempt to identify the culprit and prevent this from happening again. I felt a pang in my heart upon realizing I was severely hypoglycemic, thus the reason I was not able to finish was probably due to not eating enough carbohydrates leading up to the race. I felt foolish, for this was something I could have controlled. I had let my fear of having stomach problems, which had occurred in a previous marathon, keep me from eating properly. If you ever have this fear, take it from me, having stomach problems is a far better scenario than not finishing the race. Oddly enough, a scene from The Lion King popped into my head: where Rafiki hits Simba in the head and convinces him to return as king. Rafiki tells Simba, “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” Having this great of a disappointment will surely make me learn.
I take this low humbly and know there will be better days. I go forward, learning, and growing; looking forward to my next test of faith, patience, and stamina- whatever that trial may be.