The Joy of Finishing

By: Nate Imhoff

For years I struggled with the ramifications of a very serious assault that nearly ended my life. It felt like I lived my life on my knees at the mercy of unpredictable PTSD. April 2018 I was finally fed up with this internal struggle and I set out to do whatever it took to fix this nightmare that I was living in. It became clear very early in this journey that running was going to be one of the things I found to help reduce PTSD symptoms and a thing that would end up setting my soul on fire!

I had trained for 7 months prior to lining up at the starting line of the 2018 Santa Clarita Marathon on the morning of November 4, 2018. Like a kid waiting for Christmas morning, I had to take a few melatonin to actually fall asleep the night before.

While I came into the race feeling a high and the possibilities in front of me, the race was simply the beginning of a new phase of my journey, and the lessons I learned during the first 25 miles will be with me forever. I limped past the 25-mile marker, and a wave of emotion comes over me, as I realize I am in the home stretch! I hurt all over and don’t even realize that I have a stress fracture in my foot, it can be hard to gauge whether or not you are actually injured, although it wouldn’t have mattered I would have crawled to the finish line on my hands and knees if I had to.

I start thinking back to all the times I had run this last stretch the previous 7 months dreaming of this moment and here I was!

As I turn off the south fork trail on to the path that goes to the finish line. I remember one of my favorite dad moments, chasing my kiddo down this same path yelling “on your left” as he ripped past his classmates that were walking the “Final Mile” challenge. This challenge is a part of the Santa Clarita Marathon and encourages elementary school age kids to participate in running and healthy lifestyle choices. Earlier that same day, I had finished my first half marathon, and I was so proud to be a part of our Monkey’s first race and seeing him finish something he worked so hard on. That day was full of lessons for me and the kiddo, and while we’re the type of parents who have always taught him that “if you want something you have to work for it,” his confusion over why everyone who finished got medals, prompted a huge lesson. Deanna and I spent the rest of the afternoon explaining, that a race is something significant and the training that goes into in order to finish is difficult and taxing. It is still one of my favorite memories and I use it as fuel when I need a reminder that this running stuff is hard work.

During that first marathon, I kept talking out loud and giving myself positive affirmations. As the 4:00 hour pace team passed me and I knew I was not going to hit one of my goals, which was to run a sub-4:00 marathon, I tell myself to keep my eyes on the prize and finish this thing! The last stretch took forever, there are two bridges I remember the inclines and I remember feeling like slow motion going over the bridges and how it felt like torture. Everything in me just wanted to stop moving.

“Going in one more round when you don’t think you can, that’s what makes all the difference in your life.” ― Rocky Balboa

When I see the 26-mile marker and realize that I am almost done with only 264 yards to go and the final bridge approaches – 7 months of training, hundreds of miles of running, hours of meditation and cross-training were all about to pay off. As I exit the last bridge, I was met with an explosion of cheers from my friends and family! These are the people who saw me at one of my lowest points in the mud, and with their help brushed the dirt off myself and start climbing this mountain. These were the people who I kept myself accountable too, these were also the people who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. These are the people cheering me on, when I should be the one cheering them on. Because without their support I wouldn’t be making my way to the finish line right now.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ―Leo Tolstoy

Crossing that finish line would change me forever. I felt unstoppable. I had accomplished something that less than 1% of the population will ever do. I finished what I started back in April and now and forever I am a marathoner.

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