I hadn’t planned to do another marathon so soon, but this one just came together, seemingly overnight.  The idea popped in my head from something I’d seen years ago.  A couple hours later, I was registered and booked my flight.  The next morning, I made arrangements to stay with one friend and see a couple of others.  Bam!

What appealed to me about the race was the concept: Run a one-mile loop 26 times.  (Being able to fly into Chicago and see my friends was also a selling point!)  I got the sense that running and praying in circles might have some kind of Jericho significance.  When I talked to Mom, she said, “Funny you should mention that.  I just started reading a book called The Circle Maker, which is all about praying circles around your dreams and the promises God has given you.”  Bingo.  Game on.

The race was held at a park in West Lafayette, IN, about a two-hour drive from Chicago.  It was one of the most well-organized races I’ve ever run, and they really went the extra mile (no pun intended) to take care of every need.  Low race entry fees with a la carte pricing for medals and shirts.  Great email communication with the race director.  Helpful and friendly volunteers…and lots of them!  Medical tent with a heater. Extra bib pinned to the back so people can cheer you on by name.  Arrangements with community center to take a much-needed, much-appreciated shower after the race.  Awesome litter-free aid station.  Got a designated space on the table for my stuff and was able to bring my own everything—water, gel and snacks, and my favorite flavor of Gatorade (unlike most races, where you are at the mercy of whatever watered down flavor they happen to be offering!), labeled with my bib number.  Pitch a bottle in the laundry baskets at the end, and they’ll fill it up and have it waiting for you on the table next time you come around!  Genius!

Also super nice to know you’re never more than a mile from your stuff.  Especially on a cold day (22 F at the start, warmed up to 36 F by the end).  Easy to add/shed layers as needed.  Fortunately, it was a GORGEOUS sunshine day, not too windy, and no precipitation, so as long as you had enough layers, it was great!

Some people might think running in circles would be mind-numbing, but I never got bored.  The course wound around some trees and turned down a couple different streets, so there was some change of scenery.  Part of the course went by a playground, and I ran past this Miracle sign 26 times. (If this were a dream, what would it mean?)

There was also a couple who set up a white board, changing their sign every few minutes, so there was something to look forward to every time I came around.  Some messages were encouraging (You’re killing it!), some funny (Turn around!  It’s a trap!), all appreciated.  They were out there for hours cheering us all on.  God bless them.

Honestly, the people are one reason this race will go down as a favorite. Fun to see one of the top finishers running by in PJs. (Photo credits: Mike Vanaman Photography)

Plus met a couple of veterans.  Henry (guy with the beard) has more than 1300 marathons under his belt at age 68, and Larry, the guy in neon, has more than 2000!  Wow!  Larry ran his first marathon at age 52 and is now 73 (one of two septuagenarians to finish the full, in addition to two runners in their 80’s!).  He said I’d pass him…probably before I hit puberty!  Ha!

This race was also unique in that there were multiple events happening simultaneously.  In addition to the solo 26.2, there was also an 8-hour endurance event and a marathon relay.  Marathoners had the option of starting 7, 8, or 9 AM.  Even though it’s never taken me more than 6 hours to run a marathon, I was a little worried based on a history of cold -> stiff -> slow.  So I opted for the 8 AM start, just to be on the safe side.

They had a display just beyond the start/finish line showing how many laps you’d completed.  Noticed my name didn’t pop up after any of my first several laps but reasoned it was because it was showing the 7 AM starters who had more laps than me at the top of the leader board.  Didn’t think much of it until I passed for the first time after 9 AM, and it showed me only having 1 lap.  Uh-oh!  No credit for my laps for the first hour???  Small panic.  Hamster in my head is doing the math, wondering if I will be able to get credit by showing the laps on my Garmin or if I’ll need to do an extra 5 miles to make it official and psyching myself up for a possible 50K… Said something to one of the volunteers as I passed by, and thankfully, they had it fixed by the next time I came around.  Again, this crew was dynamite!

They also kept tunes going at the start/finish line. In a fun moment of synchronicity, I heard Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” as I crossed the line with exactly 5 laps to go! ?

The prayer focus for this one was really strong and one of my favorite things about the race.  The original Jericho took 13 laps to fall (one/day for 6 days + 7 on the 7th day), and I had 13 x 2, so I chose a different focus for each half.  The first part focused on dreams (for my personal life), the second on destiny (what I believe God wants to accomplish through me professionally).  Leading up to the race, I was praying about what the walls were that needed to come down and sensed God saying that “Circular Logic” was a play on words: Circle Your Logic to bring down the walls in your own mind that are holding you back!  Awesome!

Interestingly, the first half was mostly about receiving and simply believing God’s promises for me rather than pressing in with a laundry list of things to ask for.  Running-wise, I knew going in this was really more of a supported training run than a race, per se.  I used a 4/1 run/walk ratio and felt great.  I even gave a shout after I crossed the line for Lap 13. One Jericho down, one to go! ?

I felt good enough the second half to challenge myself a bit and took fewer walk breaks, eliminating them altogether except for the aid station for the last 7 laps.  Surprisingly, I found a unique prayer focus connected to some aspect of my destiny for each lap for 14-26: Books to write. Projects to bring from dream into reality. Dynamics I want to characterize my work. Bringing down barriers. Eternal rewards.

Meditated on a different idea each time as I made my way around, grabbed a sip or a nibble of something, and then went around again.  Felt easy and joy-filled.  Skipped across the finish line, as a friend had dared me to do, feeling fantastic!  (Ironically, I got dizzy about an hour later!)

Fortunately, I was way under the 6-hour mark and didn’t even need the extra hour I’d given myself.  Although my first half was still faster than the second, I ran much closer to an even split than I did a month ago, and I’m proud of myself for actually running more on the back half, particularly the last 7 miles.  When does that ever happen???

I’m happy to commemorate this one with a shirt that has a hamster wheel on it (so appropriate!) and great bling!