Today was the day I’ve spent six months training for. Despite vacations, traveling, the holidays, two bouts of strep throat and fever (missed two of my longest training runs because of this), plus a sinus infection and bronchitis the week before the race, I ran and finished my second marathon. All 26.2 miles of it. I now have a very beautiful medal covered with red hearts from the 19th Annual Austin Marathon on Valentine’s Day.

As I started out heading down South Congress wearing the cobalt blue running pants I bought for today’s race, I put on “Badd” by Ying Yang Twins to get me through the first few minutes. This song has pumped me up for some unknown reason on my early morning drives to my running group for the last umpteen Saturdays. It’s a song about strippers, but it’s catchy and I like it. The next song was the live steel drums version of “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction, so hopefully that will redeem my musical tastes, like I need your redeeming.

I felt good going out at a 10:25 pace up hill for the first three miles. Miles 4-6 were down hill on South First Street, where I threw off my gloves and took my first of five gels. As I ran west along Cesar Chavez and Town Lake, the route felt unfamiliar and I saw a stray hair weave on the ground. Who lost their weave, I wondered. What was their night like?

I pushed it a little too hard running up Veterans Drive, and running down Lake Austin, which I’ve done countless times, felt longer. When I got to my boyfriend’s house on Exposition, I rushed inside to use the bathroom and almost cried. He stood outside the door, attempting to console me. “I just saw you run 22 miles 3 weeks ago. You can do this!”

I carried on up the hill on Exposition, then bended east along 35th Street and up Bull Creek, where I high-fived someone in a gorilla costume. On Hancock, I was thrilled to see my friends and their newborn daughter cheering me on in their robes. I tried to call out to them, but my voice was hoarse. (Thank you and love you!)

On Shoal Creek, I stopped around the corner and stretched my feet and calves. I took my first two Tylenol Extra Strength and another gel. All the way down Great Northern along Mopac, the crowd behind me kept thinning out. This was harder than I remembered. I was already thinking of how this was my last marathon. Two may be all I have in me.

I spotted my boyfriend in the distance laying back on some grass around Mile 22, chillin’ out in the sunshine. He met up with me to run me in, but just like it was during my first marathon, I didn’t feel like talking. By this point, it was more of a walk/run or a fast walk. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him simply walking a fast walk to match my slow pace. But he kept patting me on the back and winking.

“OK, we’ll walk until Red River then punch it,” he said. But Red River seemed so far away, and even then I was still at least three miles away.

At Mile 25, I saw our friend Kevin Smith playing guitar in front of DKR Memorial Stadium. I heard his familiar deep voice coming out of a portable PA system, and I yelled and waved at him.

“There goes my girl Heather!” he announced. My boyfriend snapped a photo of me running by. I was getting excited about the finish line.

When I got to the capitol building, “Party in the USA” came on and it reminded me of a time I watched a redhead dancing to it on stage at a strip club. I switched songs on my iPod just before nearing the chute and KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See” came on. I was listening to that song about two and a half years ago when I ran my first 15 miles, and I cried then because it was the longest I’d ever run and I couldn’t believe I was actually DOING THIS…AGAIN. I crossed the finish line two minutes and 10 seconds longer than I finished in Dallas. But I was all smiles just to be finished, and I wasn’t last. It was a sunny day when I was handed my pretty medal.

I didn’t cry as much as I did after Dallas. I was less mentally exhausted after the Austin race but more disappointed in my time. My boyfriend met me at the massage tent, and while I had a massage, he went to retrieve my 4Runner that was parked blocks away. When I got in the car, there was a bouquet of tulips. I thought that was so incredibly sweet and thoughtful. Neither of us really care about Valentine’s Day, but I think the tulips were for the marathon, too. We began part one of my marathon celebration at Casino el Camino with a fat-ass cheeseburger and Stella Artois and a screening of Wild in the Streets from 1968. At home, I took a shower and put on my fleece pajamas and got in bed. I told him I was not even about to attempt walking up and down stairs so if he wanted to see me, he knew where to find me. So we ordered a pizza and watched “Mad Men” in my bedroom before I fell asleep.

Best Valentine’s Day in a long time. And I’d do it again. I think I have a third marathon in me. But not for a while and only on a downhill course.

(NOTE: This blog post originally appeared on www.aworkoutaday.com, an archived blog I maintained for more than two years to chronicle consecutive daily workouts during that time.)

Did. Done. Complete. Today was the 90th day of my 90 consecutive days of workouts. I left the house on my run tonight listening to “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey (only the most unifying bar song ever) and walked up to my porch with so much pride after a 45-minute run and “Lebanese Blonde” by Thievery Corporation was on my iPod. I gave the gold frog on my porch the thumbs up.

So now what?

Well, I plan to keep on going as long as I can. See how long I can take this. Ninety days is just the beginning. But first thing’s first: pop the champagne. I wish someone could have filmed me opening this bottle because you’d think I was playing Russian Roulette. With every twist of the cork, my anxiety grew as I wondered if that the twist that would lead to the cork popping off into the up and beyond? Popping bottles and cans of refrigerated biscuits are two skills I’ve never mastered with confidence. I swear it took me five minutes. I finally opened it and turned around and saw my neighbors across the street watching me. Who knows what it looked like from behind. I waved and poured a glass and went inside to drink in a judgment-free zone.

I actually wondered if I’d make it to Day 90. Not that I thought I’d give up, but God forbid, what if I’d fallen down my stairs this morning or twisted my ankle or had a car wreck or passed out or was kidnapped. I found it interesting that for the last 89 days, it has been nothing to rally my motivation to work out, but on the 90th day, I felt so much pressure to perform. I even procrastinated! It is evidence that if I want to do something, I’ll make it happen. Otherwise, you need to dangle money in my face.

A couple of days ago, I began to think of how I would commemorate this achievement. Should I ask someone to join me on my run? Should I plan a dinner after my run with friends? Then I thought, why should I? I did this on my own. I found my own motivation. It was my idea, and it’s a personal accomplishment that only I can really truly appreciate. My friends and family have been uber supportive, especially when they realized how far along I was getting. I thank you all for that. Thank you for your well wishes, Twitter and Facebook comments and emails. I thank you all for understanding when I couldn’t come out for a happy hour or when I had to get in my workout before meeting up for dinner or a movie. And I thank all who worked out with me! I’m so glad I didn’t give up.

In the past, there have been a lot of times when I’ve wanted to give up on something, and I have. This time, it was different because I wanted this, and I grew to need it. As I was running tonight, I returned to a memory that often reminds me of what it means to keep trying. In 2005, I was volunteering for the ice skating competition for the Special Olympics in Houston. During the technical program, one 40-something woman was working diligently on her figure 8s. The point is to complete a figure 8 without getting out of the lines carved into the ice. I stood at the wall watching her skate a little along the line, stop, rest, then start again to complete another small section of the figure 8. It took her probably 20 minutes, and this is something that takes an 8-year old novice skater less than a minute to achieve.

After the competition, she came to the lunch room where my job was to pass out hamburgers and fries to the athletes. She saw me and said excitedly, “Did you see me? Did you see me? I didn’t give up!” I said through the tears forming in my eyes, “You didn’t. You looked great!” She was so happy. Nothing could have brought her down. That 20-minute long figure 8 was probably one of the highlights in her life. And here I am 35 years old and completely capable of at minimum getting out and going for a walk every day. If she didn’t give up, then what right do I have to give up?

(NOTE: This blog post originally appeared on www.aworkoutaday.com, an archived blog I maintained for more than two years to chronicle consecutive daily workouts during that time.)

When I began training for the Seattle Rock n Roll marathon in 2009, I decided to listen to audiobooks and podcasts instead of listening to music on my iPod (the same stuff I’ve heard over and over for years).

One of the first audiobooks I listened to was “Dry” by Augusten Burroughs, and he talked about going to rehab and getting sober and how the rehab people were like, “Don’t forget to go to the AA meetings when you get out of rehab. That’s so important. Go 90 days-90 meetings. If you found time to drink before, you can find time for a meeting now.” So it got me thinking, “If I can find time to sit on the couch, then I can find time to workout.” So I created my 90 days/90 workouts strategy. My goal was to simply perform at least some kind of workout each day for the next 90 days.

I figured if an alcoholic can find time for a meeting every day (God bless ’em), then I could find time for a workout.

On March 7, 2009, I began this personal journey, which I documented day after day in my blog, A Workout A Day. I began the blog as a form of entertainment for family and friends. Each entry points out the workout for the day, plus a little something extra. My workout journey lasted for more than two years and ended sometime in June 2011.

(NOTE: This blog post originally appeared on www.aworkoutaday.com, an archived blog I maintained for more than two years to chronicle consecutive daily workouts during that time.)