My First Marathon….

…and perhaps only marathon?

For those of you who like to skip to the last chapter to find out how the story ends, I’ll tell you my final time was 4:31:36, an average pace of 10:22, which is MUCH slower than all of my long training runs had been.  I was disappointed and in pain, and at that moment, this WOULD be the last chapter.  I even told David that if he overheard me saying the words “another marathon,” that he was to beat me about the head and shoulders until I STOPPED speaking such nonsense.  But childbirth was pretty painful too, and I do, in fact, have more than one child.  I think it was about three days until I was actually thinking about my next marathon….even looking into doing one before the end of the year.  I had trained well for this, and the 4 hour finish I sought was completely realistic.  The big problem is that I went out too fast.  All the training, all the plans, all the strategies…I chucked them all out the window and just decided to do something totally different.  *shakes head*

I arrived plenty early, though there was more traffic than there had been for the Hospital Hill Half, and I was feeling a bit stressed, but I was ok.  I parked, ate my yogurt and granola, got all my stuff prepared and walked to the starting area.  Stood in line for a while to pee, and then was planning to start stretching when I heard the National Anthem.  WOW, time passes quickly.  I started looking for my pace group.  NOW, if I’d been smart, I would have gone with the 4 hour group, since that’s what I hoped to do.  BUT, what I hadn’t really said out loud was that I really wanted to finish much faster than that and surprise everyone.  At my half marathon, my goal was an 1:45, and that was the pace group I started with (though the pace wristband I wore was for 1:50) and I finished 1:53, so I thought for the Marathon if I started with the 3:45 and wore the 3:50, I’d come in around 3:55.  Logic seemed sound, right?  So I lined up with those 3:45’ers and then when we started, I was actually out ahead of them.  BONUS!  The 3:45 group didn’t catch up to me until around mile 3 or so, (my pace at that point was 9:27, which was totally reasonable and really pretty well-aligned with my training)  and I hung with them until around mile 6.  At that point, my average pace was 9:13 and I was still doing pretty well.  I let them pass me as I fell into a comfortable and slightly slower pace.

The 3:50 group caught up to me around mile 8 or 9, and I stayed with them for only about a mile before I couldn’t see their flags any more.  At the 12 mile mark, I slowed to a walk.  It was just for about 15 seconds, but it was sooner than I normally needed to walk.  My piriformis and right hamstring were bothering me a bit.  At the half marathon mark, my avg pace was 9:34.  I was a bit concerned, but doing ok, psychologically.  In my training runs, this was normal.  I knew from experience that somewhere around now, I should see that average pace start to get faster again as my body became more efficient.  I had been hanging with the 4 hour group, but right around then, they passed me.  I wasn’t concerned, because I felt like I would catch back up to them and hopefully even pass them over the next few miles.

Around mile 14 or so, he 4:05 group caught up to me.  That was a bit concerning to me only because I knew my family would be waiting for me around mile 16.  I also knew that David would have been tracking me on MapMyRun and would have seen my early pace.  I worried that when they saw the 4:00 group pass them that they might think they had already missed me and would pack up and head further down the course.   The 16 mile mark was where David would be taking my camelback and trading me out for a water bottle.  Psychologically, I needed that.  In my training I always experienced a little speed bump after that weight was removed.  I saw the 16 mile marker right around the time that the 4:05 group was passing out of my visual range, having turned a corner a block or two ahead.  No family at the 16 mile mark….I started to battle mentally.  Then I came up onto that corner, and there they were.  Part of me wanted to stop then, just forget the last 10 miles.  Try again next year.  But it was really just a fleeting thought.  I’m no quitter.  It was shocking, though, how dazed I was.  I don’t remember really seeing them or their signs.  I saw David.  And we made the trade.  I knew the rest of them were there.  I pressed on, and I did feel better for a while.

Around mile 18, I started to experience intense cramps in my right calf.  This was unusual.  More walking…4:10 group passed me and the 4:15 group not long after that.  I somehow got myself together and pulled out my OLD methods from when I was learning how to run…Run for the verse, walk for the chorus.  Do that for one whole song, then run the whole next song, run/walk the next song, then walk the following, then repeat.  That method got me through the next couple of miles, and at mile 20, my family was there again.  This time I saw them a little more, including Sophie holding a “Don’t Poop Out Now” sign.  With her hand she was covering the word “out” on and off…That made me smile.  I also was thinking that now all that was left was a 10K, and I can do that no problem.  Just a mere 6.2 miles left.  I can make it, and a 4:15 finish wouldn’t be so bad.  Maybe I can even kick it up a notch and get back to the 4:10 group, and I’m still UNDER my max distance to date, I’ve done this before.  Think about Clinton Lake, all those training runs…the hills, the scenery, the eagles and hawks soaring overhead…

Of course from mile 21 1/2 to around mile 23 is one nasty long 225+ foot climb.  Somewhere along the way, I ran into Lacy, (one of the fabulous trainers at Title Boxing Club here in Lawrence),…or rather, she ran into me.  She recognized me from behind, and came up next to me and tapped me on the shoulder.  She had a big bright smile on her face and asked how I was doing.  I was so shocked and excited to see her.  She was running the relay and thus had fresh legs.  About a month before, she had run her first marathon, so she had recent first hand experience.  She reminded me that I’d been training for this, and I could do it.  She was an amazing cheerleader and inspiration for me.  She slowed down and ran next to me for a good while, kept me running when i really wanted to walk.   After a bit, i worried i was slowing her down, so i told her to go on ahead, and i stopped to walk for a bit.  By this point, I’d past my farthest training distance of 22.5 and was into new territory.  That was kind of exciting, because every step I took was one step further than I’d ever gone before.  That’s kind of exciting.  But I was in pain…a lot of pain by this point, and some where around mile 24, I crossed a street and passed a police officer.  At that point, I had a very real thought of giving up.  The 4:30 group had passed me, and mentally, I was defeated. I wanted to tell the officer that I couldn’t go on and just have him drive me the two miles to the finish, where i could find my family and leave.  I didn’t care about finishing.  But somehow, that will to not quit kicked in.  I didn’t stop, I just walked.  And then, “The Fighter” came on my headphones.  This was a song that, during training, I would always run the entirety of.  It urged me on, every time, and this was no different.  I told myself if I would just run this whole song, that when it was over, I could walk until I saw the 26 mile flag.  So I ran….SLOWLY, but I ran….the WHOLE song and it finished right around the 25 mile flag.  I stopped to walk, but I didn’t need to walk the entire way to the 26 mile flag.  I walked for a song or two, then I picked it back up and then, I heard the voice of an angel.  The angel took the form of a random guy standing on a corner.  He said…..

“Just two tenths of a mile….you can do it!”

“Oh, I love you….say it again!”, I said to him, and he obliged.  I really wanted to run off the course and give him an enormous kiss, but that would have required extra steps.  So I kept running, rounded the corner and saw that glorious 26 mile marker.  Geez, i WAS gonna do it!!!  Of course, the really sucky part is that the last .2 is a steep uphill, but somewhere, from the depths of my soul, I found strength and energy reserves, and I kicked it.  Just enough to pull out a strong finish.  I was so happy to be done.  I saw/heard my friend Mikel first.  She was a Lawrencian and she had told me she was running the relay.  She yelled for me when she saw me.  It amped me up, then just a few more steps and I saw and heard my family, and I busted out into what felt like a sprint (but was probably more of a shuffle) as I bounded across the finish.  Then….cruelty.  To get the chip off your shoe, they make you lift your foot up onto an upended 1gallon bucket.  That’s like lifting my foot 4 feet up!!! are you kidding me????  OK, passed that test, then staggered further forward, and some nice girl is standing in my way, then I become aware of the fact that she’s trying to do something to me…oh, she has a medal…ok, I get it.  I bend down a bit, and she dangles it around my head.  I try to stand back up.  Holy *words I can’t say here* that thing is heavy!!!!!  Take two, ok, I stood back up straight.
Good to go.  Now, where have my family gotten off to?  Ah, i see them..good thing too, because I’m about to collapse…David seemed to manage to be right next to/under me as my legs gave out.

It was about then that I told him I was never doing another marathon….EVER.

I think I’ve set my sights on the Eisenhower marathon In Abilene for my next one.  It’s in April.  I should be ready, and this time….plan the run, run the plan.

For those of you interested in statistics:

I finished 882 overall out of 1466 Finishers,255 of 545 women, and 40 of 101 within my age/sex division.  And if you want to get even more granular, of women my age  range from Lawrence, I was 1 of 5.  That makes me giggle.  Everyone has told me how proud I should be of myself and how that’s such a great time for a first marathon.  I’m sure that any NORMAL person would be thrilled with a 4 1/2 hour finish.  I’m weird, and I know I can do better.  I can do what I planned to do, and that’s why I have to do another one of these torturous things.  I need to prove it to myself.  So if you’re reading this, save your kudos for April when *I* will feel that I deserve them.