I will be honest. I had doubts of running all the way up to when the gun sounded for the start. What on earth was I thinking?! But here's the deal: I FINISHED! I ran my first ever marathon in 4:33:59!
Here's the Recap:
I woke up around some ungodly hour (probably around 5:30ish). I saw that it was raining and thought out loud, "there's no way". I gave a little laugh but decided I'd head to the start line anyways. I brought a large black plastic bag with me (thanks to some helpful marathon tips) and wrapped myself inside of it to protect against the early morning chill and rain. When I got the start area, there was a buzz. Like the buzz of electrical lines, people were nervously excited. Some were jogging back and forth (no thank you - I will be running enough today as it is), some were huddled down, most were in line for the toilets. I was running alone and got into the 3:50 pace group. I figured I might as well aim for a decent time, hell - if I even finished at all.
I stood around patiently, listening to music and awkwardly standing watching other people warm up. I tried to not think about what lay ahead or have any expectations. When it got closer to the gun... I could feel my stomach tie up in knots. I always get nervous in situations like these. Eventually, the crowd slowly started to move forward to the start line... what a sight it must have been from above! I felt better moving though - like one way or another, this was going to happen and I was a little closer to it being done with. I ditched my garbage bag and prepared to get wet (though a lot of people would run with their bags the entire way - there was no way I could have done that). It wasn't long before the crowd began to walk faster, then jog, spaces opened up, the crowd created space and then - GO GO GO!!! We were off...
With every race, people tend to fight at first to find their pace, fight for the space on the road that they want and fight their own competitive spirit to reign it in so you don't putter out in 10 minutes. The first part of a race is always the most emotion-filled. As we started to go, I fell into a groove. I easily slide in-between slower runners and moved ahead of the group. It was around mile 5 that I needed to go to the bathroom - badly. The first line of porta potties that I could spot had a line 12 deep, but I needed to go and there was no debate that stopping was mandatory. I pulled over and quietly watched as people I had passed now passed me. The line took forever but I was determined to remain calm and collective. I had a long way to go - these 5 minutes waiting were nothing. Eventually I was given my turn - after having watch the 3:50 pace flag, 3:55 and 4:00 flag pass me by. Shit.
After my pit stop, I hit the road. I was warmed up, my legs were feeling strong - the music was keeping my pace up. I decided to make up some time and run a bit faster than planned. I wanted to catch back up to my 3:50 pace flag. It took me about 6 miles, but right near the 1/2, I caught up the pacer. And then I passed him. I was feeling so good and my boyfriend Jacob was waiting at 14 mile marker with shot blocks and a killer smile... I could keep going strong.
When I did see him - what a sigh of relief! He didn't see me until I ran up in front of him and then we continued on together. His plan was to run with me for a mile or so then turn back (he's not a runner). I was so happy to have shot blocks... those little blocks of goodness was exactly what I needed at the half. Marathon food is NOT good. Besides the water, I didn't take anything else - especially that gold crap they kept trying to push on us. While I ran with Jacob, I took off my headphones - which was a bit of a heartache for me. That music was keeping me in pace and to ditch it for conversation felt like I was running uphill. Nonetheless, I was grateful for his support. He turned around near mile 16 and I was left to tackle the bridge by myself.
Headphones back in - I pushed onward. While many people took to walking up to the St John's Bridge - it was against my moral conscious to do so. I never walk uphill. Downhill - sure - why not? I probably earned it. But up hills have always been a personal goal for me. I passed a ton of people on that hill and fueled my motivation to push on. My roommate Ryan was waiting for me at mile 22 and would help motivate me to the finish. I just had to do the long stretch to mile 22.
By the time I met Ryan, my legs were starting to waver. He had more shot blocks for me and a ton of enthusiasm - so onwards I kept! The hardest part at this point was the rain. I was soaked - so much so that my outer shirt weighted about 3 pounds more than it should have. I eventually gave it to Ryan to carry since I felt as though I was getting slower. After a certain distance, you can start to feel the posture in running. You can either run forward - more on the balls of your feet, or you can run more sitting back - heal striking the ground. After running in one position for a mile, I'd have to switch it up to the other form just for some relief. At one point Ryan said, "you didn't want any beer?" after having just passed the Widmere brewery beer station. I must have been in the zone as I said, "What?! Beer?! Where??". I turned around and ran the 10 yards back to the table for a glass of beer - "carbs" I told Ryan. Whatever - it tasted like the best beer in the world.
The last 1.2 miles were HARD. Ryan was pushing me hard, motivating me, yelling at me to keep going. It hurt. Every joint in my body hurt like hell. Switching from forward running to heal running occurred every few steps now and it was noticeable changing between the two postures. The 26 mile marker couldn't come fast enough and when it did - the 0.2 felt like 10.
Running in towards the end, you are oblivious to the cheering - all you focus on is the big timer at the finish. You focus on who is around you and who you could feasibly beat. Or you focus on not letting anyone behind you beat you. You focus well past the finish line, to the food, the water, the ride home. You focus on a warm shower after running in the rain for 4.5 hours. You focus on what you just did. Wait - what did I just do? That's right - I ran my first marathon. I was so overcome by the end I felt every desire in me wanting to cry for joy. But there's no time for that at the end - they shuffle you past space blankets, flower girls, food, t-shirt pickups, photo opps... there's no time to sit back and contemplate what I just put my body through. And truth be told, if I stopped walking - I did not believe I'd be able to make it to the car. So I kept walking until I could lay down on the couch for an indefinite amount of time.
What an adventure.