I knew that it would hurt. I knew that even after all the preparation – the determined months of 4 am wake up calls, runs so hot I would almost faint, a social life sacrificed in the name of training, all the iced muscles and severe lack of sleep, that it would hurt. What I didn’t know was how quickly I would realize that it was all worth it.
Where: Arlington, VA
Date & Time: October 27, 2013, 7:55 AM
Race Time: 04:27:44 – 632nd in my age group (out of 1,825) and 9,580 overall (23,720). This was strange for me. Coming off of a recent half marathon with an average pace of 8:46, a pace of 10:13 seems like crawling. I don’t want to say I was disappointed because my only goal was to finish, preferably somewhere in the 4 hour range, and I did. But the part of me that didn’t wear a watch or listen to my GPS, and had no idea of my pace until I finished, was a little dismayed.
Yes, I am proud. Yes, I know I did fine – I did beat Oprah after all – but as a runner whose times have gotten progressively more impressive as the year has gone on, cant help but be a bit defeated.
Weather: Perfect. A cold morning (around 45) overcast skies. I’m pretty sure it didn’t get above 55 all day. And when these guys fell from the sky before the start, I couldn’t help but be inspired.
Worst Mile: 18-24. I now know what ‘hitting the wall’ feels like. Priding myself that I’ve never hit it during any race or training run, it didn’t even cross my mind that it would be a problem. Jokes on me. Also mile, 13 brought on a quarter size blister on the bottom of my foot between my big toe and index(?) toe. A painful bubble of torture until it finally, blissfully, popped around mile 23. Ready to throw up yet? Yeah, I was too.
Best Mile: 1-7 and 25. I felt great the first several miles. In fact, I didn’t even take off my throw away sweatshirt until around mile 8. I stuck with a pace that I felt comfortable running for the long haul, around the 9:30/mile range.
It needs to be noted here that J illegally hopped in and ran 6 miles with me around Haines Point, a particularly lonely stretch of the course. He didn’t even blink when I asked him to switch his sock with me in a failed attempt to fix my increasingly painful blister. And when he hopped out, his dad hopped in and ran another 10 miles with me – talking me through the bad parts (there were a lot) and inadvertently being the reason why I didn’t stop to walk when everyone else was.
Fuel: My favorite PowerBar goop, and a coffee on the Metro ride to the start line. I think I could have afforded more fuel, but pre-race nerves had me focused on other things. I took a Gu every 6 or 7 miles (Salted Caramel flavor is my jam) and at least two Gatorade cups at each stop. Oh lemon-lime Gatorade, your sweet nectar has never tasted so good.
How did I feel: Funny. when the handsome Marine asked me this same question before placing my medal around my neck, my response was “like shit”. And I did feel like shit. I felt like shit during the last 10 miles, and I felt like shit when I finished. But that feeling quickly subsided when you realize that you just ran a damn marathon. Of course I felt like shit – you JUST RAN A MARATHON! The pain passes, but your accomplishments are forever.
Best part of the race (besides the finish): The crowd support – hands down. I’ve never run a race with more people crowding the streets cheering, holding signs & pictures, dressed in costumes, and playing music and it was extraordinarily uplifting especially when these guys popped up 3 different times…
Worst part of the race: The race was fine, I have no complaints regarding anything on race day. However, the day before when I needed to go pick up my bib and shirt and had to stand outside for over an hour due to an electrical problem in the tent, was not my favorite part of the weekend. I know it was beyond anyone’s control (I think) and in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that big of a deal, but I was cold, cranky, and didn’t want to be on my feet any longer than absolutely necessary that day.
Weirdest thing I saw: I’ve decided that this isn’t an appropriate question, as I’m pretty sure after about 15 miles all runners start doing their own weird things. Snot rockets and flying loogies don’t even phase me anymore – not even when they land on me. The smells of crop dusting, although not ideal, are more understandable, and runners talking to themselves don’t immediately garner a weird look from me. Hey, to each their own. That being said, the weirdest thing I saw was a girl who ran 23 miles of a marathon with a huge bulky sweatshirt around her waist, undoubtedly weighing her down because she, for whatever reason, couldn’t bring herself to toss it. And yes, that girl was me.
I’ve never been more emotionally attached to hunk of medal in my life. Blood, sweat, and tears went into getting this bad boy around my neck and when given to you by a serviceman who is constantly risking everything for our country makes it even better.
Final Thoughts: I cannot thank everyone enough who supported me through this. J read somewhere that if your relationship didn’t suffer during marathon training than I wasn’t doing it hard enough. I think I did it hard enough. J’s family who traveled up to watch me run, and everyone who wrote things on Facebook and Twitter while I was running. J and his dad for running with me, as Phillip did with him so many years ago, distracting me while I plodded along. The stranger who gave me a bottle of water on mile 22 and especially the wounded veterans in their full body bikes inspiring me to run harder for those who can’t. And to Phil, who I know was watching me every step of the way.
This race was one of the most emotional and grueling things I have ever done in my life. I quickly learned that after your body wears down, and your mind is screaming to stop, the only thing you have left to run with is your heart. But as the pain wears away and the memories remain, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that it was all worth it.