The morning of the marathon, I woke up at 4:00 am, had some breakfast, got dressed, ran to the bathroom a few times, and headed downtown. There was no one on the roads and it was really easy to get downtown to where I planned to park (another thing I had obsessed about for three weeks - how to get downtown and park). Our running group had a room at a downtown hotel. I parked in the hotel garage. When I arrived, around 5:45 am, there weren't very many people there, and no one from my pace group. That gave me time to go to the bathroom a few more times and put vaseline on my toes so I wouldn't get blisters. I pinned my bib onto my shirt and shorts so it was visible and I didn't have the chip that was on the back of the bib covered up. I found out that this was a mistake the next time I went to use the bathroom. If you don't know this about races, you tend to go to the bathroom obsessively prior to the race so you are not out on the course and have to go. It takes too much time, especially if people are waiting in line at the porta potties, and if you go late in the race, you are likely to stiffen up and it will be difficult to get moving again. I managed to figure out a way to use the bathroom without undoing my bib, and felt great that I had conquered my first challenge of the morning.
|The Flying Turtles!|
It was time to head out. I gave a little squeal of excitement and we headed out into the cold dark October morning. If it weren't for the adrenaline we would have really felt the cold; as it was, the wind blowing through the downtown streets was enough to remind us it was October, and we were glad to have the arm socks.
It took about 20 minutes of standing in our corral before the national anthem began. I had goosebumps. Then there was a countdown, and off in the distance we could see fireworks. Since we were in a slower pace group, our position from the start line was about a little more than a half a block away so we couldn't see much. Once we started moving, it took 10 minutes to get to the start. We walked for a little while, and then stopped, then walked again. I was so excited! Music was blaring, and there was a big screen above the start line so you could see people crossing.
We finally went across the start line, and all the Garmin buttons beeped. It was on! I always get caught up in the momentum of the start that I actually forget I'm there to run, and since I usually am in the back, I'm running far slower than my pace. Fortunately, Lisa, our pace coach during training and the person I was sticking with during the race, hadn't lost her head, which is what I was counting on. She immediately picked up the pace and I realized that yes, this was a race, and we were off!
We had to dodge a lot of walkers, but started out at a decent pace. The crowds were incredible, and there was music practically on every corner. For the first three miles, I felt great. We headed toward Bexley, and ran past the Governor's mansion. I think I high-fived the First Lady and her daughters.
The signs were great, and the people were so supportive during the first half of the race. At mile 6 we saw an ambulance loading a runner who was on a stretcher. That was a little unnerving. We continued to lose most of our group to bathroom breaks and water stops, until there were just two of us, myself and Megan. Megan had everything you could ever need on a race course; she took the Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared" very seriously. The sound of bouncing pretzels in her extra water bottle were cracking me up. Megan was awesome; I told her to go ahead if she felt like running faster and she said she wasn't leaving me. She said she didn't want to be alone, but I wasn't so sure. She's the one who convinced me to keep going when I thought I might turn off at the half marathon finish.
After mile 3, my left knee started hurting. I ignored it for several miles. The pain radiated down my leg after a while, and then it went numb for a while. At mile 12, when I realized that many of the people around us were going to be done, I realized I could be done, too. The pain was starting to get to me. I knew that there were a few people who would be waiting for me after mile 13, but I wasn't sure I could do 13 more miles in this pain. Megan told me I was not turning off, and I agreed. I took the two tylenol I had stashed in my belt and hoped it would start working soon. The crowd and runners thinned out after we passed the turn off to the half marathon finish. I felt a small bit of exhilaration - I was really doing this - going further than I had ever gone before in a race.
My pain continued, however, and the thrill didn't last long. We walked through some water stops, but I couldn't keep walking because my leg would stiffen up too much. At some point we met up with Lisa, who was still going strong. Another mile in, and we stopped to use the bathroom. That was a huge mistake. I couldn't stand up right afterwards. My legs got too stiff. I hobbled around waiting for Megan, and tried to loosen up my leg. We started running again. At mile 15 or so, I told Megan to go on without me, and I walked for a while. A woman came up next to me and asked me what to do for muscle cramps in the back of her thigh. Boy I wished I had muscle cramps! I told her to stretch, and then walk it out. She asked if she needed to go to the first aid tent, and I suggested no, if she could walk it out she'd be ok. I hope she finished.
During mile 16, I saw my husband and kids cheering me on. I ran up and gave them high-fives and then kept going. My husband came up next to me and asked how I was doing. I said not too well, but I was going to keep going. He said he'd meet me in a few more minutes somewhere else (to be honest I really had no idea where I was or what mile I was on). During that time, I had time to think about how in the hell I could keep running 10 more miles with this pain. My other leg started to hurt, in the knee, exactly where the pain in the left leg started.
So when I rounded the corner and saw my husband again, this is how I looked.
This is me telling my husband not to take the picture because I was going to stop, but too late. I went up to him and started sobbing. I felt so bad. I didn't want to quit. I wanted to finish. But I could barely bend my left leg and I was afraid my right leg would be doing the same thing before 10 miles. I couldn't drag my legs any farther. I saw my kids and they were cheering me on. I explained that I needed to stop, and they didn't understand at first. Then my younger son gave me a hug.
We walked back to the car. It was a LONG walk. A person saw me and said, "Congratulations." I felt awful.
My husband dropped me off down by the finish line so I could get my bag, which I checked with our running group. I felt horrible. All of these people with looks of joy, wearing their medals and getting their food and drinks. I quickly found my bag and put on some clothes and headed to my car.
That's it. I updated my status on Facebook so people would know not to look for me anymore. I wouldn't see my running buddies, or my other friends waiting for me on the course. Every time someone commented that 16 miles was still a huge accomplishment and that I did the right thing, I would feel tears well up in my eyes. They were right, but I still felt terrible.
One thing my husband said to me the night before the race stuck with me and kept me going. Getting to this point WAS the point. The race was the bonus. He was right. I had such a good time - even with the training, and getting ready for the race and crossing that starting line. Hell, even passing the half marathon finish was a thrill - I had never done that before. I was so glad I hadn't turned off at that point. And as the day went on, and each time I moved my knee I winced because of the pain, I was convinced that I had done the right thing. I could never have made it 10 more miles.
So I didn't get the medal. I don't feel comfortable wearing the race shirt yet. And seeing all the finishers' pictures still gets me a bit depressed. But I gained so much from the whole experience. I pushed myself harder than I ever have before. I found things inside myself that I didn't know I had. I gained a new understanding of what it takes to train and why my husband won't stop. And, I made some new friends. In fact, the best part of this journey was meeting new friends. I could never have gotten this far without my running buddies. I am one of the most introverted people and don't make friends easily, but I couldn't help it with this group. It was a great feeling. During one of the last runs I did with them, someone dubbed us the Flying Turtles. We are slow but you still have to watch out for us! I was so happy to see each of their finishing times posted on Facebook. We worked so hard together; we got to know each other, maybe more than most people. You share a lot when you are running for two or three or four hours together. They worked so hard and deserved to get that medal. I am so happy for them and I can't wait to see everyone at our meet up next weekend. I bet they have some fantastic stories to tell. I will wear my race shirt.
And maybe one or two of them might want to try it again....I could use a running buddy.