It’s almost a whole month since my marathon! I actually cannot believe it came and went as fast as it has. It was one of the most challenging mental and time issues I’ve ever dealt with. A whole ‘nother challenge; including finding best nutrition habits and hydration; along with finding the time to run 2-3 hours most days of the week in order to fit in the long runs for the “big day”.
Cut to the “BIG DAY”….
Grace started in the group just ahead of mine; as she is a faster runner. As they called out the starting time for her group; I said a small prayer for her and wished her well, aloud…although I knew there was no way she could hear me.
Then it was our turn. As our group began to run; I felt an overwhelming rush of emotions fill my body.
I had trained to be here. I was an actual “runner” and was accomplishing my goal of taking on a full marathon. What a rush. I was in awe of this experience that laid out ahead of me.
I decided to enjoy the people around me, the beautiful scenery and weather; as well as my music I had prepared for my marathon run.
Mile 1 went by…mile 2…I was feeling strong. My plan was to take a Gu packet at every 4th mile and drink water or electrolytes at every water station; and/or every 2 miles. They say to follow your guidelines of fuel and hydration as you had on your training. I planned to do it right…this was not the time to play “hero” and take another route.
I found a good pace and kept up with a few runners around me. My pace felt strong and I was keeping with the 4 hour pacers. This was great!! At times, I would fall between the 4:10 and the 4:00; but that was completely fine with me.
Hearing the cheers of spectators and volunteers continued to help my energy push. They were here to watch US!! That felt amazing. I was honored that they would do this. There were spectators with signs for their family and friends who were running the race. I still felt like it was for all of us…as we were a “family”; running together in this large pack.
It wasn’t until the mark where the 1/2 marathon runners merged with us that I began to hit a mental “wall”. Although my pace was strong; my mind was in a negative state. What was happening? To the best of my understanding; (as I was busy running a marathon and not really interested in spending time and energy investigating what my “problem” was) I was thrown off with the fact that they had come in “late” and were already so much closer to the end than we were. It was an odd feeling and I don’t even understand why this fact bothered me, but it did.
I continued on anyway. It became a bit congested on the roads. People all running different speeds; with their groups of friends and keeping each other on track.
When I got the the 1/2 way point; we were heading down the boardwalk of the beach walkway. It was a narrow, two laned sidewalk that became filled with runners going one way or the other way. Who were these amazing runners anyway; already coming back towards the finish line? It was quite impressive.
So, I kept running. I kept taking in my Gu every 4th mile and grabbing water and electrolytes to hydrate. Apparently, I had been drinking enough water as I actually had to stop and use the “port o potty” to pee. That was a new experience. I had never needed to use the restroom while I ran my long runs before so even though it slowed my time a bit; I was happy to not be dehydrated. (it’s the little things)
And I kept running. Where was this turnaround, anyway? I looked up ahead and saw the mile markers continue down the boardwalk. I couldn’t see the end of our side. I couldn’t see where they were looping around. I tried not to worry too much about this fact and just focus on the task at hand. Run, breathe, fuel, hydrate. Run, breathe, fuel, hydrate.
Now I knew we were back to only the marathoners running this part. The 1/2 marathoners were on the road alongside the boardwalk. Why was this fact even an issue? I was becoming more and more annoyed by them finishing sooner. It became a bit of a “game” as I would tell myself to STOP thinking the negativity and focus but my fatigued body and brain wanted to remind me again and again.
I continued anyway. I ran strong and hard. Then I passed Grace. Wow, she was running at a good pace!! I called out to her and we smiled and waved.
Now, I was sure this turnaround was getting close. I kept my tempo. I kept with the beat of my music. I breathed in the surroundings and the fact that I was accomplishing this goal.
We ran near the campsites and campers were sitting and watching us run by. One such campsite held a large table and a big sign that read “Beer and Bacon.” The campers were encouraging the runners to take some free beer or bacon for their run. Ummmmm…excuse me? Were they serious? As I laughed this off and continued to pass them by; one runner ahead of me, did a U-Turn and came back to take them up on their offer. Stranger things happen, I’m sure. At least it gave me a laugh.
I continued on. Seriously, this straight away was longer than I would have ever imagined!! Then, I saw it… I saw the U-Turn!! I saw another water table!! It was like an oasis in the desert…what a wonderful site. I could have cried. I actually might have…just a little!
As we turned, I noticed we were at mile 22. Only a little over 4 miles to go. Wow. It was almost here. I realized that Grace was most likely almost done; or done at this point. I wished I was too. I heard my phone ring while I ran. I ignored it. Who would be calling this morning? It was early and the only people I could imagine calling me would be those who knew I was running my marathon. It stopped ringing. I kept running. Then it rang again…seriously? I didn’t have the energy to even try to figure out who it was. It stopped again and I continued on.
The last few miles felt torturous. I almost felt like stopping. My legs were heavy. I was falling behind my goal time. I was running just ahead of the 4 1/2 mile mark. I wouldn’t let it pass me by. I kept pushing further. I focused more on my music…and the energy of the people around me. Again, we came up on some of the 1/2 marathoners but this time it didn’t upset me. I knew we were all at the end. I was ready to be done. Whenever I saw a camera person, I always gave my biggest smile and waved. It didn’t matter what point of the race I would see them; even at the most difficult stages; I would still take the time and energy to smile and wave.
It’s the little things.
I then saw the finish line. The crowds were building around us. They were cheering. Runners were encouraging others who were about to give up. One man who was obviously a faster runner; stopped to hold a woman’s hand from his running group…and take her in with him. This is what this race is about.
Sacrifice. Challenge. Tears. Perseverance.
Just like life. You want to throw in the towel but you keep going. You want to give up because it’s too hard; or you’re too tired. But you keep going.
You put one foot in front of the other. And you do it again and again.
When I was 2 tenths of a mile from the finish line, I did all that I could to speed up. I remembered how at the beginning of the race, there was the gentleman with the sign that read; “you’re almost there, just 26 miles to go”…
I knew I had to only run that 2 tenths that I had started off so strong with.
I ran my legs as hard as they could. I pushed my body as much as possible as my lungs heaved with fatigue and gasped for breath. I willed my mind to finish. I had trained for this and I would not give up at this point. I crossed the finish line just after 4:30 and that was okay with me. I felt really proud and really tired. My husband was there. He whistled and called out to me. I begged him to hurry to my side as my legs were quickly tightening and I needed to rest and hydrate.
I made it. I finished my goal and completed my challenge. It was a huge victory. When my husband finally caught up to me; I asked him, “Why do people do this?”….
And he grinned…