Yep, it starts out as you would imagine. If you’d have told me a few years ago that I’d run a marathon someday..
After running for a few years and doing many smaller races, and seeing so many of my runner friends do a marathon, I started thinking perhaps I should attempt it before I get any older. Sometime at the end of last year I suppose, I decided I would start training for it. If I trained for the Derby full or Flying Pig full the training schedule would put me at 13 miles right at the time of the Run the Bluegrass half marathon. Since I knew I would run that anyway, may as well start marathon training and at least get half way through before really deciding.
After RTB I decided to keep training. Almost in secret. I was afraid to say it out loud. If I kept it to myself I could back out and hardly anyone would know. I did some long runs with others training for the derby or pig, some I did solo. I won’t lie; the 20 mile run was terrible. It made me really question whether I should try to do a marathon. Two weeks later I did a 22 mile run. It was worse. I ran in my neighborhood and made 2 or 3 stops at my house to replenish water, stops that lasted too long. During the last half my pattern was start running, make it a couple blocks, stop, walk for a few blocks, repeat. Walk breaks are fine but not as many as I was taking. I was so frustrated. At one point in that run I told myself “You better make it 2 miles without walking or you just call it off, you are NOT going to register for the marathon.” I made it 2 miles.
That was so frustrating I really needed to try to figure out what I was doing wrong and fix it. The training plan did not call for it but I decided I would do another 20+ mile run the following weekend. I had to prove to myself I could reasonably do it before actually registering. I reviewed my Garmin times, read up on marathon training tips, etc. I concluded I was going too fast in the first half of the runs, and I should try salt tablets. The next weekend I went out for 21 miles with those two adjustments. I wasn’t really much faster but I ran more consistently and I sure felt better at the end.
I was training, but I’d not yet registered. I’d not yet reserved a hotel room, and most hotels were long-ago full for Pig weekend. Long run training was disastrous. Yet everywhere I turned, I was receiving ‘go’ signs.
I kept seeing phrases everywhere – at the gym, Facebook and Twitter of course, even my church’s newsletter!
“If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.”
“The pain of running the marathon is worth the finishing of the marathon.”
“If you’re going to face a real challenge, it has to be a REAL challenge. You can’t accomplish anything without the possibility of failure.”
“At mile 20, I thought I was dead. At mile 22, I wished I was dead. At mile 24, I knew I was dead. At mile 26.2, I realized I had become too tough to kill.” ~ Anonymous
“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” ~T.S. Eliot
“Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue. Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which fortunately functions independently of logic.”― Tim Noakes, Lore of Running
“There will be days you don’t think you can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime of knowing you have.” #Running #Quotes
“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” ~ JEDI MASTER YODA
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” -Teddy Roosevelt
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to move forward in spite of our fear.”
Seriously?? Where was this stuff coming from??
One evening I happened to be on Facebook when a runner friend posted on the Striders group that she was not going to be able to run the Pig and would anyone want her room reservation. Right place at the right time? Another sign? Another excuse nullified.
Finally time to bite the bullet and register. Monday April 15. I registered at my desk during lunch. Tweeted that I had registered and now was a knot of nerves. Encouragement ensued from coach Krissie and other friends on at that time. As you know, not much later, the news of Boston came. What had been anxiousness turned into determination. That afternoon I was ready to go run the marathon Right NOW.
I would love to say that determination held strong for the next three weeks, but I alternated between ‘ready to go!’ and ‘OMG am I crazy?!’
On the Tuesday before the race an email came that said ‘It’s Race Week!’ The first item was information from Tri State Running Company. The last line said “Hydrate, rest up, and get hyped. You are about to be a marathoner! We’ll be rooting for you!” I choked up, teared up. Good grief. If that makes me cry how am I gonna get through these next few days?
On to the virtual goodie bag. That’s safe, right? An advertisement for a breakfast buffet beginning at 6 am on race day, for family and friends of the runners. “Breakfast of the people who cheer on the Champions.” Another gulp. What’s wrong with me, getting emotional from words from people who want to sell me stuff!
The day before the race my husband Chris and I drove up to Cincinnati. We didn’t get there until around 3 pm so I was not able to catch up with my running group friends at the Expo. As Chris and I walked around, he noticed the 26.2 stickers. “Hey here’s your 26.2 sticker.” I said “yep” and kept moving. “Aren’t you going to get one?” “Nope, not before the race. Bad luck.” “You know you’re going to finish it so I don’t see why not. I can buy it for you then.” “You can, but I can’t know about it.” He did talk me into buying a ball cap with 26.2 on it.
I realized after the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon a few weeks earlier that I had missed some of the atmosphere. My goal had been to beat my finish time of the previous year. I think I focused on that more than enjoying the beautiful surroundings. I know there were signs telling runners of the nicknames given to each of the hills on the course. I did not notice any of them during the race. Therefore my strategy for the marathon was simply to stay positive no matter what, pay attention to the things and people along the way, enjoy it and finish.
I set the alarm for 3:30 a.m. on race morning. The hotel restaurant did not open until 6 am so I ate a protein bar and drank a protein drink that I had brought with me. My stomach was so full of butterflies it was not easy to get them down. When I went to the lobby to catch up with the Striders I saw that the hotel had had some breakfast in the lobby for the runners! No one had told me that would be there. Then again, I had not asked anyone at the hotel about that. Now, of course, it makes sense since their hotel was full of runners. I took a banana and put it in my jacket pocket. I figured if I got really hungry I could just eat that along the course. I ended up not eating it, but that banana was in sad, sad shape after traveling in the pocket of the jacket that was mainly tied around my waist and flapping around for 26 miles.
The morning was threatening rain and the sky was overcast as the sun came up. While we waited in the corrals and they made the start of race announcements, a small partial rainbow appeared and grew into a full beautiful rainbow. At the same time the song being played was Sweet Caroline. It was so wonderful. I waited in the porta potty line in my corral, G. When I emerged the runners in Gate G were gone and Gate H folks were headed to the start. I headed that way and turned on the Garmin. I had turned it on a couple times already and it had gone to sleep. This time of course, when it really mattered, it would NOT find the satellite before I crossed the start! I hopped into the median before the start line to get out of the way of the other runners, waving my arm in the air like a crazy woman. Finally I went on across as I did not want to be the LAST person to cross the start line. Not because I worried about being last but because I worried about being LOST. I do not have a good sense of direction and I knew I needed to follow folks in front of me. At mile 1 my watch showed .85 so that was not bad.
I was a little anxious the first couple miles, feeling like I needed to catch up from my delayed start. I finally settled down and settled in for the long run.
I felt good that throughout most of the way I was in the vicinity of a couple of the Streakers. For those who do not know, the Streakers are a group of runners who have run the Flying Pig Marathon in each of its 15 years. If anyone was going to know the way to the finish line, it was a Streaker. I could always follow them if I felt I was getting lost.
Between miles 5 and 6 I think, I saw DJ and the Big Hand. Yay! So much fun to see them and high 5 the hand! I did not see Ernie and other cheerers though, not sure how I missed them.
Around mile 7 a cheerer said “You got this!” and I automatically breathed ‘Yeah, sure.’ Then I said, No, that’s not the right attitude, I DO got this!
We came to the point of the separation of half- and full- marathon routes. Fewer people to follow now. Better keep up.
Around mile 12 I was not feeling well at all. I was done. Over, finished, can’t do it. I thought well, what if I just go to the nearest medical station, tell them I don’t feel good and get a ride back. At mile TWELVE??! No, figure something out. You’re just hungry. Not enough to eat, need more carbs. I forced myself to eat the rest of the Stinger chews in my pocket. I literally had to choke them down. Took a salt pill, some water, and went on the move. That must have been it, I felt much better.
I was so looking forward to mile 20. I know those are supposed to be some tough miles between 20 and 26 but I just needed that mental push of being past 20. Also I knew Jaime was there somewhere past 20 and while the strangers cheering me on were unbelievably great I was looking forward to seeing a familiar face. As 22 turned into 23 then into 24 I thought maybe I had missed Jaime too! Then at mile 25 I found Jaime, Kelly and Steve! There they were in their big yellow rain coats, yelling for me. Awesome. I got big ol’ hugs from Jaime and Kelly. They offered to run the last mile in with me, but I was doing okay so I went on. Turns out I really felt my best during those last 6 miles.
Coming up to the finish line I heard my husband yell “Yay Jenny!” and turned to see him there, videoing me as I ran by. He told me later he was not expecting me right at that time because I was about 10 minutes ahead of the projected finish time he’d received via text.
Finished!! A volunteer hung the medal around my neck. I got one of those silver blankets that always look so cool to me. Since my goal time was ‘finish’, I was right on time!
It was dark in the recovery area. Maybe on a day with better weather the sun shines in but it was a bit gloomy in there. There were tables full of small paper cups with Gatorade. I drank one then took another and walked out to the food area. I love having a banana after a race, so that was what I looked for first. They were first up, but were sliced in half. By this time the ends of all of them were brown and nasty looking. Yuk, no thanks. I realize I could eat 2 half bananas, but I really feel that if you run 26.2 miles you are entitled to a whole unadulterated banana.
I moved on to other snacks. I saw the fruit cups but for some reason those did not appeal to me, just seemed like too much trouble. Picked up a few things and headed out to find my husband.
I had put a jacket and ball cap in my clear bag from the expo for Chris to bring to the finish area for me. I took off my wet jacket and headband and put on the dry jacket and cap. I thought I would have been absolutely starving but I really wasn’t. I ate a couple of swiss cake rolls and drank some water. I was suddenly soooo cold. My body was shaking, I could not stop shaking. Yet, dang it, I had just finished a marathon, I was ready for the post-race party! Um, where is it? I had Chris walk over to the information booth and ask. He came back and said “They laughed and told me this is it.” Well, either we really were not in the right place or, due to my later finish and the rain, it had indeed fizzled out. Ah well. Hot shower was sounding great.
I must have been in a time warp out there on the course. I would take a salt tab and try to remember the time on my Garmin so I could take another in 45 minutes from then, give or take. Then I would look down at the Garmin and think ‘now what elapsed time was it when I stopped last time? Surely it hasn’t been almost an hour but I think the time is about an hour later than last time I looked.” It does not seem like I spent 5 1/2 hours out there. Another strange thing is that my Garmin says I covered 26.59 miles. Adding back the .15 I missed at the start, I went 26.74. Half mile too far! Where the heck did I go? lol
The weather, to me, was great. A couple times after pit stops I got chilly because I had cooled down a bit from not moving. I was glad I had brought my jacket to be able to put on for a while until I warmed up again. It only rained for the last few miles and it was only a light rain. Much better than a hot sunny day.
Those who had run it before had reported the crowd support was great. I had no idea! It was unbelievable. I headed out with the final corral of runners and was really in the last of the pack. I had support the ENTIRE way.. And not just people standing there. People applauding, yelling, cheering, encouraging. Amazing.
On the back of my t-shirt I was wearing the bonus race bib stating ‘First Time Marathoner.’ People who saw that were so encouraging! One of the Streakers ran up beside me, asked how I was doing, asked if it was what I thought it would be, told me to just run however I felt like running and not worry about anything else. When I passed people they would yell up ‘Yay, first timer, go!’. The course monitors on bicycles would say ‘Good job first timer!’ as they rode past.
There was a little old man with a one-man band that if recall correctly was assembled with duct tape. People outside of nursing homes, some in wheel chairs. One group offered a small cup of beer in the home stretch, which I graciously declined. The coordinated groups – in costumes, dancing groups. Elvis singing. So many signs to read. The police and security people standing at intersections all saying “good job!” I tried to thank people for being out there to cheer and somehow they ended up thanking ME. Bizarre. I remember one older lady who was applauding and whom I thanked as I went by, and she looked me straight in the eyes and said “thank YOU, I’m so very proud of you.” I tried to high-five as many of the little kids along the way as I could. There were plenty of official water and Gatorade stops but there were also plenty of offerings from the crowd. People holding out trays of sliced oranges, fruit pieces in baggies. How long they must have been doing that to still be offering them to me? A couple of little girls were trying to hand out small bottles of Gatorade but seemed to not have many takers. I had just passed them but went back and asked for one. Her face lit up. I carried that darn thing for a few miles, never opened it, dropped it off at a water stop.
I waved at Batman, played runner’s tag with Iron Man, gave thumbs up to Frisch’s Big Boy, slapped some skin to Elvis and high-fived a dog – not a person in a dog suit, a real dog.
I could go on and on and on and ON about how fantastic the people were. For my non-runner friends, if you ever want to just do something nice for people, just for the heck of it, something that costs you nothing, go stand along a race route and yell, applaud, or just smile.
I’m so glad I did it. While training I honestly planned that I was going to do it just so I never had to do this again! Training was hard, the race was wonderful. As of now I will be fine if I do not run another full marathon. But I cannot say I’m 100% sure I won’t. I learned so much during this first experience that I know I would do better and possibly even enjoy it more.
Thank you all, my friends, running and non-running, for all your inspiration and encouragement along the way.