The challenge today will be summing up a 5 hour race in a blog entry that won’t take too long to read!
After some scares with the extended forecast, the weather was absolutely perfect. Over 50 when we started and in the mid to upper 60’s by the end. Sun shining, not too much wind, just enough to cool you off when the sun started beating down and several lovely people had sprinklers on for us to run through!
A total of 2,635 runners finished the marathon before the 7 hour cut off, so the start wasn’t even corralled. Everyone was great though, not too much weaving needed to keep moving. I started near the back knowing my first 2 or 3 miles would be a minute or so slower than my planned race pace to allow me to warm up and not take off to fast.
Everything started out as planned. Fist we headed south, looped around a bit, went over a bridge to the first turn around point, back over the little bridge, no big deal. Next they took us through part of Camp Pendleton, including a stretch of gravel road that made me glad I had not opted to go totally barefoot. At about the 6 mile mark, I was chatting with a few people and found a running buddy for the day. James used to run marathons, but this was the first one in 5 years so he was taking it easy knowing he hadn’t trained well enough. We had the same planned pace so we just fell into step, talking and running, keeping one foot in front of the other. At around mile 13 we passed his wife and kids who were cheering him on. I waved and said, “He is keeping me going!” He responded, “I’m just trying to keep up with you!” Funny how having someone with you keeps you both motivated!
At mile 14 we stopped at a porta potty that didn’t have much of a line. We lost a couple of minutes, but it was well worth it! It was really warming up and I was tempted to take on way too much water, but definitely didn’t want to have to stop at a potty again. Mile 15 to 16 is where the mental games started. Conversation had trailed off and I was really having a hard time staying in the game. I know I could keep going that it was all in my head, so I just kept up with James and tried not to think about the miles and my stomach that was threatening to rebel. At mile 19 my mental state perked up, but my body was spent. My brain was saying, YAY, but my body was screaming for mercy. By this time my Garmin was also about 2 tenths of a mile ahead of the markers, which meant I had zigzagged and not cut my tangents well so I’d be running 26.4 instead of 26.2, UGH!
19.75 was my breaking point. I said good-bye to James and wished him luck and fell back into a walk. After about 5 minutes of walking, I tried a run again. I learned very quickly that the first few steps after walking are murder and it is like trying to run through a vat of tar! Fortunately, this is a good motivator to keep running, even if the run is only slightly faster than the walk. When I passed the clock at the 20 mile marker, it said 3:34. This would have been great if I could have maintained my pace, but at that point it became all about getting back to my car.
The next 6 miles were the hardest thing I’ve even done. I hurt all over, everyone was shuffling along just trying to fight the pain. By the end of a marathon, you are very much in like company. Everyone around you has been out there for the same amount of time and everyone is hurting. Some people take it with a grain of salt and can still laugh and joke, others are grim and determined and snap at anyone that bumps them at a water stop or gets in their way. Looking up the street it looked like a death march, everyone moving forward, everyone walking, except for the occasional person that would break into a run for a few feeble minutes and then re join the ranks of the marchers. One girl that had been running next to me, veered off into the grass and threw up.
As we turned left off the main street just before mile 26, and right again onto the board walk, everyone sprung back to life. Within my view were the people that were going to squeak in under the 5 hour mark and they weren’t going to miss it by walking the last .2!
About 100 feet from the finish line, I spotted a camera man and raised my arms to cheer, and it hit me! I WAS ABOUT TO FINISH A MARATHON!!!! I punched the air with my right hand, then went into a frenzy punching with both fists and screaming YES! while I jumped in the air. I was shocked I had enough energy to do it! The whole crowd around me laughed out loud at my antics. I crossed the finish line beaming and began the collection of swag. First a medal, then a bottle of water, banana, hat, pretzels, granola bar, cookie, and finisher’s t-shirt, all with nothing to put it in so I was juggling so many things I couldn’t make use of any of them!
I finally managed to stuff down the banana and cookie and bundle everything else up into a manageable mass while stumbled to the festival tent for soup and beer. In the tent I ran into a group of friends from my track club that had run the half. They were all excited for me and gave me lots of hugs and congratulations. After gratefully sucking down the salty soup broth it was time to head back to pick up my daughter on the way home. I wish I could have stayed and joined the party, but I was grateful that my daughter is old enough to spend a few hours alone and that my friend was willing to go out of her way to pick her up and take her to rehearsals so that I could be in Virginia Beach. For a woman with children, training for and running a marathon isn’t just about putting in the time and miles, it is about friends who are willing to help you get past the schedule conflicts so you can run!
I did get a couple of comments on my VFFs and saw one other marathoner with them on. Mostly people asked how my feet felt. At first my answer was, “Great!” After 20 miles my answer was, “No worse than the rest of me!” At the end I finished with no blisters or hot spots. I admit, my feet were tender on the walk to the car, but frankly the rest of me hurt so much I didn’t really notice. As of this morning, I’m actually less sore than I was yesterday evening, which is a big surprise to me. My feet fell great, my quads and hamstrings are the sorest, and hip flexors are tight and sore, but no joint pain at all and nothing with the sharp pain of injury, just the slow burn of lactic acid. I’m tired and definitely will need a nap today, but I don’t regret running and can’t wait for the next one.
Finish time: 4:54:49