Yesterday morning I posted on my Facebook wall: “Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Going beyond my limits: priceless.” I was going to run a marathon, and go farther than I had ever run.
I was through the most grueling part of my run training (the taper) and now marathon race day was here! It was a relief in many ways to have it arrive: no more anticipation, no more wondering and worrying, no more counting sleeps. The day was perfect: sunny (amazingly, pleasantly warm for October!), no wind, clear skies and 7 amazing people to run with.
We had all trained together and decided we would run together at our set pace for as long as everyone could hold on. Our coach paced us, and we even had a few random strangers join our group simply for pacing purposes. I cannot stress enough how much pacing and running in a group can help get you through a long run. (Later, as I was running parts of the last 7 km alone I realized how much more of a struggle this would have been running for over three hours solo).
We hit amazing splits and actually made up quite a bit of time in the first half. By 21.1 km (the half marathon mark) we had already made up 3.5 minutes. We weren’t going to try push much beyond this, so it was time in the bank for the last (slower) 10 km. (We ended up being a total 4 minutes ahead of our estimated time a few kilometers later).
Best signs on course:
Go Random Stranger!
Because 43 km would just be crazy!
Toenails are for Sissies.
No one quits today!
I had a moment at 15-17 km where I really thought I would have to stop. My knee started to hurt and I panicked and felt like my run was over. My coach told me I’d be fine and that it doesn’t hurt. This mantra seemed to really resonate with me and I repeated this throughout whenever I felt my knee twinge. “It doesn’t hurt” got me through it.
Our group started to
disintegrate separate around 33 km. I stopped to see my family and refill my drink bottles and the rest of the group kept going on pace. But we were all tired, and hurting, and started to get more strung-out along the course. I would catch up to people and then fall back and catch up again. The last 7 km were the most grueling as my IT band and hip were in pain, but my calves were cramping so badly (only on one side) that my arch was also cramping in my shoe. Not a good feeling and a hard way to run. I actually stopped to stretch at one point, but I was also only 2 km from the finish so I needed to keep going.
The marathon is run over an hour later than the start of the half-marathon (the route is shared so all half-marathoners are through their turn-around point before the marathoners come through). It’s an easier start time and the day feels more relaxed because of this. There were also almost 4000 people less running the marathon as compared to the half, so there was much less crowding on the course. You definitely feel like an individual runner when people cheering can call out your name for support and encouragement.
There are things you do in your life that are pivotal and that change the way you think or feel, or change the way you see yourself. I found that having kids was like that. You grow and change so much raising kids that you almost forget who you were before you had kids. Your memory of what you did ‘before kids’ starts to get fuzzy and you realize you’ve changed and that you are a different person because of your experience.
Running the marathon was a huge deal for me. It’s really far! and more than that it’s painful. The body does hurt doing something for this long. Our training gave us a huge advantage, but the mental aspects of the race are the trickiest. I knew I would finish; I really wanted to stop. I walked through water stations and just wanted the whole thing over at 39 km.
But 39 km is not 42.2km. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it all. I needed to endure the pain and commit to myself to be who I was on that race course. I was becoming a bit more of what’s inside of me, and finding that I liked what I had become. This first day, of the rest of my life, was the hardest, but also the most satisfying.
* * *
Of the eight of us running, our finishing times ranged from 3:38 to 3:57. We had all hoped to come in under 4 hours. For a first-time effort for five of us, I think we can all be so proud of ourselves. My finish time was 3:44.