Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hey, Did I Tell You I Ran a Marathon?

If you missed PART ONE, read that first. Or you can read this, then go back and read part one.  I'm not too picky. Ok.  Hold onto your hats. Here comes...


As we crossed over the starting line, I hit my Garmin in time with the beeping of the timing mats.  My goals for the run were as follows:

Stretch Goal:  Finish in 4 hours, 30 minutes, or less.

Realistic Goal:  Finish in under 5 hours, based on training runs and knowing that I would have to run 10 kilometres more than I ever had in my whole, entire life.

Ultimate Goal:  Finish the race.

Ideally without having injuries,

stomach upset,

OR hypothermia.

The wheelchair marathoners went first.  Then, the marathon runners.  The half-marathon runners.  The half-marathon walkers. The marathon walkers.  Yes.  Some people walk an entire marathon!  Is that nuts or what?

So off we went.  Erika instructed Ann Marie to be on my left shoulder, and she took the right, essentially flanking me.

Have I mentioned how awesome these two are?

We started the run with a 200 foot climb at mile 1.  It lasted 1.5 miles, and then we turned around and went back down the hill, easing out onto some flat running for the next 6.5 miles. Along most of the way we had spectators cheering us on, bands playing fun music, and a variety of colourful characters.

There were cheerleaders.

And pirates offering high fives!

Though I really could have done without them shooting their pistols into the air.

People in many of the neighbourhoods lined the streets and cheered us on.

Poor Ann Marie. Such a long name to be squished onto a race bib.

The race provided water and electrolytes, pretzels and gummy bears, and Vaseline on a stick for those who needed to reduce, um, chafing.  However, it all was available at the same time and led to occasional confusion.

Some of the middle miles of the race were pretty drab and spectator-free, so I plugged in my earbuds for some musical distraction.  It worked for a few minutes, but then I started hearing a strange noise. All three of us heard it.  It was so annoying.

It turned out one runner was wearing a heart rate monitor and was consistently running at a higher level than she had programmed into her device.  It was warning her that she was running too fast or hard.

Did I say how annoying it was?

As for my own race plan, I managed to keep around my goal pace, between 10:50 and 11:30, until we had 2 sequential hills at miles 16 and 17.  And then my pace took a dive by about an entire minute per mile.  It was tough going for a bit, but my mantra of one foot in front of the other, and my awesome friends, got me through.

Once we got back to the friendly neighbourhoods we came across lots of signs.

Well, as long as you promise.

So true.

Who asked you?

And with the race being just a day or two into the government shutdown:

Nope. No political comment here.  Moving along. *Giggle.*

Not only were the spectators and volunteers encouraging, but so were the runners!  I had made us race shirts and the back of mine said "First time marathoner".  It was incredible how many people asked me how my race was going!  They also had great things to say to my coach (Erika) and the birthday girl (Ann Marie).

As I mentioned, there were some very quiet stretches of road.  During these moments I had some doubts about my ability to finish the race, as I was getting pretty sore.

And tired.

But then I reminded myself that even though I was hurting, it was ok, because running a marathon is SUPPOSED to be hard.

Well, for some people.

She also checked in with Dr. Tim a few times.

This led me to a clear decision sense of melodrama.

Long distances might make me a little delirious.  (She chose to stay, by the way.)

Erika, of course, was no slouch either.  She was a great motivational speaker throughout the race.

Though I was not much good on the conversation side of things.

She also kept all our friends and family up to date in real time!

At one point we were running across one of the bridges, sometime beyond 22.8 miles, when a though occurred to me:

24 miles seemed like an adequately generous distance.

By the time we FINALLY got to mile 25 and change, we saw TriGuy and smiled for the camera.

Some of us might have also waved like a maniac.

We rounded the corner into the final stretch and came face to face with a glorious finish line!

Such an incredible moment.

Once we crossed the finish line we got our medals and space blankets.

Then we were handed popsicles.

Easily the best popsicle I've ever had in my entire life.

All I wanted to do was to join the many people who had parked their rears on the curb, but Erika insisted we keep walking because it was better for us.  She was so right.

As we continued to walk, we picked up more food.

We were each given a rose and two  satchels with a commemorative coin and a charm that's a mini version of the medal.

Then we got our finisher shirts.

We stopped for some photos, then met with our supporters, showered, and ate all the food at Wild Buffalo Bill's.

You guys, there are not enough words in the English language (or any other) to express how amazing this experience was.  Having my friends run with me, having TriGuy there, and all the support from family, friends and readers was just phenomenal.

And now, a little food for thought, especially for those of you who don't happen to run ultras and Ironman races:
I was NEVER an athlete growing up.  But since 2009 I have taken up racing, initially to hang out with my friends, then to really find out what I could do with this body.

This delicate, sensitive, always- getting-injured body.

I had no plans whatsoever to ever run a marathon.  But once I started running more, the idea kept creeping into my head.  When people would ask me why I wanted to, the answer was always "Because it's there."  Because really, I needed to know if I could do it.

I spent the last 4 years learning from my injuries and setbacks, as well as from my successes.  This summer I finally felt like *maybe* I was ready to train for a marathon.  There were a lot of skeptics, myself included.  But aside from being slower than I wanted, nothing went wrong with this race.

It was perfect.

And as for my finish time?

BONUS For those of you who read this whole thing, here is an extra little something:

Our shirts.  Front:

And back:

Ann Marie dancing.

Erika cheering at the finish.

Erika yelling that I was about to cross my first marathon finish line!

And finally, the official race photo that Erika bought for me!

That's it.  The longest post I've ever written about the longest race I've ever run.


Thanks for reading!


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