What a journey it has been to get to this day! 5 months of training and fundraising. At times it has been like a part time job, and just as stressful. It’s also been incredibly fun and challenging, and I’ve met some extraordinary people along the way.
So, do you wanna know what it’s like to run a marathon on the opposite side of the country three time zones away from your training ground and family in a city known for its hills?
We tried to stay in our own time zone, and it worked. Because I can’t seem to get myself to sleep before midnight any night of the week, I don’t feel like I missed out on much going to bed at 9pm local time. Getting up at 5am or 6am wasn’t much of a challenge either. I actually couldn’t sleep past 6:15am any of the days in San Francisco. So when that alarm went off at 5am on race morning, I was ready for it. I had laid out my jersey, pinned on my bibs, packed my running belt, and gotten all my race day necessities together the night before…making race morning that much more efficient.
I woke up feeling ready. We met our TNT team in the lobby, but needed to feed off the energy of the 22, 497 other people in the race so we took off straight to the start area about a half mile away. It was quite warm for a 61 degree pre-sunrise morning with all those bodies packed together. I was glad I opted not to wear an outer long-sleeve layer. They had a pre-race warm-up workout that was projected onto the side of a building, but from where we were in the corrals you couldn’t hear anything and it was so packed there was no room for leg swings or lunges. Then came the National Anthem. The crowd quieted down enough towards the middle of the song so we could actually hear it. The applause and cheers when she hit the high note were energizing. I think there were a few words of encouragement from former and present Olympic runners, such as Joan Benoit Samuelson. Then the countdown. And the whistle. And we were off! No, wait. Being in the 10:00 – 11:57 pace group, we were stuck behind a couple thousand other people who were starting. We crossed the start line about 22 minutes after the whistle was blown. And here is a breakdown of each mile…
2: We passed mile one? When did that happen? The course is so packed and there are so many walkers to run around that I didn’t see a mile marker.
3: I lost Jessica! Why am I still passing walkers?! Shouldn’t they have started in a corral behind me? Ooh, that’s pretty. But where did that hill come from? And why are we all walking up it like a herd of cattle? MOVE PEOPLE!
4: At least dodging and weaving is creating a distraction.
5: This is fun! And I’m making great time despite the dodging and weaving. Love all the crowd support!
6: Um, I see that hill. That’s the big one, isn’t it. Bring it on.
7: I lost Courtney! Wheeee! Running back down that hill has to be the most liberating experience. Not to mention I made great time.
8: More hills! Met up with Doug & Michele for a brief minute.
9: That had to be the BEST tasting orange I have EVER had! Was that a guy running in a speedo & flip flops?
10: Entering Golden Gate Park. Ooh, the feet are starting to hurt. Everyone around me is talking about getting close to the end…darn HALF marathoners. And there’s a rock in my right shoe.
11: Sat down to dig out the rock, and saw Courtney run by.
12: Banana! My feet hurt so bad.
13: Okay, gotta eat the banana…and take some ibuprofen if I’m gonna make it to the end. Could I just finish with the half marathoners?
14: Saw Jessica on a switchback on the course. She looks like she hurts more than I do. Just trucking along, trying to ignore my feet.
15: Whoa! The banana and ibuprofen must have kicked in cause I’m on a roll!
16: Darn water stops. Totally wearing the water belt next race. This stopping and starting up again is tough. There are many exclamations each time.
17: Really, that was only a mile. It felt like two. And there are nine more to go. Holy moly, another hill! I didn’t order that. Can I just cross the highway and join the people headed to the finish? Check out those surfers! That looks like fun! Let’s just go do that.
18: It’s definitely become more of a walk/run than a run. I think Courtney and I are fueling off of each other. “Look, we just have to run around that lake and we’re essentially done. Piece of cake.” Whatever, Courtney! I may have enough energy and agility left to knock that guy off his bike…
19: Keeping in mind that it actually hurts the feet more to walk than to run, and using that to keep me going.
20: Whoa! What was that in my knee? It’s like the muscle jumped inside my skin. I think I’m walking for a bit.
21: Okay, back to running. And in a pretty good groove. So good, I’ve left Courtney behind. Hey, there’s Molly! Good job, Molly, we’re almost done! And there’s Laura to cheer us on! Ooh, and fun street entertainment, which I must say has been lacking since we split off from the half marathoners.
22: Another walking break allowed Courtney to catch up. She called me a little consistent rabbit. I think I like it.
23: Is that my sock bunching up? Stopped to sit on the ground to check it out. Nope…it’s a blister! Argh! Put the shoe back on, try to get back up, and ignore the blister for the next 3 miles.
24: Excited to see the hill this time. It means once we are at the top, it’s a downhill run and 2 flat miles to the finish! Let’s do this! We’re getting slap happy. Even tried skipping and grapevining just to change up the body movement a bit.
25: @#$%%&&* I can see it, it’s so close! Ack! There’s that thing in my knee again. Fine, walk for a minute. A coach came over to see if I was okay and chatted with me for a bit. Next thing I know, Courtney is running past me. NO! We finish together! Back to running!
26: All the crowd support, everyone cheering, screaming, making noise! Woohoo!!!! We’re almost there!!!
26.2: Sprint to the finish!!!! Don’t ask me where we pulled that from.
And it’s done. It’s over. I couldn’t wait to take my shoes off. And yet somehow I managed to walk all around the finish zone, collect my finisher’s shirt, my Tiffany & Co necklace, water, a bagel, a banana, Gatorade recovery drink and checked out at the TNT tent. Found Meredith & Joel, our ground support and very important people because they had my flip flops. Watched for Jessica to cross the finish. Found a seat and then went to grab food from the TNT finisher’s area, check out the stretch zone, collect some chocolate milk and back to deliver my plunder. I was a little disappointed that the stretching session was all done by the time I got to the stretch zone. 5.5 hour plus finishers need to stretch too! I can’t complain too much though. They invited me to take a mat and stretch on my own, and told me to go ahead and actually take a mat & foam roller with me cause they were going to start cleaning out the tent. Score! I’ve wanted a foam roller for ages, and the mats are pretty high quality.
My last order of business…give my feet an ice bath in the Pacific Ocean. Gah, that water is COLD! And it felt amazing. I wasn’t about to let that opportunity pass me by, though. I am in California, on the beach no less.
One of the perks of the Nike Women’s Marathon is having the Tiffany & Co necklace given to you by a fireman in a tux. When I stopped to walk at mile 25 and chatted with the coach, she reminded me of that as a means of motivating me to finish strong. I appreciated it. I told her that I wasn’t really interested in the “cute” firemen though. Now, if my son were the one waiting at the finish with my husband to give me the necklace…I’d run over glass to get there. I had a mental image of what that would look like and couldn’t help but smile with a tear in my eye. I think I made the coach tear up a little, too.
That should be the end of the marathon story. There is another chapter though, the recovery. I would love to say I was so exhausted, mentally and physically that I slept like a well-fed baby all through the night. That wasn’t the case. I continually snacked throughout the afternoon, although I was a little nauseous and nothing sounded good. I even had a couple glasses of wine before bed. Alas, I woke up at 12:30am and stumbled to the bathroom. Stumbled back to bed, and lay there for a half hour so uncomfortable I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Fine. I’ll take a cold bath to ease the aches. Lo and behold, it worked! After 20 minutes in the bath, I dried off and went back to bed. Although this time I was so cold from the bath that again I couldn’t sleep. Really?! Ugh. Another half hour goes by. Okay, okay. I need to warm up. I’ll go take a hot bath. Now that felt good. Got back in bed. I’m hungry. Seriously?! I felt like an 8 year old procrastinating bed time, except I WANTED to sleep. Ate a handful of almonds and drank some water. And finally fell back to sleep around 2:30am. I still hurt today, and I am sure sitting on a plane for 5 hours isn’t going to do me any favors. My plan is to eat and sleep all day tomorrow once I am back home.
Will I do another marathon? Probably. I’ll train a little differently for it next time though. And stick a little closer to home so my men can be there to cheer me on. There is a half marathon coming up in Indy in 3 weeks. I’m seriously considering it. You’ll just have to check back to see if it happens.
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