Monday, January 17, 2011
I did it!! I ran the marathon!!! It was every bit as wonderful and terrible as I had expected it to be. As I was running it on Saturday I kept thinking "I can't imagine ever choosing to do something this miserable again". And now, two days later, I am already finding myself thinking about the next one.
So, about two weeks before I was to starting tapering for the marathon, my knees started hurting...a lot. During my 19 mile run, they started to feel like they were burning, around mile 17. I finished the last 2 miles in agony, and was sure that I was not going to be able to do the marathon. 10 days later, my running partner, Bessie, and I did our last long run (22 miles). Right around mile 17 again, my knees started to feel like they were on fire. The last 5 miles were just trying to put one foot in front of the other, teeth clenched, and get it over with. At the advice of a running friend and physical therapist, I almost completely skipped the 2 weeks of tapering. I only ran twice during that time, a 6 mile and 4 mile run. I took anti-inflamatories, iced my knees 5x a day, stretched, and did as little physically as I could. He said I had runner's knee, and advised that I put off the marathon for a few months.
I chose not to do that, but did do everything else he told me, and was really happy that my knees didn't give me too much trouble during the first half of the marathon...but around mile 14, I started to feel them burning again.
I pretty much crashed and burned from mile 17 on. In fact, I walked 80% of the last 6 miles. We stayed with the 4:45 pace group for the first 16-17 miles. When I finally fell behind, I decided that as long as I stayed ahead of the 5 hour pace group, it wasn't that big a deal. When they passed me (with a pace leader who looked to be about 80 years old), I felt too bad to care. At that point, the only motivation I had to speed up was to end the misery as quickly as possible. I am disappointed that I wasn't more mentally strong. Maybe if I had been more mentally tough, I would have been able to talk myself into pushing through the physical discomfort.
We finished the first half in 2:21, comfortably. There were several times that we looked at our watches and saw that we were doing around a 9:30 or 9:45 minute pace, and had to slow down (our goal was 10:45 minute miles), so as to hopefully avoid what did eventually happen in the second half. The last 9 miles of the race took 2:14, only a few minutes faster than the first 13.1 miles. If we had only been running a half marathon, I think we could have definitely run it in less than 2:15.
There were several things that took me by surprise during the marathon.
1. The other runners were a incredibly supportive, encouraging group of people. I mean, really, really encouraging. It was great to see people really rally around one another.
2. I had no idea that having supportive people on the side lines would make such a big difference. Our names were printed on our bibs, and to hear strangers encourage us by name, helped so much. Along the way, there were probably 8-9 groups of musicians playing for us...from a lone guy standing outside his front door playing the guitar, to gospel groups, to an african dance troupe, to a guy playing a grand piano under an overpass, to a guy dancing to Michael Jackson's Thriller, to a brass ensemble...every one of them gave us SUCH a boost, just when we needed it. I really appreciated those people so generously giving up their Saturday to encourage us. There were lots of people with signs and posters too. My favorite was "Pick up that toe nail and keep running!!". That made me giggle...especially since I had one of my big toe nails band-aided up, to keep it on :)
3. I have an incredibly supportive community of people in my life. I teared up several times during the race, as Facebook messages, and texts poured in from so many friends, family, and acquaintances. Bessie and I were doing run/walk intervals, and when it was a walk interval, I would check my texts, and read them out loud to her. At one point, I had 22 new text messages in a 5 minute period. I was just floored that so many people were thinking about me, praying for me, and taking time out to encourage me. Those people will probably never know how much their messages impacted me. At mile 21, I saw Matt, Caedmon, and Bessie's husband. As I saw them cheering, I was overcome with emotion and the tears started flowing. I was so happy to see them, I was so tired, and I was sooooo wanting to be DONE already. At mile 25, they were waiting again, along with my neighbors. They all ran alongside us, cheering and taking pictures and were waiting for us again at the finish line. Everything I could say about them being there sounds cheesy and cliche but I just was so overcome with GRATEFULNESS to have people in my life who support my dreams. It just really hit me as I saw them there. I can't think of a way to adequately sum up how strong those feelings were but after all the misery of the last 5 hours, 16 minutes, and 19 seconds, when I crossed the finish line and saw them there, I felt more loved than I ever have in my life, and I remember thinking "all that awfulness was worth feeling this".