Well, the pre-race anxiety finally came to an end at 7:07:56 AM on Sunday morning as I crossed the start line of my very first marathon…which by the end of the day I swore would also be my very last!
We had a perfect day. The temperatures were low but not too cool, and there was no wind. My game plan was to average a 12 minute mile pace for the race, bringing me across the finish line in just less than 5 ½ hours. My usual split times in a long run show me running faster than average in the first 3rd of the distance, slower than average in the middle, and then faster than average again in the last miles. I reached the 14 mile turn around point in 2 hours 40 minutes; about an 11:40 pace…right where I wanted to be. I planned on mile 14 being significantly slower because at this point I knew I would walk awhile and refuel; take my 5 Hour Energy, refill my little bag of Chomps (I was carrying an extra stash in a bag hanging from my hydration belt) take some Aleve…stuff like that, and I did a little over 14 minutes for that mile, and then was back on my target pace of about 12 or less for the next 4 miles.
Then, at mile 19, I started suffering from ITB issues in my right leg. Five times in the last 7 miles I had to stop, massage my leg a little, and then walk until the cramp subsided. When I could run on it, I was easily able to run a 12 minute pace, but those miles that I had to walk for awhile killed my average. But I kept telling myself that my first goal was to finish the race, my second goal was to look strong when I crossed the finish line, and my third goal was to finish in under 5 ½ hours. I reached my first goal and just barely missed my 3rd goal. And in a picture my husband took at the finish line, I think I look pretty strong for an old lady that just ran 26.2 miles for the first time in her life.
There’s something about rounding the corner and seeing that finish line that just energizes me. With about 2 tenths of a mile to go, suddenly nothing hurt. I could see the finish clock on its arch with the crowd lining the street on both sides. I knew Tom was down there somewhere waiting for me, watching me reach this goal I had worked so hard for. Before the race started, when I was still obsessing over whether or not I could really do this, Dave Busby told me he knew I would do great and to remember to look for him because he would be waiting there to share a “high five” as I came down the final stretch. Sure enough, there he was. Even as I was picking up speed, I stuck out my hand and met his open palm, acknowledging his faith and encouragement. I heard Efren on the PA system saying my name, calling me a champion (ok, so he called everyone a champion, but it still felt good!) and remarking on the giant smile on my face. And then my whole focus was on the finish clock. I watched the seconds tick off as I kept running faster and faster, feeling like I was flying. At some point that I wasn’t even aware of, my hands ended up above my head and I was screaming like a fool as ran across that finish line! I couldn’t believe I had actually done it.
And then, best of all, there was Tom waiting for me. The mental picture that kept me going during those last hard miles was Tom waiting for me at the finish line. The hug I got from him was the best thing ever! Even better than the Gatorade that was handed to me after he let me go!
Other great moments at the finish line included seeing some friends that were waiting for me. One was the first person I met in the ShadowChase Running Club, Dave Barrett. When I went to my first group workout, he came up and introduced himself, then promptly directed me to work out with the walkers. (He asked if I was a runner and I said I wanted to be…I didn’t know at the time that the runners who went to that work out were FAST! I was no where close to ready to run with that group then! They’re still twice as fast as I am.) Dave was standing right next to Tom when I came in, and he’s the one who had a Gatorade open and ready for me. Another person waiting for me was a long time friend, Debra Bush. I was so surprised to see her, and she took a picture of Tom hugging me, just as I had visualized so many times when I started to doubt I could do this. That mental image kept me motivated when the training got hard. Now I have a photo of the real thing to remind me that you have to dream it first to make it real!
Also there at the finish line greeting everyone was Marathon Goddess Julie Weiss. She was going to run the Rome Marathon on Sunday, but decided to come to ours instead, and said she plans to come back next year! How about that? Our race getting picked over a race like Rome??? Our little race here in Modesto is growing. We’re getting elite runners, famous runners, celebrities, and now there’s talk of Olympic hopefuls coming to try to qualify for the 2020 Olympics because our course is fast and our race is well organized. We even made headlines on RunnersWorld.com! Look out world, here comes SAMM!
Within an hour after finishing, the rush had finally worn off and I was pretty miserable. I began suffering gastric distress and my joints began to ache. My car was parked 2 blocks from the start/finish area, and when I parked there, I thought that was pretty close. Let me tell you, that 2 block walk to get to my car seemed way longer than the 26.2 miles I just ran! I was never so grateful to be able to sit down! The 15 minute drive home seemed to take forever. Then it was some bathroom time, some hot tub time, then some more bathroom time, then a 2 hour nap. (I would have slept longer, but my kids decided to come over, although they didn’t stay long.) Then I spent the rest of the evening Facebooking with my running friends and family, relaxing in the recliner with my feet up, and waiting for Tom to come home. (The work of race crew volunteers is not over when the race is done; there’s SO much for them to do. Thanks, all of you, for making this experience possible for me.) And no, I didn’t eat hardly anything after I got home. I know we’re supposed to, but my stomach just wasn’t interested. The only thing I really wanted was a DQ chocolate shake, but I didn’t have the energy to go get one. I did finally manage a Greek yogurt around 8:00 PM, and a little ice cream around 9:00. Then, finally I was able to lie down and go back to sleep.
Monday morning I felt so much better! I had scheduled a vacation day because I had no idea how I would feel, and it was probably a smart thing to do. I didn’t hurt too much, but by around 1:00 PM I was feeling pretty worn out again. Today, I’m feeling fairly normal, (well, normal for me), except that my thighs are a little sore, but not too bad.
What an amazing journey this has been! Just over 3 years ago I attended my first Weight Watchers meeting, weighing in at 224.2 pounds. At that time I could not have run from my front door to the curb if my house had been on fire. If someone had told me then that on March 23, 2014 I would run a marathon, I would have thought them crazy.
As for what comes next…well, you just never know. Sunday at about mile 19 I swore that I would never run another marathon, and my resolve became firmer as my misery increased Sunday night. Then as I was analyzing my splits yesterday, I found my self thinking, “next time I should try this or do that…” Next time?? Am I crazy?? Well, maybe a little. J But for now my goal is to see how well I can place in the club’s Grand Prix series. Run for Health is coming up on April 12th. I need to rest up and make sure I’m well recovered before I go out and try to break any speed records, so that run will probably be really slow, and I’ll run it just be for the grand prix finisher points. If I place, fine, if not, fine. Then hopefully by the Modesto Memorial Classic in May I’ll be ready to see how fast I can go again.
Since I worked so had to get to the fitness level I’m at now, I plan to maintain at least a half marathon fitness level, which means that every other week, once I’m fully recovered, I’ll probably run between 12 and 15 miles for my long run. (I would never have believed I would be saying that a year ago!) And at that level, if I decide to run a marathon again, I hope to be able to train up to it in 3 months instead of taking 6 months to do it!
And finally, I want to thank everyone who made this possible for me. Heidi Ryan, our fearless race director, you created an event to be proud of. We will miss seeing you at the helm, but your “retirement” is well deserved. You and the legion of people who have worked with you for the past 5 years to make this event into what it has become deserve more acknowledgement than I have words to express. (And, we all know I have a lot of words!) Karen Lozano, thank you for the great job you do with our annual Movie Night, as well as all the other work you do as co-director that most of us don’t know about. Thank you to all the volunteers, whether you gave a couple of hours or week/months of your time, I know this event would not be possible without you. Thank you, Jeff Lozano, Mike Mason, Susan Taylor and all the coaches and mentors of the adult training group. Your knowledge and encouragement helped so many of us first timers make it to the finish line. Thank you, Jan and Colleen, for getting me through a tough training run…my new besties. To all of our sponsors, thank you for your generous support. All of the hard work would be for nothing without the means to put it in motion. Because I know the 2015 SAMM planning starts now, thank you Vickie Chu-Hermis for taking over as race director.
And most of all, thank you, Tom. Thanks for not complaining when the house is dirty, the dishes are piled in the sink, and the laundry doesn’t get done because I am out running. Thanks for being there at the finish line waiting for me when I cross. Thanks for always believing in me, even when I don’t believe in myself. I can’t imagine my life without you.
To anyone reading this that still thinks they could never do it, see it in your mind first…create that mental image, then in believe it, hold that image tight. Let that image carry you past the challenges. Don’t think about how hard it might be; just think about how sweet reaching the goal will be. To quote St. Augustine, “What can be hoped for which is not believed?”