Photo courtesy of Brightroom Photography.
March 26, 2011 - National Marathon, Washington, DC
This was my first marathon. I had no idea what to expect. I had trained. I had worked. I had focused for four months. I hadn't had any injuries, but with being diagnosed with walking pneumonia one month before the race, I wasn't sure what to expect. I didn't really have time goals, although I did have an idea of what I wanted. I did have a few goals:
1. Finish under 5 hours (under 4:45 would be a bonus).
2. Don't stop and don't walk.
3. Don't lose anytime in the porta potties.
4. Enjoy it as much as possible.
Here's a glimpse of how the day went....
We woke up at 4:30. We had stayed with friends in Fairfax the night before and wanted to make sure we gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the starting line. We left the house at 5:30. Should be plenty of time for a 7 am start right? Well, we were cruising along and doing well on time, until about three miles from RFK (the start) stadium. And then it was traffic. At 6:10, we could practically see the stadium, but we were stuck in traffic. It took us about 30 minutes to go two and half miles. I really, really need to use the bathroom (nerves) and knew I needed a few minutes to calm down before starting. At 6:45 I got out of the car, said goodbye to Matt and walked the rest of the way. Although I got there as the race was starting, I decided to use the facilities before I crossed the starting line - no time lost there, right? I waited in line for about 10 minutes. In that time, Matt got to the parking lot, parked the car and met me back at the porta potties. I could have stayed in the car.
Waiting to start. You'll notice that I look like I was running in the winter. I really wanted to wear capris and a t-shirt, but I am much more likely to be cold than hot. And although I ditched the pink shirt at mile 14, I was never hot on the race. Next marathon, though, I am wearing shorts and a tank!!!! I'm done with bundling up for runs.
Anyway, after my potty break I was ready to roll. I never made it to my coral because it was 7:15 at this point and I just jumped in with everyone else. I crossed the start at 7:16 am. I started off slow (it felt REALLY slow), to counteract my natural tendency to start off too fast. I didn't have music on - just listening to the thousands of feet pounding the pavement. By about a half mile in, my nerves were gone - I was doing it. No need to be nervous anymore. And then it hit me how cool it was that I was FINALLY running a marathon. So cool! And then running up to the Capitol was awesome. Probably my favorite section of the whole race. It was right about here that Tonia and her running crew passed me. I introduce myself, accepted her encouragement (thanks Tonia!) and raced on. Kind of fun to meet a "celebrity" on the way!
Right around Mile 6, Dupont Circle, we met our first beast of a hill. It was an impressive hill, but I was ready thanks to all my months of running Heartbreak Hill. I didn't feel like the hill beat me and felt great coming back down. A few more rolling hills to get through in the next couple of miles. I was still running without music and talked to a few runners along the way. At one point, two young girls running the half noticed I was running the full, cheered me on, told me I looked strong, and I continued on. It helped to have a little bit of encouragement along the way.
Speaking of which, I had my earphones in the whole time and throughout the race various family members and my hubby would call and if I felt like I could answer and talk, I would. It was great! It was really a boost when I needed it. It seemed that someone called every time I really needed some encouragement.
As I reached mile 10, I was still feeling strong. I had run through a little bit of knee pain, and some tiredness in my chest, but really was feeling great. I knew that the split off at mile 13.1 could be difficult (having heard from runners who'd done this race) so I was prepping myself mentally. I passed my friends (and training partners) Justin and Kristin as the course wrapped around and looped. I wasn't sure how far ahead of me they were - and I'm kind of glad, because I think it might have bummed me out. We split off from the 1/2-ers and things got quiet. Not completely, but it was definitely quieter. Running around the back of RFK seemed to take FOREVER. Maybe because I knew Matt would be at mile 14 and was looking forward to that, or because it was ugly.
I saw Matt at mile 14. I ditched my top layer, which took a little longer than I expected because my watch fell apart in the process and Matt had to fix it. I kept running and he caught up with me, gave me some Swedish Fish and I was on my way. I finally turned music on at mile 15. Couple of really good songs came on my Pandora running station. Then at mile 16, we went through a big ol' long tunnel. The song for that tunnel and for another 1/2 mile was Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root. I'd heard the song before, but it took on all new meaning and is, for the time being, my favorite running song.
At Mile 17 I got totally emotional because I had single digits to go. I was still feeling strong. I was tired and a bit sore, but didn't have any real pain. Nothing I hadn't run through before. I knew I was going to see Matt at mile 20 and I was looking forward to that. After Lady Gaga's Just Dance, I turned the music off. I wanted to focus on how on my breathing, my feet, how I was feeling and what I had ahead of me. For months I've heard that the last six are the toughest, so I was going to take the next 2 miles to prep for that. Mile 18 felt long. I remember wondering if I was going to hit a wall...but I didn't. Then mile 19. And then I saw Matt at mile 20. He gave me a couple Starbursts, encouraged me on and said he'd see me at the finish. I ditched my hat and was on my way.
Those last six miles were tough. I was tired and I knew that there were hills at mile 24. Physically my legs felt heavy and my feet hurt. But mentally, I felt really strong. I was able to keep thoughts of doubt from creeping it. I really just kept focusing on each mile...and the miles kept ticking off. I had lots of encouragement in those last six miles. I think from mile 22 on, I had someone talking in my ear the whole time. Of course I wasn't responding much, but it was nice to hear Matt pushing me forward and cheering me on. The hills from mile 24 to 25 were just plain mean. Seriously, who puts hills in the last two miles?! Especially those kinds of hills. But I was able to run them without stopping to walk.
And then it was the last 1.2 miles of the race. If I hit a wall, it might have been during this last little bit, as crazy as it sounds. I knew I had to cross a bridge and that the finish line was somewhere after the bridge....but I didn't know where. And as I crossed the bridge, I saw a red sign with white lettering. I don't have great eye sight, so I thought that was the finish line. I could hear the crowd but couldn't tell if there were people at the "finish line" so I thought that's what I was approaching. About .2 miles away from the sign I realized it wasn't the finish line (it was a car ad) and that I had farther to go, uphill, than I thought. That was the first time I thought, "Wow, I really don't want to run anymore. I just kind of want to be done." Luckily my husband was in my ear telling me how close I was while I was kind of running blindly for a finish that I wasn't sure was going to come. So I kept on, keeping on. It really wasn't that long, but it felt like an eternity. As I was approaching Matt said, "I know you're tired and I know you're hurting, but when you cross the finish line, smile so I can get a good picture."
So I did. I smiled. And not just because he told me to. Because I was truly happy. I had run a marathon. I had done better than I could have hoped. I felt (relatively) good. I had accomplished my goals. My time was 4:38:35. I only walked through aid stations. I stopped to stretch once. And I never stopped at the porta potties. All in all, it was a success. And yes, I totally want to do another marathon. I've told Matt I'll take a break for the time being, but I definitely want to do one again. And now that I know what to expect and I can set real time goals, all I can say is "bring it on".
I wanted to share my splits. I don't have a GPS and there weren't mile markers (WHAT?!?!) so I don't know each mile split, but the official splits are:
1 Mile - 9:59
10K - 1:02:00
Half - 2:13:17
20 Miles - 3:27:33
Full - 4:38:35
These number help me know where I can push next time.
A few post-race pictures...
Me and Kristin, my training buddy. She ran with her husband and finished under 4 hours. Awesome!
With the man. Couldn't have done it without him. Any of it.
Matt, Rachel, Kristin and Justin.
Anyway, I have a few more thoughts on the marathon itself, the thoughts I've had since and what's next, but this post is long enough so I'll save all that for another day.