Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Marathon Recap Part 3 - The Longest 10K

Note: This was the part of the race that really took a toll on me, mentally. I scribbled down as much as I could the evening of the race, so that I wouldn't forget all of the raw emotions (defeat and elation and everything in between) swirling around in my head. I left it all in there for this post, including the plethora of f-bombs, because I obviously felt, at the time, that certain points needed that emphasis. Besides, I'm from Jersey. That's how we roll.

There was a water stop just past Mile 20. I reached for the cup, my legs slowed down, and I suddenly found myself walking. It felt completely involuntary, like my body was entering survival mode and forcing me to slow down, regardless of what my brain and heart wanted it to do. Walking?!?! Are you kidding me? I'm here to RUN a marathon, not to WALK it! But that water tasted so good, and I knew that I was making the best choice. I counted 20 steps and then forced myself to start running again. One foot in front of the other. Just keep moving forward. I thought to myself, "You have gone through CHILDBIRTH! If you can do that, you can do ANYTHING!" But for that, at least I had an epidural.

A little farther up the road, I saw one of the Spot coaches running in my direction. I croaked out "I need help!" as he passed, and he quickly darted over and matched my (pathetic) pace. He asked what was wrong, and I realized that I didn't even know how to answer him. "I'm tired."

That's the best you can do? No shit you're tired, you've been RUNNING for 20 miles. "I just need someone to talk to."

And that was the truth. Even though there were hundreds and hundreds of people lining the streets, I needed someone who KNEW what I was going through. Someone who had been to the wall and back, someone who had lived to tell about it. He ran with me for a few minutes, telling me that it was almost over and that I was going to finish and it was going to be great. He handed me off to a second coach when he got to the end of his territory. The second coach was just as awesome. He asked me if it was my first marathon, and I said yes. He reminded me that most people don't even bother to start training for marathons, let alone actually run them. He told me that I was making great time for my first marathon. Everything I needed to hear. Then he suggested that I consider walking through the water stops, so that I could make sure I wasn't getting dehydrated. I almost cried with relief - "I have been!" I practically shouted. He gave me a high five and sent me on my way. I weakly jogged up a sad little hill just before Mile 22 and walked through that waterstop, too. Then I pushed myself to start running again. That was what I had been afraid of - that once I started walking, I would never be able to start running again. But I did. I walked through two more waterstops at Miles 23 and 24, my knees cramping with every step - it was a brutal irony, when I walked my knees were absolutely killing me - running made them feel better, but oh god, it was so hard. It was also extremely disheartening to watch my average pace climb from a 9:10 to a 9:40, and seeing the 10-minute miles start popping up on my Garmin was just horrible. But I had to finish. I couldn't come this far and then give up. I couldn't come this far, and tell this many people, and set this lofty of a goal, and then fall short. I was going to drag my ass across that finish if it fucking killed me.

Somewhere on Eastern Avenue, deep in the weeds.

I eventually passed the 25 Mile marker, and I knew that the Finish Line was within reach. There was one more short hill, so I massaged my knees and forced my legs to start moving faster. The hill is barely a blip on the elevation chart, but it felt like I was trying to run up Mount Fucking Everest. I made it up the hill, and passed the 26 Mile marker.

(Source: Flying Pig Marathon)

FINALLY. And it was right.freaking.there. I wanted to stop so badly, wanted to just slow down and crawl, or, even better, lay down in the street, but I told myself YOU WILL NOT WALK ACROSS THE FINISH LINE. YOU HAVE COME TOO FAR TO FAIL. YOU WILL RUN ACROSS THE FINISH LINE.

Me at Mile 26

I had tunnel vision. By the time I heard Charlie yelling out to me from the side of the road, just before the finish line, it was too late and I was already passing him by. I looked over just in time to see him cheering me on with Toddler Charlie in the stroller. I think I tried to yell back to him, maybe even tried to wave, but I don't think anything intelligible came out. Then all of a sudden I saw the blue timing mats only steps away from me, and I did the only logical thing - I raised my hands in the air and screamed yelped in victory relief.

And crossed the line. I looked up to see my BFF waiting there for me, having already finished her leg of the relay. I gave her a giant, sweaty, gross hug (more accurately, I probably just collapsed on her in what I thought was a hug - sorry, Alison!) and told her that I was never going to run another marathon again.

I got my medal and my lovely tinfoil jacket, and then I saw FOOD. OMG! Food is the BEST THING EVER! Poor Alison didn't know what she was in for, waiting around for me to finish. I couldn't decide what I wanted to eat, so I made her go to every table to see what they had. I grabbed a banana and a bag of sun chips. SUN CHIPS! I LOVE SUN CHIPS! BEST EVER! But then I saw HO HOs! OMG! HO HOS ARE THE BEST FOOD EVER INVENTED!! I completely devoured them, not even bothering to take them out of the package. Just tore the top off and did the best I could. (I don't even like Ho Hos.) We got our picture taken together and then we went in search of our bags.

(it's ok to post this, I'm buying a copy)

The bag pick-up felt like another mile away. I don't know who put it all the fucking way out in the middle of nowhere, but I was cursing his name by the time we found it. All I wanted to do was to take my shoes off. I grabbed my stuff and then sat down on the ground. Holy cow, sitting down was the BEST THING EVER INVENTED! My flip flops weren't sitting right on top, so I did the obvious thing and turned my bag upside down to dump everything out until I found them. I ripped off my shoes and socks and had to literally pull my toes apart to get the flip flops on. That's how cramped they were. But OMG, sweet fucking relief. Fuck the HoHos, FLIP FLOPS ARE THE BEST THING EVER INVENTED!!!!

And that's about where it ends. I hobbled home and took a nap, then went out to dinner to celebrate with my family. I was moving slower than my 75-year-old grandmother, who was also in attendance. I had a Stella and some deep dish pizza. Yum. By the end of the day, my declaration that I would never run another marathon was a fuzzy memory, and I had already texted my running buddy to start talking about training for the US Air Force Marathon coming up in September. Yes, I AM that crazy.

A week later, and I'm going through some serious Marathon Withdrawal. I did it, and I can do it again, and this time I can do it better! It was so much fun, and I get so nostalgic when I drive those roads to get to work. I think about where I was and what I was feeling and what it was like to be a part of that energy. And this is where I have to, again, mention the crowd support. There were tons of people out all along the stretch of Eastern Avenue and Riverside Drive where I thought I was going to meet the end of my marathon dreams. They just kept shouting and yelling and telling us that we could do it! Calling us out by name, telling us not to give up, telling us that we looked great. At one point I even laughed, knowing that they were totally full of shit on that one. I certainly did not look great. I felt like I was going to collapse, and I'm sure the agony was reflected in my face and body language. I knew my posture was total crap at that point. But they cheered, all the same. It was amazing. There were belly dancers, people in costumes, groups handing out hawaiian leis and flashing peace signs, a guy channeling Sinatra, and a house that was serving Jager and donuts.

(Source: Flying Pig Marathon)

(Source: Flying Pig Marathon)

(Source: Flying Pig Marathon)

Of course, I had to make it official as soon as I got home.

When all was said and done, it took me 4:13:00 to run the course. I was 84/326 in my age division (women 25-29), 376/1785 for all women, and 1428/4298 overall. The average finishing time was 4:38:32. Pretty much everyone I trained with was way off their goals, and they all blamed it on the humidity. Even the most seasoned runners, with multiple marathons under their belts. I beat myself up about it for a few days, but I'm over it now. There is no doubt that I left it ALL out there. I couldn't have pushed any harder than I did. And that's what matters.

I finished 7 minutes faster than my "A" goal of 4:20:00, but 6 minutes slower than my "B" goal of 4:07. We're not even going to talk about my "C" goal, except to say that I fully expect to reach it at the USAF Marathon on September 17th! 130 days to go :)


  1. OMG that's so great that you finished! You must be so proud. It definitely sounds like a rollercoaster of emotions. Great post.

  2. Congrats - you will always have this to remember and be proud of. I'm not a runner and don't ever plan to be but I have pushed myself mentally and physically at different points in my life and those are proud memories of will.

  3. FAB work J! I am so proud of you for doing this!!! I signed up for my second half in September...but I am secretly hoping to do another one before then!

  4. Fabulous recap Jene, and GREAT job on the race - I would give anything to run a full marathon, let alone a 4:13:00 one! You are an inspiration!

  5. The pic of you "in the weeds?" Pure badass.
    Congrats and thank you for posting this - I'm training for my second ever half marathon (first since having two babies!) and your posts are inspiring. Mind if I forward them to my training group????

  6. Absolutely! Good luck with your training. In some ways, I'm glad I didn't start running until after having my son, because I don't know exactly what I was once capable of :p

  7. Thanks, Shannon! If I can do it, I think that almost anyone can :)

  8. Thanks, Jen! It was crazy, and I'm very proud of myself. I wish I could wear the medal out in public ;)

  9. Thanks! I never thought I would be a runner, either. It was definitely one of the hardest things I've ever done.

  10. It's really freaking addicting, isn't it?? I have a few half races on my radar, too. I wish I could run another marathon THIS WEEK, but I don't think my legs would appreciate it :)

  11. It was hilarious watching you get so excited about ho-hos and such.
    I loved being there to welcome you to the finish line! And FWIW, I didn't think your hug was sweaty or gross at all (I felt sweaty and gross already, anyway).
    Great recaps! And in case I haven't already told you (ha ha) I think you're awesome for doing this and I'm proud of you :)