Going in to the race, I had three goals. The first was merely to finish. I did not want to have to drop out of the race, and I wanted the sweet swag at the end. The second, and this wasn't super important, was to finish in under 6 hours. Normally my goal, which I've yet to reach, is to finish in 5 hours, but I was really allowing myself more time. My last goal, and this one was fairly important was to finish feeling better than I had in the past. In the past I've been in a significant amount of pain when I've finished. I've been sick to my stomach and could think of nothing but sitting and sleeping. My last marathon, in Minnesota, was particularly bad because I also felt unbelievably cold (a symptom of the weather and the hard work out). I wanted to feel way better than that, and I wanted to recover quickly. Well, I succeeded at all three!!!
The biggest challenge was that everything I had used in training all of a sudden had to be thrown out the window. My energy gels made me sick. Gatorade made me sick. Running non-stop and shooting for a 5 hour marathon would probably kill me (or cause significant harm to the little person growing inside me). Not only that, but I was significantly hungrier than I was a month ago. I had trouble going 4 miles without getting something to eat. What was I going to do for this marathon? I had to quickly come up with a new plan, and I didn't have a long run to test anything on.
My second challenge was purely mental. I really hadn't had a good run in a while. I was tired and hungry, and I often felt kind of sick. I was worried that I'd have trouble making it to mile 3, much less mile 26.2!
Hans and I did some quick planning for food. I might not be able to eat gels, but I could potentially handle peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And I might not be able to drink Gatorade, but water was fine. I could only hope this would be enough. I honestly didn't know what I'd do if I lost too much salt or needed something other than PB & J. What if PB & J made me sick? It was a risk I had to take.
As for the mental thing, all I could do was tell myself I could do this. I would take things much, MUCH slower than I had in the past. Even much slower than I had on recent training runs, and I would hope for the best. Hans and my friends were actually great about this. I had a couple of friends try to convince me to drop to the half (something I almost did), but most just kept telling me I'd be fine and to trust my body.
Overcoming the Challenges
Luckily, everything went quite well. The PB&J was PERFECT. I had two sandwiches cut in quarters and I ended up eating 5 quarters. I probably could have had 1 or two more, but I did end up supplementing with a couple of Fig Newtons (which surprisingly didn't settle well) and a mini Clif Bar. Hans and I had mapped out the route and he met up with me just about every 6 miles to make sure I was OK. That was generally just enough for me to feel hungry and want a sandwich.
The biggest help for the mental thing actually happened at the beginning of the race. I was really trying to decide if I just wanted to run slowly for as long as possible or if I wanted to try more of a Galloway method (run/walk combo). As I was thinking about this, I heard two other runners chatting about something that interested me, so I struck up a little conversation. As it turns out, they were part of a group of Galloway runners!! I made a quick decision, asked if I could hang with them for the race, and we were off.
Running with those other runners ended up being the best thing I ever could have done. It gave me someone to chat with as I ran, and it helped me keep a more consistent pace. Not only that, it gave me companionship when the race got long and I started to hurt. However, those runners weren't the only support I had.
I already mentioned that Hans met up with me every 6 miles or so, but I didn't mention that my dad, my dad's girlfriend, and my mom all came out every few miles too. I also had a few clients and friends that I happened to see along the way. Lastly, though, for the last 5k Hans decided to run with me. It's really the first time we've ever run together, and I was thrilled to see him. To be honest, by that point I kind of wished he could have just carried me, but that's another story. We were going slow, we were walking more than we should have, but we were together, and Hans was there for me. By that point, I knew that, no matter what, I would finish the marathon, and I knew that Hans would finish it with me.
As we rounded the turn for the last hill I thought about last year. Last year was my first marathon. Last year I was simply happy that I could claim the title "marathoner." I thought for a moment as to whether I felt differently this year. Well, I was finishing my third marathon (goal 1), I was finishing in 5:45:20 (goal 2), and I felt tired but fantastic (goal 3). Still, though, my answer as to how I felt emotionally is the same. I can't believe I did it. I can't believe that all those people, random strangers, other runners, my family, I can't believe they were all cheering for me. That's a pretty spectacular feeling.
And now, some gratuitous photos!
|Around mile 11|
|Mile 16 and feelin' good!|
|Happy to have finished! With Hans on my right and Dad on my left.|
|Standing with the Canal Walk and the city in my background, I'm a 3-time marathoner.|
|Yep, I finished.|