In case you missed my sneak attack weekend post and have not been brought up to speed on what’s happened in MarathonWinerworld over the last few days, let me fill you in.
…in 3 hours, 57 minutes and 53 seconds.
I’ll give you a second to get back up because I’m sure you just fell out of your seat. I know, I know, it’s completely unexpected. Maybe not my crossing the finish line, but definitely the time on the clock when I did. So here it is…that post that the bloggerworld loves so much…
My First Ever Marathon Recap
When we left off on Friday I was getting pumped to go to the expo at the Arthur Ashe Center in downtown Richmond. It was actually even bigger than I expected it to be as far as vendors and fun things to look at, but lacking a bit in the free sample department. Cause you know, I like to get a meal out of an expo visit.
I did, however, manage to spend way too much money on stickers about running, a way-overpriced jacket that reads “Marathon FINISHER” on it and awesome gloves that I planned to use to keep me warm while waiting for the race to start and toss shortly into it (spoiler alert: that didn’t happen. yay! I still have very marathonwiner gloves).
After the expo my sister (who was running the 8k) and friend (in town for the half marathon) and I headed back to my parents house, where mom had whipped up some spaghetti and meatballs, and my older sister even got fancy with some homemade manicotti. A few loaves of Italian bread and side salad later, and we had carb-loaded our faces off.
Seeing as how I was already in a sleepy food coma, I thought I might actually have a shot at sleeping well on Friday night. But I thought wrong. Very very wrong. I started to doze when we hit the hay around 11, but at 12:30 woke up and essentially never went back to sleep. When the alarm went off at 5:30 though, I didn’t dare give the snooze button a thought.
I hopped out of bed and went through the get-ready motions in an eerily calm fashion. Even driving downtown with my tub of peanut butter, I felt oddly at ease–minus the fact that it was FREEZING outside. 28 degrees as we made our way out of the burbs and into the city. Not cool November, not cool.
We had a few hiccups trying to find parking, but eventually made it into a deck and got my little sis to the start line of her 8k with 7 minutes to spare (she was starting at 7, the half at 730, and the full marathon at 8). But just as the gun was about to go off for the five-miler runners, panic started to set in a bit. My stomach was a hot mess of nervousness and I became seriously worried about what tricks it was going to attempt over the next 5hours or so.
Distractions were easy to find while I hung around with my friend before she needed to get in her corral for the half marathon–we snapped photos (something we stupidly forgot to do at any point during our first half together in Philly last year), chatted and looked for ways to warm up. I got my first taste of the “friendliest” race when a nice woman gave me her trash bag to wear as she shed it. Yes, to all you non-runners out there, we wear trash bags sometimes. Trendsetters to the max.
Once Maryland friend was off and running her own course through the streets of Richmond, I lingered nervously near the start line for the full marathon waiting to see where I’d be corralled.
Somehow, I was in wave 2 of 4. With the sub-4:00 groups. Registration mistake? Perhaps. Fate? I think so.
I decided it’d be fine to start with that group even though I knew I didn’t belong there (I did, after all have a goal of sub-5 and a pipe dream of 4:30…yes, I can finally share that information with the world) because I could back off at any point and fall in with the people I was meant to run with.
The cold/stomach that was a knot of nerves left little room for pre-race stretching or warming up. But I DID manage to do what the emcee said and smile as I crossed the starting line. We were off!
For the first few miles I was so cold all I could honestly think about was whether or not it was possible for a pinky toe to fall off inside a sneaker without the foot owners knowledge of it. I legitimately could NOT feel my feet. It was super strange, but I guess helped take my mind off what was really going on…the whole, running a marathon thing.
It probably took a good 4 miles or so for my feet to really warm up and the hypochondriac side of me to believe that all toes were still in tact. From there, I tried to focus all of my attention on my surroundings–seeing parts of my hometown city that I had never seen before. It was pretty freakin’ cool. And every time a thought along the lines of “holyshitthisisit, I’m running a marathon” tried to creep their way in, I pushed them aside and told myself what I was doing was no different from anything I’d done over the preceding 16 weeks–it was just another “long run” through Central Park.
Throughout all of these mind games, I was also taking time out to say thanks to the many people who jogged by and commented on how much they loved my shirt. Big kudos to the JD for a job well done. By the end of the day I had more comments/funny remarks/questions about that tee than I could count.
By mile 7 I knew I was going far too fast, but not sure by what exact numbers (as we all know, I’ve been running sans watch for quite some time now). I vaguely remembered passing the 10k split that had a clock attached to it, but paid no attention to what that clock read (turns out, it was 54:27).
It was around then that I got another question about my t-shirt–what was it all about? I explained to the nice man asking that I had created a blog to document my training for my first marathon, and marathonwiner was the name of the blog. We chatted a little more about blogging and social media (he was looking into ways to use it for his business) and then fell out of step. For only a few steps though.
From that point on, the nice man (whom I would later learn to call Larry) was periodically checking up on me in a very coach-like fashion saying, “Blogger, how you doing back there?” and “Looking strong blogger!”
Before long, we were back in step and stayed that way….for more than ten miles.
Along the way, I learned that Larry is from Illinois and was in Richmond running his 27th marathon. We picked up Tracy, a very nice lady from DC who was tackling her 13th. I was running with the big kids and loving every second of it.
Both Larry and Tracy were so incredibly supportive and the best two people I could have had by my side. They shared their running wisdom, cheered me on, kept the crowds rallied.
Ahh the crowds.
Richmond really is the friendliest city. The entire course was lined with live music and party zones where masses of people were gathered with their posters and noisemakers. I think it was a little like first ave during NYC’s marathon day, just broken up and scattered around the city of Richmond. There were hilarious posters (one of my favorites threatened a wedgie to anyone who walked), so many people who brought their own snacks and waters (and Coors light, and yes, runners drank it…what!?) down to the street and just a really great vibe overall.
And Larry hooted and hollered and personally thanked every single one of them as he ran by. It was awesome.
Some of the best cheerers of all happened to be at mile 16…waiting for me with a similarly awesome sign–one that my niece helped decorate and put a giant homemade owl on top so I’d be sure to see it. And I sure did.
I caught my mom and aunt (one of the people who had traveled from NY) from a long ways away as we approached the 16 mile marker and caught a new surge of energy. I sprinted a little ahead of my two friends so I could throw my arms up with screams and smiles, give mom a kiss and throw my lovely (and at that point VERY sweaty) wine gloves at her.
From there we traveled across our second bridge of the day (overlooking the James River surrounded by GORGEOUS fall colors) to where Larry’s wife was waiting, at mile 17. We then met Tracy’s husband at 18.
Holy crap, 18 miles of the course done already? How was this even happening?
Here’s how. According to Tracy’s fancy watch, we had apparently been averaging a pace of about 8:45–up to mile 16 it was closer to 8:30 and with all of the family stops it slowed down to closer to a 9. But 8:45?? For 18 miles?? Slow down cowboy!
It was at that point where my very seasoned marathon running coach Larry asked if we were ready to “pick things up” a bit.
I had been hanging with the big guns for so long and so badly wanted to say yes, but I knew I had went out too fast and stayed too fast. I bid farewell and let them go catch their sub 4 (probably closer to 3:45…those speeddemons) and tried to settle into a calmer pace.
But my friends had been what carried me. And as soon as they were gone I started to fall apart.
*Sidenote: Larry and/or Tracy, if you ever find yourself reading this, please know that you are what made my first marathon the success that it was and I think you are amazing. Many, many, many thanks and well wishes your way!
I realized I hadn’t had much fuel for a while (a GU around mile 9) and didn’t want to take one too close to the end, so I got one out and ready, but could not find a water station to save my life. I passed the sign that said 19 fully expecting those glorious tables of water to be waiting on the other side, but instead I found a hill.
The most giant hill I have ever seen in my life (yes, that’s delirious marathonwiner talking).
I told myself to be strong because if I could make it up that hill, I’d likely be rewarded with a decline on the other side. And even if that didn’t happen, mile 20 would be on the other side somewhere. And with mile 20, came water and my dear friend who had offered to run the last 10k with me.
I powered up the hill and sort of felt like I was going to leave my morning dose of peanut butter and nature valley bar all over the sidewalk. But mile 20 was so close.
Once again, I spotted my spectator from afar and she was all dressed up in her running best jumping and waving and screaming as I approached. I’m not sure if in my state of delirium it showed, but I was SO happy to see her! I was also so happy to see that I had hit the 20-mile mark in just under 3 hours…if I needed to do 10-minute miles the rest of the ride I could and would still have a shot at an amazing final time.
For the first time that day I slowed to a walk as I went through the water station and took my time with a GU (which at that point I didn’t want at all but forced myself to choke it down) and sipping on a cup of water, then I was off again–but with a friend in tow (or more likely, taking the reins and dragging me).
She very quickly reminded me that it was just a 10k left–a walk in the park for me. And per Shannon’s reminder, I told her she was dead on–it was exactly one loop of Central Park. Surely I could handle that?
Ahhh but I couldn’t. Every. single. one of those last 6 miles was absolute. torture. I was hitting the wall I had heard so much about, and if it hadn’t been for having a friend beside me, I very likely may have just walked the rest of the race. I had hit the 20 mile mark in three hours, that was enough of an accomplishment. Who really neeeds to run the whole marathon? Mind games at this point were NOT on my side.
Luckily, my friend was. And her cheers won out over the thoughts in my head.
How was this photo taken, you may wonder? Oh because I had a sneak attack of a cheer squad waiting at mile 21 or 23 (I’m not quite sure which). After finishing their own races earlier in the day, my fellow runners met up with dad and waited to hoot and holler (yes, that’s Richmond talk for cheer) at a point when I REALLY needed it. Thanks guys!
I walked maybe 3 more water stops in those last few miles, but we otherwise pushed out a pace under a 10-min mile.
And somehow made it to 26.
At that point my mind was pretty fuzzy with delirium and sheer exhaustion as we cruised down Cary Street. And when my friend asked if I wanted to push it for the finish, I only half-heartedly said yes. But then I looked up and saw that there was still a 3 on the clock. In fact, I actually screamed “holy shit….there is still a 3 up there!” And I was gone.
I sprinted across the finish line, arms up in the air, a giant smile on my face, and the shock and amazement of getting over it in under four hours.
I did it.
I ran a marathon.
A giant, giant thank you for all of the text messages, tweets, phone calls, snail mail deliveries, emails, running company and sideline well wishes and cheers that were sent my way all weekend. I am so, so lucky to have such awesome friends and family
Have a very happy Monday kids