Pre-race
I was a bundle of nervous energy all morning:

  • I kept on walking outside to check the temperature
  • I tried on 5 different shirts
  • I reset my watch 3 times
  • I kept on poring myself glasses of water, but would forget where I left it
  • as the time drew closer to 7am, I’d obsessively pace by the window, watching for Keith to pick me up

In the living room, Michelle and Mom were busy laughing at me. They could tell that I was nervous and thought it was cute (nice, huh?).

Mile 1-13.1
Before taking on this challenge, I read a lot of books, essays, magazine articles and forum posts from marathoners.  Nearly all of them spent about 1-2 sentences talking about the first half of the marathon.  I never understood why.  Seriously – it’s 13 miles – there must be some items of interest, some lessons to be learned during the first 1/2 of a marathon.

After surviving yesterday’s run, I understand why little to no attention is paid to it –> the first 13.1 miles is too damned easy.  You feel too good.  Nothing hurts.  99% of the time nothing bad happens in the first 13.1 miles.  There are no major lessons to be learned from the first half of a marathon.  I think if I learned anything it’s:

  • start off a little slower
  • eat something a little earlier
  • don’t get my hopes up for negative splits

The highlight for me – seeing my family at 9.5.  I started thinking about that at mile 7 and knowing that they’d be there waiting for me helped to carry me through the next 2.5 miles.

I came around the corner onto Sandwich Rd and immediately saw Dad out there watching for me.  I gave him the thumbs up and watched him disappear to the right to spread the word that I was on my way.  At I came up on Hatchville Rd, they were all there - bundled up against the wind, cheering me on. 

 

Mile 13.1 – 17
I passed through the 1/2 marathon in 1:55:20 – nearly the exact time as the Hartford 1/2 Marathon a couple weeks ago (1:55:21).  I was feeling great.  I was going to see my family again in a couple of miles.  I had a GU and some water in me.  My legs weren’t sore, my breathing was smooth.  In the back of my mind, I was entertaining thoughts of a sub-4:00 marathon. 

I should have known better.

Miles 13 –> 15 turned into the longest two miles so far.  I was running by myself, and even though I knew that it would be about 18 minutes until I saw my family, I kept on expecting them to be just around the next bend.  It was getting a little demoralizing – especially knowing what waited for me after mile 15 – the hills of Sippiwissett.

Finally, the relay station came into view.  My cheering squad should be somewhere close by.  I feverishly scanned the crowd – there were so many people .. too many, I started to get nervous.  In the back of my mind, I knew this might happen.  Either they’d get lost, get stuck in traffic or come upon a road block, but I needed to see them – for so many reasons, mental, physical … I needed to see them before I made that turn onto Sippiwissett.

And there they were – standing in almost the exact same spot as I had left water 4 weeks before during a 20-mile training run.  I was filled with relief.  They handed me a water and off I went. 

I’ve never been one for running and drinking @ the same time so @ exactly the 15 mile mark I stopped to walk and drink the gatorade/water mix and have a GU before the next 5 mile stretch.  For 90 seconds I walked as quickly as I could and didn’t mind one bit as 10s of people passed me by. 

I popped on the headphones that I brought specifically for this part of the run, turned up the volume on my iPod and off I went – Green Day blasting away in ears. 

 

Mile 17
My biggest fear from training was realized - how would I cope with something that didn’t happen during training? In this case – quad cramps.  I’ve never experienced quad cramps.  I’ve read about them a lot.  I’ve seen people suffer from them, but until mile 17 I’d never felt them.

The only way that I can describe them is

  1. a fist reaching under your skin
  2. grabs the largest muscle in your leg
  3. squeezes it into a ball. 
  4. repeat steps 1-3 until you start crying

 

That’s how my right quad felt.  I nearly stopped mid-stride.  I thought it was a passing pain (god, please let it be a passing pain), but it got worse and worse.  Finally, I stopped along the side of the road to massage it.  My leg had a huge knot from the top of my right knee to mid-quad.  I rubbed as best as I could around the whole area and set off again at a hesitant trot.

 

Mile 18-19
Mile 18 and 19 were about as miserable as any two miles I’ve ever experienced.  We were running up hill.  My quad was spasming.  I was running into a 25mph headwind.

At mile 19, I planned on punching anyone who suggested that we run another one of these.  I was in 100% survival mode @ this point. 

 

Mile 19-22
“One more hour – just one more hour” that was my mantra starting at mile 19.  I knew that it would take me a little longer than an hour, but I’ve been for so many 7 mile runs, I knew that in about an hour, I’d be at the finish line.  This was a LOT easier than thinking “7.2 more miles.  “

The cramps were coming in waves at this point.  I was trying my hardest to run through them, but my gate was all messed up.  A few times I thought I was going to fall as my quad sent a bolt of pain up into my groin.  I did the best I could running through it, walking when I needed to and massaging as best as I could.

At mile 21, one of the women from running club saved me and gave me the extra push I needed to turn the corner @ Woods Hole.  She had just finished a leg of the relay and saw that I was struggling.  Not only did she ask if I was doing OK and cheer me on, she actually stepped off the curb and jogged 50 feet by my side. 

With that extra inspiration, I pushed ahead towards Nobska – knowing that I’d see my family one more time before the rolling hills.

At 21.5 miles, about 15 minutes later than I had expected, I reached my family. I wanted to tell them what took me so long.  I wanted to explain why I wasn’t doing as well as I had hoped, but before I could say anything they were all smiling, cheering and telling me how proud they were of me.  I mumbled something about leg cramps, but it didn’t matter to them.  As far as they were concerned, I was doing something amazing, and I was going to finish.  There confidence in me was all that I needed.  I was heading toward Nobska.  I was going to finish, and I was going to see those smiling faces in another 45 minutes.

Mile 22-25
Once I got past Nobska, I joined the walking wounded.  All the runners (@ least the ones w/ the white numbers – the full marathoners) seemed to be in the same shape as me – alternately walking and running.  I’d jog past a few people, stop to walk and massage my leg, and the people I had passed would jog by me.

Maybe it’s selective memory, but I don’t remember feeling bad.   The wind was at my back.  Everyone around me was in a similar situation.  I knew that I’d finish.  I didn’t care about my time.  I didn’t care what other people thought about my time.  This wasn’t for anyone else.  It was for me.  I think I smiled for the entire 3 miles. 

 

Mile 25-26.2
The  emotions started to hit after mile 25.  I was really going to finish.  I’d see Michelle, Caitlin, Keely, Colin and my parents in just 10 more minutes.  I wanted to finish strong.  I wanted to look good for them.

I turned the corner onto Main St.  I couldn’t see the finish line, but I knew that it was less than a quarter mile away.  I came around a bend and the noise was incredible.  There were so many people lining the course, and they were all cheering.  I saw Dad off to the left w/ his camera.  Straight ahead were the official photographers – I gave them a big smile (@ least tried to).  Behind them was the finish line.  To the right – the people who I love the most, who had put up with my months of training and irritability as this day got closer, were yelling as loud as the could. I ran as fast as my legs would carry me and didn’t feel an ounce of pain.

Finally, I hit the finish line.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  I wanted to hug everyone in site – the other runners, the girl taking off my championchip, the guy handing me the crappy power bar.  I didn’t care – I was done.  Two years of consideration, 4 months of training, 4 hours and 11 minutes of running/jogging/walking and I was all done. 

I am a marathoner.

 

Split times:
5 miles:  43:20 (pace = 8:40)
10 miles: 1:27:10 (pace = 8:43)
13.1 miles: 1:55:20 (pace = 8:48)
20 miles: 3:07:10 (pace = 9:22)
26.2 miles:  4:11:37 (pace = 9:35)