Yes, you knew today would be a marathon recap. Of course! Here’s how the weekend and the running of my inaugural marathon went.
If you’re like me, I was kind of clueless about how big races worked until I started running them. Most big races begin with an expo a day before the race. This is where runners pick up their bibs (the race numbers that are pinned to the shirt) and their race packets which usually includes a participation T-shirt and maybe some coupons or other small items–pens, clips, etc. The rest of the expo consists of various vendors selling running or racing related items. There are booths selling clothing, shoes, running belts and armbands, and everything in between. There are booths showcasing healthcare related services for runners, and booths representing upcoming races runners can register for. I could have filled up my calendar if I registered for all the races represented there! One of my best finds at the expo was this pace chart tattoo for my arm.
It showed me how long it should take me to reach the end of each mile so that I could reach my goal finish time of 4 hours 30 minutes. So if I reach the 13.1, half-marathon, point by 2 hours and 15 minutes, I’m right on pace.
Then, it was a pasta dinner with my training buddies and an early night.
3:00 a.m. April 24, 2016 The alarm clock sounded, and race day had arrived! I woke up early to go through my normal race routine and catch the hotel shuttle to the starting line downtown. I’m not a coffee drinker, so a shower is my caffeine. Whether I’m stinky or not, a shower gets me going in the morning, especially on race days. After a shower came breakfast of a banana and a mini-whole wheat bagel with peanut butter. Next, foam rolling. I like to work all the kinks and sore spots out of my legs before I run. At 4:15 I headed downstairs to catch the 4:30 shuttle. We were told the trip could take 45 minutes to an hour, and with a start time of 6:30, I did not want to be late!
We arrived at the start line in plenty of time to attend the sunrise service at the Survivor’s Tree. Just as a bit of background, this marathon honors the lives lost in the bombing of the federal building on April 19, 1995. The start line was at the bombing memorial, which, by the way, is VERY well done. It’s a horrific event in the history of Oklahoma, but the museum tells the story of that fateful day and of the victims so well, and the memorial is just beautiful. It’s very peaceful. If you ever find yourself in Oklahoma City, I highly recommend visiting. There’s a large, gnarled tree next to the museum that is called the Survivor’s Tree, and it was there that runners from around the country and the world gathered to praise our one God. Perfect way to start the day.
Then, it was off to find corral C, where I would be starting from. There were close to 25,000 runners in the race so as a way to prevent a stampede of people and to start runners of like abilities at the same time, runners are assigned a corral. Picture the starting line at an intersection. This is where the fastest runners will be placed. A block up the street would be corral B where the next fastest runners will be. Another block up would be corral C and so on. Corral A starts and corral B moves down the street to the starting line and begins, in this case, about 4 minutes after corral A, and so on. Make sense? So even though the race started at 6:30, because I was in corral C, the race actually started at about 6:38 for me.
Corral C was easy to find, and I met up with some training buddies as we waited for the start.
Shortly before the start, we observed 168 seconds of silence, one second for each life lost in the bombing. Talk about incredible. To have scads of people in one place in absolute silence was really moving.
Then, it was go time! Our corral started to move and the closer we got to the start line, the faster we went, moving into a slow run. My heart was pounding! Here it was. The race I’d been training for and dreaming about for so long was starting. I crossed the start line, and the marathon was underway!
The day was incredibly humid and windy. By mile one I was already drenched in sweat, but the wind helped to keep me cool. The miles ticked by. We headed up the famed Gorilla Hill where a massive blow-up blue gorilla stood in someone’s yard and people dressed in banana suits handed out bananas to the runners. Mile 7 came, and the marathoners veered right, away from the half-marathoners and suddenly the crowd of people was much smaller. Mile 13.1, the half way point. Things were going well. We turned into the wind as we ran around Lake Hefner, but so far so good.
Mile 18 came, and I hit the wall. I was told to expect it, but I did not expect it to happen so early. Suddenly I was so tired. My legs were so tight. I didn’t think I could go anymore. I slowed to a walk for just 10-15 seconds when a training buddy caught up to me, tapped my elbow, and said, “Come on. You can do this.” We ran together for a while, and then mile 21 came. My legs from quads to calves started cramping. It got so bad that I would be forced to walk just to loosen things up, but the longer time went on, the worse the cramping got.
Mile 22. I was so ready to be done. My legs were killing me. I was so tired, and I still had 4 miles to go. I gave up on reaching my time goal; my goal became to just finish. So I walked until my legs loosened and then ran, walked and ran. At one point, a volunteer at the water stop saw me moving by at a snail’s pace, my green bib telling her my name and that I was a first time marathoner. She called my name and shouted encouragement, so I kept going.
Finally, the finish line was in sight. I was in so much pain and so incredibly tired. I couldn’t help it. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. That finish line was so close but so far away, and I was NOT going to walk across it. So I gritted my teeth and went for it, forcing my legs to run me to the finish line.
I crossed the finish line at 4 hours 37 minutes and 22 seconds…and my legs collapsed. That’s right. They cramped so tightly I couldn’t stand. A couple of volunteers picked me up, set me in a wheelchair and whisked me off to the medical tent to get unkinked. This was not the way I envisioned the finish of my first marathon!
But glamorous or not, I finished a marathon! Will I do another one? Of course! I let this course get to me. I let it beat me and reduce me to tears. I’ll reflect on what I could do differently to get the outcome I want and try again. In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy the title of marathoner, and the fact that I DID IT!