Well it is officially over and done. I made it from starting line to finish. I didn’t puke, pass out, get carried off the course, or die. I am now officially a marathoner. I will however, reserve the Marathoner with an uppercase M for those who made it across the finish line hours before me. I’m thankful, grateful. blessed…but not proud. I know I finished this race on God’s power and not mine. As we’ve discussed, I missed training runs here and there…did the best that I could, but this distance was much bigger than me and my jalopy engine…no doubt. I give full glory to God on this one. I did the work, put in lots of miles, and trained my booty off sure, but this was one tough race!
We arrived on Saturday afternoon, went to the never-ending expo, and ate at the pasta buffet in the hotel that night. My feet were killing me by the time I went to bed at 9 PM. I woke up at the insanely silly hour of 4 AM to choke down a bagel and banana ( side note: Super Husband had to work hard to find me a banana in a hotel full of marathon runners, but he heroically managed to track one down for me). I dressed, greased up with Glide, and paced the hotel until we could walk to the start. It was blessedly crisp at around 50 degrees…and I was nervous but hopeful as we walked to the starting line. Once there, we corralled up. I was in the second to last corral…the BROWN corral…ew. We all packed in like sardines, listened to the national anthem, and were off! Well at least Corral A was…it took us a solid 20 minutes to toe up to the starting line…and THEN we were off!
The start was insanely crowded, making it impossible to more than shuffle along for the first few minutes. There were people in my corral who immediately spread out 3-4 people wide and started at a walk…ugh! Now I am NOT judging at all…but if you are going to start at a walk, then please start in the last corral…and PLEASE do not spread out 3-4 people wide. I’m just saying…
I finally got enough room to do a slow jog and turned the first corner….to see my fist hill of the course. Now this course was supposed to have only 2 big hills, a very few rolling hills, and be mostly flat other than that. I quote from the FAQ section of the marathon web page:”The hills are in the first nine miles of the race. The first two are just going over the bridge into Kentucky and the one coming back. After several miles of flat there is a 300 ft. climb between miles 6-9 to a beautiful park with a panoramic view of the river and downtown Cincinnati. After that it is gently rolling and from mile 19 to the finish it is pretty flat.
I suppose if you lived in an above sea level state, you MIGHT say that. For a Florida girl, this course was almost completely rolling hills with 2 very big monster hills, and one or two flat sections. period. I was totally unprepared for THAT! According to my Garmin watch, I ran a total elevation gain of 943 ft and a loss of 911ft through the entire race. Within the first 5 miles we had gone over 3 bridges and several whoop de do hills. I was really worried. My legs were really unhappy. I made the choice to walk some of the hills right then and there. I had wanted to run all but the 2 mile hill at mile 6, but it was a matter of survival at this point. All in all I would say that I ran 85-90% of the total course…I did have to walk some of the hills, but I also managed to run quite a few.
I finally got into a rhythm around mile 5. My legs untangled and I was running more than I wasn’t for sure. I was managing a brisk 9:30-10 on the flat stretches, and even a bit faster on the downhills. At mile 6 we began the long 2 mile climb up, up and up to the park. It was a nasty long climb, but it stair stepped a bit, so I could catch my breath and run here and there. Half way up, we passed an Elvis impersonator, singing Sweet Caroline…that was um surreal to say the least! The view from the top of the park was truly worth the climb! It was spectacular, and just the warm fuzzy I needed to spot the 5:30 pace group and pass them never to be seen again. A few more rolling hills down, and I caught and passed the 5:15 pace group. I kept looking for the 5:00 pace group, but never did find them.
Once we hit the split point where the marathoners peeled off from the half marathon pack things got real. It was an amazing feeling to split off and follow the marathon group. The pack thinned out dramatically at that point, and you started to feel like you were part of something really amazing…a much smaller group who were sticking it out for the whole 26.2. I was still running well here.
The crowd was amazing, and the weather was beautiful. The water stops were generally every mile, so that really helped the miles slide by. Even if I got tired, it was only a mile until I could catch my breath and get a drink. The food was awesome too! There were fig newton stations, twizzlers, hersheys kisses, and even a bacon station! I loved reading the signs people had made. My favorites were “you’re chafing the dream”, I like pig butts and I cannot lie”, and “blisters are braille for awesome”.
Round about mile 19 I started to get worn down. Everything was hurting. My knees and feet were NOT prepared for the pounding down hill sections and that was taking the biggest toll. I was getting hot and tired, but still in relatively good spirits. From mile 20-23 I was getting slower and slower. I got a boost though as I ran into mile 23. This was it…deeper water…this was farther than I had ever run in my life! I had run past my training and into the unknown! It was here that I stopped briefly and called SuperHusband to tearfully tell him I had made it to the edge of my running map and was stepping out into the deep end!
Miles 24-25 were probably the worst of the race. I was sore, tired and just wanted to be done. Here and only here, I pulled out my music and listened to Thrive and Bigger Than Me. This was to be my hardest and slowest mile of the entire race. From mile 25-26.2 I put away the tunes and hauled my tired booty. I had hoped to run this race in 5:15-5:20 based on my training runs and the hills on this course. I had run 23 flat relatively easy miles in 4:55, so I figured adding in the hills and the race day adrenaline, I was hopeful for a 5:15 or 5:20. I never truly hit the wall this time. I had hit it in every training run over 20 miles, but not here. I was tired, exhausted, and everything hurt, but that I can run through.
By mile 25 I knew I had at least a chance of making it in under 5 hours…and that was just too good to be true. I knew I’d have to really run hard for the last 1.2 miles so I kicked it in with all I had and just ran flat out.
I crossed that finish line in 4:59:30! I just squeaked in under, but I did it! I tried my absolute best, and God rewarded it with a faster time than I had even dared hope for. God is good! I got my bling, and hobbled to find Super Husband and Super Son. After a shower and some food, we spent the day walking ( hobbling ) around the Cincinnati zoo. I was really, really, really sore. My knees felt like grapefruit and my feet were pounding and sore, but I knew if I stopped moving I’d rust up like and old engine left in the rain…so to the zoo it was!
For those of you who like numbers, here’s how I did: 2:28:53 First half, 2:30:38 second half, last mile:9:43.
So I hobbled and limped around for the first few days I was back, but really nothing worse than I felt for my first half marathon, or for any one of my 23 mile training runs. It took me about 3 days to stop hurting. By Friday I actually felt like running a little bit. Super Husband and I went out for a slow 1 mile out and a fast mile back ( I ran an 8:40 on the way home). I was really, really pleased at how not horrible I felt! This Monday, I was able to run a pretty fast 3.1 miles ( a 10:06, a 10:04, and finally an 8:20). I am so very glad to be off the crazy cycle of mega miles, but feel a bit drifty…its odd to not have a schedule to run when I have had one for the last 8 months.
Many people have asked me if I will run another marathon. I have to honestly say I don’t think so. It wasn’t the distance so much as the training that was so hard to take. It was just overwhelming in the amount of time such a thing demands. I will admit though, to being curious as to how I could do on a flat course…but not curious enough to sign up for anything in the foreseeable future.
Which brings me to the next chapter in my running history. It seems God still wants me to swim in deep waters. He hasn’t called me to another marathon thank heavens…but he HAS called me to start a running and devotions group at my church. Like the marathon, this is uncharted waters for me and I am anxious, but also excited to see what God has planned.
As far as my blog, I still plan to ramble on here, so please do check in from time to time! I have 3 more half marathons planned this year, so plenty to whine and chat about between now and then! Thanks to all of those who followed my journey. And an even bigger thanks for those who lifted me up in prayer on Marathon Day. I truly felt lifted up and surrounded by so much love and prayer. It was an amazing experience, and I cannot thank you all enough.
Until next post: run angry, eat bacon, and dream for the stars people!