Whew! NOTHING CAN PREPARE YOU FOR A MARATHON. Nothing. You have to DO IT to really know what it’s like. That’s one of the things I learned this weekend.
I (with my husband and friend) ran my first full marathon on Sunday, February 5, 2012. I finished it and I am SO happy, thankful and proud. It was a feat like no other!
So, here’s my recap of how I got here – It’s long, but I have LOTS to say!!
In December of 2010, I decided and said out loud that I was gonna run a full marathon. I figured I’d run the Dallas White Rock Marathon in December 2011. It was a crazy thought and I don’t know for sure if I was REALLY convinced that I could do it, but I was going to give it a try.
In the spring of 2011, I started to have some trouble with my hip again. I’d ‘run through’ some pain the previous winter, but it was back and was worse. I had to stop running for a little bit. After getting cortisone shots in my hips and knees, and going through physical therapy, we finally realized (after an MRI) that I needed knee surgery. I’d fallen last winter and broke cartilage in my knee that threw off my hip and caused it to hurt.
I ran as much as I could on the treadmill right up until my knee surgery on July 22, 2011. After surgery, I was in physical therapy for almost 7 weeks. After that, I started walking/running again trying to build back to the mileage I could do before surgery.
I had an 18 week training schedule that included 5 days of running: 2 short easy runs, 1 tempo run, 1 marathon pace run and a long run. It seemed like I was running all of the time. Sometimes it was hard to get out the door to do the runs but I finished them on a majority of the weeks. I only missed one long run after being sick the entire week. Some of my long runs were great and some were REALLY bad. I guess that’s normal, though. Right??
I felt like I’d trained well and was prepared for the marathon.
The Week Before The Marathon
So… I thought I’d trained well UNTIL it started getting closer to the race. Then doubt started creeping up on me. I was second guessing what I’d done to train wondering if I should have done something different or if I’d missed out on doing something. I tried to focus on other things during that tapering week but some days it was tough. I wasn’t running much and seemed to have so much free time!
When I wasn’t stressing about my training, I was stressing about the weather forecast for Galveston, TX. It was NOT looking good. There was anywhere from a 30 to 70% chance of rain for Sunday! Ugh. I started trying to get myself mentally ready to run in the rain – which I’d never done.
The Day Before the Race
The weather was still looking like it would be crappy. Yay! I was SO nervous and worried. We drove the 5 hours down to Galveston and made it in time to pick up packets which relieved a little stress. That was one less thing to worry about before the race. The shirt, hat and race bag were really cute! The race organizers so far had done a great job with everything.
We had dinner at a little dive of a place in Galveston named Sonny’s Place. It is supposed to be the oldest bar in Galveston – and it kind of looked like it. The food was okay, but the server gave us a free pitcher of Shiner Beer because she poured it on accident and thought we might want it. :-) Gotta love a free pitcher of beer!
A couple of times during the night, I told my husband and friend that I wanted the to remind me how much I wanted to finish the marathon when/if I start to complain of hurting or being tired. I was serious. At that point, I wanted to finish this race even if I passed out at the finish line.
The Shiner helped me fall asleep that night. I slept reasonably well.
The Morning Of
I woke up and almost immediately heard the freaking rain coming down outside. WTH??? Ugh!! Alright. So we’re running in the rain. The weather forecast showed 50 degrees and a 50% chance of rain at 7 and it rose to a 70% chance after that until noon with winds of 20 miles per hour! Oh, man… This is not good.
We got dressed as well as we thought we needed to be dressed and headed out to the race. It was about a 5 minute walk from the hotel. Okay – It was COLD outside and the wind was blowing AND it was still raining. Right about then, I was feeling pretty unsure about the whole thing.
When we got to where everyone was huddled around, it started to get exciting. We were noticing how few people were running the full marathon. I knew this meant it was going to be a lonely second loop. I was still excited, though. It’s amazing how just having lots of people in the same boat around you can change your mood. Here’s my husband and me BEFORE the race:
Mile 1-5: I felt pretty good. It was a lot colder than I thought it would be and the wind was kicking up a LOT stronger than I’d imagined. I ran along trying to look around at stuff and ‘enjoy’ the run but I also had to try to dodge puddles of water. I was trying to NOT get my feet wet. Ha! That didn’t last long. After I got them wet, I did have one less thing to think about. Honestly, after a while, I didn’t really even realize they were soaked. At about 4 and a half miles, my brother in law appeared on the sidewalk! It was so exciting to see him there – it perked me up a little bit. By then, we were running head into the wind AND IT WAS BLOWING LIKE CRAZY! We found out after the race that it was blowing between 20 and 25 miles per hour and it was COLD wind.
Here’s an article that was in a local paper about the marathon and the weather: http://galvestondailynews.com/story/291138
Mile 6-10: The wind was starting to wear on me. I remember muttering around 8 miles that we really needed to get out of the wind – because I was really using a lot of energy to run against it. It was blowing me around – a couple of times, I sort of stumbled backward in the wind. I’d only run once in this kind of wind and that was over a year ago!
My brother in law met us again at around 8 or 9 miles (i forget!). He gave me his gloves and my friend his jacket. GOD SEND!! By then my fingers were frozen and stinging from the cold. I was having trouble moving them because it was painful to do so. I couldn’t close them, couldn’t open them… I was SOO glad to get those gloves! Wow.
The other negative around this point came when a woman ran past us and said “I’m so glad I don’t have to run this loop again!” All I could think was… “Uh – I have to run it. Thanks.” Then I started thinking about how we had to do this ALL OVER AGAIN. I generally don’t like running in circles but the Galveston marathon was the best fit for me: The weather SHOULD have been cool and dry, it’s flat and the time of year worked. Oh, well. It WAS flat…
Mile 11-15: I felt pretty okay through mile 13 although I did get a little envious of all of the ‘halfers’ who were standing around and celebrating their finish when I still had another half to go. I signed up for this, though – nobody MADE me do it! We called my daughter around mile 11 to ask her to bring me my jacket. I just didn’t feel like I could keep going for another 3 hours with the plastic trashbag style poncho anymore. It was COLD and I was feeling miserably wet. She met us right before the 13.1 marker. It was a group effort to get the plastic poncho off of me, wrangle with my earbud cord and phone and to get the jacket on me. Our hands were all so frozen that they just weren’t working like they should have been! But, we got it done and we were off! 13.1 more miles to go…
I started to become really aware of other runners at this point. There weren’t many of them left and the majority of them were in front of us. Kinda felt a little lonely. I started to wonder if we’d finish in time all the while knowing that both my husband and friend could have easily run much faster. It was motivation to run as fast as I could – which still wasn’t very fast! We passed up a couple of people.
I still wonder about one lady that we passed. I never saw her again and we were within viewing distance of the woman who was very last. My husband said that an ambulance that passed us may have gone to pick her up. Who knows. I thought about her for a few miles, though. Didn’t want to get picked up in an ambulance…
My husband and friend had to kick in with the “You can do its” around 16-17 miles. I think all of the effort I put into running against the wind and worrying early on was starting to take a toll. I was getting REALLY tired and was having a hard time visualizing that finished line. Uh oh.
Brag Alert: I have the ABSOLUTE best husband in the world. He didn’t want to be running a marathon in the first place – he’d been there, done that – but he signed up for this one to help me. When he knew I was starting to fall apart, he kept pushing me, telling me I could do it and reminding me that this was what I’d trained for for so long. He was telling me he was proud of me and that made me want to keep going. I feel so fortunate to have him – I honestly don’t know what I would have done without him. He always seems to know exactly what I need – exactly when I need it.
Okay – moving on… Both my husband and friend threw in the ‘we’re gonna do this’ when I needed it. I did make up in my mind that I was going to finish but I was still worried about the time. I felt personally responsible for them perhaps not getting a medal because I couldn’t get to the finish line in time. That is not a good feeling.
Mile 16-20: TOUGHEST MILES EVER
It is still raining, it’s cold and the wind is still blowing HARD. It’s just all around miserable. There’s hardly anyone on the race course – just a few folks here and there and most were passing us. I know I’m wasn’t supposed to have been concerned about that but it’s kind of hard NOT to.
Up ahead a little bit, I noticed one lady that passed us had stopped and was bent over on the side of the road. My friend stopped and said something to her but then she kept going and left the lady behind. Later, we found out that the lady had bent over to “pee” as she said. We were literally right around the corner from the port-a-potty. I don’t know how bad I would have had to ‘go’ to do that! She was in plain view and didn’t try to hide or anything. I guess when nature calls…
Around mile 17-18, I started getting confused. Really confused. I couldn’t figure out how many miles we had left to go. I asked my husband how much time we had left and when he told me, it really didn’t mean anything. I couldn’t figure out how many miles per hour we needed to run to get to the end on time. I was struggling – physically and now mentally. I remembered a story my husband told me about when he ran his first marathon. He said he got to mile 23 and started to think “This is stupid. If I wanted to go 23 miles, I have a car. I could have driven!”. All I could think at that point was “This IS stupid. What is the point of this anyway? I have a car.”
I tried to repeat “This is what I came her for”, “One step at a time”, “I can do this”, but apparently, my mind is resistant to the repeating of a mantra because it had no effect. Or maybe I needed a better mantra – I don’t know. But it wasn’t working.
Mile 21 to 25: Did I say mile 16 to 20 were the toughest? On second thought, mile 21-25 were the worst!! Confusion, sheer exhaustion and an overall will to just lie down had taken over. I felt like I could lie down in the middle of the road and just go to sleep. I realized that nothing was hurting anymore – I just had NO energy whatsoever. Although I was drinking at every water station, using gel and eating the energy jelly beans, I was spent AND I was thirsty. At one of the last water station – I don’t even remember what mile, I grabbed two cups of Gatorade and they were so delicious. I was SO thirsty.
A couple of times, I closed my eyes while running and I started to feel like I was either going to sleep or passing out – either way, it was kind of scary. I didn’t tell anyone this because I DID NOT WANT TO TAKE AN AMBULANCE RIDE back to the finish line. It was weird sensation, though. When I closed my eyes, I felt like I was just sort of drifting along – not really there but kind of there. I don’t know how to adequately describe it. Just trust me: it was weird.
That’s about all I remember about 20-25.
Miles 25 to TWENTY SIX POINT TWO!!!
I tried as hard as I could to pick up the pace on the last stretch – wasn’t that successful at it – but I was trying. A couple of times, I imagined myself falling and hurting myself. I imagined the race volunteers taking up the finish line and starting to clean up before we got there. That made me try to push hard but unfortunately, I didn’t have much energy to push a little bit, let alone HARD.
We looked back and saw the very last lady in the race being followed by police cars. That was crazy. Woo Hoo! We weren’t last.
When we got to 26 miles, I tried again to pick it up and I THINK I went a slight bit faster. That .2 miles is a LOONG way when you’re hanging on to the end of your rope by a thread.
We did it, though! I was so exhausted and in a daze that the people kept asking me if I was okay. I wanted to cry but I was too tired – how does that happen? I just wanted to sit down. The photographer had us come over to the ‘Finisher” banner for pictures and as I was standing there, I felt like I was going to fall over. My legs were jelly and I was getting that ‘falling asleep’ feeling again. When I did get to sit, it felt so good.
We did it! I was so happy. It was a long road to the finish line but I got there!