Monday, October 27, 2008
Where to even begin? I guess at the beginning. Yesterday was the big day when I ran my first marathon, the Niagara Falls International Marathon. I got up at 6:00 having had only about 5 hours of nervous on and off sleep. I got dressed and set out in the dark to walk the 1.5 miles to the shuttle bus. I grabbed a muffin at Tim Hortons because there was no time to wait for the toasted bagel I'd been hoping for and then I ran the rest of the way to the bus. I got on with 2 minutes to spare!
The bus ride takes about 45 minute bus ride to the start line. The race started in Buffalo so we had to stop at the border and a border guard came on the bus and checked everyone's id. Once we were cleared it was off to the start line, which was at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The gallery was open for runners to hang out inside and keep warm which was nice since it was pretty chilly out. It was about an hour and a half wait which I thought would be torturous, but it wasn't that bad. It gave me lots of time to wait in the line up for the port a potty Everyone was so friendly and I met a lot of different people. It seemed like 4:15 was a popular finishing goal since most of the people I talked to were aiming for that too.
I was looking around for the 4:15 pace bunny, but there was none. There was only a 3:20 and a 4:00 bunny. I briefly considered sticking with the 4:00 group, but the wind was crazy and I didn't want to go out too fast. There were two men who I was talking with at the start line and they had the same goal time as me and I decided I would try and run near them.
It only took me about a minute to cross the start line once the gun went off. I held back and ran at a comfortable pace since I knew I had to save my energy. The first four miles were through Buffalo and I felt good, but as we approached the Peace Bridge to run into Canada the wind was in full force. It was brutal on the bridge, at times it actually felt like I might be blown right off the bridge and I lost my hat twice. Once we were into Ontario we were running directly into the wind. The wind was absolutely crazy and there were actual wind warnings in the Niagara Falls area. I felt like I was running sideways a lot of the time. Finally at around mile 8 the course turned and the wind was behind us. That felt amazing and I picked up my pace a bit.
Things were going well and I was on pace for a 4:10 finishing time. Around mile 10 I knew I'd have to stop at a port a potty. I drank a lot before the race, which I don't normally do for this very reason. I've never stopped at a port a potty before. It was something I've always dreaded. I kept waiting to stop because I kept hoping I would get lucky and there wouldn't be a line up at the next mile, but I couldn't wait any longer and stopped at mile 13. This stop cost me about 4 minutes, but what's 4 minutes compared to peeing your pants...nothing.
The course changed direction again around mile 14 and we were back running into the wind, which was now worse. The sky was getting dark and I was sure it was going to rain since there was a 90% chance, but it never did. Hooray for small miracles! I was slowing down, but still keeping a pretty good pace, running 9:37 minute miles. Still on target to finish under 4:15.
Around mile 16 I started walking through every water station. I needed it mentally and physically. Plus it's much easier to drink your water when it's not sloshing all over the place. More of it actually gets in your mouth this way. I ran by the two men I had been trying to use as my unknowing pacers. They had stopped off to the side and were stretching. I had lost sight of them around mile 4 so it was nice to see them again.
By mile 18 everything hurt. My back was having spasms, my legs were so sore and it felt like my toes were going to fall off. I just wanted to get to mile 20 so bad because then it would be less than an hour until the finish line.
At mile 21 the two men had caught back up to me and ran by. One asked how I was doing and I told him I thought I might be dying. He seemed totally emphatic and said he knew what I was talking about. It was strange to know that I was experiencing a lot of the same emotions and thoughts as complete strangers.
At mile 22 it hurt to walk just as much as it hurt to run. I contemplated jumping in the river and swimming to the finish line since I knew I'd get there faster thanks to the current and the Falls. I decided against it and kept on running. My pace had slowed considerably over the last few miles and I was now running around a 10:30 mile. My dreams of a 4:15 finish are dashed, but I don't even really care. At this point I just want to finish.
Somewhere around mile 23 I realize that I'd better take my race bib off my t-shirt and put it on the outside of my jacket so that I'll be able to get the picture of me crossing the finish line. I had put the bib on my t-shirt thinking I would send my jacket back on the baggage check bus, but it was too cold so I kept it on for the entire race. I attempt to make the switch while running, but this isn't a good idea since I now have open safety pins in my mouth. I stop and walk long enough to get my bib on.
At mile 24 there is just over 2 miles left and we're finally back in the city where there are people cheering and I can see the Fallsview Casino where the finish line is off in the distance. I know from running the half marathon last year that the end is near.
I run through the mile 25 water station and pick up the pace. I'm in incredible pain, but the faster I go, the faster this is all over with. The last 800 feet I go as fast as I can. I remember last year at the half giving it my all and sprinting to the finish, but I have nothing left at this point. I feel like I'm going fast but I'm sure I'm not. The announcer pronounces my name right for once, but I laugh at how he pronounces where I'm from, but I don't care, it's so good to be across that finish line. I did it! I conquered the 26.2 mile monster!! My finishing time was 4:28:22. Not what I was going for, but not horrible.
There were so many different emotions afterwards. I was proud that I'd finished, disappointed with my finishing time, sad that there was no one there to celebrate with me and very annoyed that I had a 1.5 mile walk back to my car. Ouch! If you had asked me yesterday if I would ever run another marathon I would have given you a very definite "NO WAY!!!" I was in an incredible amount of pain. I was exhausted and could barely walk. Today I feel a lot differently. I'm still very sore and it still hurts to walk, but I'm already thinking about the next marathon I would like to run and how I can improve on my time. I know I can do better and I will!
Thanks to everyone who left supportive comments and encouraging words! I really could not have done this without you. So many people on here have inspired me. My Spark friends are a constant source of motivation to me and if it wasn't for this site I don't think the idea of running a marathon would ever have occurred to me. Lastly, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this. I tried to keep it short, but it's hard to condense such a monumental experience into 1,500 words. Thanks for letting me share!