The short story: 3:54. I broke 4 hours.
The long story begins around mile 7; before that, it was business as usual. I lined up in the Cheesehead starting corral, which put me in front of roughly 1,975 other people (2,000 were running, 600 of which were planning to do the full marathon). Gun went off, and so did I, and twenty seconds in, my Cheesehead hat was in the proud hands of some spectator woman to whom I tossed it, saying, “Here, have a Cheesehead!” (A guy behind me said, “Hey, you can’t do that!” but I’m stumped as to why.
And so I ran, and all was going well. The sun was shining, and although we had all been shivering and shaking before the race, we warmed up quickly; at six miles or so, I tossed my Goodwilled arm warmers at an aid station. And then, a mile later, I began to feel the familiar, tell-tale signs of pain along the outside of my right knee. My IT band had decided to make its presence known.
I kept running, and it kept getting worse. By nine miles, I first entertained the thought of finishing at the half instead of doing the full. I didn’t spend much time considering it, though, because of a very selfish reason: last night, when he got home from Mexico, Eric presented me with three charms for my charm bracelet. Two of them, one that said “8K” and one that said “10K,” he handed me immediately, since I’ve already done those races. The last one, a shiny “26.2 MARATHON,” he kept in reserve. “You don’t get this one until tomorrow!” he grinned.
So I decided to keep going. I wanted that charm.
My second thought was that by that point, Eric had arrived with the boys and, more importantly, my bag containing a tube of ibuprofen cream. He knew my general pace, and since the race course looped back by the museum where the starting line and main festival area was, there was a chance he’d be standing by the road. Maybe I could grab my cream as I ran past! Alas, he wasn’t there.
So I ran, on and on. I hit a point where, so long as I maintained absolutely, positively correct form in every way, it was manageable, but the moment I got tired and drooped a little, I felt like a knife was stabbing me in the leg. Not ideal circumstances, to be sure. My split times tell the tale; I started out strong, but with each mile beyond 8, I dropped by 5 to 10 seconds. By mile 12, I began dedicating miles to loved ones. Mile 12 was for my runner Aunt Prudy, mile 13 was for my Uncle Bob, and mile 14 was for Mom. After that, I was in too much of a haze to focus for a mile on anything.
My final goal was the aid station at mile 17, where there was supposedly a med support team. Surely, surely, they would have ibuprofen! But no, they didn’t! I sighed and resolved to keep on as I was, when suddenly a volunteer woman yelled, “I have Aleve!” She ran to her car and got me a couple of tablets, and for that I will be saying prayers of blessing on her for a long time. Once those pills kicked in, I could still feel the occasional pulling, but it was just a sensation, not pain. Yahoo! My split times began to creep down again!
After that, things were awesome for the most part. My only real complaints were that the race had touted itself as being wildly entertaining. They suggested that we wouldn’t want headphones, for all the course entertainment we’d enjoy! Well, the course “music” involved a single woman, at the far south turnaround, with a little boom box playing “Louie Louie.” I was feeling chipper enough to yell something like, “Music! Finally! That’s what I’m talking about!” and dance a little bit as I ran; she laughed hard. But, yeah, my headphones would have been nice. With only 600 of us on the course at that point, and most of the “crowds” in the form of a handful of folk clapping lazily every so often, it got very lonely in parts. I do have to say that it was nice to have folks cheering for me by number. “Go, 33! You look awesome!” I felt it, too.
I ran the last part as fast as I could, in my by-then tired state. I passed a lot of folks who had obviously hit The Wall, but I never did; I tried to encourage them, but it’s hard to feel encouraged by somebody running past you with a spring in her step, I suppose. At the end, I had to cross the trolley tracks twice in a row, and a trolley was moving toward me; my mind was struck by the dark hilarity of the notion of running twenty-six miles and then getting plowed by a train before crossing the finish line.
And cross, I did, in 3 hours, 54 minutes, and some number of seconds that I won’t know until the results are officially posted, since I was too busy “cheesing” for the camera to look.
And with my boys screaming for me and holding up a poster that read, “MOM ROCKS!”, I became a marathoner.
(Sam and Gabe enjoyed their own runs, too.