After 100 days of planning and training and stressing, the day finally arrived. Race Day. I'm going to recap Project One Five separately, so this blog is just about the race itself. I'll jump right to the good stuff.
It was sunny and beautiful when the race began. I felt strong if a little nervous. I'd only run one marathon prior and that was with my running buddy, Jerry. This time, I was on my own.
First impression? "Where is everyone?" I knew it would be a smaller event than the 30k runners at the Marine Corps Marathon, but it wasn't until I was there and running that it really hit me how few of us were running.
The course opened with a few miles through neighborhoods, and it was beautiful and shady. There were a few friendly folks out cheering us on, and I loved that.
My first picture was at Mile 4 and I was making great time, 37:00. That's just about 9:15 per mile.
I was really excited to run across the old Colorado St Bridge, and we got to do it twice, across and back. I know I looked like a goofy tourist, but I didn't care. I was looking right and left the whole time I was on the bridge, wanting to take in every detail of it.
At this point, I still felt pretty good. The day was warming up, but I had my single water bottle with me and I was hitting every stop. Just before Mile 8, the marathoners split from the half-marathoners. Over the next four miles, I experienced the loneliness of a smaller marathon. I could always see other runners, and this stretch was a two mile out and back, but still... it felt like I was running alone out there. I got a picture of myself here at Mile 9 at 1:28:10. Still running just below a 10:00 mile, so feeling pretty good.
After Mile 12, we met back up with the half-marathoners for a couple of miles. This time, though, they were the slower group, and there was quite a bit of "traffic dodging" to get around them. I'm all for walkers and slower runners, and most of them were fantastic, but it's a bit tough to pass a group walking four or five across. I was doing a little "out of the cones" magic to keep moving at my pace, but it was fine.
I hit Mile 14 in 2:24, so I was just over a ten minute mile pace at this point. But fourteen miles into the marathon, I was perfectly fine with the time.
Then things got rough for me after that. The half marathoners split off and I had the worst mental mile of the entire event. Part of it was the heat, which was starting to be a factor. Part of it was the hill, which seemed to stretch on forever. And yes, part of it was the realization that I was only halfway through my run. I hadn't run farther than a half marathon since my full back in October. True story. I didn't run ANY longer runs in all my training. I just kept running faster and faster half marathons, instead. So running the fifteenth mile was mentally tough. But with some good music on my iPod, a little determination, and the coolest neighborhood kids handing out water, smiles and cheers, I got through it. And Mile 15 offered some much appreciated downhill distance.
The next four miles passed more or less uneventfully. I hit Mile 19 in 3:17:15, which is still a bit over 10:00 miles.
That far into the run, I was fine with that time. But the worst was definitely still to come. I was now running in the full sun with very little shade, and there were a couple of hills still to climb. When I was running, my pace was okay, but I had to walk quite a bit to keep from overheating. And in this stretch, my pace took a serious dive. I ran when I could, but it was not a fast section of the course.
After Mile 22, the course ran mostly flat with a little downhill. I struggled with the heat, but my body felt good otherwise. And after two little glasses of orange juice courtesy of more wonderful Pasadena residents, I was on my way towards the finish.
I will be honest and say that there were a lot of tears on this run. I had dedicated each mile to a different fallen Marine, and thoughts of them weighed heavy on my heart. And just before Mile 23, when I ran past the Marine Reserve Unit and Blecksmith Hall, the tears flowed pretty strong. I had no idea it was there on the route, and seeing the Marine Corps signs and vehicles and buildings... well... it just all hit me at once. And I was proud and emotional and more than a little overwhelmed.
At Mile 26, I saw my husband standing there taking photos.
I was so happy to see him, partly because I loved feeling his support and encouragement and partly because I knew if I saw him, I was almost at the finish line.
Around the corner, then another, and there it was. The finish line. And it was sweet. I held my head up high, made sure my form looked good for the hometown crowd, and I ran like I was just starting out on a 5k. And crossing that line was sweet, indeed.
I crossed the line at 4:40:55, and I am absolutely thrilled with that time. I ran the best race I could and I have no regrets.
Right now, I can proudly say that I am a two-time marathoner who will definitely run another one in the future.
You can't be surprised. It's what I do.