I did it. I ran a marathon. And it was more than I could have asked for. The whole weekend was very special.
I am a city girl and I truly love my city. Trails and lakes galore. This is the land of 10,000 lakes. Sometimes when I read people's blogs about traveling for a race, I wonder, why? Is it worth the effort? That sounds like so much work and effort and opportunities to forget things. I know I'm lucky to have so many races in my backyard. I guess I always thought Twin Cities would be my first marathon. But then my dad sent out an email saying that he'd get lodging if some of us would commit to run Grandma's Marathon in Duluth.
You've all heard this already: my dad is my running inspiration and my husband helped me become a runner. In their own ways, these two were my coaches. So it was pretty perfect that the 3 of us would do this together. And because we were having so much fun we conned my sister into running the Half.
I had no idea what I was truly committing to when I responded to that email. The hours of training, the 5 am runs, the juggling schedules and finding babysitters, saying no to many social outings because trainings runs come first.
I've gotta fast forward to Saturday morning or this will take forever. The race starts in Two Harbors and runs along Lake Superior. I followed my plan and got as close to the 4:30 pacer as I could. My dad started further back. I ran the first mile with DH. I stayed there for the first 2.5 miles as my warm up and then gradually picked up my pace. It was hot. Humidity was 90% and I was thrilled that there was already water and ice at mile 3. I rubbed ice on my face, threw some down my shirt.
I was right behind the 4:15 pacer as we were approaching the 5 mile water area. There were tons of people in that group and I am easily annoyed by people taking the first water and coming to a dead stop. I decided to zip around this group to avoid the congestion. This may have been too early to pick it up, I'm not sure.
At this point the miles were ticking off pretty easily and I felt great. I saw a blind runner tethered to someone else and was incredibly overcome with emotion. I was in complete awe of the human spirit. The wide range of abilities, experiences in life and running that all come together to do something incredible. I said a little prayer of thanks for my health and did my best to harness in the emotion and reminded myself to save it for later. I knew I'd need it.
At mile 9 my friend jumped in with me. She was going to be at 13, but that area was busier and she was too excited. She was impressed that I was right on schedule considering the heat, she thought I'd be further behind. I felt great. We chatted for awhile and the miles kept flying by. We could see the 4:00 pacer but I knew to stay back and not get overly excited or push it too much. Lots of race left.
I made a bathroom stop and when I came out saw the 4:15 pacer run by. WTF??? How is that possible? I got into a group of people and everyone was talking about how off schedule she (the pacer) was. 4:15 was right next to us and we could see 4:00 a little ways ahead of us. They should be 7 minutes apart. People continued to complain about her and I felt bad for all the people that had a goal & needed a pacer but she was going too fast. I finally called out, "Slow down 4:15!" which made everyone cheer, but also made her turn and give me a dirty look. whoops. A group of 3 guys ran over and thanked me. We started chatting me them. 2 of them were pacers themselves, not in this race, but in others. They were helping their friend run his first.
Somewhere in the middle miles we saw a guy propose. We ran by just as he was on his knee next to a huge banner. We cheered and then a few seconds later there was a huge cheer, must've been when she said yes. So cool!!
13.1 and I was 2:01, right where I wanted to be, a pretty good HM time for me. I still felt great
and the mile markers kept coming. We met a girl that had just split from her mom. They were running their first marathon together. I was surprised by how much I was talking to other runners. Sure, it was taking some energy, but it was giving me way more. I love the running community!
And then mile 15 happened. I don't know what happened, but suddenly my quads were so tired and I just felt done. Sarah noticed the change in me and helped me get through it. But I'm not gonna lie, 15-17 were awful. Absolutely awful. I wanted to quit. I thought about walking right off. I felt sick. I could taste the GU and thought I was going to throw up. I slowed down a bit.
We kept trading places with those 2 pacers and their friend. Learned that they were ultra-marathoners. I just listened at this point and concentrated on one foot in front of the other. Step step step. Yes you can. Say it over and over and over.
At 17 I remember saying, "Ok we've got a 5K and then the race starts. That's it. I can do this." I believe so much in the power of positive talk. All week I had been visualizing feeling good at mile 20. And I think it worked. My legs still hurt. A lot. I was tired and my clothes were soaking wet. I didn't feel cold, but I did notice that the spectators had gone from shorts and tank tops to sitting in chairs and covered in blankets. Apparently the temp had dropped quite a bit!
I told Sarah that I wanted to pass the 4:15 pacer when we hit mile 20. People were still complaining about her and I even heard a race official yell that she was way ahead of schedule. I was determined not to let her beat me.
Everyone is right: the race starts at mile 20. Luckily, in this race the scenery changes dramatically. You go from beautiful Great Lake views to a roaring town. I cannot believe how great the whole city of Duluth is. They really get into it. All the streets are lined with people. Families that set up sprinklers in the street. I leapt through every single one. Tons of kids giving out "free high fives". I hit everyone that I could. I pretended some were my daughter and son. Even high fived all the drunk college kids. They smelled so bad!
I was doing everything I could to enjoy the experience. Mind over matter. I asked Sarah if she could see the 4:15 pacer. She turned around and said, "No and we're not turning around again. This is your race. Just focus on you. No regrets. You don't want to ask yourself tomorrow if you could have given more." She is the best. She was going to leave me when we saw my family, but I told her to stay. At one point I closed my eyes and walked while counting to 10. She jogged right in front of me. See? the best.
Miles 21-25.5 are all real fuzzy. I can't distinguish what happened when. My SIL was on a bike and kept appearing which made me keep my head up. She was an incredible boost. I choked up when I saw my family and ran over and gave my mom a hug. I don't think I'll ever forget that moment.
I skipped the bacon, Becky. ;) I just couldn't do it at that point. I continued to smile as much as I could. I made it up Lemondrop Hill without too much pain. Hill training pays off! My struggle were all those vicious turns at the end. You have to zig zag through town a bit to get to the finish line and it is tough. If I had been in a better mental state I would have understood where I was, but I was pretty spent at this point. Luckily I had made those pacer friends because they cheered me in at the end.
I didn't cry at the finish. I think I was too drained to do anything. I was proud, but mostly just happy to be done. My original goal was 4:09 based on some marathon calculator. After advice from many veteran marathoners, I shifted to 4:15 for good weather and 4:30 for heat. Chip says 4:04:16.
The really good feelings came the next morning. I woke up at 5 am and went out on the deck all alone. I stared at the rising sun and the water. I ran a marathon. I am a marathoner.
There's a lot more to the story, but this is all I got for now. DH, dad and sister all had good runs. I think it was a life changing experience for us all. Thank you to each of them. Thank you to the rest of my family for the support. Thank you to Spark for the inspiration, motivation and encouragement. I thank myself for being stronger than I ever thought I could be.