This is MIT's motto and on Sunday April 19, 2009, I changed my life!
My first marathon was called the Earth Day Challenge (EDC) and it took place on the campus of Kenyon College, the city of Gambier and the Kokosing Bike trail. Here are a few pictures I pulled of the website for the bike trail to show it's beauty.
The course started out on the Kenyon College track. When we came off the track we went immediately up hill to the main campus. Now I had looked at the elevation chart before I signed up for this event but apparently I did not know how to REALLY read the chart. The hill was shorter than I had anticipated but MUCH steeper. Many people chose to walk the hill but being as stubborn as I am, I refused to let myself start walking less than one mile into the race. The next three miles were small rolling hills with one big downhill to get us to the bike trail. Everything completely flattened out once we were on the trail.
My sister-in-law was attempting to run her first half marathon. I was planning on running the first 13.1 miles slowly to conserve energy for the second half so she decided she would try pacing with me. Here is a picture of us right before the start of the race.
Both of us were feeling good about 6 miles into the race. The pace was steady at about an 11 min/mile. This was slower than what I had trained at but I was really comfortable and felt like if I continued at that pace, I would have the energy to pick it up in the last half.
The weather all week had been predicting rain but there was no rain in site. Temperatures at the start were about 58-60 which were perfect. The only downside was that the humidity was predicted to be somewhere about 85% and it was definitely all of that. Me and my sister-in-law had to part ways about mile 9 as the half marathon group had a different turn around on the trail then we did. From that point on, I was really on my own. We had been closer to the back of the pack to begin with and since the turn around for the half was before mine, there weren't many people coming my way after that.
At about mile 11, I kept feeling like I had something in my shoe. I took my shoe off and checked around but couldn't find or feel anything. It really felt like I had a big ball of lint in the bottom of my sock. Even after I put my shoe back on the feeling stayed with me for quite awhile. Interestingly enough when I got home, I had a big crease in the middle of my foot where I was feeling that discomfort. The only thing I can think is that my sock was slightly balled up but when I took my shoe off it smoothed out which is why I couldn't feel anything. It must have balled back up when I put my shoe back on. I guess it eventually smoothed itself out on it's own but it took a couple miles. Other than that, I felt pretty good at the half way point. My pace had slowed slightly but I was still at about 11:15/mile and I was feeling optimistic. I was sure I could finish in under 5 hours if not sooner. I was carrying my fuel belt because I had found out two weeks before the race that they would not be having Gatorade on the course. Since this was a "green" marathon, they were offering Hammer HEED. I only got to try it on two short runs before race day and I decided not to take any chances. The plan was for my husband to meet me at the half and refill my bottles. Here I am coming in at the half way point.
I continued my current pace for the first couple of miles. I was actually starting to get tired which I had not expected. The sun was coming out and the second part of the trail (it was both an east and west out and back course) was not as shaded. By mile 17, I was really starting to get lonely. There was only one other lady around me and even then she was not within talking distance. This is only the 3rd year ever for this event and the field was limited to 300 people for all three events (marathon, half marathon and marathon relay). There were about 65 of us who completed the full marathon. They did not close the bike trail but there was hardly any traffic except race participants. There were also no spectators on the trail. By about mile 17, a lot of the marathoner's had reached their second turn around point which was at mile 19 1/2 and had already passed me.
On the way back to campus, I was running into a pretty strong head wind. It was not constant but there were about 4 times where it really picked up and I had a hard time moving. By this point I was extremely tired. I really just wanted to stop. I was done! There was no one to cheer me one and no one to talk to. Mile 23 was my hardest mile. I knew I could not stop. I did not think I was physically strong enough to walk the 3.2 miles to the finish. I knew my legs would start cramping up once I stopped running. I was angry at the wind and I had long since given up the hope that I would finish within my goal time. Since no one was around, I am embarrassed to admit that I threw a mini hissy fit right there on the trail. I stomped my feet and said a few explicit phrases. I walked a few steps and then knew I MUST continue.
I was so happy to see mile marker 24. Although I would not meet my time goal, my other goal had been to run the entire race with the exception of stopping at the aid stations to drink. Since I was carrying my fuel, I only hit a few of the aid stations when I needed water to wash down my food. I knew once I hit mile 24 that I would reach this goal. I was going to be able to say I RAN my first full marathon.
I finally saw my husband again at mile 25 1/2. He ran down to me, grabbed my hand and I just started crying. I was so tired. He gave me a few words of encouragement and then left me to go to the finish area. Right before I reached the track, I saw my sister, my mom and my dad. I started crying for the second time. Once I got up onto the track, I pulled myself together. I took off my iPod and just tried to relish in the moment. As I rounded the track to the finish, I saw my family again. I lost it for the third time. I had promised my running coach that I would not cry until after I crossed the finish line. He will be so disappointed. Unfortunately for me, there is no good picture of me coming over the line. I wish I could have held it together but I was so happy to be done, so happy to see family and feel support that it was just impossible. This is not my best look but I thought I would share it anyway.
The guy in the photo is Jeff. He was not my personal coach but he is the founder of my training group MIT. He is the head of premier races and was doing the official timing of the event. He assured me that Randy, my coach would not be disappointed and that crying is part of the process.
My official finishing time was 5:16:41. I am so proud that I finished. It was the hardest thing mentally that I have ever had to do. Even though I was not that happy with my finishing time, I realize that I have made a huge accomplishment in my life. I will never have a better marathon than my first. I also know I will probably never have a more solitude marathon than my first. I have my whole life to work on my time (Yes, there will be a second!) Right now I am just happy to say that I am a marathoner!
PS: I made out like a bandit. I got diamond earrings and several gift certificates from my hubby, along with a beautiful cake.
I also got a keepsake trophy from my family and most importantly my race day medal!