Are You Sure It Was Only 26.2 Miles?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Saturday morning DH and I headed to Pittsburgh for the marathon. We drove straight to the Expo site to pick up the registration packet and meet Ruth (Brian36) and her DH. Ruth was sporting a fancy tape job (Kinesio tape) on her knee, and since I'd been having trouble with an ankle, I decided to give it a go, too. I had the right inner arch and right calf taped up to provide support. Then we located our named on the huge wall at Dick's that listed everyone registered for the races. After that we split up and headed back to our hotels.

At 6, we met up and headed to the Pasta Party at The Spaghetti Warehouse. It was the most disorganized mess I've ever seen. They sold way too many tickets for dining anytime between 4 and 10 p.m. Seating capacity was under 500 and the restaurant was still open to the public. We got there just before the line really got long, snaking around the corner. We still had about an hour's wait. People were getting grumpy and very irritated. The wait staff must have been absolutely exhausted; I really felt bad for them.

After returning to the hotel, I laid out all of my clothes, pinned my number to my top, and then prepped my feet hoping to ward off any blisters. I painted most of my feet with Second Skin and then in the morning, I wrapped the soles in duct tape. At a few minutes to 6, we headed down to meet Ruth and Brian at her hotel to catch the shuttle to the start line. We got there in time to see the walkers begin their race at 6:30.

The sky was overcast and the light wind was promising rain. Sure enough, just minutes into the race we could feel the first spits of rain. Then it rained in earnest and continued through almost all of the race ranging from a light mist to a hard rain. The temps were in the low 60s, so it wasn’t too cold, and the rain really was a blessing. It would have been worse to have the humidity just hanging in the air.

I felt really, really good starting out. We were doing 8:2 run/walk intervals. Somewhere around mile 5 or so, a runner came up behind me and alerted me that I had dropped my cell phone. I looked in my pocket, and sure enough my iPhone was gone!!! I turned around and began running against the crowd (not an easy task) searching for the phone. It was wrapped in plastic to keep it dry, and I could picture runners tramping on it. I found it and ran back to catch up with Ruth and she zipped it in my hydration pack—that was the end of taking pictures.

Fairly early in the race my left hip, outside thigh and knee began burning. Classic signs of ITBS. I tried not to dwell on it and focus on my form to try to alleviate it. By mile 12 I was beginning to get toe and leg cramps. I slowed down and wished Ruth well—I was going to have to do more walking if I wanted to finish the race. I took my time, took some stretch breaks, but the cramping continued. One minute it would be in my calf, then in my ankles/shins. Occasionally I would run slowly for a few yards only to feel the cramps begin. I think it was somewhere between mile 18 and 19 that both quads began to cramp. At one point, the medical volunteers came to my rescue as I tried to work out the cramps. They supported me while I hopped around on one foot, unable to put the other foot on the ground due to the severity of the cramp. At that point, I figured it was the end. But the cramp released and I hobbled off with a volunteer at my side for about a block to make sure that I was okay.

From that point on, I never ran more than a few feet at any given time. Around mile 20 or 21 I was only walking. I thought about walking off the course and taking the DNF. But as I evaluated my condition, I came to the conclusion that the pain was just the run of the mill, over-use kind of pain. Nothing indicated that I was headed for a serious injury. And the funny thing was, I wanted to run. I had the energy to run, but my legs just couldn’t take it. It was quite frustrating. And, while it might not have been fun, I was enjoying the challenge of seeing the race to the end and my spirits were good. I could still cheer on others that were feeling the same pain, I could appreciate the volunteers who were cheering me on by name (it’s great having your name printed on your bib!!). I walked and talked with several racers, and that took the focus away from the discomfort. I tried to come up with a top 10 list for why walking at the back of the pack was good, but could only come up with 3:
No. 3 –my clothes might be dried out by the time I finished
No. 2 – I wasn’t in a crowd; spectators were calling me by name, AND (drum roll, please)
No. 1 – there were no lines for the Port-o-Johns!!

At mile 23/24, I phoned Ruth to see if she had crossed the finish line. She had, and said they would be waiting for me no matter how long the wait. By this point, they were shutting down the race course. Volunteers were taking down the timers; thank goodness the water stations were still open.

It was anti-climatic coming into the finish. In fact, I couldn’t find the finish line. The barriers had been removed from the streets, traffic was flowing, and there were no signs. I thought it was at 11th Street, but when I got there, I didn’t see it. So I walked down to 10th—still no finish line. I called Ruth & Brian again and they directed me back to 11th Street and walked with me down to the official finish line. The volunteers and crowds were all gone, and I had to pull my finisher medal out of a box. Then the 3 of us began searching for my DH—I hadn’t been able to reach him on his cell phone and he wasn’t at the finish line. We finally connected, all said our good-byes, and headed back home.

My personal drama paled compared to the drama faced by the race organizers and the city-- someone had planted a bomb-like device in a microwave shortly after 11 a.m. on or near the race course. The last I read was that it was not a bomb, but it did interrupt the race.

Today I feel pretty good. I want to run the Pittsburgh Marathon again—the course is mostly flat or small rolling hills for the first half with some longer, slightly steeper hills in the second half. But none of the hills were real killers. And the end is downhill to flat. Chip time: 6:29:43; Clock time: 6:34:27.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I had written the date of your marathon on my calendar, and I MEANT to get over here to wish you luck... sorry, no excuses. Please know that you were on my mind, and I can now see why!! You are indomitable! I know the pain of cramps, I too have succumbed to injuries and found myself at the back of the pack - but the truth is, no matter when you finish, you have covered the same distance as the winner did!

    Congratulations on persevering, on overcoming far more than the winner had to face that day, and on accepting that you can only run the race that is in you on any particular day. You're amazing!!!
    3269 days ago
    Way to go! I'm so proud of you and your perserverance even when things got so difficult. I don't know if I will ever run a marathon it is such a daunting task - but I am excited to be training for a 10k and pushing myself to limits I never thought I would ever conquer. I hope you know how amazing you are! Thanks for sharing your experience.
    3277 days ago
    I enjoyed reading this -- as I am going to do my first marathon this fall. I'm nervous about the distance but figuring that I can walk if necessary. Congrats on becoming a marathoner!
    3277 days ago
  • D_CLEM
    Congratulations on having the perseverance for finishing. I'm sure your cheering on the others was huge for them and they won't forget you.
    3278 days ago
  • UROPA40
    Congratulations on finishing your first marathon. I know it was not the outcome that you trained and hoped for but you put on your big girl panties and gutted out a race that was rainy and filled with pain. I hope you are doing OK and you are able to recover without any permanent injury. None of the people who ran the pig had the outcome they had hoped for. One of my friends missed qualifying for Boston by about a minute and a second ran much of the end of the half with me when he had to divert to the half from the full due to knee pain. The rain had us soaked and the hills were much worse the Cook Forest.
    Suzy emoticon
    3278 days ago
  • BOBBYD31
    you did fantastic! i can't believe what you went through and still finished, that is will power. i am sorry it did not go as planned but you amaze me even more by finishing. after reading yours and ruth's blogs i keep wondering do i want to do this???? the answer is yes! the feeling of accomplishment that you must have by not taking the DNF, you are truly a strong woman! CONGRATS
    3278 days ago
    Thank you so much for posting the recap of your experience. I"m going into my first marathon with some leg pain that I'm anticipating will be a problem. I need to hear from other runners about how they handle the pain and frustration...and make it to the finish line. You are such a winner! I will keep you in my back pocket as I take to the course. Congratulations on persevering.
    3278 days ago
    Outstanding job! You are strong, my goodness.

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3278 days ago
    WOW! Way to go on the marathon! You have some pretty incredible stamina there and I cannot imagine getting through 26.2, let alone 26.2 in the rain with cramps, soreness, etc. I hope you are feeling better today and that you are wearing your medal with pride. I am so amazed at how you and Ruth tackled this! You both ROCK! CONGRATULATIONS!
    3278 days ago
    Great job at finishing.
    3278 days ago
    Congrats on finishing!! You are a marathoner!!

    I'm sort of in shock that everything was gone when you got there. Was there a time limit?
    3278 days ago
    I am so proud of you for not giving up! That's a true runners spirit! Congrats marathoner!
    3278 days ago
    Good for you for finishing! Now you are a marathoner!
    3278 days ago
    You still did awesome despite your conditions~!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are awesome!!!!!!!
    3278 days ago
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