Well, this morning was the marathon. I was excited, just ready to get started. The forecast included rain every hour, but those forecasters were wrong. The weather was absolutely perfect to run in, although the spectators were freezing. I saw the sunrise over a gorgeous Lake Michigan, and about an hour into the race, as the sun was high enough to start really heating things up, it went behind clouds and kept things cool. I even put a long sleeve shirt back on near the end of the race, something I pretty much never do. You probably don't care about that boring stuff though.
The actual race started really well for me. It felt good to be running again after tapering for awhile. I knew I was going at a faster pace than I thought I could keep up, but I just couldn't make myself slow down by more than 10 or 20 seconds per mile. The first half of the race went really well. If I had just been running a half marathon, it would have been a great one, probably a PR (personal record). At mile 12 the half marathoners turned around and finished their last 1.1 miles. That left the course very empty, which killed me because all the energy left with those guys. I found a group of runners, though, and started chatting with people, and things turned back around. The last 5 miles were really hard, but with some soul searching and a little hating all things that have to do with running, I somehow finished.
My favorite uplifters were the chants and cheers and music from the spectators and volunteers. It is amazing how hearing some cheers and cow bells could make my legs move faster. There was a guy playing a djembe (hand drum), he gets the award for best male spectator. Three sisters tie for best female spectators. They were in elementary school, and kept popping up at various points to cheer on their mom. They may be hoarse tomorrow, but they were the most supportive and always wanted high fives as I passed. If you know of a race coming up near you, please go and bring a cow bell or a drum or color a poster (best poster: "Smile if you aren't wearing underwear." Who could not smile when you read that, regardless of what you are or are not wearing?) Runners will really appreciate your enthusiasm, even if you don't know anyone who is running.
In my experience, your race time is really important to people. It's usually the first question people ask. Kind of like when you finish a soccer game, football game, etc. and people just want to know if you won. It's also often the first information that runners offer. Two of my friends decided not to tell what times they got on their marathon last fall, because they decided it wasn't about that for them. I have been thinking the same thing. I was very pleased with my time. I did much better than I expected to, and I am proud of my time. But I am not going to talk about it for now. If it is anything like my half marathons, I may forget the time within a few weeks or months anyway. If you really want to know, I am sure you will find a way to figure it out. But that's up to you, and I'd appreciate it if you don't post it on facebook :-)
As I've written before, I started this journey for the purpose of running a marathon. That was what it was all about. The end product. I wanted to do it before I turn 30. I didn't believe I could do it, but I wanted to try. I had some unexpected results. There's a cliche about things being about the journey instead of the end product. I really found the journey to be the most important thing. Parts of the race itself were a blur, and it kind of all runs together in my head already, only a few hours afterwards. But I haven't forgotten the lessons I learned about myself both today and through the training, and I hope I don't forget them. You can read more about that here and here.
Lessons today included finding more strength when I went way beyond whatever abilities I thought I had. My friend Dan told me that it isn't supposed to easy, and I had some time to think about that today. I found that comforting during the last half of the race, remembering that I have trained for this, and I can do it, but it won't be easy. I also found myself looking at people who were walking and looking kind of awful, and I saw that they were stronger than they thought they were. So I told them that. "You're stronger than you think you are right now. You can do this. You have it in you..." I said it a few times, but then I had to tell myself that same thing in the last few miles (numerous times). And it did help me to keep putting one foot in front of the other because of the lessons I had learned during training.
I am sore. I was sore before I even finished running. I look like an arthritic grandma when I walk, use stairs, or try to sit down or stand up. That will go away. But if you see me around, you can make fun of the way I walk this week. I will smile and be proud of myself for forcing those legs to keep moving so that I could finish my first marathon.
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