It was pretty difficult for me to sleep that night once we got back to the hotel. I’ve had issues sleeping ever since I could remember, but I was extra nervous knowing the race was the next day and that it started plenty early—something like 7:30 am. I am NOT a morning person.
We were sure to have all of our stuff ready to go for morning: time tags on our shoes, our running gear all laid out, mp3 players, sunscreen, bib numbers, etc. I have to admit I was quite sick to the stomach not knowing what to expect of my own performance during the race. My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t complete it in the allotted 4 hours. Yes, 4 hours seems like a long time, but keep in mind I could barely run 1 mile a few months beforehand. I was definitely in much better shape now, but all I wanted to do was finish the race.
Next morning and my alarm clock feels like it went off way too early. Surprisingly enough, I was the first one up. I wanted to make sure there was no chance of being late for the start. A quick shower and small breakfast later and I was ready to toss on my gear and head out the door. Once the other two woke and got ready, we took a few quick pictures to send home to our families in case we didn’t survive the race (just kidding). We kept glancing out our window watching thousands of other people gather at the starting line. It was a bit of a relief to see the variation in the amount of people participating: young, old, tall, short, skinny and not-so-skinny. Not that I would place anywhere significant, but perhaps I wouldn’t do as poorly as I thought I might?
Finally, the time came to force ourselves out the door and into the crowd. We were sectioned off into time corrals we had signed up for when we first registered for the race. In other words, you were grouped with other people who ran at a similar pace. This was simply determined by providing the time frame in which you had hoped to finish the race (I was off by just a bit). All three of us signed up for the same corral.
It wasn’t too crowded at first (thankfully, since I’m a tad claustrophobic), and since we had plenty of time before the first “wave” or corral took off, I decided to take a few laps around the hotel parking lot to warm up and to settle my nerves. The wait for the race to start was probably one of the most painful parts of the entire experience. I just wanted to get started before I had any more time to think about it.
Finally, the time came. We could hear the announcer “releasing” the first several corrals. These were the elite runners who would finish the race in half the amount of time it would take us to finish. My heart rate rose each time a corral was released and we moved closer and closer to the starting line. I was finally getting excited and a little less nervous. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. Three more corrals. Two more corrals. I could see the starting line…one more corral…..go!
The three of us kept a fairly steady pace with each other at first. I had to tell myself to ignore those around me and just run at a pace that felt comfortable for me. This was going to be the longest distance I had ever attempted to run, so I really needed to concentrate on listening to my body. Eventually, we did split off from each other, but we had our cell phones on us to contact each other at the end of the race.
Not even a mile or so into the race and I started hearing the crowd go wild. It was one of the runners from the first corral finishing the race already on the other side of the street. It was a little disheartening at first, but it was also quite exciting seeing the winner head towards the finish line with no other runners in sight yet. It wasn’t long until the others came into view.
There was a little bit of a hill at the very beginning of the race…a bridge. It wasn’t a steep incline by any means, but for someone as low on the endurance totem pole as I am, it took a little more wind and energy out of me too early in the race. I had my cell phone in my hand instead of my pocket so I’d be sure not to lose it, but for whatever reason my hand suddenly decided to go limp and my phone fell onto the pavement. Now, this wouldn’t have been quite so bad had I been on the outside of the running crowd, but I was right smack dab in the middle. There weren’t a lot of people immediately around me, but when I turned to search for my phone I froze like a deer caught in the headlights. There was a wall of runners heading right towards me. I felt horrible and so embarrassed….and scared for my life. I “swam” my way back through the crowd shouting, “Sorry! Excuse me! I’m so sorry!!!” How I didn’t get trampled or cause a pile up, only God knows. From that point on, I held onto my phone with a white-knuckle grip.
I had told myself to aim for running 5 miles straight before taking a break. I can’t quite remember if I managed 5, but I at least managed 3 before resorting to walking. There was a good mix of passing people and of being passed myself. The temperature was perfect the entire time, and everything seemed to be back to smooth sailing.
After so many miles, I came to the first water station and band that was playing. I honestly couldn’t tell you any of the songs anyone played that day because of concentrating on running so much. I did attempt to suck down a small cup of water from the water station, but I’m pretty sure most of it went up my nose or all over my shirt. Either way, it cooled me off a bit.
I did eventually tell my brother about the race and managed to send him a text updating him every couple of miles (without dropping my phone). At one point, I came across a runner who was juggling during the race. I was flabbergasted (and amused), and when I mentioned it to the girls afterwards they said apparently he does it all the time at races.
About half way through the race, I finally caught up to the “pacer” for my time corral. I was surprised at how well I was able to keep up with her at first, but unfortunately started to feel the fatigue and had to drop back. Instead, I tried to pace myself with some of the others around me to prevent from slowing down too much. At one point towards the end of the race, I really started to feel weakness and even pain in the left side of my lower body. I had had minor surgery on my left foot years before, had to wear a J-brace on my knee when I was a kid, and still have sciatic-nerve-related issues in that hip as well, so the race was starting to take its toll on me. I limped off to the side of the road and kneeled down in the grass to stretch my knee and quads. I was down for several minutes, hoping I would somehow be able to get back into the race. Eventually, once the pain was as minimal as it was going to get, I forced myself back onto the road.
As we all got back onto the streets and closer to the finish line, there were people standing out in their yards with garden hoses ready to spray. I felt a few sprinkles here and there, but realized it was a bit too cold and uncomfortable for me. Some people felt it was amusing to see how many runners they could spray, and I distinctly remember yelling, “Don’t spray me!” without any luck.
After about mile marker #10, I was completely exhausted and drained. I kept having to walk and was lucky if I could even jog a half mile at a time. I remember after passing mile marker #12 and how it seemed like the longest of all the miles to finish. By this point, my feet were throbbing and my legs were literally numb and non-functional. I struggled desperately to keep moving, to do anything but walk. I had to have looked like a walking zombie trying to keep myself moving, but there was no way I wasn’t running my way across that finish line.
FINALLY, I could see it. I kicked it into high gear (or what would’ve been considered high gear for me at that moment). It felt like I was sprinting, but I knew I was barely moving. I could see the time clock as well, and kept pushing myself to keep going. Just a few more steps, until…I finally crossed the finish line. Final time: 2:54:14.