That’s right, I ran a marathon. Why no exclamation point on that one? Because it was a bit anticlimactic. I’ve read that this can occur after a big event. You work towards something for weeks, months, or even years and after you’ve accomplished it you are a bit lost without that goal. Anyway, here’s how it went.
We drove up to Charlotte, NC on Friday to pick up my packet and go to the expo. I signed up for the carbo-load dinner, but we ate lunch at around 4 and so decided to skip the dinner. The expo was pretty good, I ended up buying some gels and chews and a spi belt. The night before the race, I laid out all the things I would need and packed my power pack, nebulizer, medicine, and put some of the gels and chews into the belt.
The morning of the race, I got ready quite early and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Do not get the “breakfast buffet” option before running a marathon. I really cannot stress that enough. I didn’t think I had eaten all that much, but buffets are so deceptive. “I’ll need some protein, a spoon of scrambled eggs and maybe a couple of pieces of bacon for the salt. I really should have some carbs, so a slice of toast would be a good idea. I need some simple carbs and sugars to start off the race, some fruit would fit that category. I never really get a chance to eat biscuits and gravy, so maybe one biscuit and a spoon of gravy. A couple more pieces of fruit, just to cleanse the palate. ” These thoughts, and the actions they caused (eating all that food), would come back to haunt me.
I got close to the start line and did my nebulizer about 30 minutes before the race started. I cut it a bit close there, I finished under 10 minutes before the start of the race. I left my friend in the crowd and went allllll the way to the back of the pack. Considering I wasn’t going to be setting any records, I didn’t want to get in the way of people who were going to be running faster that I was. I tried to find the 5 hour pace runner, but no one was there holding the sign. I just ended up running based on how I felt.
The race had the marathoners and the half-marathoners starting at the same time, so there were about 3,400 all waiting to cross the starting line. It took me about three minutes to get from the back of the line to the start line. There aren’t too many pictures of me during the race, but here are a couple.
The first five to six miles was awesome. There were a lot of spectators along the road holding signs. People were hanging out of their cars and buses cheering us on. There was a fair amount of weaving in and out around people, some of the runners were on a run/walk/run plan which required some maneuvering. I was running a little faster than I should have, which is to be expected. According to the chip timing, I was averaging a 10:30 minute mile by 6.2 miles. However, I stood in line for a good 5 minutes, at least, for access to a bathroom. Oh yeah, remember that breakfast? It almost made a reappearance at around miles six to eight. At about mile 10, I opened a powerbar gel packet and started sipping on it. It was like a liquid jolly rancher, a younger me would not have minded it at all, but it was a bit sweet. I sipped on it for a couple of miles, but threw it away still half full. I never used one while training, but thought it might be a good idea to try some supplemental energy for the race. Probably not the best idea, but I didn’t have any ill-effects. The half-marathoners peeled off at mile 12, and there were only a few people around me after that for the rest of the race. At 13.1 mi, I was averaging a 11:30 minute mile. The worst miles for me were 17-20, those were the time when there were almost no spectators, pain was starting to set in, and I was wondering why I was doing this to myself. My pace at mile 20 was an average of 11:45, slowing down a little bit more.
Miles 17-18 were when I was cursing a couple of my friends and family for telling everyone I was running a marathon. “Damn it, I can’t quit because EVERYONE is going to ask me how I did. I can’t say I didn’t finish cause ‘it was hard.'” At mile 18, I saw my friend for the last time before he would see me at the finish line. Those were a lonely eight miles. The best part of the race was about to come though.
Around mile 20, the route had us going through NoDa. NoDa, short for North Davidson, is a funky, artsy neighborhood of Charlotte. The people there were awesome. They still had a good crowd out for the slow runners and were in good cheer. They had drawn in chalk on the road and build a wall with a doorway in it for the runners to “break through the wall” while running. I was quite emotional at this point and they were exactly what I needed way out in the middle of nowhere. After 20 miles, I had to play games with my mind. “Just run to the next water stop, you can walk while you drink.” “You can make it to the next mile marker, it’s just another 10 minutes.” “It’s just another 5 miles, you’ve run 5 miles dozens of times this year.” Anything to keep going.
I finished in 5:13:50. The crowd was a bit thin at that point, most runners probably finished in around 4 hours. I wasn’t last, but I wasn’t far from it. Here are my stats:
Overall: placed 926/1019 finishers
Female 25-29: placed 63/66 finishers
So, not the best time, but I am not disappointed. In fact, not bad for a first time marathoner with asthma and anemia.
The rest of the trip involved lying down, going to a Brazilian steakhouse, and sleeping. Walking the next couple days was painful, but no lasting damage and no blisters. The marathon was well-organized, with a lot of water stations and provided energy chews (shot bloks) at miles 16 and 20. I’d do it again, but maybe not next year. I am considering another marathon, but I may do one closer to home next time.