So I did it! Can you believe it? Well, I can, but it is a little surreal--I worked very hard for an event that lasted 5 hours and 15 minutes for me and now it is done. I guess that I would feel differently at this moment. . .
Yesterday was a great day. Most of the time was pretty fun. I actually enjoyed myself for 22.2 out of 26.2 miles. Not bad for the first time out. The day started early as I saw a friend who "runs" with Team Triumph off for an early start at 7:30. The marathon started quite promptly at 8:00 a.m. and I decided to run with a pace team (a group led by experienced marathoners who keep a specific pace in order to allow you to reach your goal time)--The Inconvenient Pace Team whose goal was to come in ahead of Al Gore's marathon time of 4:58. It was great for me--good pace, not too fast, sometimes it felt too slow. But there was a lot of energy. At the beginning of the marathon there were 6pacers and about 30 runners with this group. Lots of chatting and fun. Encouragement from everyone along the way. I ran most of it, not needing many of my usual walking breaks. When the Half marathoners made their turn, out group was pretty demolished--suddenly there were only 3 pacers and maybe 8 runners. For part of the run, along the backside of the Millenium Park Lake, it was great--we were exchanging stories about our first marathons, how we came to this marathon, starts and stops we had along the way with our training. It felt really, really good. But I digress. . .
The day was great--and after much thought, I was dressed perfectly. I was comfortable for almost the entire race (except when it suddenly got sunny for about 20 minutes) I had my "Marathon Momma" shirt on and was proud to be out there, feeling strong and capable. Eric and the kids (and wonderful Yoli) were there to see me off at 8:00 a.m.--and then they caught me again at mile 8, they tried and barely missed me at mile 10, met me again at about mile 12 1/2 (where we finished the very meager hills--seriously!) and again at mile 17. Of course they were there to see me in at the end. But it was a long time between mile 17 and mile 26.2 and of course, a lot happened then.
I was going great for a while--I had to make a quick stop around mile 6--it set me back a few minutes, but over the next mile or two I was able to make it back and run with the pace team again. Phew. Things were good for a while. We crossed an old converted railway over the grand river and began the long stretch (at least that's what I'm calling it). And Although I wasn't super excited to see all the turn arounds on the map, I sure was glad to see all the runners on the course. We ran all the way to Wilson and back and as we were travelling those first few miles, we saw others returning. That was encouraging. I saw a friend of mine who was running his second marathon in 3 weeks (crazy, but inspired).
Then, DOOOM! I had to make a second pit stop, this time in the woods (remember people, at this point I have been running for 15 miles--just about 3 hours and drinking water--I've had three babies, I don't have super bladder anymore!) Even thought this stop was shorter, I didn't have the extra that it took to catch all the way back up. I got very, very close--by that time at about 19 miles. I managed to stay close for the next while--trying to run for 10 minutes before walking, but I started getting slower and slower and my feet started to hurt more and more and I needed to walk a little bit more than I wanted to and at about mile 22 I lost sight of the Pace team. And that really bummed me out.
The back stretch of the marathon felt like it had some long lonely miles and although I was not all the way at the end of the racers, I was pretty alone. And there was no one around to cheer me one or give me a needed boost of encouragement. Those were some pretty tough miles. Honestly, I never wanted to quit. I never stopped moving. And sometimes my walk or run did not feel like it was very fast. However, I was starting to get very tired and I just wanted to take a nap. Then I got to the point where slowing down to a walk hurt--my muscles needed to keep moving, but my motivation to keep running was waning.
As I headed back into the city, about mile 24--I knew I was almost there and my resolve picked up--there were more people around, I could see more runners (who were also struggling). Just after mile 25 I came across Michelle who started the race with me and when I had previously last seen her, was running strongly ahead of me with the pace team. She is a 42 year old woman running her first marathon. But when I saw her, she definitely wasn't running, in fact she was barely walking. Turns out around mile 22, her knee gave out on her, completely buckled, but she was absolutely determined to finish this race. She saw a volunteer who offered her help, but then she saw and recognized me--and said she wanted to finish the race with me. So I put my arm around her and she around me and we hobbled off. She jogged as she was able (with tears streaming down her face) She was so disappointed, but she wanted to make it in, so we did--she told me not to let medical pull her from the race, so that didn't happen. We walked a while and jogged the last 1/3 mile in--down winter street, from the time you turned the corner and could see the Start/Finish line. From time to time her knee would give out and we would hobble along some more.
Lest you think that I was some super great Samaritan, I later realized that I needed her too. I was feeling pretty crummy about myself--I hurt, I was not completing as strongly as I wanted to. If I was very honest I would say I really wanted to come in under 5 hours, but was prepared for a time around 5:15--ohh, but I wanted 5 hours. I was excited for the first 2/3 of the race that that was actually a possibility. Since I had figured out that wasn't going to happen, I started to be disappointed in me, in my ability to withstand the pain that comes with long miles. And then there was Michelle--something else to focus my attention on. A goal of helping her in was far more worthy than any pity party I could have for myself. So although she called me her angel, I think it was the opposite that was true.
As we neared the start finish I saw my fantastic family waiting for me, all bundled up with signs and love. Josh and Olivia started to run in with me. Olivia did a pretty good job of keeping up--but Josh crossed the Finish line with me and Michelle. I received my hug from Marathon Don and my sweet medal. And wiped away my own tears. I did it. I am a marathoner!
Last night, Eric was a sweetheart and did most everything, including making me a steak dinner. We had a ceremony to add the 26.2 magnet to the van (i am marathon momma, after all!) I drank my celebratory beer and slept soundly all night (thanks, pain meds!). Today, I walk like an old woman who has aches in her knees, feet and hips. The stairs are a beast and I cringe at the thought of walking up and down them.
But you know what? I am already planning on coming in faster than Al Gore next year. Bring it 2010!
Hmmm, could this be this year's Christmas card?