GUYS: I ran a marathon today!
Holy crap that happened. ALL of the feels happened. It was not a sunshine and roses race, not by a longshot. I didn't anticipate that it would be, though. Just as the half marathon was once a worthy opponent, now I turn to larger ways of getting my behind handed to me on a platter. It did not disappoint.
The first thing you should know is that this was not the race that I wanted to be my "first" (and possibly last fora very long time) marathon. There is a smaller marathon that goes right through the best parts of Boulder County that I wanted to use to pop my marathon running cherry, but the above pictured childhood best friend was on a cruise, so we picked this one. And it's a good thing, too: the awesome race in Boulder County was cancelled a few weeks before it was supposed to go down, and the organizer is looking at fraud charges. Cool stuff.
The next thing you should know, or actually remember, is that I've been working away at this goal for 10.5 months now. Remember this post? It's amazing how many of those goals I saw come to life this year.
My marathon morning was carefully planned to be as easy and stress free as possible. It was mandatory that we pick up packets either Friday or Saturday, in order to avoid race morning chaos. So I woke up at 5:15 on Saturday morning, and drove an hour to pick up my packet and get a picture that made me look awfully wide. Professional photographer, my rear end.
Shae and her husband met me at the expo, and it was fun to get to spend some time with them. The rest of Saturday was kind of a blur of regular errands, chores, and trying to figure out all of my marathon preparations. You have to be really ready if you're going to run for that long, and I wanted to ensure that I was as ready as I could be. So I staged all of my things in our office, carefully laid out to make life easy on my brain at 5:00am. Garmin peacefully charging on the computer, clothes over the back of a chair, socks, shoes, even the headband I was going to wear.
Getting ready for the race is where things started to go wrong. Why? Oh, because that peacefully charging Garmin continued to stay plugged into my computer for the entirety of my run. Oops. So instead, I downloaded the RunKeeper app (free), and used its interval timer. I had zero timing or pace data, but some random strangers I met in the port-a-potty line, Shae, and I all agreed that it would probably be good if I didn't spend my entire first marathon stressing out about paces, splits, and goal times, but instead let the race come to me.
So that is what I did: I let the race come to me. For the first 16 miles, my paces ranged from 11:30 to 12:45. I felt really good up until mile 8, when my feet started to hurt, but I determined that finishing a marathon was going to hurt, whether I walked or ran, and one of those would get me to the finish line (and food) much faster. So I pushed on. Things started to get ugly around 16 miles, and only got worse from there to the finish line. Longer walking breaks, fewer smiles and cheers for my fellow runners. I knew that the marathon would be work, but I was surprised at how alone and isolated I was on the course - Denver Rock 'n' Roll maintains a strict 6 hour cutoff for the marathon, and I think that it discourages a lot of newbie runners or slower runners from even trying. When we split off from the half marathon at mile 13, I went from being surrounded by hundreds of other runners to being out there with a small handful (on average, I could see 5-10 runners ahead or behind me). It was okay for a bit, because we could see faster marathon runners going in the other direction, so there were still people to cheer for. Then we entered the park of doom.
Duhn, duhn, duhn. Seriously. Ask anyone who ran about Cheeseman Park, and they will all say the same thing. It was winding, and it was desolate, and it went on FOREVER (or 2 miles. It felt like forever). It was beautiful ,the park separates the Denver Museum and the Zoo, but gosh, it was tough to run by myself in there for so dang long. Mile 16, the mile that signaled the beginning of the end took place in there.
By mile 19, I felt utterly demoralized and cooked. That's because at mile 19, you have to run by EVERYONE FINISHING THE RACE. That's right, there are people cheering, and there's noise, and finishers are being announced, and there you are, with 7.2 miles to go. I tried reminding myself that that is just "a shorter long run", and easy to put in the books. But I also knew that I was working multiple blisters, was exhausted, out of fuel (thankfully the aid station at mile 19 had some Gu left - I really needed it!), and over running. I was trying to text Ammon to come bring me some fuel while I was running, which wasn't working out so well. He called me at mile 20, as I was walking and feeling like I had made a terrible mistake signing up for a full marathon. I knew that I could finish within the time limit at that point, and I told him that I was thinking about walking it in. I then told him that I had to go, because I was "kind of in the middle of a thing". This, by the way, is the best thing to tell someone when they call you and you're in the middle of a marathon.
The good news was, even though I was tempted, oh so tempted, to just walk my way to the finish line, I didn't give up. I readjusted so that I walked for 4 minutes, then jogged for 1, a reversal of my usual run/walk interval. It wasn't ideal, but it was my race, and I wanted to finish it on my terms. That meant running as much as I could, even if it amounted to hardly anything. I also set the intention to jog as many downhills as I could, figuring at that point that I needed to take every advantage I could.
That's the only picture I took on course. Mile #24 signaled hope for me, hope that I might not die out there.
Eventually, oh so slowly, the last .5 mile set itself up before me. There was a bar that had tons of people on the patio, and when I came plodding by, by myself at this point, they started screaming and cheering for me. I was so overcome that I started crying, and didn't stop. Those people put some rocket fuel in my legs, because I was able to start jogging again, and made my way to the finish line, where Ammon was waiting for me with so much enthusiasm and excitement, that the Emcee asked if I knew that guy, and when I nodded through my sobs, she added that "It seems like he really likes me". I think so too, Emcee lady.
And that's the story all about how I became a marathon runner over the course of 26.2 miles and 5:49:11 today. I'll take it with pride, because those miles and I fought and battled with each other. In the end, I won.