Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Marathon: Part I

Sunday was the BIG DAY. The day that I have been training for since January. The day that I have been waiting for with nervous anticipation for the past few weeks.

It did not disappoint. I woke up early to make sure I had plenty of time to eat something, drink some water, and get all of my stuff organized. Best friend S and his parents met me and my family at our house and we all headed down to the start of the race together.

Before we separated from the group S's mom handed us each a card. They were from S's older sister who couldn't be there, it was such a sweet gesture.
We visited with everyone for a little bit near the start and made our way over to the Race Start.

I had never raced in a race this big before so I didn't know what to expect but it was actually very low key. You just kind of found your place and waited for the countdown. This was where I was the most nervous. The moments before the countdown were when I started to sweat and wish that I was simply spectating.
Then the countdown hit zero and there was no turning back.

We snaked our way through downtown Burlington and were barely into our second mile when I heard a phone ringing.

A man next to me answered his phone.

"Hello? Yea... I'm running the marathon... can I call you back?"


It takes all kinds I guess!

We looped around and headed north to a section of the marathon that is a 6 mile out and back. (Three each way.) This part of the marathon did not have many fans so many of the men used it to relieve themselves in relative privacy. And by privacy I mean in front of 1,500 other racers.

I actually didn't mind this part because as I ran out the faster runners were coming back in. I felt great about my pace and it was motivating to see the fastest runners in the race.
It was during this leg that I saw three of my friends (two ahead, one behind) and it was fun to cheer for them and be cheered for BY them.

After running a marathon I will never, ever doubt the impact of the words and encouragement from spectators. It is truly amazing.

I started to slow down on the long gradual uphill at this point and was passed by the 3:30 finish pacers. Wow. I was impressed with myself- - I could still slow down considerably and still might make my 4 hour goal of a finish time!

As I crested the hill of this leg, I was passed by yet another pacing group. The 3:40's. Okay... I still had twenty minutes to account for if I could keep this pace going.
I came off of the beltline and was greeted by one of my friends cheering. It was so excited to hear your name while you're out there running. It really is.

We wove our way back downtown and it was at this point that I saw my family for the first time since I started- - at mile 9.
It was so exciting! My aunt handed me a wet paper towel as I ran by and it felt SO good to clean my face and hands. You wouldn't necessarily think so, but running is a very dirty/sticky sport. I was really hoping for some Bloks or Gu at this point, and I thought my mom would have them ready but I think they weren't quite sure how to get them to me and I wasn't sure that I wanted to wait for them, so I just kept running.

That? Was a big mistake.

Miles 9-14 were, in one word, pure MISERY. Luckily at mile 11 my dad HAPPENED to be on the street that I was running down. Thank god for that familiar, encouraging voice and face because I was ready to run STRAIGHT to the car. I'm not sure what happened mentally/physically/emotionally but at this point I could have called it quits. I felt like I was going SO SLOWLY and would NEVER reach the end. AND? I was barely halfway done.

At mile 11.5 I thought I heard my name but didn't see anyone I knew in the vicinity so I just kept running. Then, I heard my full name.
I turned my head slightly and saw someone standing on the side of the road in a hot dog suit waving their hands, cheering for me. I still have NO idea who it was, but god bless them. They got me through mile 13.1.

Reaching the halfway point was bittersweet. I wanted to be proud of myself but it was a huge relay exchange so the new, fresh, runners kept BLOWING by me which was pretty disheartening. Also- - thinking about the last 13.1 miles and knowing you're about to do them ALL OVER AGAIN... made me want to find the nearest tree, curl up in a ball behind it, and cry.

Luckily miles 13 and 14 were flat, easy and heading back towards downtown. You could see the hotel we were running towards the entire time which was sort of like a beacon of light- -getting closer, and closer... and then all of a sudden you're almost to mile 15 and climbing the steepest hill of the race.

Really. And at the bottom of the hill there were Taiko drummers. It was probably the most ominous choice of music at that point. Like I was trying to outrun a tribal ritual where they eat you for dinner after you're grilled alive.

I'm not even kidding.

I knew my family was going to be around this point so I kept my eyes, up, focused and scanned the crowd the entire way up the hill. It might have cost me a few seconds, but finding them was super important to me at that point. I still had eleven miles to go and I needed encouragement.

As I almost reached the peak of the hill I saw Sister 2's skinny arm waving ahead. Then my eyes focused and I saw my whole family, my aunt, my uncle, the boys, and S's parents.
Until you've run a marathon and have spent the last 14.5 miles gruelingly putting one foot in front of another, I don't think you can EVER truly appreciate having your whole family in once place, cheering for you. It was exactly what I needed. I ran straight over to them, and Sister4 had thoughtfully put two Bloks in her outstretched hand. I grabbed both of them and took one step. The first one fell out. I took another step and the second one fell.




Blogger Sean said...

is that you in the bottom pic talking on the phone?

10:50 PM  
Blogger P in VT said...

Ha, why yes, it is.

7:56 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

okay, i don't mean to sound like a creepy internet guy who's staring at your ass, but i'm a creepy internet guy who's staring at your ass. and you can never, ever, ever complain about your size or weight again. a) you ran a marathon and b) you look like that? yeah. fat people will gang up on you and beat you down if you ever do it again.

1:15 AM  
Blogger P in VT said...

Ha! Sean, thank you, I think, But I assure you that picture is slightly more flattering than reality. You're right, I DID just run a marathon, but I think I am the only person in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD who, in training for a marathon, gained 5lbs.

I hear you though, I really do.

7:53 AM  
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