Monday, September 26, 2016

My First Marathon

To give you an idea of my luck, here is my Facebook post from the morning of the Akron Marathon:

Just like before the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon, I watched my carefully laid plans blow up one by one.  This is my life.

I was surprisingly calm during taper and just before the race, but my stomach was churning.  I took lots of pre-race selfies with The Ohio Runner's Network and with my running partners, Shelby and Megan.

Shelby and I are at the expo.

TORN in the morn
Megan, me, and Shelby pre-race

The corral line up was very smooth, and though we were worried we were going to have to dodge walkers, there were enough corrals that we had nothing to worry about. Corral C is for me!

The first twelve miles were fine.  Megan, Shelby, and I had great conversation while trying to slow down our pace.  We met some interesting people.  When the split off came for the half and the full, I thought I would be upset, but I really wasn't.  At that point I made up a game: I planned to stop at any restaurant that was open rather than finish the race, but since it was early, I had to keep going until I hit the next restaurant. This kept me going for quite a while, and Shelby and Megan were happy to play along.

I had the best surprise around mile 16.  My friend and colleague, Rob,  lives on the blue line, and he threw a party in which he invited our mutual friends and colleagues for the race.  I passed them at mile 16, and I screamed, "I f----king got this!!!!" while I high-fived all of my friends.  I felt awesome.

Fabulous signs!

I came pretty close to my house around mile 18, and I contemplated just running to my house to nap and eat, but Shelby told me I would never forgive myself and that I would have to run this marathon again, so I forged on.  At mile 19 I saw my fellow Cleveland Ambassador Melissa, who, even though I was sweaty and salty and disgusting, gave me a huge hug.  I really needed her then, and that hug kept me going.

Running through Stan Hywet Gardens

Smiling in West Akron

At mile 22 I was ready to call it a day.  It didn't matter that I "only" had 4.2 miles to go; I didn't care.  I hated my life, and I hated the race.  That was when Jess and Erin showed up to "run me to the party" as I was passing Rob's house again.  As we ran together, I said, "This is so f--king hard, guys.  I don't know if I can do this." Erin and Jess told me I was strong and I was going to finish and if it was hard it was because it was worth it.  I kept going to the party where I saw everyone cheering for me.  As I ran away from my friends, I was crying.

I know this is sappy, but I have rarely counted on anyone to ever know or care what is going on in my life.  My training for the marathon was barely a blip on my family's radar because I made sure it didn't inconvenience them in the slightest.  People don't watch me finish races. I am usually the person who takes the pictures of others when they finish. I try not to talk too much about training on social media; I save it for this blog so people can choose to know or not know.  I realize that I am often a pain in the ass at work and in my basically-nonexistent social life, and people tend to tune me out.  You can understand then why this was a big deal to me.  I NEVER in my life thought I would ever have someone travel any distance at all to see me.  I cried because this was a moment where I felt someone cared about me.  It's a big deal, Peeps.

I have the best friends ever. Jess, Katie, Sharon, Erin, and Sherri

Anyway, I have to tell you about someone else who cared enough to keep me going.  Sheila, the head of The Ohio Runner's Network (and Shelby's sister) came out on her bike around mile 16 and followed us for a few miles, ringing a cowbell, blowing a bird whistle, and cheering.  She was a great bright spot.  I especially enjoyed watching Megan's reaction, as she had never met Sheila before, and she didn't know what it meant to cheer as a T0RN SUPERFAN.  Megan told me she thought Sheila was amazing, and I agree with her.

Sheila reappeared at the "party block" and followed us to the end.  There were hills.  Lots of hills.  There were many times between mile 22 and the end where I felt like I would just walk the rest. . . but I didn't.  As soon as we hit route 18, Shelby was "smelling the barn," and she wanted in the worst way to pull ahead.  I told her to go, but she held back.  Sheila knows me, and she shouted at me as she rode next to me, telling me to get out of my head and just concentrate on my legs.

This may be my favorite photo of the race:
I'm going to finish this race.  I got this.
See Sheila in the pink?  I couldn't have continued without her. I love this photo because I think it accurately depicts the struggle I had to finish.  You can see that I'm battling demons, both physical and psychological, and you can see Sheila is helping me.  I also like my legs in this pic.  By the way, the pink is my FlipBelt. My husband pointed out that it looks like I was wearing saggy shorts.  I wasn't.

I made it to the finish, and I managed to smile for the cameras when I saw that my friend and fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassador Andrew was waiting for me at the chute. . .holding out a beer.

Andrew is in the blue and the sunglasses. Notice I did NOT take the beer.

Andrew has been giving me a lot of flack about refusing the beer, saying it would have been the best finish line pic ever.  I still think it's pretty damned awesome.  Andrew ran the half, so he was waiting a LONG time for me to come in, and I really appreciate it.  When I crossed the finish, I felt awful; I didn't know if I wanted to vomit or cry or walk or collapse.  I hugged Shelby and Megan, and I followed Andrew away from the finish, where he walked with me to the food tent and got me settled on the lawn so I could stretch.  I am not a fast runner, and this was my first marathon, so I really appreciate Andrew waiting for me.  It must have been super difficult drinking tons of cheap beer in the sunshine.

Shelby and Megan caught up to me after getting their food, and we sat together for a while.  I thought  I would feel victorious and euphoric and giddy, but I really just felt drained and sweaty and stinky.  Running a marathon was the most difficult thing I have ever done.  It was more difficult (and took more time!) than birthing both of my kids.  It took physical effort, but it took a whole lot more mental/psychological effort.  I am glad I did it, but I really didn't feel that way right after the race.  I ate lunch with TORN, but I wasn't really feeling that either, so I went home in time to help my daughter with her Homecoming preparations.

I learned a lot during these four months of training.  I learned that I like marathon training--more than I like marathon running.  I learned that I am physically very strong, and I learned that mentally I am much stronger than I often believe.  I learned that I have people who care about me, and sometimes I can relax and rely on friends.  Old friends are awesome (Shelby, I love you, man; you rock), but it's always possible to make new friends (Thank you, Megan, for running this race with us), even when you don't like people in general.  Hey, you had to know that I wasn't going to keep this sappy.  I gotta be me.

Will I run another marathon?  Hmmmm. . .

This is EXACTLY how I look after running a marathon.

That is something I'll have to decide later when the race amnesia sets in a little more.  Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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