It all started at 5:30 am with breakfast (oatmeal and quinoa bake, blueberries, strawberries, plain greek yogurt and pecans. yum). Some inspirational Runers World articles and Psalms while I put in my contacts.
I texted a few friends who were already waiting for the 1/2 marathon start. I got a few messages back.
I lubed up my feet and nether regions with Glide and waited for my ride.
True Confessions: I also checked the weather about 20 times. Maybe 100.
For over 10 days, the forecast for my first full marathon was AWFUL. Rain 90-100%. Wind. Lightning even. Great.
10 years ago, Brian and I trained for 12 weeks through a Bemidji winter/spring only to get cut off at the MedCity Marathon in Rochester MN due to black flag conditions. High humidity and heat were making runners literally drop like flies. They cut off 3 miles of the course and picked up the majority of runners with school busses. I finished 23.2 that day. Not quite a marathon.
I did NOT want to get picked up in a bus this year. I did not want to almost finish.
Here is my friend, ultra-marathon, runner officianado Chris Gardner. We rode to the start together and endured TORRENTIAL downpours. We waited in the line for the port-a-potties in rain, goosebumps and dread growing in our bellies.
Women with very little body fat shivered like they were having a stroke. Strong, able-bodied men covered with tatoos had more goosebumps than January.
It was disheartening except I was with my buddy, experienced and fit, Chris. Until he admitted this was maybe the worst start ever.
It could have been disheartening further except things like this happened.
Selfies in the rain.
And people packed deep in the trucks that would carry our gearbags to the finish. You cannot really appreciate this but there are people 2-3 deep underneath this truck. The starting line is also a car dealership and folks were rolling under campers, cars and trucks in the lot. It was like we were refugees.
One last funny part of the story: Chris stops quickly before we dropped off our bags and he says to me, rain dripping down his face and my shaking water from my hat, “I need to get sunscreen on.” Huh. Really Chris? I look heavenward and really wonder if this guy is losing it… Well he wiped off his dripping arms and sprayed that sunscreen on like a champ…
Then I finally got to the start and met Oklahoma, typical man who made the trek north for this race. And Mr Let Me Tell You How to Train Smarter for a Marathon. Mr You Could Qualify for Boston If You Do It Right. Mr Boston Was Worse Than This. Mr I Only Run 2-3 Times a Week for 3-5 Miles. It was a long 20 minutes of waiting.
Then we started. I was so pumped. I yelled at everyone, “We are about to run a marathon! Are you ready for this!?” Apparently no one was, or their ear buds were louder than I was.
Oh well, I did chat with a very few along the way but wow. It was exhilarating to finally get feet under me and outrun the rain. Then find some blue sky and actually get hot at one point!
I did have some stomach cramping and waited for a toilet for 10 minutes (rats!!). I was moving ahead of the 2 pacing groups I had joined and felt great but the dream of a sub 4:15 quickly faded as I enjoyed the thrill of just running because I could and feeling good while doing it.
My family (in-laws all made the trek!) held strawberries and blueberries for me. As I ripped into my banana XS said, “I’m hungry” so I left him half and kept going.
I had realized I needed to walk through some water stops for 1. safety (there were thousands ahead of me and between garbage bags, clothing and water cups plus rain, it was slippery!) 2. hydration and avoiding more cramping I needed to drink more than I felt I needed. The weather was wonderful for feeling cool but it tricks you into thinking you’re wet from rain not sweat. I started two fisting Gaterade plus throwing a cup of water over myself and then drinking a third cup of water.
That walking aside, I ran all the way.
Even though I didn’t feel like it always. The first 13.1 I felt like my legs were leading me. They knew what to do and reminded me I knew how to run at least 15 without a struggle. Then around 15 when the packed really thinned out and even that IronMan 75 miler tank top dude started to struggle (he had peeled off about every other mile, then would catch up and pass me only to peel off into the woods again!). Then my mind took over.
Thankfully I was in a good mindset. I was praying for our church. Our kids. My knees. Being grateful for all those burpees Anna McGhee and long runs with Carrie Martin. I was imagining long portages in the Quetico and long, wet, rainy paddles across Bailey Bay. I would repeat Bible verses, sing songs and pray some more.
As I saw friends and family and church people, I realized (see background of above pic) people do NOT care how fast you are going. If you’ll qualify for Boston, run a sub-4:00 or even sub-5:00. They care if you look happy. They don’t want the bloody nipples, crying faces or limping runners. Not that that isn’t allowed or even ok. But the fans want the runner to look joyful. That gives them joy.
Running really isn’t about finding the strength within. It’s not about “trusting” the training. It isn’t about willing yourself across the finish line.
Well, all those things are partially true, they don’t tell the whole story. This does, I think:
Therefore, since we are surround by such a great cloud of witnesses (there are THOUSANDS who cheer at Grandmas!), let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, LOOKING UNTO JESUS the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the throne of God.
Finally, my brothers and sisters, be strong in the LORD and in the power of HIS might.
When I thought I might be one of those who pooped themselves, I put my hand on my belly and said, be strong in the Lord.
When I thought my legs were going to stop moving, I said, run the race with endurance.
When I wanted to quit, I imagined that guy with hairy legs ahead of me was Jesus.
I was so encouraged Saturday that it was a blessed, worship-filled day for me. I felt like the weather, people and race was really just about making me feel loved. It was amazing.
2 days later, I am sore. My calf muscles feel like rocks. My foot yesterday seized up and felt sprained. But today after a swim workout and 45 minutes in the Y hot tub, then dinner with a church group (4 sandwiches and 2 desserts later) I think I’m going to make it.
As we walked to the car after it was all over, Elam said to me, “momma, are you done training now?” (He hated when I was gone every Saturday morning for 12 weeks). “Yep buddy the race is over and no more Saturday morning runs!”
It is finished.