The day started with a wake-up call at 5:00 a.m., followed by half a bagel and a cup of yogurt. Then it was time to get the gear on. Of course, I had already done the agonizing over what to wear the night before, because I knew that the temperature at the start of the race was going to be around 39 degrees. I had a short sleeved shirt and arm warmers, and a long sleeved light weight shirt. While we were at the expo, though, there was a Goodwill booth with used clothing that you could buy as throw away clothing during the race, so I grabbed a sweatshirt to add to my wardrobe. I had packed gloves at the last minute, thankfully.
So, at 6:15 am, outfitted in my jogging shorts, a long sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt and gloves, I left the hotel with my husband to make the ½ mile trek to Corral D. This was the area for the slower runners and walkers. I got to the area around 7:00 and proceeded to find a curb to sit on to wait for the 7:30 start time. The 39 degrees predicted by the weather man the night before was true, but add in an 8 or 9 mile per hour wind, and that made it really cold!! I decided about 7:20 to line up for the port-a-potty since I knew my section would not get to the start line until closer to 8:00 a.m. This proved to be a good idea, as it got me out of the wind for a while and after a 20 minute wait for an available potty I slipped into place just about 5 minutes before we started moving toward the start line.
We got to the start line and I could no longer feel my hands, due to the cold. I had planned to shed the gloves and sweat shirt as we started, but I decided to hold on them for a while longer until I could feel my fingers. After a few fireworks and sparklers off the top of the starting line arch, and a 10 second count down the gun went off and we started forward to the tune “Highway to Hell”. I do not think this is the best kind of motivational song for the beginning of the race, but that is what the band played. They might want to rethink that one next year!!
My strategy for completing the 26.2 miles was to run for 4 minutes, then walk for 2 minutes, repeating until I reached the finish line. I started out slow and hoped to conserve my energy for the last 6.2 miles. While at the expo the day before, a speaker had given us some tips. She said that we should run the first 10 miles with our head (smart), the second 10 miles with our legs, and the last 6.2 miles with our heart. I thought that was a good way to put it, so that is what I thought about as I went along.
About mile 4 I could finally feel my hands, and I had started to sweat enough that I threw off my sweatshirt and gloves. I would have had some qualms about this, except that I had talked to the Goodwill sales person the day before and I found out that they go along the race route and collect all the “throw away” clothing, wash it, and resale it in their store. It was kind of comical to see all the clothing lying everywhere at the start line and then at regular intervals along the first few miles of the race route!
I really didn’t have any issues for the first 8 or so miles. I drank water at every other station, and Gatorade at every other station, and had either a solid piece of food like part of a breakfast cookie that I am fond of and a gel every 45 minutes. At mile 9, I stopped at the port-a-potty for a little break, then kept going. There were some good cheering crowds at regular intervals along most of the way, and that helped. I picked up a sign at the expo that said I was a first time marathon runner, and I pinned it to the back of my shirt, so several people shouted words of encouragement as I ran by. People cheering you on really helps to motivate you! There were also quite a few times when I saw shirts with scripture verses, reminding me that I could only do what I was doing through Him, who gives me strength!!
The only bad part about there being half marathoners running with full marathoners is that a lot of the people cheering talk about you almost being done at mile 12, when you have another 14.2 miles left to go. I got my first wave of “what have I done?” at this point and felt almost abandoned when most of the crowd I was with turned for the finish line as I went straight through to the second half of my race. This part of the course was littered with people at the turn to the finish line for the half-marathoners, but a few blocks beyond was like a ghost town for the rest of us. That was hard, but I pushed through the voice in my head that said that I could already be done!
Everything moved along pretty well from mile 13 to mile 17. I had noticed that my foot was becoming irritated about mile 14, so I asked for a couple of bandages at an aid station and decided to duck in a port-a-john at mile 17 to take off my shoe and check things out. When I pulled off my sock and shoe, I didn’t notice any blood or blistering, so I decided it was probably a callous aggravation and put on by sock and shoe and went to get up. That’s when the pain in my hip and back made itself known. I had a moment where I did worry if I was going to have to quit at that point. However, I walked for a while, did a slow jog for a few minutes, then I ended up taking a couple of Tylenol. The pain subsided as we entered the OSU campus to go through part of the football stadium.
While traveling through the OSU campus, I faced my next challenge. The wind. It was gusting pretty well, and it seemed like no matter where we turned, it was always blowing against us. I walked a little more often until it subsided, then picked up with the 4 and 2 rhythm again around mile 19. At mile 20 I was thinking, “this is where everybody says you hit the wall”, but I still felt about the same, so I kept on my pace, ate a carb wafer I had packed in my utility belt, and grabbed another cup of water. I made it to mile 23, then I hit the wall, although it was more like a drywall wall than a brick wall. I was starting to feel some pain in my calves and felt a little more like walking, but I didn’t ever feel like I might not make it.
Now, I heard that there was a food station at mile 23.5, and I was really looking forward to this, so I grabbed an Oreo cookie and a few pretzels, thinking, this is great!! About 2 pretzels in, I started to feel a stomach cramp, so, for the very first time in my life, I actually threw away a whole Oreo! So sad, but it is what it is.
Mile 24 I did mostly in my walk and run pattern, although my running had slowed somewhat. Mile 25 was mostly walking, because I truly, really wanted to run the last .2 and have that “strong finish”. At .4 miles to go, I started running, turned a corner, and there was the finish line!! Even better, the last .2 miles was all downhill. I ran faster and whooped and hollered the whole way to and across the finish line!! I finished 5 hours, 55 minutes, and 22 seconds after I began. I wanted to be under 6 hours, and I had done it. Even better than that, though, was the fact that I actually felt good and did not collapse and have to be carried away. I even walked almost ½ mile back to our hotel. It really helps to keep moving for a little while after you finish a race.
I had my picture taken, celebrated for a bit, grabbed some chocolate milk and headed back to the hotel for an ice bath. I would highly recommend this, even though getting in the tub is initially a moment when you think that maybe your coach was just a little crazy. I hated getting in, but it really did feel good after I started breathing again!!
I really loved my first marathon experience. I did the training program pretty much as written, trusted my coach, and trusted what I had done the 20 weeks leading up to the race event. Would I run another marathon? Probably one day. I definitely need to savor what I’ve done for a good long while, because it is something that I never thought I would ever accomplish.