Saturday was RACE DAY! I completed my first marathon in 5:55:04. I had expected to finish between 5:00 and 5:30 but, whatever the time, I finished — an accomplishment to be proud of. Race day provided some obstacles that you couldn’t plan for but I pushed through and made it happily out on the other side of the finish line.
I'm in the pair of girls. I'm on the right.
Before we even started, I knew this race was going to be a battle. Jess had been very sick all week and her doctor had warned her to take it easy. She had fluid in her lungs and was just trying to make it through the race without getting hypoxia… or in her words “without being carried out on a stretcher with oxygen.” I had been fighting getting sick all week and pumping myself full of vitamin C to hold things off and for the most part, my strategy had worked. My battle on race day was not with sickness it was with terrible stomach cramps which pushing through or bathroom stop seemed to fix.
We started the race rolling up hill. On the first upward push for mile 1, I felt amazing. It was mile 1 so I was still trying to find my groove but it was absolutely incredible to run through confetti at the start and all the people cheering us on. Those cheers and happy faces and peppy chants keep my moving. Mile 2 felt good too. Around mile 3, I noticed that Jess was starting to look a little concerned and she had mostly stopped chatting as we normally do during out runs. This was an immediate warning sign for me. When I questioned her, she said she was feeling dizzy and her heart was racing. This concerned me. We slowed for a few minutes and I urged her to catch her breath before we started pushing again. I think she felt bad — like she was holding me back. And I struggled a little with this thought. I knew she wanted to finish this race. And I knew that I would never want to go the next 23 miles alone. But I also knew she probably shouldn’t have been trying this run at all and that there was no way in hell she would stop now. So, together I would make sure we finished the race. She deserved that much. After all, I would never have made it through training to get to race day if she hadn’t agreed to do it with me. I owed her a lot. And little did I know, I’d be struggling myself later in the mileage of this race.
Shortly after we started back into mile 3, we rounded a bend into the zoo. We ran along the access road and they had a few animals out to help cheer us on. I love this idea! I was wishing we had seen some more animals but it was a neat concept. Mile 4 is where my stomach starting trying to beat me up. Ugh. Worst stomach cramps ever. Water didn’t help. Running through didn’t ease it. Bathroom break was useless. So, with no other choice at mile 4, I told my stomach to back off, that it wasn’t winning this battle, and pushed onward. Miles 4 though 9 were good ones for Jess and I. I feel like we settled into a good groove and things rolled along nicely. Jess struggled some with her throat and lungs and my stomach was still making itself known but we ignored our issues and pushed forward.
Around mile 9, I was really excited to be almost to the double-digit miles and I knew my friend from work would be coming up along the route soon to cheer us on. She found us at mile 9.5 and helped me forget how much I wanted a water stop and gave me the burst of energy I needed to keep moving. She ran along with us for a few minutes and it was really nice to chat and get some fresh perspective. After my friend stopped, Jess and I ran down towards the Under Armour plant for an ‘out and back’ until mile 13.
I was ecstatic to reach mile 13. Halfway there. Only, to be honest, as much as I was trying to look at it as “glass half full” I couldn’t help but think, Great. Half way. That means we have another 13 to run…” I tried to push back these thoughts though and for the most part, I was able to do it. Our strategy to run between water stops and then 1-minute stop to drink and catch our breath was feeling pretty good (despite our individual lung/stomach issues). The water stops were starting to be less than what I need though at mile 14. I didn’t want to carry anything on race day but it was sunnier and hotter than planned and that sun was dehydrating me faster than the every-2-miles water stops could keep up with. I stopped for another quick bathroom break at mile 14 and then we got back to pushing on. We ran through Fells Point and down by the old Fletcher’s location and smelled the delicious scents of baking bread. Miles 14 to 16 were kind of a blur that I’d chalk up to knowing where we were and just taking in all the familiar sights.
Once we reached 16, the doubt started creeping in. But, I knew we only had 10 miles left. We could do this. The downside was my cramping was getting worse. It was almost unbearable but what was I supposed to do about it? Nothing was helping and I just had to keep going. Jess’s issues were getting worse too. Her throat was constricting and her old ankle injuries were flaring up. From mile 16 to 19 we stuck it out and just pushed and pushed and pushed. We walked the uphill’s and ran the downhill’s. We gave those miles all we had to give and just kept running. At 19 though, Jess could barely walk on her ankle and my stomach had cramped up beyond belief. So, we resigned to walking for a while and likely for the rest of the race. She’s one hell of a power walker (I literally have to jog to keep us with her… damn long legs) and we quickly reached Lake Montebello at mile 20. It was beautiful and gloriously flat. We caught our breath and worked on loosening up our legs and I stretched out my hips joints, which were aching.
After the lake, we hit mile 22 and it was mostly uphill until mile 25. We were power walking with me just trying to stay with Jess because she is so much faster at power walking than me. I knew that she was keeping us moving though so I appreciated the effort. I also knew that if she slowed or stopped, she wouldn’t be able to start back again so I was glad she was pushing. At times, I was running to catch up to her and I thought each time, maybe I should just run for it. Go, GO! But as soon as I closed the short distance between her and me and was ready to tell her I was going for it, I’d get a fresh wave of cramping that would nearly halt me. So, I never made the big push even though I considered it seriously about every half mile between 23 and 26.
At mile 25, we could see the city buildings coming back into view. I wanted to cry. I think I almost did. My legs were dead. I am honestly not even sure how I made it. The uneven road surface had made my feet hurt worse than they’ve ever hurt on any other run and I can still vouch that a day after the race they are incredibly bruised. But, it was mile 25. Who the hell would quit now? I felt pure relief when we saw a sign that said Camden Yards was 7 blocks away. I could do that. That seemed quantifiable. So, we kept going. Past the bars, and the sidewalk karaoke-machine-preachers who assured me that ‘it wasn’t all about winning,” and we came down Eutaw Street. I saw a girl eating a snow cone and I had never wanted anything more in my life. I am such a fat-kid even when running a marathon. Who else gets to mile 25.9 and thinks, “gosh, I’d kill for a snow cone!”
At the 26 mile marker, Jess and I both took off running as fast as we could for the finish line. It both hurt and felt amazing at the same time. I was SO HAPPY to be done. They announced my name, I waved briefly at my family and I got my finisher medal. I could barely walk when I stopped running after that last push but I somehow made it.
I got a thing of “ReGen” muscle recovery milk (so much tastier than muscle milk!) and a bottle of water. I was exhausted but went to find my family. I am really, really happy I did it but I am kicking myself for it being such a tough running day. I feel like we should have finished so much earlier but I guess you can’t plan for a rough body day. Before the race and even for about an hour after the race, I said I’d never do another marathon. But I am so disappointed my time, I am sure I will do another. I know I need to be proud I did it at all; most people will never be able to say that. But, I also know I could have done so much better on a better day. And hey, I need to perfect my strategy, right?
PS: I never did get that snow cone. After I crossed the finished, I never thought about it again.
I swear I smiled in most of the photos my parents took. Just apparently not here.
My grandmother and I after the race!