December 14th, 2013 will forever be an important running date for me. It marks the date of my first full marathon!
I have to honestly say, crossing "Run a marathon before I'm 30" off my bucket list isn't something I thought I'd actually accomplish. Not because I didn't think I could physically do it, I just never thought I'd get to this point - the point where I mentally knew I could finish my training; finish the race.
But I did, and I am SO glad I did! I don't think I've ever accomplished something so challenging. During the run I kept referring to it as the "longest. WOD. ever!" Sure, there were times during the run when I thought "I'm never doing this again." Just like I said for my first 1/2 marathon. And rightfully so, I had good reason. I was in so much pain. I kept negatively thinking "I don't want to do this anymore!" But I pushed through and finished, and it's because it didn't go the way I wanted it to go, that I know I want to run another. And even though I don't know when that will be, I'm already excited about it. As runners, are we ever satisfied?! I'm way too competitive with myself to be content with how this race went. But I digress…for now.
In case you didn't know, Rocket City Marathon wasn't supposed to be my first marathon. St. Jude in Memphis, the week prior (December 7th), was supposed to be my debut. However, that unfortunately did not work out. During the week after the cancellation I had choices to make. And I am NOT good at making decisions. I weighed my options, but still didn't know what I wanted to do. I knew getting to run Rocket City on December 14th would be ideal, because it was only one week out. I would still be ready, I would have just tapered for two weeks. But the race was sold out. Long story short, a good friend of mine, who was also running RCM, got a hold of the director and persistently asked him to let me in. Luckily, they had a bib available! I was excited, but anxious since the last time I had run long was 4 weeks ago. However, I was reassured that I would be fine. And I knew I didn't want to have to wait any longer to race. This was finally going to happen! It was finally sinking in.
Since Huntsville, AL is only about a two hour drive from where we live we decided to get up early and drive the day of. Now, had Chris and I both not wasted a day off work last week to go to Memphis we would have driven down the night before. THAT would have been ideal. Riding in a car for 2 hours right before you run a marathon isn't the best choice. But it was either that, or not race at all. Obviously, we had to go. We arrived about an hour before the race started. I met up with Lauren, who had picked up my bib for me, then sat around, drank some water, ate a power bar and before I knew it it was 30 minutes before go time. I started to stress a little, because it felt like I wasn't about to run a marathon. Just a short 10k or something. I went off to find a bathroom, and ended up waiting in line for nearly 20 minutes! I kept looking at my watch thinking "I haven't even stretched or warmed up!" By the time I got out of the bathroom, and started heading to the start line, I had roughly 5-10 minutes. Did I warm up? Nope. Did I stretch? Hardly. Now, I normally spend a good 15 minutes stretching, so for me not to stretch or warm up before a MARATHON?! Stupid. Very, very, stupid. Live and learn.
Even though this was my first marathon, and just finishing should have been my main goal, I was stubborn and had a goal of 4:10. I knew I could probably maintain a 9:30-9:45 pace for the first 15-20 miles, (just judging from how I felt during my long training runs) and then planned to pick it up if I was feeling decent. Yeah, that didn't happen.
I started out with the 4:10 pacers. Their first mile was slow, obviously due to weaving in and out of everyone. But then they picked it up and were averaging around 9:20. (They were still slightly ahead of me, so I wasn't running quite as fast, but planned on staying right behind them.) I didn't realize we were going that pace until about 5 or 6 miles in. My immediate thought was "Well, crap, there goes my negative splits." I immediately slowed it down, knowing I could not maintain that pace if I wanted to run strong. So now I was by myself.
Then, all of a sudden - out of no where - my back started to hurt. Hurting to the point that it was causing me to stop. This was off and on from miles 8-13. After that it was pretty much all down hill. I wish I could just blame it on "the wall," but I can't. It wasn't my legs that were the problem, it was my back. I have not had back pain like that while running in a long time, and to have it for 10-13 miles is extremely discouraging and frustrating. It got to the point where I was just trying to get from one water station to the next. By mile 22 I was holding back tears it was hurting so bad. I just wanted it to be over. I could barely run 1/10th of a mile without having shooting pain in my lower back. I walked every water station. Stopped a LOT, and tried to ignore the pain. I was mad at myself for not stretching. I was mad at how I felt. I was mad at my pace. I was mad that I had to keep stopping. I was mad to see my pace go from averaging 9:30 to in the 10's. I was mad that I couldn't run through the pain. I was trying to sort through all the different reasons why this was happening. I trusted my training. My training was spot on. My training felt better than how I felt right then. But there was nothing I could do, but keep going. There was no way I was not going to finish. I'd walk if I had to, but I'd cross that finish line.
I'm so grateful Chris was able to meet me at different mile markers and take pictures and videos. Each time I saw him was a surprise. Because of how the course was laid out, I wasn't sure when (or if) I would see him at all. Since I wasn't with my pace group anymore I was even more relieved to see him.
Mile 4: This was before my back started to hurt. And the only time I think my smile was sincere. (center of pic with purple shirt & pink shoes)
Mile 7: This is where my back started to get tight. Too early to be in pain.
Chris: How do you feel?
Me: Not how I should feel at mile 13!
Mile 20: I'm not sure when Lauren and Katie caught up with me (they were running with the 4:20 pace group.) but it was shortly before mile 20. I ran off and on with them for a little while, but lost Lauren on a hill not too long after this picture. I have to say, I was really glad I saw them, even though it didn't make my back feel any better. I was feeling surprisingly okay in this picture. We were on a down hill and it was taking the pressure off of my back. Didn't last long, though.
Miles 20-26 were brutal. I expected them to be brutal, but it's hard not to play the "what if my back wasn't bothering me? Would it still have been THAT brutal?" game. I guess I won't know until next time.
Finish line! Just glad to be done.
My biggest supporter!!! Couldn't have gotten through this without him. So thankful he was there for me, and keeping everyone updated, too. <3
Looking back at my splits, I know when I felt decent and when I felt miserable. Unfortunately, most of this race was painful, and I hate that I couldn't really enjoy it That's okay, though. It makes me excited to race again, because I know, had my back not given me problems, I would have been much closer to my goal. And I will reach that goal some day! I'm proud of myself. I know this is a huge accomplishment, no matter what obstacles I faced along the way. I don't regret it one bit. I did something that few people set out to accomplish, and for that I am proud. Nothing can take this title away from me. :)
Have you ran a marathon? Did it go the way you wanted? Did it make you want to run another?