What a fantastic experience! I'm still enjoying the feeling that I finished a marathon! The week leading up to the marathon, I packed my bags, and made sure I had everything as organized for the weekend as I could. I was scheduled to work Friday night and I had hoped to get out of that shift, but ended up working the entire 12 hours. I came home Saturday morning, went to bed until 10am and then decided I needed to get up and get the van packed. We left about noon for the expo, picked up a friend who was coming with us and we were on our way. I did manage to sleep for about 2 hours on the way. It was about 3:00 when we got to the expo, picked up my timing device, packet, and signed up for the pace team then we headed to the hotel. I was exhausted and really wanted to sleep, so we ordered food and I went to bed about 6:30 while Husband and his friend went to the hotel lobby and watched movies on the laptop. I expected to not sleep well at all, but surprisingly, I was pretty relaxed. I managed to sleep right up until the alarm went off at 4am. All of us were up and ready to go and headed to the train station that was just 4 blocks away at about 4:45. I'm such a small town girl, so it was exciting in a way to just ride the "L" downtown...something I've never done before. It was still dark when we got downtown and shortly after 6:15am, I said goodbye to Husband and went to go check my bag, stretch and find out where my start corral was. The energy before the start was amazing. There were people from all over the world there, milling around, all hoping to accomplish the same thing. Most people think marathon runners are crazy, and even ask "Why would you want to do that to yourself?" But everyone there that day knew why. Finally, I headed down and got to my start corral and was amazed at how many people were behind me in the open corral. I couldn't even see my pace team sign they were so far behind me. I knew that would be trouble, especially since 3:50 was the slow pace team in my seeded start corral. I positioned myself in the back and off to the side. About 6 minutes after the signal to start, I crossed the starting line and we were off. I knew I was running too fast but with as many people that were running, I didn't have much choice, otherwise I'd be trampled. The crowd was amazing! The cheers, the clapping and excitement was incredible. The first 5 miles flew by. I kept looking for others in my pace team, but at this point, the slowest pace team member I saw was 4:00. My plan was to run 4miles, walk 1 mile and I decided I better try to stick with that plan, so i walked a tad at mile 5. I felt silly because everyone around me was running, so I only walked maybe a quarter mile and took off again. My pace team average mile pace was supposed to be 13:10...my split the first 10K was 11:18. Way too fast. I tried to slow down, knowing I'd never hold that pace the entire way. I did manage to slow a little and my split from 1oK to half was about a 12 minute mile pace. Still too fast, but I was still feeling pretty good. Saw Husband at mile 12 and he managed to get a few good pics of me still smiling and running. Mile 16, it started to get tough, and decided I needed to walk a mile and used one of my energy gels. It help a bit. I hit the wall at mile 18. I expected this because the longest training run I had done was a very unpleasant 17.4 mile run, and second longest run was 14 miles. I managed to run(slow)/walk on and off until about mile 20. At this point, my shoulders were sore and my left hip was bothering me, so I started to walk, and managed a good clip, but walking. I saw Husband at I think it was between mile 20-21. I was walking and he tried to encourage me on, asked if I was going to start running at mile 21. I said yes, and he and his friend took off to meet me down the line. I got to mile 22 and my muscles started cramping up like nothing I'd ever felt before. They were so tight, it felt like they would snap. I knew I had to keep moving or I'd never be able to finish. The mental part of the race was very tough at this point. Here I've come so far, covered more miles than I ever have before, but I still had a long way to go. I did a lot of praying at this point. Most people at this point were walking more than they were running. I also had given up on finding my pace team. I did see someone with a 5:00 pace team bib, but I didn't care...I just wanted to get to the finish. Mile 23 was the worst. I was so sore, my muscles were tight, I was tired and I wanted to be done. Saw Husband at this point and I told him "no more marathons. This sucks, I want to be done, I think I'm in Hell." The guy walking just ahead of me kinda smiled that smile that said "yep, I feel the same way". Husband tried to walk with me for awhile, but I wasn't in the mood to talk. I was focused only on finishing, even if that meant I had to walk the rest of the way. Mile 23 I think really is the devil's country because your energy is spent and you still have a 5K left to cover. In normal circumstances, that never seems too far, but after putting in 23 miles, it seems like a million miles. I used my last energy gel, hoping for a boost. I jogged a bit here and there, not much, but got to mile marker 24. A lot of people were off on the side of the road trying to stretch out their taut calf muscles. I just kept moving, stretching my legs as I walked. When I saw mile marker 25, I almost cried because I knew I would make it. With 1 mile left, I finally saw my pace team. A lot of good it did me to sign up with a pace team. With 800meters to go, I saw my 2 cousins who came out to support me and they walked with me a bit and I thought, "Ok, I can run a half mile to the finish". I tried and my muscles seized up and my legs weren't working properly. My right leg went out to the side and my left foot cramped up with my toes pointed out. I realized then I wouldn't be able to run anymore if I wanted to finish. So I walked fast. Finally, finally I saw that beautiful banner that said "FINISH". Yes, I walked across the finish line, along with several others, but I finished. They gave me one of those space blankets, a bottle of protein enhanced drink and put a finishers medal around my neck. It felt awesome. After getting my picture taken, I walked to get my bag and meet up with Husband at the mile 27 post race party, where I had a ticket for a free beer. After walking there, I finally felt that maybe I was safe to sit. Finally, Husband and his friend found me and I stood up to go get my free beer and suddenly it didn't sound good at all, and I was slightly nauseated standing up. So for about 5 minutes, I sat and changed my shoes and just tried to enjoy the moment. We met up with my cousins for a bite to eat. My legs were sore, I was walking very, very slow, but I was moving. After eating a bit, we went back to the hotel and headed for home. That's when the exhaustion set in and I was in and out of sleep the whole way home. After we pulled in the drive, I realized I was going to have to get up the stairs in order to get inside my house. It was a challenge. My legs were so sore and tight. I took some ibuprofen and after winding down and talking with the kids I went to be. The next day, the soreness was worse. Holy cow, was I sore! It was all I could do to get up and down the stairs and to just walk. Thankfully my MIL stayed to help with the kids. By Wednesday, I felt fine. Today, my legs are itching to go for a run.
My official time was 6:07:34. Not fast, but faster than I had hoped. I hoped only to finish in less than 6:30 and I did. And I came in right behind my pace team. I know it sounds corny, but it was a very empowering moment for me when I finished. It was something I always said I wanted to do, but never thought I actually would run a marathon. It was the toughest thing physically I've ever voluntarily done, and the mental aspect was equally difficult. But the reward is so sweet. Yeah, I had to walk the last 6 miles, but I finished, and finished faster than my goal. It was something that I did on my own, no one could train for me or run it for me. I made a lot of mistakes in training...like not training enough. Being placed in a seeded start corral was also a big factor. If I had been in the open corral, where I belonged, I could have started out slower and not worn myself out as fast as I did. Maybe I could have finished faster. But I'm happy. And even though the words "no more marathons" came out of my mouth several times that day, I want to run another one, but this time train the proper way with enough time. If I can do that and hold my usual pace, I think I can finish in 5 hours. The pace I ran at the beginning of the marathon was a comfortable pace for a 6 mile run...if I can train to that pace, my estimated finish was a little over 4 hours. I don't know if that's doable or not, but 5 hours I really think I can do with proper training. Anyway, I finished, and now I can say I've done a marathon!