Last Sunday, I ran my 2nd marathon and it was a much, much better experience this time than the prior year. I was in much better shape this year compared to last year, even if my training wasn't that great. Despite not being able to follow a training plan, I did my best to get in some long runs. I ran 2 half marathons this year, ran a couple 14 mile runs, several 6-10 and 2 18 miles runs. With all of the longer runs, I had to walk some of it. Not exactly how I wanted training to go. When I signed up to run it again this year, my plan had been to train the right way, run the entire thing and do it in less than 5 hours. But with just life in general, training was put on the back burner and I figured this year, I'd just do what I could do and be happy. I really thought it would take me 6 hours to finish.
I worked Friday night and we left Saturday morning to head up to the expo. I figured by the time we hit the expo, carb loaded and checked into our hotel, I'd be so exhausted I'd fall asleep and sleep all night, like last year. I was in bed, asleep by 7:30. Anyway, at the expo, I signed up with the 5:25 pace team, knowing I most likely would NOT be able to run it that fast because of my poor training. Last year, it was pretty hot the day of the marathon. Temperatures this year were upper 30's in the morning, with a high of 50. I figured I'd be cold to start but honestly I do run better when it's cool. At 5am, I get up, shower, get geared up and we head down to the train at 6am. It was pretty cold. My friend and I headed to the start after a 20 minute train ride and we find our start corrals. Thankfully this year, I was in a corral more appropriate for my ability. Last year the slow pace team in my corral was 3:50...this year it was 5:10. Of course, the pace team I signed up for was in the corral behind me. I overheard a couple people talking before the start, and said they were going to do the 5:45 pace team, but the pace would seem so slow, so they decided to run with 5:10. It sounded like a good plan so I decided I would do the same...follow the 5:10 pace team as far as I could and when I had to stop and walk, I'd manage from there. Thirty minutes after the start, we cross the line and the pace was actually perfect. I felt like I could have run faster, but that's exactly what you want - you want to feel like you could run faster the first half so you can finish the second half. Early in the race, the miles fly by. I saw Husband and our "road crew" at mile 2 and 4. By mile 3, I was done with my jacket, so I passed it off to Husband at mile 4. We're still cruising along, and we all started chit chatting a bit. It was a lot of fun. The pace was easy, conversations were interesting. One girl introduced herself at mile 6 and said "We'll finish together. We'll do our own thing with this pace team, but I really think we'll cross the line together". At mile 11, I decided to eat one of the gels I brought to help with electrolytes and refueling. At the halfway point, I was still running, a big surprise to me and I felt great! I felt strong and like I could run forever. Mile 16 last year was when I started hurting so I was surprised I still felt pretty good at that point. I at another gel at mile 17, saw Husband at mile 19 and I was just glad he was able to see that I was still running because at mile 19 last year, I was not and in quite a bit of pain. It was an awesome feeling. I used my last gel at mile 21. The race started to get tough at mile 22. My feet were sore, but I had come this far with the pace team, I didn't want to not finish with them so I kept going. At mile 23, my calf and hamstring in my right leg started cramping up. I considered pushing through, but decided to walk just a bit to stretch those muscles. After a short walk, I started running again. I knew if I walked for too long, I wouldn't be able to start running again. I also realized that even if I walked the rest of the way, I was going to finish in less than 5:30! I couldn't believe it and that got me pumped up. I ran to about 24 1/2 and was really needed an energy gel and I was very thankful to see they had a station with these gummi things. At mile 25, I had to start walking short bouts, followed by running on and off to keep those muscles in my right leg stretched. Total distance walked was maybe 1/2 mile. I got to the last 800 meters and almost just pushed through the cramping to run to the finish, but the last 300 meters there is a hill. I walked up the hill and then ran across the finish line. As I crossed the line, there was the girl I talked to throughout the race who said "See? Told ya we'd finish together!" I got my medal, my cover and headed down to the mile 27 post race party to find Husband. I knew I had beat last years time, but I didn't know exactly what my time was because the clock on the finish line was started at the start of the race and my time didn't start until I crossed the start line myself, which was quite some time in between. It wasn't until I met Husband and looked at the runner tracker messages that I saw my unofficial time. 5:12:21! I couldn't believe it! I knew I was right behind my pace team but the fact that I actually RAN a marathon and finished that fast (for me, not fast compared to hardcore runners) was amazing. I was pretty darn sore that night and the next day and I think I strained the muscles in my hamstring but it was worth it. Today, just a couple days later, I feel pretty good. I can tell my muscles are still recovering and are fatigued, and that hamstring is still sore, but I can get up and down the stairs no problem.
My official time was 5:12:21. I owe a lot of thanks to that pace team. It was probably the smartest decision I could have made. They were right on with their pace to...pace was within a few seconds at the 10K, half, 30K and finish. They kept me from going out to fast, kept me slow and steady the first part of the race and kept me motivated the second half. It was almost like running with a group of friends instead of a solo experience. It was fun to hear about all the marathons they had run, other challenges, like the Iron Man. It helped the miles go by. I don't know if I'll run another marathon. I had said no way I would run another one until Caleb goes to school because there just isn't a lot of time right now. But, the challenge and reward of finishing will probably draw me back to that start line with 26.2 miles ahead of me. I'll definitely do half marathons. That's a halfway easy distance for me to run and I don't have the recovery time afterwards, and I could go to work that night after a morning race. But we'll see. Come sign-up time for the marathon in 2013, the temptation may be too great for me to pass up.