“The marathon is one of the most grueling endurance events; it’s a 42-kilometer test of a runner’s ability to suffer in a way that’s largely unparalleled in the world of sport.”
I am not sure who said this, but I agree with it 100%. Marathons are grueling. But they also show you what you’re made of.
On Sunday, June 1 I finished my 4th marathon–Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon. It was an unbelievable event from beginning to finish.
I was part of Team In Training (which I have talked about before) and ended up raising $3,450 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society whose mission is to cure blood cancers. But what I wasn’t expecting was the amount of support you would receive before, during and after the race from other TNT participants and coaches. Absolutely amazing. It was like having another family.
If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I signed up for TNT in Madison, and I was the only one going to San Diego. So, I literally knew no one there except Anthony. However, come Sunday morning with all of us in our purple TNT jerseys, we were one big family.
Any time I passed another TNT participant along the course or was passed by a TNT participant there was so much enthusiasm. You usually don’t get that during a race. And then the coaches were awesome–always offering water, Gatorade, salt, nutrition, you name it, they had it. People I had never seen before would run with me for a 1/10 of a mile asking if I needed anything and offering encouraging words to help get me through.
The race started at 6:45am, but I needed to be in the lobby at 4:15am to catch the bus to the start. Anthony woke up with me to take pictures and then tried to go back to bed for another hour:
When I got to the lobby, it was filled with TNT participants (we were staying at the official TNT hotel)–all the different training groups from around the country. I found the TNT FLEX group (the group that was made up of individuals who didn’t come to San Diego with a group from their state). One of the men running the half-marathon in our group lost his daughter to leukemia when she was older–maybe 26 or 27. About my age. He had prepared a PowerPoint for us listing the life lessons he learned from the experience with his daughter, and it was filled with pictures. I was brought to tears at 4:30am–2.25 hours before running 26.2 miles for an organization that I whole heartedly believe in and support.
We took some group shots and then piled into the buses that they had arranged to take us to the start.
At 6:30 I lined up at the start line. Because the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon partners with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, this is a HUGE TNT event. And above the start line sitting in a crane type thing was a little boy who was in remission from leukemia waving to all of us as we ran across. I waved back.
And I was off! 0.2 miles in there was a sign that said “Only 26 miles to go!”. I literally thought I might die.
I had not put in nearly enough miles or speed to get me through this race, but I just kept thinking of my grandmother who fought for so long and Geoff who fought and beat the disease and Ava who is still fighting. If they could battle round after round of chemo and blood transfusions and doctors appointments and days of feeling like shit, I could run 26.2 miles. And that was it. My mind was in the game.
My goal was 4 hours.
I started off strong but not ridiculously fast. Looking back at my mile splits, the miles that I saw Anthony and the mile following seeing him were my fastest miles (except for the mile with the big ass hill). I first saw Anthony at Mile 4. Then again at Mile 6 where he told me that the 3 hr 40 minute pace group was only a little bit ahead of me. I was surprised because at that point I hadn’t been checking my time. I was running by how I felt.
I saw Anthony again at Mile 10. And then I knew I had a ways to go before I saw him again around Mile 18. The crowds were great. The music was awesome. The route was fairly scenic (although to be honest, I mainly look directly ahead of me when running a race like this). LLS supporters were literally EVERYWHERE. I actually kept a sub 8:15 pace for the first half-marathon. I was stoked!
At Mile 15 I started feeling tired. My legs didn’t hurt (which was progress from Boston and Texas!). I didn’t have any stomach issues (which was progress from Texas). I was just plain ‘ole out of shape. I really wasn’t in any position to be running a full marathon. But there was no turning back now.
I just tried to keep thinking of all the positive things going on in my life. Meeting Anthony and keeping our relationship going long distance. My new job which I love. How my transition to NC was so much easier than my transition to WI because of the wonderful community of friends I had here before I even moved. Being so much closer to family. Being so much closer to other friends. My amazing dogs. Being healthy. And how I was going to see Anthony in 3 miles.
Well, Mile 18 came and went. No Anthony. Mile 19 came and went. No Anthony. I started cursing in my head thinking he wasn’t able to make it out that far because these were the miles that were pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. And that damn hill was coming up around Mile 20.2. But as I entered on to the interstate (yes, they closed down a major interstate for this race), there he was standing under the overpass (out of the sun–smart man). I can’t tell you how excited I was. I’m not sure if I came across as excited to him because I was simply exhausted at the point and in no mood for a hill.
I drank over half of his Gatorade while we jogged up the ridiculously large hill and I HATE Gatorade–I was that dehydrated. (Note: If you are ever in the position to create a marathon course, do NOT put a large, gradual hill in the last 10K.). I say jogged because I was moving so slow at this point that I can’t call it running.
“The marathon can be viewed by some competitors as a 20-mile sustained effort followed by a 10K death march.”
Pretty much the truth.
The hill ended just around Mile 21.6. Anthony ran with me until about Mile 22 but then he lost me because he insisted on running on the sidewalk since he didn’t have a bib (which I thought was silly). Around Mile 22, the half-marathoners joined the course for the last 4 or so miles.
When I hit Mile 23 and looked at my time, I realized that it may be possible to beat my Texas marathon time! WTH!? How was that even possible? My pace picked up and I ran as hard as my out of shape body would go. One of my TNT Flex coaches found me just before the hill that was around 23.5 and ran it with me. (I later found out that some of the TNT coaches ran over 31 miles that day!)
I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 51 minutes 10 seconds. Eleven seconds faster than my Texas time. This was by no means a PR, but it was now my second fastest marathon time which came out of nowhere!
I took a wet towel that they were handing out at the finish to wrap around my neck, my finisher’s medal, water, Gatorade and some pistachios. I tried to drink some chocolate milk but it made me feel sick to my stomach.
Anthony hadn’t been able to meet me at the finish line (which I had told him the night before would be fine because he would be running the hardest part of the course with me), so I got my gear checked bag and headed to the hotel.
When Anthony gave me a hug, he commented how gritty I was–he didn’t realize that the grit was crystalized salt all over my face and arms–that’s how dehydrated I was. It got warm out there. And I had taken at least 5 salt tablets!
I finished 42/449 of females ages 20-29. I finished 176/2245 of all females. I finished 3/11 from Wisconsin. I was 745th overall to finish out of over 5,000 people who started the marathon at 6:45am.
Not only did I run a race that I was proud of, but I ran a race for a wonderful cause. I know in my heart that I will joint TNT for another race. I’m not sure what race or when, but I know I will.
I want to thank everyone who supported me–those who donated to my fundraising, those who have offered encouraging words and advice, my friends, my family and Anthony for traveling out to San Diego to support his girlfriend who has this crazy running addiction.
Six weeks until training for NYC starts! 🙂