Well, it’s a new year–16 days in already, and I am truly glad. The end of last year was a tough one, and I began my New Year with a new resolution: let it go. Whatever it is. Anything that is consuming a great deal of emotional energy needs to be released into the stratosphere like a helium balloon without a tether.
For me that release sometimes happens when I run, so I decided to run my marathon after all. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t even fun. In fact, it turned out to be one of the most miserable experiences I’ve ever had. One that I’m going to repeat, because I really want a good marathon experience, if that is at all possible.
I love Louisiana. It’s one of the reasons I picked a marathon there. The food is phenomenal. The weather is usually nice. The people are friendly, and they love a good party. Not to mention it’s pretty flat. It’s a good choice for a January Marathon.
Choosing to run a marathon is an education, from beginning to end. My husbands mantra was, plan your run and run your plan. Wise words indeed. And plan I did. Too bad I didn’t listen to myself when it finally came time. Too bad I was recovering from an upper respiratory virus. And, too bad I didn’t trust myself with decisions I’d already made.
I downloaded an 18 week training schedule that I followed religiously. I didn’t want to be ill prepared. I read everything I could about running marathons. I didn’t want to be ignorant. But what good is information if you’re not going to really listen?
The first cardinal sin of running a marathon is going out too fast. I repeated this to myself over and over for the last four months. You simply must be conservative in the first miles, because you won’t last 26.2 if you are not. The guy at the local running store said, “Almost everybody goes out too fast in their first marathon,” and I smugly sat there and thought, “well I won’t.” Well I did. Not huge–only about 20 seconds per mile, but it turned out to be the first nail.
The second cardinal sin is to NEVER try new things for the first time during a marathon. This had to be one of the biggest nails. I have a sensitive stomach. I just can’t eat anything when running. Most people find something–even if it’s just gu–to use when running 26.2 miles. My problem was, nothing set well. I did find some sports jelly beans that were better than nothing, and not as offensive as most things. In light of all the trouble I had finding something that would work, I can’t fathom why when I saw the Honey Stinger Waffles in the running store two days before departure that I would switch to them without even trying them. They might as well have been ipecac. Need I say more? At mile 14, I was bending over on the side of the road, trying to decide if I should just give up then and there.
The third cardinal sin of marathoning is to allow yourself to become dehydrated. A lot of what you read says you should take a cup of water at EVERY station. This would be roughly every mile. But you also hear that you should stick to what you are used to (remember nothing new). In all my years of running, I never stop for water unless it’s just really nasty hot. I’m just not a drinker. I don’t like water sloshing in my stomach when I run. Once again, I’m not sure what happened that I would abandon what I know and decide to do something different, but that is what I did. And by the time I got to mile 8 with roughly 3 cups of water, and then added the honey waffle stinger, I don’t know what that is, but it isn’t pretty. Reference ipecac above.
By mile 16, I was texting my husband that I couldn’t make it. My waffle stinger was now threatening the other end. I had excruciating pain in my knees, the right hip and left foot that came from out of nowhere. And where I usually get lost in my music, I couldn’t tell you a single song that played because I frankly didn’t hear it.
DH cheered me on, telling me to hang in there. I stuck my chin out and thanked everybody who shouted encouraging words as they ran by (one of the truly great things about runners), and the ones who asked if I needed help. I watched my goal time slip away like a leaf on the current. On three different occasions I considered visiting the EMS guys simply because I felt THAT bad. And I don’t even know the number of times I considered calling my husband and asking him to come pick me up.
But suddenly I was looking at mile 18, then 19. My stomach started to settle down, even though the aches and pains were getting worse. At about mile 20 I thought I would go mad with thirst, and I started grabbing two cups at every station. I began to run about 7/10 of a mile, and walk 3/10. Then I was on the corner where our hotel was, and I knew I was close, about 4/10 of a mile. When I saw my husband taking my picture, I started a weird sort of limping run, not wanting a picture of me walking. Turned out he was using video.
He shouted, “Come on, you can do it! Almost there!” and then he ran the rest of the way beside me until I entered the finish line chute, where the clock read 4:16. When I came out the other end, he was recording the moment. It wasn’t pretty. He ran to me, and wrapped his arms around me, and with great emotion in his voice said, “YOU DID IT!”
My response? “I NEVER want to do that again.” A resolve that lasted about 24 hours.
The real victory is simply finishing. I knew that intellectually before, but now I know it to the very core of my being. 26.2 miles would take 26.2 minutes–almost half an hour–to drive in a car going 60 mph! That really puts it into perspective when you compare that to traveling that distance on foot. Speaking of feet, I think I’ll go soak mine now.