So I left off with us making our way to the starting line. And the fact that it was freezing! I spent all of a whole year fretting over the fact that it would totally rain on us for our Marine Corps Marathon. There was no way it wouldn't - odds were against us. There had been an 8 year streak of virtually perfect marathon weather, AND the race director told us at one of our yoga sessions that Drew Carrey was the celebrity runner, and past two times there had been a celebrity runner (Oprah and Al Gore) it rained.
Leave it up to the marathon weather gods to play a little trick on me, no it won't be raining - just the day before the marathon it will be snowing...in DC...in October! And oh yeah, it will be 33 degrees at the start. The fact that it would be a cold marathon never crossed my mind in all of my worrying. If Saturday's weather had slipped into Sunday in any way - I know my marathon experience would have been a different one, and I definitely know my time would have been slower. I would definitely take 33 degrees at the start over rain any day. And when the sun emerged into a cloudless blue DC sky - the weather for the race turned out to be amazing. I might have even sweated less than normal thanks to the cool fall day.
But I'm jumping around... back to the start. There we were, walking along to the start when we finally find Tess for the first time all weekend. I was so excited to see her face...and her new inspirational gloves...
|"Will run for wine"|
of the mile marker we would be dominating later...
and the amazing flyover (image curtesy Runner's World, mine didn't quite turn out)...
and then had a front row view of the start of the wheel-chair race. We finally made our way into the packed coral of 4:30 estimated finishing time. It was amazing how roomy those earlier corrals we passed of times in the 2 and 3 hour marks seemed.
So I should mention what I've never really mentioned here about my goals leading up to the race or my race plan. My first and foremost goal was to finish and enjoy it! After all, it was my first marathon and I wanted to take it all in. I wanted to run a smart race, start out slow and give myself a good 5 to 8 miles to warm up, find a good pace and make sure I had enough energy to pick it up at the end. My secondary goal was to make or beat the time of 4:30 (basically I wanted to at least beat Oprah's time of 4:29:15). So I had the idea that I could run with the cliff 4:30 pace team, but we lined up in the corral before them (I think even before the 4:15 pace team). As I started I thought to myself, "Well - when the 4:30 pace crew catches up to me, I'll fall in line and join in." I never saw them.
I think we timed our arrival at the corral perfectly. We only had to wait about 5 minutes before the gun went off and I think that helped my nerves. I was amazed at how quickly we were off and moving. I had prepared myself that it could take 10 minutes to cross the start line, but we were over it in 5. The first mile was spent just wishing my legs would warm up and feel like I was used to them feeling in all of my training.
Then we hit about mile 1.5 when Sal's knee popped for the first time. I heard her gasp and turned to see as she slowed and grabbed her knee. I saw the pain in her face and thought that kind of pain so early - how would she be able to continue? I slowed a bit and spent the next few strides looking over my shoulder trying to see what was going on. It was such an internal struggle to stop and go back or keep running my race. But I knew she was in great hands with PTW and that he would be with her through it all. I spent the whole race wondering what she had decided and if she had kept going and cussing myself for not sending her time splits to my phone so I could at least be receiving updates. I was so incredibly proud when I found out that she had finished and with a great time! Honestly I don't know how she did it and I don't think I would have been able to.
As I continued, I finally warmed up enough at mile 2 to shed my shed-able jacket, but my legs didn't quite feel warm enough yet. A stranger and I struck up a conversation as we turned and headed down the Spout Run hill onto the GW parkway. He was from Seattle, it was his first time running Marine Corps, but about his 20th marathon. When I told him it was my first he decided to share some much welcomed advice. He told me that there are two halves to a marathon (and in my head I'm thinking "duh, there are two 13.1 halves"), but then he said, "The first half is mile 1 through 20, and the second half is the last 6.2." How right he was! My longest training run was 20, and I felt pretty solid with my ability to reach it. There was a huge question mark over how my body would handle the final unfamiliar distance.
As my new friend ran over to strike up a conversation with a marine on the sidelines, I headed up the hill to Key Bridge where I was looking forward to seeing some members of my support team for the first time. They were right where they said they would be as I turned from Key onto Canal. It was a much appreciated jolt of energy as the Canal Road part of the course that circles around the reservoir is very crowd support-deficient which ends with quite the steep hill up to mile 7.
As I'm taking on the hill, I all of a sudden hear the runners erupt into a loud cheer and I was thinking, "What the hell is going on?" I run a few more feet and then see for myself. It was one of the wheel chair participants struggling to make it up the hill. My eyes filled with tears as I joined in the cheering for this man, he was amazing - as is the runners' community and spirit of cheering on one another. He would also soon whizz by me on the downside of that hill, and I learned another runner's racing tradition - call ahead and alert others of the speeding wheel chairs whereabouts. I would join in shouting, "Make a whole! Center line!" Then I got overwhelmingly excited as it hit me: "OMG! I'm really running with all of these people. I'm part of the club!"
Stay tuned....it's happening... I'm totally stretching this into three posts. It's apparent that I can't tell (or blog) a story in the amount of time one could read War and Peace. My excuses... 1) Perfect, we'll now have a Friday post and, 2) Tonight I need to upload pics off my camera from the day to share with you.