If you didn’t see my post about the day prior to the marathon, you can read it here.
I’M A MARATHONER!
26.2 miles of sweat, tears, port-a-potty’s, Gu, energy chews, water, Cytomax, wishing, laughing, praying, cursing, and having the time of my life.
The day started off with an early alarm at 4:30am. I was already awake from excitement and I laid there trying to decide if I should get up a couple minutes early, or give my legs another couple of minutes of rest in bed. I waited until 4:30 and hopped up to start one of the best days of my life.
I laid out my clothes the night before so I was sure to have everything I needed.
I had no problem finding my clothes in the semi-dark room since B was still asleep (who can still be sleeping on such an exciting day?!) Since I’ve confessed my love for running in neon, I would be easy to spot for friends and family on the sidelines and in pictures.
After I showered and dressed I had my pre-run ritual breakfast of 2 Ego waffles (not wheat – no fiber on long run days!) with peanut butter and a banana. I also had a half cup of coffee since we had 3 hours until the race started and I wanted to get things..moving.
Everyone was awake and ready to go by 5:20 so we (literally) ran to the 5:30am shuttle stop thinking we might miss it. We definitely didn’t miss it. We ended up getting there right on time with no bus in sight. We waited..
Did I mention it was 40 degrees with strong winds?
Finally, a little after 6:00am, one stinking shuttle showed up with hundreds of people from Tybee Island waiting to be taken to the start line. Poor planning on Rock ‘n’ Roll’s behalf, they knew how many shuttle tickets they sold.
After we finally got on the bus and what felt like we were trying to get off the sinking Titanic by the way everyone was shoving, we were on our way to the starting line.
Up until this point I was so stressed about the bus I forgot about being nervous about the race or anything of that nature. Now that we were finally on the bus, I was starting to get nervous and excited. It was about a 30 minute drive to the starting line so I had plenty of time to talk to family and get pumped with all the other runners.
We finally arrived and it was time for one last bathroom stop. We waited outside in the freezing cold for a port-a-potty for 20 minutes, then found refuge in a nice hotel lobby that had coffee, Gatorade, heat and it was amazing.
We stayed there until 7:20ish then made our way to the starting line!
We were in corral #12 so we walked from #25 all the way up. The race organizers were hyping up the crowd, the National Anthem was sung, there was rock and roll music blasting – it was so full of energy! I was bursting with excitement as we waited in our corral for the first corral to be released at 7:30am.
The gun when off and I knew we had about 10 minutes so I kept my warm clothes on until just before we were released. Brr was that a cold wait!
It was finally our turn and we were off. At 7:44am I crossed the starting line. See ya in a few hours.
The first 2 miles were COLD. I wished I had gloves several times but I made it through just fine. A lot of runners had gloves and were ditching them on the course when they didn’t need them anymore. *Note to self*
The first few miles were through a poorer area of Savannah but it was pretty incredible. The residents were out on their porches, sitting in their vans, and standing on the sidewalks in their pajamas cheering us on and shouting encouraging words. So nice and very welcoming of us runners taking over their neighborhoods.
Where’s Waldo? We made it to the 5k (3.1 miles) mile marker!
After the first 3-4 miles we were entering some historic neighborhoods of Savannah which were nice. I followed the advice from Hal Higdon’s “Marathon” book that I read during training to walk through the water stations. This way I avoided getting drenched in water and sports drink while running that should otherwise be making it into my body. This worked out really well throughout the entire race.
I should mention that around mile 5 I decided I had to pee. There were water or Cytomax stations every other mile and at every other station I would drink. More on that later..
At mile 5 Brandon had some foot pain, so he teared off and finished the rest of his half marathon by himself. I am so proud of him! It was so hard leaving him but he knew I had a goal to reach. The next race we run together we will stay together!
On we went. I specifically remember miles 7-8 well because of the outpouring support of spectators. There were SO many people on the sidelines of these miles. This was probably awesome for the half marathoners because they were already over half way there! It was so nice to see them cheering everyone on and I kept saying to Michael and Dawn, “What’s our pace? Don’t get excited and run too fast!” I was definitely taking it all in though and was pretty excited myself. 🙂
Around mile 8 was the first Gu station. I had my iFitness belt that I purchased 2 weeks ago full of Power Bar Energy Chews but I still wanted to get down some Gu. I grabbed a Vanilla Bean and got half of it down along with a cup of water and off I went.
Miles 9-11 were through more historic neighborhoods, very pretty and the neighbors were out supporting runners.
There was one house with a fire pit, camping chairs, food, and mimosa’s as they were wrapped in blankets on the sidewalks cheering us on. I was kind of jealous, but then I got over it.
Mile 11 is when the half marathoners and the full marathons said their goodbyes. The marathoners went left and the half marathoners went right. Then we were in the middle of nowhere.
We started up the on ramp to a highway.
I wish I were kidding.
There was no crowd support on this highway, there was no shade, there were no water stations, and it was SO. WINDY. I felt like I was getting blown all over the road, my left ear was burning from the sun, and there was nothing exciting to look at.
Believe it or not, there was something positive that I saw on this stretch. As we were running mile 11 or 12, we saw the FIRST PLACE male running past mile 24 on the other side of the highway. Holy inspiration. I saw the motorcade approaching with the motorcycles and lights flashing in all their glory. As they turned the corner, there he was; I got so excited I screamed, “You’re going to win!!!” I was so happy I got to see that. Probably the closest I’ll ever come to first place in a race but it was seriously one of the most inspirational moments I’d seen in person.
After we crossed paths with Mr. First Place, we were approaching the exit ramp and we were back on a normal running surface. We soon crossed the 13.1 half marathon mile marker. Half Way There.
I remember running on a street with a waterway and a really nice boat. I remember running by some nice parks. Everything was still green so that was good to look at. Mostly though, I kept thinking of when I was going to pee, if I would make it to a port-a-potty, when I was going to take another Gu, and I was mentally preparing myself for miles 18+.
I honestly do not like taking Gu’s. I dreaded it for the next 3 miles of the race. Finally it was time. I got about 2 slurps out of it, threw it on the ground and reached for my chews. I knew that much Gu wasn’t going to be enough. While I was fighting with my fuel belt, I fell behind my running buddies, so I had to play catch up once I finished chomping and drinking. I got back to them a few paces in front of me and we were back on pace at mile 15.
Remember how I said I had to pee back at mile 5? Since then I’d been drinking sports drink, water, Gu, energy chews, pounding the ground, and at least 1.5 hours had passed. My stomach was starting to hurt from needing to pee. I kept looking for port-a-potty’s but there was nothing in sight. Until we turned a corner and there were 4 of them bunched up. I had my eye on the end one and thought how awesome it would be if that panel flipped to green and the door opened just as I was upon it. The racing gods heard me because that’s exactly what happened. 30 seconds later I was back on the course feeling 100% better.
Apparently during my 30 second pee, my running buddies sped up (not intentionally) and put me a good distance behind them. It took about 5 minutes for me to catch up to them since there was no way I was wasting my glycogen (energy) to catch up only to crash at the end. I know how this works..
I did catch up with them and then we were in mile 19. Legs were getting heavy now, but nothing I hadn’t experienced before in training, so I knew I was fine.
Mile 20. Michael had said he was having some kind of pain while I was catching up to them, so he had to slow his pace. Dawn and I were running together and we both put on our headphones and were in our own world.
I kept my pace because I knew I still had 6.2 uncharted miles to cover. I’d never run more than 20 miles, I had no idea what was going to happen but I was going to do it.
Dawn went ahead of me and we were all 3 alone now. What began as 3 ended up as everyone on their own. Running is the epitome of an individual sport. I was feeling tired and my hips/knees were hurting but overall I still felt great, I knew there was still something left in me, I knew I could do this.
Then I saw the on ramp. We were back at the blasted highway.
Here we are, Mile 21. Running farther than I’d ever run before.
I knew it was a good sign that we were back on the highway because that meant we were close to finishing. But since we were only on mile 21, I knew we had at least 3 miles on it since I saw the first place runner at mile 24.
During mile 21 it was just me and the road, I finally got to reflect on everything I had done over the past 18 weeks. I thought about how 18 weeks was just for marathon training, but that in the months prior, I built the base upon which I would begin marathon training. I ran my first half marathon in April and I remembered how great that felt.
Then the beginning of the most powerful mental struggle I’ve had with myself began.
Mile 22 was when it got t-o-u-g-h. It was getting harder and harder to pick my legs up. My muscles and joints were really starting to yell at me. The winds were picking up and I later learned that we were running into a 15-25 mph headwind (wind at our face) for almost 30 minutes.
All I could think about was how much I was wishing it were over. I wanted to cross that finish line NOW and I wanted to see Brandon. I let a few tears drop but told myself this wasn’t the time or place to get weak. This is was my time to shine.
I had a little talk with myself, “This is what you trained for. You knew this would be tough. If marathons were easy everyone would do it. You’re stronger than this. One step at a time. Think about this mile, get through just this mile.” I thought inspirational thoughts. I said inspirational words, then I shook my head, picked my chin up, and carried on.
A couple minutes later, I saw a girl about my age that I had spotted from back in mile 2. I had told my running buddies then that we should stick with her because it looks like she’d done this a few times. (I don’t know if this is true but it sounded good.) We lost her throughout the race but there she was, trotting up next to me during this painful mile.
She started to pass me, but I wanted to stay with her remembering my initial thought, so I found the strength to lift my legs a little higher and a litter faster. We were hanging around each other and at some point our pace fell into line and we started running with each other. We never talked, we never decided to do this out loud, but for the next 2 miles we had an unspoken understanding that we were going to get through these miles together.
Once we passed mile marker 24 there was a water station which I got water at, ate an energy chew or two and kept on running. The girl was behind me and I never saw her again, but I’m glad she came when she did and we got to run those 2 miles together.
Back on my own, I saw the exit ramp and we were back on the streets of Savannah. We passed the 40k mile marker and I had no idea how long that was (there was no way I could have attempted mental math at this point!) I asked some guy next to me if that was mile marker 25 and he said he had no idea but that it was coming up soon if it wasn’t it.
I trudged on still keeping below a 10 minute mile pace. Finally, I saw more and more spectators starting to fill in. I passed mile 25 and made the decision to race the last 1.2 miles.
Spectators were cheering. Coaches were coming to meet their trainee’s to run the last mile with them. Runners became walkers. People were crying. I ran my heart out. I ran as fast as I could.
I was in my zone, focused on the tenths of miles ahead waiting for the finish line to come into view. I thought I was delirious because I heard someone screaming my name, “Go Beth!!” Emily and Will came to mile 25/26 to cheer me on the last bit I had to run. I was so surprised I slowed down almost to a stop to say hi.. but then I remembered I was racing. I told them I’d talk to them later and sprinted off.
I definitely don’t look as graceful as I feel in that picture..
Less than a half mile to go now. And then there was a hill.
Race organizers have a sick sense of humor to put a hill at mile 26. I cursed at it.
Thankfully I had plenty of hills during training, so I tackled it just like the ones I tackled before. I saw mile marker 26 and it was on.
I flipped the switch and if I thought I was sprinting before, I was flying now. Taking seconds off my time, I passed walkers, other runners, and screaming spectators.
I saw a photographer at the finish line and smiled for one of the proudest moments of my life.
I crossed the finish line of my first marathon.
I smashed my time goal of under 4 hours and 30 minutes with a final time of 4 hours 8 minutes 45 seconds. My average pace was 9 minutes 30 seconds per mile, for 26.2 miles.
I am a marathoner.
I saw Dawn waiting for me, just 17 seconds ahead of me. We smiled at each other and then the pain of what we just did started to set in. The adrenaline was wearing off, our blood was re-circulating from our leg muscles back to our other organs. It hurt.
We saw our husbands and they started to walk toward the end of the finisher’s chute to meet us. We saw other family and friends from our spectator group smiling and waving and congratulating us. They said we looked delirious walking around the “secure zone.” I pretty much felt delirious. It hurt, but it felt so good.
I received my medal, hung it around my neck, and started to get teary-eyed. The amount of accomplishment I felt far surpassed any amount of pain I was feeling. I was so happy and proud of myself for pushing through, for setting this goal, for finishing, and being able to walk through that chute.
We snapped our official finisher’s pictures and headed off for much needed food.
They had mini bagels, fruit cups, water, bananas, and Cytomax (like Gatorade). I grabbed the water, Cytomax, banana, and mini bagel then made my way out to meet Brandon. He gave me the best hug ever and congratulated me. He had run the half marathon so I was pretty proud of him myself. What a great day we had!
After that I saw Emily and Will ride up on their bikes. I was again, surprised to see them I almost started to cry all over again. They had flowers for me and we got to catch up a little bit. It was so nice to see them again!
We met up with the rest of our crew and found a nice grassy area in the sun. We talked about our races, ate, drank, and took it all in with a headliner band Rock and Roll put on in the background. It was the perfect ending to a perfect first race.
The best team ever!
Congratulations if you’re still reading this; that takes dedication, too.
After we headed back to the condo and got cleaned up, we went back into downtown for a celebratory dinner complete with champagne..
…then limped our way back to the car.
(I’ll follow up with recovery in another post; I figured that was enough reading for this one!)