Monday, November 4, 2013

Marathon #2

It’s hard to encapsulate all my thoughts from this marathon.  The most persistent thought is “Praise God, it’s finally over!”  Both the training to prepare for the race and the pain during the race just made me want to be DONE.

It was very difficult to make time get all those long training runs in.  I wasn’t getting up early without a running partner, so if I was doing solo runs (which was often), they were LATE at night.  Heidi and I were both noticing how stressful running was becoming for me trying to schedule these runs around seminary, church, work, wedding planning, travel and us-time.  Running shouldn’t be stressful, it’s where I want to go to unload stress.

This race was so much a team effort.  It feels so cliché to write that when I was the one who physically ran those 26.2 miles, but I couldn’t have mentally or physically done it without my unofficial support team:

·         Heidi and her parents, who came out to cheer me on from two different locations, thereby seeing me four times throughout the race.  Three of those times, I dropped or picked up gear or sustenance.  The change in temperature from standing still at the start line an hour pre-race at 6 a.m. to high heart-rate only an hour-and-a-half later is extreme, so I was glad to have someone to give my gloves to at mile 4, and be able to change my shirt and hat at mile 12.
·         My running group Sunday Runners.  I wouldn’t have upgraded to the full marathon from my plan to just run the half-marathon if not for this new group of friends that motivated me to get up and run almost every Sunday morning 8-12 miles before church.  Shannon, Jennifer, Janet and I were in the marathon group, and there were even more in the half-marathon group.  Laura, who did the half, finished her race and then got on her bike supplied with gu, water and Gatorade, and rode the last few miles in with the three of us (Shannon had to walk earlier than I did and got separated from us).  They kept me going when I was screaming from the pain in my feet, ankles and stomach.
·         My other three non-racing running partners.  Adam, Alicia, and Cole (who is only 9!) each did one or more training runs with me at some point along my training plan.  Sometimes it’s nice to run alone and just go through some solo therapy to unwind stress, or to embrace some music (passing cars must get a kick of my conducting efforts with my arms as I run with some really emotive music).  But other times, it’s really nice to have someone to talk to.
·         My county-wide aid stations for my long late-night training runs: Heidi in Fresno, Phil & Sandy in North Fresno, Larry & Angela in Clovis, Javad & Kimberly in Clovis, Bryan & Cory in Fresno, and Amy in Fresno.
·         My fellow runners and walkers at the race yesterday morning.  It’s exhilarating to run with three thousand other people at the same time.  Especially when I’m privileged to know so many of them!
·         The spectators.  I say it to educate the masses: it sounds crazy, but a stranger standing along the race course ringing a cowbell can bring me to tears.  It HURTS to run this far, and that someone (especially someone I don’t know) would smile, hold a funny sign, shout encouragement, hand me pretzels/gummy bears/oreos, and/or ring a cowbell is the nicest thing in the world anyone could ever do in that moment.  So it doesn’t matter whether you know the person or not, if you’re out there, you don’t stand silently waiting for the ONE person you know, you make some noise.

My goal for this race was to be under 10-minute miles and to run the whole way.  I came in just shy on both goals, but had so much improvement compared to three years ago that I was very content.  Three years ago, I had to run/walk the last five or so miles and finished in 4h:28m:33s.  This year, I made it 24 miles of non-stop running and only had to run/walk the last 2.2.  Finish time was 3 minutes faster at 4h:24m:50s (10m7s-miles).

I broke down sobbing after I crossed the finish line just from the relief of it finally being over.  I didn’t have my phone, but thankfully Jennifer did so I got in a few post-race pictures.  The medals went through a redesign this year, and I really like them.  The sweatshirts were good before but are even better this year.  The food was amazing, but then again, what doesn’t taste good after running a marathon?  I devoured a bowl of ice cream, a plate of breakfast, almost a dozen orange slices, and several fruit cups.  I signed up for a post-race massage.  Usually I don’t wait through the line for them, but it helped so much after the Wascally in September that I decided to try it.  They were pretty organized and the wait wasn’t long.  Eric was my masseur (there were about 20-25 of them) and he didn’t really seem to be able to loosen me up that much, but oh well.  The free beer wasn’t worth the cacophony of noise coming from the band on stage in the finisher’s area.

As I was walking to my car after the race, I started talking to a couple that was leaving at the same time.  Rex and his wife Shelley walked the half for their first time.  Rex is an attorney, and they are Christians.  I found out that they used to live on my street, only a block east of me!  They were a neat couple to get to talk to, albeit briefly.

It’s hard to say what my racing future will look like.  I don’t think I’ll do the Two Cities full again.  I’m glad to have improved, but I don’t feel like this race is conducive to me performing at my best.  In November, I need to do my long training runs as the days are getting shorter and as the weather is getting colder.  Miles 16 through 24 of this race are the hardest for spectators to reach, making them a pretty demoralizing stretch.  And finally, as my wise friend Katie pointed out last year, most of our friends have gone home by the time the marathoners finish, so there aren’t as many people to reunite with when we’re finally done.  So I’ll probably stick with the Clovis route for the half marathon.  But then again, merely doing the Clovis half last year made me jealous of all the full marathoners and motivated me to do the full this year.  I would like to consider an occasional marathon in the future, but I’ll probably travel for it.  After I’ve recovered and forgotten about how tight all my leg muscles are.

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