The full 26.2 is finally under my belt.
I wanted this race to be a celebration. Oh, I knew it was going to hurt (and it did) but I wanted to tackle it with joy and revel in the fact that I can run 26.2 miles. No time goal – I was just hoping to not give up on myself, to run my plan and finish with a smile.
I stood in the start corral all by myself (surrounded by a few thousand other runners). I turned on one of my favorite podcasts. I tuned out the distractions around me. I remembered my key scripture quotes. I prayed for a strong race and a strong finish.
I honestly don’t remember much about miles 1-9. I felt great. This part of the course is fun. I was cold (below freezing at the start with a brisk wind out of the north) but I had no real complaints. I saw my family (my husband, son & oldest daughter) for the first time in the 10th mile. My oldest brought her best friend from here and her best friend from Indy joined her too – they were an awesome cheer squad. They ran alongside me until I got to my 10 mile “snack break” and they walked with me for that. I saw them again just before the halfway mark. I was still all smiles and loved having them there. I was also happy to be turning out of the wind at the halfway mark. (I wished more than once that I kept my gloves with me – my fingers were painfully cold. Brrr!)
The support in miles 10-17 was fantastic. HUGE shoutout to the Meridian/Kessler, Broad Ripple & Butler/Tarkington neighborhoods! They were out with music playing. Handing out Halloween candy, sliced oranges, bananas, tissues. At mile 12 there was a table with two guys pouring beer into shot glasses and banging a gong whenever someone took a beer. At mile 15 I stopped to stretch when I saw my family again. I was starting to hurt in a few places, but nothing I wasn’t prepared for. Somewhere between miles 16 & 17 was a party in the street, people dancing, giving high fives and pats on the back – hysterical. Really – this part of the course was so very fun.
And then the course was so NOT fun. Mile 17 was on the campus of Butler University and there were students out walking along oblivious that a marathon was running past them. And then miles 18-23 were dead. Yes, the Indianapolis Museum of Art is in the 19th mile and it was truly beautiful but only for about 1/2 of a mile. After that there was nothing… no people… no distractions… nothing but the increasing pain in my legs and the voices in my head.
Did I hit the infamous wall in this stretch? I don’t know. There was never a point where I wanted to stop. There was however a long stretch of nagging doubts. “You aren’t good enough to run a marathon. Who do you think you’re kidding?” My family drove past at mile 18 and saw that I was struggling. I don’t know my husband’s plan prior to that drive-by but after it he managed to see me every two miles. I just kept focusing on that. “Just get through two more miles and you’ll get a boost. Just two more miles.” That’s what I said to myself over & over in mile 19, 20 (got to see them!), 21, 22 (got to see them!). I started to feel better knowing I could count the remaining miles on one hand. I think my daughter is the one who said to me – “4 miles, mom! You do that all the time, you’ve got this.”
I went into the race with a run/walk plan of 6/1 and was determined to stick to it. However, I blew off two run intervals and walked at different points in this 5 mile stretch. That was the only time I did so the entire race. Of course, when I was walking people were passing me which only added to my mental struggles. It didn’t help that this was the only stretch of the course I didn’t know. We used to live in Indy and I was very familiar with the course – except this section. I told my husband it was bothering me so he started giving me course previews when I saw him. That was a huge help. I got some texts from friends and I read them on my walk breaks. Those helped a lot. It sounds silly but I also started talking to myself (don’t worry, not out loud) and telling my feet, calves, knees, quads that they were strong enough. That I was not going to walk the rest of the way because I didn’t need to. I focused hard on my mantra:
Be truly glad there is wonderful joy ahead. 1 Peter 1:6
I didn’t blow off another run interval after that. Just past mile 23 you turn back onto Meridian for the final stretch. You can see the Soldiers & Sailors Monument straight ahead and you know that you’re not far from the finish. My mood lightened tremendously. When I saw my family again at mile 24 I think my husband was surprised to see me smiling and happy again. I knew I had it at this point. I was determined to finish strong.
Just as I crossed the mile 25 marker I took an unscheduled walk break because I really wanted to run the last mile without stopping. When I got to the one mile left sign I started running and smiling. I saw my family, now joined by my brother & his friend who both ran the half, I yelled “I think I’ve got this in the bag!” They laughed. I ran past the Carmel Marathon tent and those people who patted me as I went by and said the most encouraging words lifted me even higher. I turned the corner and saw the start of the finishing chute. I laughed out loud. I passed people. I turned into the finishing chute and my cheeks hurt from smiling. I laughed again and some people at the corner laughed and screamed for me. I passed another runner and ran across the finish line with the goofiest grin ever.
My family was waiting right at the finish and I yelled “I DID IT!!! ME!!! I RAN A MARATHON!!!” There were hugs and smiles and pictures. It was awesome. You better believe I crossed that finish line with joy.
Postscript: Here’s a funny observation: You know what it took to really come to terms with my first marathon? Running a second. It was during this marathon that I realized, even stopped short at mile 24, my first marathon was indeed a marathon. Two marathon medals are now on my shelf. The kid who used to sit under a tree at recess and read a book — she has now run TWO MARATHONS. Damn. I can hardly believe it myself.