Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Longest Run (part 2)

Alternative title: 26.2 thoughts on my first marathon.

I woke up at 4:30 to start the pre-run coffee/breakfast/bathroom routine, and we were out the door by 5:15.  We walked a mile to the start line, I used a porta-potty (no lines!), kissed the husband goodbye, and took my place near the 5:30 pace group to await the start.  I fought the urge to cry for no good reason, really.  It was one of those long anticipated moments, finally arrived - and yet, I still couldn't wrap my head around the reality that I would actually be running 26 miles.  Luckily I didn't have much time to stew before the horn signaled the start of the race.

1.  First mile!  Here we go!  Why do I already feel tired?  I'm not going to turn on my music for a while so I can soak this in.  How funny that I feel like a crazy person for doing this, but here I am, surrounded by more than 2,000 other crazy people!

2. Definitely feeling tired.  Probably the ~4 hours of sleep I got last night.  I need a distraction until the endorphins kick in.  NPR podcasts to the rescue! I catch a glimpse of the leaders after they round the first bend - how do they make it look so effortless?

3. It's kind of eerie, running in the pre-dawn light with the coastal fog rolling in, on streets with no cars. 

4. Time for my first Gu.  Espresso Love, I've been looking forward to you allllll morning.

5. Bacon.  Mile 5 smells like bacon.  Did they really need to have the course run behind so many good-smelling restaurants?

6. Gay For Good is running a water stop, so I take a mini break and say a sincere thank you to the volunteers. I spend the rest of the mile reflecting on how, out of all the various communities I have belonged to throughout my life - Catholic, ex-patriot, student, etc - the only two in which I have ever felt completely comfortable and accepted are the gay community and the running community.  I am so grateful for both.

7.  At this point I start doing funny mental math just to pass the time.  At 6 miles I was 23% done with the race.  7 miles,  26ish%.  Once I get to 8 miles I'll be almost a third of the way through!

8.  HELLO endorphins!  I was wondering when you were going to kick in!   With a runners high in full effect, I spend the mile running along the beach breathing the ocean air deeply and blinking back grateful tears for the beauty of nature and the joy of running (told you I was high).  I take my second Gu and pick up the pace, possibly a bit too fast.

9. Still feeling awesome.  Take a moment to appreciate the spectators along the beach with funny signs, including "run faster, I just farted," and, "hurry up, I have a Bronco game to watch!"

10.  This was a really fun stretch. At the mile market there was a big "30th Anniversary" balloon arch, tables upon tables with all sorts of food and beverages, and amazing loud support from the crowd.  I turned off my podcast and soaked it in for a while.

11. Heading inland now, no more ocean view.  The little beach houses are super cute though. I spend the mile pondering what annual income I would need to afford to life on the California coast.

12. I become very focused on getting to Cal State Long Beach, where I'll cross the 20 mile mark.  26.2 still seems impossibly long and my little brain refuses to accept it, but I know for a fact that I can do 20.  I pop a few Gu chomps.

13.  Half way point!  Why do so many men run practically naked?  I ponder why it would not be socially acceptable for men to wear sports bras, even though some of them have serious jiggling going on and would probably be more comfortable with some support.

14.  Only 12 miles to go... that's less than halfway... no big deal... oh look!  The bay!  Running next to water is so much better.  I turn on my AMR podcasts and listen to funny Ragnar anecdotes for a while.

15. Now we have entered the part of Long Beach that looks like the Inland Empire.  Not pretty, but also, familiar and oddly comforting.  I wave obnoxiously and smile at drivers, who don't look amused that the streets are still closed for the race.

16. Cal State finally comes into view!  As promised, I hear the cheering crowds of students before I even reach the campus.  I take my 3rd Gu, high five some wrestlers, and dole out plenty of "thank you"s to the phenomenal students, who by this point have been standing out there cheering for hours.

17.  Remembering the last time I was on this campus, for a state speech and debate competition in 2002.  I reflect on how far I've come, from that obese high-school kid who lied to get out of PE, didn't know how to commit to or work hard for anything, and whiled away every waking hour on the phone or playing video games.  Get teary again, thinking about humanity and our boundless potential for change.

18. The clouds have finally burned off and now the sun is intense.  I take 3 cups of water at the next stop, and dump two over my head.  It helps.

19.  Hot.  No shade.  We're running around the perimeter of the campus which is less distracting.  I start noticing some pain in my knee and groin, and hope it doesn't get worse.  I take a few more Gu Chomps, earlier than planned.

20.  We're leaving the campus now, and mentally I'm in a bad place.  It's funny, how fast things can shift.  My body doesn't feel different, but my mood is suddenly depressed.  6.2 miles isn't much compared to the 20 I've already run, but it seems practically impossible. I decide to turn off the podcasts and crank up the music.  Eye of the Tiger may or may not have been repeated several times.

21. Seriously contemplate jumping into every police car or ambulance that I pass and asking for a ride back to the hotel.

22.  Feeling better now.  Body hurts, but with only 4 miles left, I am fairly certain that I'm not going to die.  This gives me more confidence, and my spirits lift a little.  I focus on my music and plow ahead.

23.  I've been walking for 30 seconds - 1 minute for every mile since I started, but now when I walk the pain when I start running again is excruciating, so I just keep running.  Most people are walking, so I am passing people left and right.  Confidence is rising.  I suck down my final Gu.

24.  Out of nowhere, I feel a little pep in my step.  I keep repeating "2 miles.  I can do anything for 2 miles."  While earlier in the race I kept thinking about doing a second marathon some day, now I'm not so sure.  I ponder how similar marathons are to childbirth - the pain is good, cleansing, productive, but also so intense that it is slightly traumatizing, and it will be a while before I can think about doing it again.

25.  Almost there!  ALMOST THERE!  I feel like I'm running fast right now, but I know it's a shuffle at best.  Still, I'm passing almost everyone, and have to weave in and out.  The half marathoners are with us (and have been for a while, but I wasn't paying attention).  One old man cruises past me, looks back, and yells, "Vamanos!" so I pick up the pace and pass him.  This makes me smile.

26.  The 26 mile marker sneaks up before I know it.  Right before we get to it another marathoner yells, "there's the turn to the finish!  Right up there!"  I don't believe him.  I am preparing myself for the last .2 to feel like an eternity.  But suddenly...

.2. I'm in the chute, and it's over.  I might have cried if I were less dehydrated. Someone hands me a medal and a bag full of snacks, and I'm guided towards the exit with crowds of other wasted, sweaty runners.

I got to come home to my biggest fan (and my second biggest fan - my Mama!) which made the experience even more magical.

Was it hard?  Absolutely.

Was it worth the months of early wakeups and hot summer training runs?  Without a doubt, yes.

Was I satisfied with my time?  Yes.  I am competitive by nature, and it really is hard for me to be involved in an activity where I know, in no uncertain terms, that I will never come in first.  Or 10th.  Or even 100th.  I am always fighting against my childish inner monologue that says, "If I can't be the best, then why bother?"  Running is humbling, which is one of the reasons I love it so much.  When I'm freed from the need to win, I can look around and appreciate the journey.  My time of 5:23:50 was exactly what I trained for, and I am incredibly proud of myself for running a strategic race, acing my nutrition, staying hydrated, and finishing strong.

Will I do it again?  Most definitely.  I can't promise when, though.  I don't see myself doing more than one per year, and with a young family (that is hopefully not done growing yet) I do not know if I'll be training at this time next year.  But whether it's two or three or 10 years down the road, I guarantee I will see the starting line of another 26.2 one day.

Thanks for indulging me, friends  :)  I promise my next post will be on a different topic!


  1. Congratulations on achieving your goal! I ran a marathon 8 years ago but can't imagine making the time right now with a 20-month old -- I admire your determination and discipline and enjoyed reading all the details of your race.

    1. Thanks Amy! It was a really hectic time in my life to try a marathon, but I'm glad I did it. I have no idea if I'll have a chance to do it again in the next few years, especially when we start thinking about another baby! Thank you for reading :)

  2. Congratulations on the marathon! No matter the time, it's 26.2 miles hard fought.

    I also wonder why men run in so little clothes, and I'm in Indiana - where it's not always hot. And yet, when I'm in capris and long sleeves, I see man nipples. Le sigh.

    P.S. Your little one is beyond cute.

    1. Thanks Kim :) I guess I can forgive the lack of clothes in southern California. Worse is when the temps dip to 60 degrees and you see people out running in jackets, beanies and gloves. It happens! I sweat more just having to look at them!

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog, and HUGE congrats on your first marathon! It's no simple task, that's for sure!