My first (and last) full marathon was here in Pittsburgh in May of 2010. It's been 3.5 years since I've done this, even though I knew the second I crossed that first finish line that I was hooked. I was never thought to be athletic growing up and I never bothered to challenge that myth until I was grown up and decided on a whim that I'd try to run a marathon. In that training, I realized that everyone had been wrong about my natural athletic ability and could all just go buzz off.
I trained again for the full marathon in 2011, but an injury knocked me back to the half marathon. Since then, seminary has been in the way, but I managed to train for this one over the summer for the most part. I was excited to be able to train again and to have a great friend to train with.
We decided to run Freedom's Run Marathon for a few reasons. First of all, it was the right time of year for me to be able to train for. I needed to do the bulk of my training over my summer break from classes. It's also close to home. It's only 3.5 hours from here (give or take) and is close to my dad's house, so the location was great. It's also got a great historical course through battlefields and beautiful countryside in national parks. My sister ran the half marathon event at Freedom's Run a few years ago and really loved it. It's known for being really beautiful and well organized. I love me a well-organized race.
Unfortunately, the stupid government shut down messed up the original course. Two weeks before the race. Proving how well-organized the race director for FRM is, they had an alternate course super fast. While I was disappointed we wouldn't be running the course we had trained for (several big hills) and would rather be running classic West Virginia rolling hills, I was glad the race was still on because I trained for the race, dammit. There was no way I wasn't running it.
My sister flew out and rode to WV with us, which was fun. The "expo" wasn't much of anything, but Pittsburgh really does up the expo, so I 'm a little spoiled. The tech shirts we got are really nice. And they are made out of recycled stuff. After that, we had dinner with my dads and headed back to our hotel for a "good night's sleep" - as if that can ever really happen on a race night.
Bright and early we got up and gathered our carefully laid out gear. We wanted to make sure we got to the start line bright and early to have time to find the start, use the porta-potties, find our corral/pacing group, etc. We got there an hour early. It was overkill. There were 350 marathon runners, so. . . yeah. No potty lines, no corrals, etc. In fact, we weren't even sure at first we'd found the start line.
Then my iPod decided not to work. I almost threw it in the river. But I didn't because I didn't want to expend extra energy.
The race was an out and back with a T-shape at the top. The half-marathoners ran it once and the full marathoners ran it twice. At one edge of the T was a United Methodist church that made me think of a friend from school which was really nice. I'm not sure why that church stood out so much to me except for maybe that I notice the denominations of churches I pass and the UMs have been trying to get me to jump ship and join up with them. But I digress.
As we ran back down the neck of the "T" to the halfway point, we passed my sister who was running the half-marathon and was headed up the T. It was exciting and we all yelled hi at each other and tried to look like we were still running really fast because you don't want to look haggard and draggy when you're crossing paths with someone who will remember how you looked at mile 9. It was really fun when the elite full marathoners started going back past us the other way because not only did we get to cheer them on (in most races, I never even see them at the start line, let alone on the course), but they cheered US on! Hearing one of the super fast guys with no body fat yelling, "Great job, ladies! Looking strong!" is really cool.
The 10K runners joined up with us with about 3 miles left to our turnaround (they did only part of the out and back). Most of them were really encouraging to the marathoners. A few were super rude, though. When we got to the 10K turnaround, the elite 10K runners were clearly already well in front of us. While the ones who were left were probably making runs for a personal best, they were solidly middle of the pack. And there were a few who were awful to the marathoners who had to slow down to get up the hills (because we knew we'd have to get back up them yet again.) One woman actually yelled angrily at us to shove off to the side if we were going to be so slow, despite the fact that there was more than enough room on the road to get around everyone. I wanted to trip her, but much like the idea of throwing the iPod in the river, I didn't want to expend the extra energy.
The second time out along the neck of the T was a little less fun than the first. We started to realize how much harder rolling hills are than a course with a few big hills. We'd trained for a few big hills. Many rolling hills is way more exhausting. We also started to fall farther and farther behind our target pace.
Then a local redneck drove past heckling the runners and screaming about how "people who live here have to use this road, you know!" They had cones in the roads and signs to watch for runners, but the road was still open to local traffic. This guy didn't like that arrangement. I think he called us "weirdos from the city" or something like that. I would have thrown a rock at the car, but you know. . . the extra energy thing.
When we passed my sister going back along her homestretch I called out to her to meet me at the finish line with a burger and a pint of Guinness. That I was willing to expend the energy on. The guy right behind her laughed and yelled that he liked my style. I felt clever for managing to still be funny that far into a marathon.
Somewhere along the second out of the out and back, I tried my iPod again since I hadn't thrown it in the river and I really wanted music. I guess I thought that it would magically work again because there comes a point in a long run when your brain doesn't process information the same was as it normally does. You do things like turn on a clearly broken iPod thinking that it'll work just because you turned it off for a while before and didn't throw it in the river. Surprisingly, it actually did turn on this second time. I have no idea what the deal was earlier in the race, but I was really glad to have my 135 BPM mix going later in the race.
I'm sorry non-runners. I realize that by this point in this post, you really don't much care anymore. Unless you're my mom. My mom is tearing up right now and laughing because I'm clearly hilarious and she's thinking about how super wonderful I am and what a great job she did raising me. She did do a fine job, for the record. If you haven't met me in real life, you should know this about me: I'm very cool. My mom agrees.
So iPod magically working again. . . more running. . . then we hit the infamous Mile 19.
I had warned my running buddy that if anywhere she was going to break down in tears, it would be at Mile 19. She did.
Then it started to rain. Alot. It wasn't super cold out, but the rain was cold enough to be very unpleasant. I have the blisters to show for how unpleasant that rain was.
My left IT band was bothering me from about mile 3 onward and it started to get super bad by about 24. But I kept going because we were way behind pace and there was no way I was coming in over 5 hours. My first marathon was 5:13:29 and I was going to come across the finish line with a 4 in the front this time. I told my running partner to stop sobbing and run faster. I was probably nicer than that because it takes too much extra energy to be nasty and it was probably me who was really sobbing anyway, but that was the gist. I also told my stupid knee to stop it because I didn't care how much it didn't want to keep running. The rest of me was having fun and was going to finish the stupid race with a 4 in front of the time because we just got passed by a pregnant woman and I wasn't about to let the big guy in the kilt pass me too. Although, major kudos to him for finishing the race in a kilt. I think there should be a special medal for that.
When we turned into the football stadium, we heard our names over the speakers! Another charming thing about running such a small marathon is that they were able to call out every runner at the finish! Not only was it awesome to hear my name called over the speakers as I finished, but that meant our posse of folks (including my sister who had long since finished her half) knew we were coming in plenty of time to start cheering like maniacs and taking pictures. My dad caught a picture at the EXACT time that turned out to be our official finish. (4:53:18)
I have to say, that even in the pain that I was in from the knee, I'm glad I did it. There is absolutely no feeling in the world like crossing the finish line of a marathon. It's even cooler when you do it 20 minutes faster than the last one. I was nearly in tears from pain (which is saying alot for me) when we pulled into the stadium, but I burst into laughter and tears of joy when I saw that time on the clock!
After my partner in crime was done dry-heaving in the trash can, we decided we're definitely doing that again.
The walk back to the car was exhausting. As you can see, I was in great pain from that stupid left knee and not feeling as chipper as my buddy who just ran her first marathon. This is the best smile I could muster at the moment. Those teeth are gritted.
After laying on the hotel floor, whining, foam rolling things, showering, icing, whining more, and watching a movie from our beds, we had another great dinner with my dads, our weekend chauffeur (we were clever enough to know we weren't going to be up for driving home today, so we brought a non-runner with us), and my sister. Then we sat in my dads' hot tub and whined some more before heading back to the hotel to pass out from total exhaustion.
Things I've learned running my second marathon:
- I really do love this and I'm totally doing it again. Probably even this very race because I'd really like to run the original course through all the historical sites.
- The folks in charge of the Freedom's Run Marathon are really organized, super nice, and just generally wonderful. I LOVED this race. I've only run two full marathons, but I've run a bunch of halves, 10Ks, and 5Ks and this is by far one of the best organized I've been to. Simply wonderful. It's not their fault a few of the runners and one of the locals were a bit rude and it's certainly not their fault that the people in charge of this country are a bunch megalomaniacs.
- You can't control the weather, so just embrace the rain and don't think about the blisters you're going to find when you peel your shoes and socks off.
- Nutrition makes a big difference.
- Cross-training makes a big difference.
- Having a real training plan makes a big difference.
- I need a new iPod.
- It's more fun the second time.
- This is the best kind of bling available.
- Take a friend along for the ride. It's great for your motivation and for your friendship.
- Rolling hills will kick your ass faster than big hills.
- I'm totally going to BQ someday. It might be when I'm 70, but it's going to happen. Yes. I'll still be doing this when I'm 70. Go ahead. Tell me I won't. It'll just encourage me to prove you wrong.
- I don't care how many people think this is nuts. It is completely and totally worth it. It feels great (except the knee, but that'll heal). It's not just physically healthy, but it is emotionally and mentally healthy too. I will never ever in my entire life regret being able to say that I have run marathons. Not just a marathon, but multiple marathons. That's something noone can ever take away from me. I've heard a million times, "I only run if something's chasing me." Well, folks. . . a family medical history of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes is chasing me and I plan on outrunning it. I'm setting a good example for my kids. They think it's totally normal to make exercise a healthy eating priorities and they are seeing their mother take herself seriously and accomplish something that until very recent (within this century at all and within my lifetime as a regular thing) history women were told was physically impossible for most women. My daughters and sons need strong women in their lives and that starts with their mother. Their mother the twice over marathoner.