City: Raleigh, NC Date: 04/13/2014
Distance: Marathon (26.2 miles)
Weather: Upper 50s/Lower 60s at start, sunny, upper 70s at the end
Course: Very effing hilly. Period.
Summary: My first full marathon, a tragic ending for two families…
Let me first answer the question: why. Why did I finally decide to do a full marathon? The simple answer: it was time.
I belong to a great running family. I met them all as we embarked on running our first (or second) half marathons. We were all noobs. We were learning together. That was five years ago, and the family has grown quite a bit since then with all levels represented. Most of the originals have long ago graduated to the full distance and even ultras, while I comfortably stayed in my half marathon space, knocking out states in my 50 stater goal (as of today, I have completed 16 half marathons in 13 states and I’m very proud of that). My runner family all encouraged me to join them with the longer distance, to which I would reply “only if I ever get fast enough to approach a BQ time. Then, I’ll do one”. Well, I did get faster – and older – so my BQ time after I hit the masters group became a much more attainable goal. I was within seconds of the average time I needed for a BQ at the Half Marathon distance and, with a year to train, I was confident I could shave those seconds off, even with adding distance, if I was disciplined about it. I knew I could be disciplined, especially if I held myself accountable publicly, so I accepted the challenge, finally, and added a dimension to this blog to document my training for it.
I was wary of the Rock and Roll events. I had done only 3 when I registered for this race – two were great experiences (Virginia Beach and New Orleans) and one was absolutely horrible (Las Vegas). I had sworn off Competitor events after Las Vegas because of the experience – and the cost of the entry (and travel). Everything was so crowded and expensive and, to me, the smaller races were so much more enjoyable. But… I was delighted my home town was selected as one of the race venues and I was happy to show it off, so when I heard the news, I considered registering for the half. My only hesitation was the date: mid-April. It is a coin toss for the weather here that time of year. We usually have some milder days (upper 60s) with one random mid-80s day thrown in, just for fun. Sometimes there are violent storms, which are usually a welcome relief from all the pollen that stains our cars, houses, clothes and, well, everything. After talking to a friend of mine who offered to fly out to do the Full with me (from CA no less), I reconsidered my position and registered for the full. I registered for this race a full year in advance – a little over that, actually. They had a one day registration opportunity – you could register for the full for about $60 (normally about twice that) on this one day. So… I did it. I immediately had a pang of “oooh… what the hell did I do???” and was overwhelmed by buyers remorse. What if I was being cocky about my ability?? What if I was overshooting a bit?? Either way, I was praying for one of the cooler days – a little bit of stormless rain the night before to wash away the pollen would be pretty cool.
Now, I had to put my money where my mouth is. I thought the bridge to success was built on a training plan, and, since my BQ time is 3:45, that was the magic number for me and I was laser focused on it. I had not followed a training plan in 4 years – since my first half marathon. I had always thought I didn’t need one – I knew what to do. I was a little over confident about things, but I was improving and my mileage was increasing, so I must have been doing something right. But… at this point, I was at least experienced enough to know where my deficits are and I wasn’t entirely sure how to overcome them to get what I needed for 26 miles. The farthest I had run prior to signing up for this full was 14 miles, and I had only done that about 3 times. I knew that I tended to have cycles of over training followed by cycles of under training, and that would be a recipe for a disappointment, and possibly injury, so I knew I had to follow a training plan written by someone who has done a full or two and knows what they are talking about. I chose one from RunKeeper written by Jeff Gaudette. The 3:45 plan seemed reasonable: 4 runs a week, maximum mileage at just under 50 miles 4 weeks out. The speed targets were a tad faster than I could run at the time, but, I decided that, since I had the time, I would follow the plan a little early to ramp up my mileage and get comfortable with longer runs and higher mileage weeks, and get as close to the pace targets as I could, but not worry too much about them. Then, take a few weeks off, and follow it again 16 weeks out from the Marathon date focusing more on actually hitting the target times. Although I didn’t always hit my target paces, I only missed a couple of runs and I followed both training plans through the end. In my mind, it was a nine months well spent, and I’ve learned a lot, not just about running, but about myself and my body. All positive things. Overall, a great experience for me.
I worked really hard. I was disciplined – more so than I’ve ever been in running – and I thought I was before. I changed my eating habits. I started tracking my sleep. I added more strength (though, in retrospect, probably not enough). I ran on only the days I was told to run on my plan. I took rest days I was told to take on my plan. There was no cross-training. No swimming. No spin. No Zumba classes (though, I’ve never taken zumba… just throwing that in there). I didn’t push my mileage – I mostly kept it close to the plan, so, over all, my actual mileage should be very close to plan. I was lucky enough to have been able to train like this with little injury and illness (one toe incident when adding a new shoe coupled with a nasty chest cold). The habit was much easier to establish than I thought it was going to be – maybe because I expected it to be so. I documented all my training so I could learn from it and, because I have a habit of forgetting, pat myself on the back occasionally when I have actually done something well, which is not easy for most people to do. I met new people and trained with them. I learned a lot about people I’ve known for a long, long time and made even deeper connections with them. I have to say this marathon training has changed my life in a lot of ways and made me more humble and grateful for my friends and family. An odd way of looking at it, considering that I’m the one doing the marathon and the training, but without their support and their encouragement, I don’t think I would have been as successful in the training and the outcome of this race.
To all of them: thank you. From the bottom of my heart – and beyond. I couldn’t have done this without all of you – new friends, old friends, and family alike. I have more thoughts about this on Week 16‘s training post.
All the training led up to the weeks before the race. I was hitting my targets. I was having great training runs. I was able to get my head in the right place (most days) even when my body was not really into it. I managed to feel very good and confident about my training and my ability to come close to 3:45. Until 10 days out, that is. The first time I saw the 10 day forecast for the day of the race, it was cloudy with a high of 57. WWWWOOOOO HOOOOO! Somebody’s smiling down on me! The next day – 9 days out from the race? 65 and partly cloudy. What? What happened? Ok, that’s ok. Still cool, so we’ll be OK. 8 days out? 68 and partly sunny. It’s ok. A lot can change in a week… 5 days out? 72 and mostly sunny. (sigh). 3 days out? 75 and fully sunny. 1 day out: 78 and fully sunny. Ok. So I had some adjustments to make. I knew that I don’t do well over 65. Just an experience thing. I also knew that hydration is a big time problem for me, and I did NOT want to mess that up over 26 miles. Messing it up at 13 was bad enough, and I didn’t want to be swept, or worse, so I had to make sure I got that part right. Most of all – I had to reset my own expectations. Was I disappointed? of course. I really wanted to attempt a BQ. I worked hard for that. But, what can I do? I have zero control over the weather and, well, there *are* other races. Races in the fall when the weather is more consistently cool. I can always try again then. So, I swallowed that giant piece of humble pie and broadcast to the world: I ain’t gonna BQ this time. Sorry folks. I’ll just do the best I can, and try another time for the brass ring.
When I announced I was doing the Rock and Roll Raleigh, I put out a “who’s in?” beacon in the running family group, and three signed up! One planned to do the half, the other two planned to do the full with me to support me. Over the course of the year, we talked about our training and made plans for the race weekend. When it finally arrived, I was giddy. I was so excited to have friends in to town for the race (much like I was just a month before when another one of my run family members joined us for the Tobacco Road marathon). I knew a lot of local folks doing the race, too, so it was exciting to see how their training was going. It all led up to the weekend of the race. This was my first experience with a high mileage taper and, well, I didn’t care for it. I liked the higher mileage of the marathon training plans, so less than 10 miles in a week did not sit well with me. But… it did give me time to actually do some cleaning and preparation around the house finally. The first two of the three friends coming to town for the race arrived on Friday. I took them around Raleigh – introduced them to some of the folks I added to the running family group, had lunch, and then drove the course with them. One of them was staying with her brother, so we dropped her off at the rental car, picked my kids up from school and had some family time at my sister’s house. The next day, we met the other runners and went to the expo. I was worried about the sun, so one of my friends suggested buying a visor. I never, ever wear hats of any kind, but she had a good point, so I bought one, something I rarely do. We got our bibs, had lunch, and then 3 of us went for a short spin on the ATT for 2 miles. At that point, one of my friends said “Bad Ass Mother Runner” – I giggled and thought of Samuel L. Jackson – until she pointed out “that’s what it says on your visor!” haha. That’s awesome…. I didn’t even notice that. All I noticed was that it was 20 bucks and *kind* of went with my outfit.
Then, we met the other for an early pasta dinner, and went back to my house to prepare for the race.
Like the Tobacco Road race, the parking was supposed to be… interesting. They were selling pre-paid parking passes at the expo, and didn’t say they were going to do that until the day we *went* to the expo. So… we bought a few so we could make sure all who were driving had one. The parking passes specifically state in bold lettering, about 48 point font: “get yo ass in the parking deck by 6 am”. Might as well have said that… maybe that’s how my brain interpreted it because I still had Samuel L. Jackson on the brain – haha. Because of the 6 AM directive, though, we decided it would be best to leave as early as possible to get there in time. We agreed to 4:45 am. We were all up and ready to go by 4:30!! We were down in my kitchen nibbling on stuff, sipping coffee and water, and being OCD about packing our stuff. It was good to know I was in good company here – made me feel better to know I wasn’t alone in all this double, triple and quadruple checking. After being satisfied that we checked enough, we piled into the car and headed to the parking deck.
We arrived just before 5:30 am, and managed to secure a spot next to the elevator…. just in case. We met up with our other running friend and set off to find the port-a-potties and empty some bladders. I ran into a couple of friends in the port-a-potty line (one of them a long, dear friend from college running his first half marathon!!) We walked around a bit after the potty break, only to have another potty break shortly after – and having to stand in a loooooonnnnnnggggggg line. Like a block long. I would have expected there to be more port-a-potties there – in fact, I probably would have suggested they line both sides of the block with them to alleviate this kind of waiting. We waited in line for over 20 minutes! After we were done with the last potty visit, it was time to line up. We said good luck to our friend in the corral behind us, and three of us lined up in my corral… so we thought. Unlike Savannah, Virginia Beach and New Orleans, I didn’t see an entry point into the corral (we had to climb through and over the fence), nor was there a divider for them (in the other cities, they actually had volunteers holding strings or something similar at the dividing point of each corral) so I think we actually ended up starting in Corral 7, which is fine. It is chip timed so, it really doesn’t matter. As soon as we lined up, though, I got a news alert: because of a traffic jam on South Saunders, the race start is delayed 10 minutes. Really? Did these folks not see the “get yo ass in the parking deck by 6 am” sign? (sigh). So, we waited an extra 10 minutes… and don’t think it didn’t run through my mind (see what I did there?) where exactly I would have been on the route had we started on time (I would have been making my way down North street, almost to Blount, I think). My sister later told me that a lot of the people who bought parking passes were being turned away and that they oversold them. ooohhh… not cool… not cool at all.
At 7:10, they started the race with the first wave. Like in Vegas, though, it seemed like the waves were much closer than 2 minutes apart. Since I was in wave 7, technically (though I should have been in 6), we should have started around 7:24 – I think we started closer to around 7:15 or so. I guess they shortened the waves due to the later start? I didn’t care, but it was a little crowded at the beginning. We said good luck to my friend running the half and the other full and I were on our way. She said it was her duty – and goal – to keep me slower at the beginning so I didn’t burn it out too quickly. I really appreciated that because that is a particular problem for me. She was good about telling me when we were over or under pace and I gave her advance notice about hills so she could prepare for them. Because I was running with someone, I decided not to listen to music at all – I wanted to enjoy the rock and roll part of the race. I turned it on in case I thought I needed it in the latter half of the race, but ended up not using it at all. The first band we encountered was the Shaw University Marching Band on Blount street – and they were awesome! There are a couple of pedestrian bridges crossing Blount street to either side of the campus, and they were staged on the first of the two. Ironically, I had just told my friends the day before – as we were driving the route – I loved running under these bridges. I had no reason for liking it – just did. They were doing a very brass-heavy version of an Eminem song, which I LOVED. I wish I could find that recorded somewhere. Now I have that association with those bridges and will love running under them even more now.
After this point, we turn up MLK and go through Chavis area and I some how lost my coach. She was being pretty quiet and I’d look back every now and then to see where she was and she was a little farther behind me each time. I turned around to ask her how she was doing and if she was OK on pace and I didn’t see her. I had lost her. I felt horrible because I was supposed to keep her fast and she was supposed to keep me slow. She later told me she just let me go, so I was OK with it later, but I did think about it most of the race. Around mile 3 or so, I finally saw the first water stop and, because I knew how it was for me with hydration, I decided to stop and take a cup of Gatorade and a cup of water, to wet the whistle so to speak. I was starting to feel a little bit of thirst, but I still hadn’t become too sweaty yet, so I was doing ok. The main thing that concerned me, though, was that this was only the first water stop. I was surprised there wasn’t one before this point. I decided that I was going to stop at ALL water stops and take at least one of each so I could conserve the water I had on me between stops. Then, I started thinking “I don’t want to make a rookie mistake…” which reminded me of a cartoon I had seen of the scene in Episode IV of Star Wars when the Storm Troopers stop Luke and Obi and Obi – using The Force – reminds them “these are *not* the droids you are looking for.” In the cartoon, Chewy is in the glider and says “here they are – right here” and the caption says “Wookie mistake”. I pretty much entertained myself the entire race saying “don’t make a wookie mistake! tee hee hee”. Lordy.
After the Chavis area was Oakwood – one of the prettier spots on the route. I was chugging along on Oakwood – actually taking in the sights with very little on my mind other than “just run by feel and right now, things feel good”. We rounded the corner to go up Glascock and, because of the training runs I’ve done up to this point, I knew it was time to get out my gel so I could get ready to take it at the top of Mount Glascock. I waited until I saw the sign for 6 miles, and then I took it, sipped the water I brought with me, and powered up Mount Peace through to Cameron Village. I could tell this hill – which was looooonnnnngggg was getting to people. Not that we didn’t have some hearty hills before – we did – MLK, Chavis, Bloodworth, Glascock, and now Peace. But, the others before Peace were all pretty short in comparison to Peace/Clark (the road changes names). This one lasted over a mile and it was wearing people out. I did try to slow my pace a bit and be a little more conservative, but the gel was starting to kick in and I felt better so I was able to power up the hill. I admit, though, that Pogue Street and the Rose Garden were a welcome sight – not only because I knew we were getting some flatter ground to recover a bit, but also because we were splitting off soon from the half marathon folks.
We rounded the Rose Garden and I looked back there to see the amphitheater – it brought back so many memories of my childhood running around in that park and jumping from “seat” to “seat” in the amphitheater. It was shaded and cool and probably my favorite part of the race route looking back on it now. Once we made it to the Gardner Street side, I started seeing signs of the split ahead – everything was clearly marked and there was a woman at the split with a bull horn directing the Fulls to follow to the right, the Halfs to follow to the left. I got to the right side of traffic and I made my right turn.
The reduction of people in my lane was pretty dramatic, though. I was surprised. I knew that half marathon events in any race that has both a full and a half are much larger participation, but I don’t think I expected the difference to be this big. It had thinned to about 1/4 of the folks. It was nice and comfortable, in terms of personal space, but the sun was out and I could feel it getting hotter. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily hot, but I was feeling the warmth of the sun at this point. The Hillsborough to Blue Ridge portion was mostly passing my alma mater: NCSU. I’d think about all the classes I had in Nelson hall; all the margaritas I drank at the establishment next to Nelson, which was a Mexican place, but now is something else; the giant hole in the ground making way for new construction where the establishment I had my first legal beer in once stood. The place I used to go to shop for used vinyl – that has had several names over the years, but in the same place with the same kind of vibe. The coffee shop I used to go to that was the Hipster place to go – I just thought their coffee was good. The East Village bar and grill where I used to go out every night the summer after I turned 21. The end of the Reedy Creek greenway which is a turn around spot for me – and a block from my favorite running store Fleet Feet. So many memories and a great way to see the town I grew up in… went to school in… work in… raise my own kids in… it was a good nostalgic portion of the race for me. Although I was deep in thought, I wasn’t totally swept away in it – this section had good crowd support and was mostly flat (which is a good thing, considering the hills behind me and what I knew lay ahead of me).
This was also the point where the second memorable band was – the band covering “Psycho Killer” by The Talking Heads. This guy behind me just starts belting out the words before we could even hear them and I guess that got him in a great mood because he started weaving in and out of people… that was somewhat infectious because I started singing it, too, and after passing it, thought “I really need to go back and get some Talking Heads back catalog…” adding that to my to do list. Because of the buildings, there was a weird reverb/echo going on so it just made it sound weird. I spent a lot of time thinking about that and how to separate the sound of the band from the sound of the DJ and announcer ahead of them. Somewhere between the band and Blue Ridge, there was an announcer calling out race bib numbers and providing cheer leading. She was pretty good and picking people out and providing inspirational commentary, so it was a decent distraction from the sun and how hot I was starting to get. I was not called out, but after I passed, I heard “and… here comes the 4:00 pace group – I can see the sign from here!” and she started cheering for them. what? I’m ahead of the 4:00 pace group??! WTF?? It was the first time all race I had any sense of how I was doing and I was pretty excited – and a little scared of it… was I going too fast? Was I going to break down? I decided now wasn’t the time to worry about it – just keep on keepin’ on.
Just before we got to Blue Ridge, we pass the NCSU Vet school and you can look out over the pasture – and actually see the rolling hills. It is pretty, but a reminder to me of what is ahead. We turned the corner to go up Blue Ridge for the first time in the race, got a little nervous. Probably because I knew what was back there, or maybe because I knew the first half, or the “leisurely” , part of the run was over and the real work was still ahead of me. We turn down Trinity and my first thought was “oh, good, a down hill” followed promptly with “oh, shit. I have to come back up this thing at mile 19…” I decided that I shouldn’t worry about it too much, and just deal with it when I need to deal with it… and enjoy the down. We got to the Carter Finley Stadium entrance, and, like I said I would, I howled and threw the Wolf (like any good Wolfpack fan would) as I passed Carter-Finley. We went around the PNC Arena (home to the Carolina Hurricanes) and as we were leaving that was my half way point. I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt at this point – and a little scared of the second half because I knew – from experience – how quickly this can unravel.
We left the arena complex and headed up Edward’s Mill Road. There was a pretty hearty breeze coming up the road, and I was very grateful for it, especially because I admitted the day before that I had a problem with this part of the route. the breeze made this part of the route a little more tolerable. This hill got to me in past training runs. Not so much that it was steep or long – but it just flat out sucked. I hated it with every fiber of my being, especially the climb up it in the direction I was now going. There was a DJ about 1/2 way through, though, and him being there helped a lot. He was playing Michael Jackson on the way up, and though I’m not a big (or at all) a Michael Jackson fan, I appreciated the music. I was grateful to see the Reedy Creek Road light – I was almost to my “way backin’ it” point (I had told the story of the guy in Vegas who kept shouting that after we made the turn back toward Las Vegas Blvd. in the Rock and Roll Las Vegas… almost to the point of being annoying about it). I turned the corner and just enjoyed the view of the horse farm beside me. I love this little area back here. I thought about the run I did with the guys from my gym run group and looked up – hey! There is one of them! He was way backing it and I was heading up – I turned toward him and said “Good morning!” (kind of an inside joke from the group). I saw him do a double take to me, but he said nothing and kept going. I refocused on what I was doing and started to notice the runners on the other side – they were starting to look rough. There were some walking…. some pushing it, but looking like they were struggling… one even sitting and getting assistance from another runner. My heart ached for her and I tried not to let that shake me too much.
I got to the turn around point and started to remember that guy shouting “we are way backin’ it!” over and over in my head, and it started to annoy me a little. About half way back up the hill (this was a long, steep one), I noticed the 4:00 pace group, led by a blonde woman with a loud, booming voice, that sounded like she was giving her fitness CV: “I’ve been in training a long time… I’ve taught aerobics classes for 31 years, I coached this for 25 years… I did that for 20 years…” I could hear her from quite a distance, so I focused on what she was saying and eavesdropped to see if I could glean any advice from her. I didn’t hear any at this time, but it wouldn’t be the only time I saw her. As I passed Scheneck Forest, I thought of the runner who told me he got lost in there and it made me smile. Note to self: don’t run in there. While on this part of the trip, I started looking for my coach and running buddy for the first four miles and I never saw her.
I finally got to the top of the hill at Reedy Creek and was trying not to flip out. See… my last long run, I had the mental break down at mile 18.5 and I was approaching mile 18 now. Mile 18 was a milestone for me because I knew I also had to take another gel (I decided I was going to do it every 6 miles, before I felt like I needed it, so 18 was my 3rd), but also my mental barrier. I tried to make it so I was OK with some walking after this point. I hit the 18 mile marker at the bottom of Edward’s Mill (since I was going down it this time) and turned the corner to Trinity and… Lordy… looking up that hill made me want to puke at this point. Physically, I felt good, but I just all of the sudden felt burned out. I started up it and my left foot started hurting. I wanted to stop but I said to myself “you can walk at the next water stop – don’t make a wookie mistake – tee hee hee… I’m such a nerd…” by the time all this nonsense got through my brain, I was at a water stop, so I stopped and took 2 waters, 2 Gatorades, and 2 more waters. As I had done in previous water stops (and all the ones after), I drank 2 of the waters and splashed myself with the other two, and then had 2 of the gatorades, then I started back on my run. I got to the top of Trinity – and was delighted about it, until I realized the breeze I had enjoyed most of the trip down Trinity and Edward’s Mill were now gone (ah… the benefit of some hills… right?).
I returned to Hillsborough to the weird echo from the DJ, the band and the announcer and that was literally all I could think about. My brain was scrambling to parse out the sounds and make sense of them but was failing and it was starting to drive me a little crazy… and my left hip was starting to hurt… as was my foot… so I stopped and walked several times during Mile 20. I don’t remember each time, I just remember being annoyed about it and saying the F word about a dozen times as I slowed, while I was walking and again when I started back up – which was mighty painful. Shortly before I hit the 19 mile marker, I was really starting to get down about the walking thing. I had traded leads with the 4:00 pace group a number of times and I was starting to feel the miles under my feet. As I was huffing an puffing down Hillsborough, the crowd started calling me out and cheering for me a lot more – “you’ve got this! You go girl!” I smiled, gave a thumbs up, and thanked all of them individually – it meant a lot to me that they took the time to be there and cheer me on. Then… I saw it. Like a freakin’ oasis or something: the 19 mile marker. I’m not exactly sure why, but I was pretty damn happy to see it. I kept chugging along, trying desperately to keep the 4:00 pace group behind me. I could hear the pacer talking, so I knew they weren’t that far away.
As nice as it was to see the 19 mile marker, I was actually annoyed to see 20. I’m not sure why – maybe because I had a mental block about the whole “10k” thing – as soon as I thought that, though, a guy called out “You only have 10k left”. gah. I said that once and now it annoyed me because I was thinking “yeah… but that’s still like an hour of running… so… not really helping…but thanks”. I know he meant well by the comment, but I was annoyed by it anyway. I thought about my friend and how she was doing and hoping she was closer to me than farther away – hoping my friends that did the half did ok, and thinking about how very hot I was getting… and thinking to myself that I now – officially – had less than a 10k left. So there.
I lost track of the mileage signs, but somewhere along the way, I managed to get to the point where I was in sight of the NCSU Bell Tower, which meant I was almost at Pullen Road: the end. I was beside myself happy when I saw Pullen Road. I have never been so damn happy to see Pullen road, and I used to live on it when I was at NCSU (Welch dorm). Maybe because I was officially now at a mileage PR – I think. It was somewhere around here where the 4:00 pace group passed me for the last time. I turned down Pullen and I could tell I was starting to speed up – I was excited. I was now officially in “farthest distance ever” territory and I just wanted to be finished. I was having a really, really hard time keeping that pace, though, and once I got to Western, I stopped and walked. I forced myself to run, then I stopped and walked. I forced myself to run, then I stopped and walked. The remarkable thing to me about this part of the Marathon was how many people were walking – and we all looked defeated, spent. We looked like zombies. I got a second wind as I approached Hunt street to climb Dix hill – and saw the guy I did the 20 miler with again – he did another double take as I passed him – I waved again, but he didn’t respond, so I kept going. I got to the top of the hill and walked a little more – I was in really, really good company here. I got another burst of energy as I passed the folks in the blue with the remembrance mile (forgive me – I cannot remember the name of the organization) that had signs of soldiers lost in combat. I loved those folks – they were all very cheerful and did a great job of cheering ALL of us on – very friendly and exactly what I needed at that point in the race… a highlight for me – and judging from the comments I saw about the race, that was a pretty universal feeling. I really hope they come next year – they were exactly what I needed at that point in the race. I gave them all a thumbs up, thanked them for coming out and for their mission and made it – running – to Lake Wheeler.
At Lake Wheeler, I had to control going down the hill, went around the corner on Saunders and back up to Boylan. I knew this part was going to really, really suck, but I also knew I was almost done. I took my walks in stride and ran when I could, knowing I was almost at the end. When I got to Hargett Street, I heard someone shout out “only one turn left!!” and I got motivated. I got to the point where I could see the sign for Fayetteville Street and on the corner I saw one of my friends waiting for me! He jumped out and ran me in for about .25 a mile, cheering me on the whole way “you got this – finish strong!” The highlight of my entire 26.2. I finished at around 4:05. The first thing I noticed at the finish line was the 4:00 pacer – she cheered for me and congratulated me – which made me emotional all of the sudden. I don’t think I had enough water in my system to actually cry, but if I did, tears would have been streaming. The next thing I noticed was someone trying to hand me a medal – which I didn’t expect. I thought I should have had a water – I guess I looked emotional still, so the volunteer trying to give me a medal asked me if I needed a water and I nodded. She handed me a medal and a water bottle I think she took for herself. I took my medal and hung it over my shoulder (like a purse) and tried opening the water. The friend that ran me in met me at the end and hugged me and cheered for me. I got my gatorade and found my sister and about 30 seconds later got more text messages than I have ever had since I’ve had a smart phone.
Best. Finish. Ever.
This is not the epilogue I wanted to write. I spent 4 hours making mental notes about what I wanted to say here, but after I finished, I learned something that changed my mind. There are inherent risks in doing this. I know it. Every race I’ve done – and there have been many – have waivers you have to sign. Hell, even run groups have them: you do this at your own risk. Unfortunately, after I finished, my friend informed me about a man who collapsed around mile 12 of the Half route and he worried the man did not make it. He did not. Another collapsed a bit closer to the finish line and did not make it, either. It is rare, but unfortunate none the less and unsettling when it happens in a race you are in. This is the first time that has happened in a race I was in, and there 2 in the same race. My heart breaks for their family and friends and they are all in my prayers. Run safe out there, friends.