Who would have believed it? Certainly not me. I remember some very specific discussions about how running a marathon was NOT on my to-do list. Lots of half marathons? Sure. But a full marathon? 26.2 miles? Come on. Why would I ever want to do something so physically exhausting? And isn't it bad for your body? And surely it would never be right to take so much time away from my family to train.
So how did I find myself on a school bus leaving Logan at 5:20 on Saturday morning with four friends to meet our marathoning destinies?
Well, it just so happens that I made this little goal at the beginning of the year to run 1000 miles in 2009. This is not really that many miles. It's only 20 miles a week, which is 20 miles a week more than I ran 4 years ago, but still. I've been staying pretty close to my weekly mileage goal, especially with training for the Salt Lake Half and then the Wasatch Back. But what next? Liz decided it was Top of Utah. She tried to talk me into it. I thought about it. I kicked it around. I decided against it. And once I decided against it, I changed my mind.
1. I was already high in my mileage for long runs to train for Ragnar.
2. Training for a marathon would assure that I met my 1000 mile goal.
3. I would have been jealous of Liz and Bliss training together while I did measly 6 mile Saturday runs.
4. I needed something to get my mind off of the moving thing.
3. God told me to.
Yeah, He really did, but that's a post for another time.
Here are things I learned while training:
1. I'm slower than Liz and Bliss.
2. I really like meeting new people while running with them. They become close friends in the space of one 16 miler.
3. No subject is off-limits as running talk. And running talk turns way too often to poop. (That's for you, L.)
4. You can get used to getting up at 6 to run, even on weekdays.
5. I am more capable of doing hard things than I ever thought I was.
6. Immodium is my best non-human running friend. 2 chewable tablets (yuck) 2 hours before each long run with 1/2 a banana, 1/4 of a bagel, and a big glass of water: totally works. I just put it all on my nightstand, set my alarm for 4:00, woke up and ate while David groaned "What are you DOING?" and cheered for victory at the end of all my long runs. I know. Way more than you wanted to know. But it's a public service announcement for all of you aspiring marathoners. You'll thank me.
7. Yes on Bodyglide. Yes on sunscreen. Yes on Sports Beans. And by the end, even yes on Gus (plural of Gu, not Gus the mule.)
8. You know how you would think you'd lose weight when you're running almost 40 miles a week? Yeah. You'd be wrong. Liz lost weight. I gained what she lost. It's very sick and wrong. It's a cosmic joke. And yet there it is. I'm warning you. (Interestingly, although it bothered me that I gained weight, I was so proud of what my body was accomplishing every week that I cared less than I would have expected.)
9. You will be struck with some non-imaginary ailment in the week or two before the race. Liz warned us. We did not believe her. But every one of us had some terrible, tragic pain to deal with that looked like it might end our race dreams. I had the WORST BACK PAIN of my life in the week before the race. I was referred to a physical therapist by an ultra-runner friend and he worked a miracle. On Tuesday, I really thought I wouldn't be able to run, and by Saturday morning (after doing the stretches he recommended) I had NO back pain. None. Hooray for Troy Marsh.
So a few short months after deciding that yes, indeed, I'd run that crazy race, Bliss, Liz & I drove up to Logan with Bliss' family. We stayed overnight with Bliss' mom and dad. Our friend Jenn joined us at the house for a big fat slumber party, and we picked up our friend Jena at her hotel dark and early the next morning.
And here's how it went:
The race started at Hardware Ranch, up Blacksmith Fork Canyon. The first 14 miles or so were downhill, but not terribly steep. The canyon was gorgeous. The leaves were just starting to turn, the weather was perfect, the river was lovely. It was a fantastic beginning. I had planned to really pace myself. I knew I'd be tempted to push the pace since it was downhill (and I love downhill), but I also knew I'd have 12 more miles to go once the downhill ended. So within the first half mile, I waved goodbye to the rest of the girls and settled in with Mr. iPod to run the duration of the race.
The first 18 miles were actually really great. My halfway mark was a minute faster than my half marathon PR. I loved seeing Liz's husband Jeff and her boys at mile 14. They gave me an emotional boost and I felt great. I stayed mostly under 9:30 for each mile, with a couple in the 9:40 range. and a few in the 9:10-15 range. Mile 18-21 were harder. I ended up passing Jena, whose knee was starting to really give out. I ran with her for a little while, but ended up pushing ahead.
I drank water at every stop, so I felt hydrated throughout. I ate a sports bean at every mile that wasn't a water stop and ended up having 3 gus (at miles 9, 19, and 22) and a few chunks of banana. (I know. You totally don't care about what I ate. Unless you're about to run your first marathon, in which case this information is ridiculously fascinating.) All was going as planned.
And then came the wall. I mean, you hear about The Wall. And then you Experience The Wall. I think it was when I got to 21 and I realized that I still had more than 5 miles to go, and that would likely be close to an hour more running based on how I was feeling. That just sounded awful. Terrible. So hard. And so it was. 22 and 23 were dreadfully hard. I just felt so so drained. I ended up walking two or three times per mile, but by 24, I realized that starting to run again after walking was harder than just continuing to run. I dropped my pace significantly, still walked through the water stops, but tried to just put one foot in front of the other.
The world shrinks at this point. The world becomes you, your pain, and your desire to end the pain. I just focused on wanting to see David, to see my kids, to see the finish line.
I know! Doesn't it sound fun?!?! It really was!!! (OK, it wasn't fun. But it was remarkable.)
And then, after thinking it would never come, there was the finish line. It was there. In front of me. Way too far away, but it was there. And I made it. I powered through and burst into tears at the end. My music was blaring so I didn't even hear my family and Liz and Jeff screaming for me. David says I just looked mad. I wasn't mad. I was just miserable.
I had really only had one main goal. I had really wanted to stay under 10 minute miles throughout. That's not impressive when you're Liz (4 hours and 6 seconds!) or Bliss (4 hours and 21 seconds!), but it felt like it would push me but be barely do-able. And when I looked at my watch when it was all over (26.44 miles, according to Mr. Garmin. Darned tangents.), it said that my overall pace was 9:59. I felt like I was handed a gift from Heavenly Father. (Again, a post for another time.)
I cried when I saw David. I cried when I realized I was moving this week and wouldn't live across the street from my Liz. And I smiled a lot. A lot.
Because you know what? I just ran a marathon.
Yup. Me. I did that.
Well, me and Liz and Bliss and Jenn and Jenna. And you know what?
It was awesome.
Final Stats: Time: 4:23:37. Place: 1010/2027 overall, 393/1009 women. Satisfied? Yes.