This past weekend, I ran my twelfth marathon. (I had to go back and count. Old age – it’ll get you, you know!)
When Wes and I registered for this, I got him to agree to NOT run it with me. He wanted to run for a new PR, and I just wanted to survive. Why such lofty goals for myself? Our last full marathon was in January 2016, and I wasn’t entirely confident that my body could still manage, over two years later, to do this thing. Sure, I had done the training runs, but I had my doubts and didn’t want to mess up the race for Wes. (And I’m almost positive that the only thing that got me through those super long training runs was the audiobook I had on my phone. What book, you ask? The Bible. Yes, that’s the only book I had on my phone for those long runs, and let me tell you, after hearing the entire book of John and half of Acts, my face was shining with sweat and the glory of God both.)
Anyway… where was I?
Oh, yeah. Wes and I were NOT running this one side by side. That only made better sense when we got to the expo to pick up our bibs and saw that he was in corral ten and yours truly was in corral one. What the what?! For those who have no idea what this means, Wes was back in the corral with runners who run our pace, and I was up front with the elites. Clearly there had been some horrific clerical error with my registration. The guy who gave me my stuff said, “Oh, you’re a fast runner! First corral!” To which I said, “You’d think, right?” Never mind the fact that I came into the expo drinking a Coke and that I had big plans to get myself some beignets just as soon as I got my bib, fueling up like all good elite athletes, right? (If you’re a long time reader to the blog, you’ll remember when I got put into the first corral at the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K and showed up to the starting line with my bag of Froot Loops. The looks I got were priceless, but fuel is fuel, right?)
Wes told me that this would make it a better race as he would start fifteen minutes behind me and would spend the whole marathon trying to catch me. I assured him he would catch me at mile two (because I’m fueled by beignets, Froot Loops, and Coke, you know), and that was that. We had some friends who were running as well, and they were in corral 9, so I was pretty sure I’d see everyone pass me by at some point.
The next morning, we got to our corrals… or as close as I could get to my corral. It was so jam packed that I ended up in the second corral, where legions of super skinny people were pushing me in on every side. I knew I was in trouble when I noted that I was the fattest girl in the pack. You know, because I have at least SOME body fat. I finally realized, with some horror, what it would be like to start off running with people who probably run a full marathon in the time that it takes me to run a half marathon. Here’s how I felt about that…
Not much I could do at that point, though, because the race was starting, and there I was, right up at the front, trying to pretend like I was legit supposed to be there. We took off running, and I was keeping up for the first tenth of a mile. Then… not so much. I was running faster than I normally do, though, even as I slowed down from the pace they were all keeping. I tried to start my music so I could drown out the sound of my suffering as I ran, and MY. HEADPHONES. WERE. BROKEN. What?! The stupid things were done. Just done. I’d not checked them that morning because they’ve never given me trouble before. What a time for them to give up the ghost! “Oh, well,” I thought to myself. “I’ll just be alone with my thoughts. For 26 point freakin’ two miles.” I don’t know about you, but my thoughts aren’t nearly profound enough to get me through three miles, much less twenty-six. I spent the first ten miles praying for family, for friends, for our church, for Dubai, for the people running around me, and for the random homeless men who kept screaming at us as we ran by (we saw it all at the front of the pack). By mile eleven, I was all prayed out, quite honestly, which was a shame because that’s when the half marathon runners around me really started sounding like they needed some divine intervention. “Do I sound as close to death as they do?” I wondered. Not quite yet, but it was something to look forward to!
The first half was very pleasant and scenic, and then we broke off for the second half of the course. Rock N Roll races do this horrible thing, y’all. Everyone is having a grand old time for the first thirteen miles with lively spectators, music, scenery, and just general FUN, and then, as soon as the marathoners break off and get a few feet away, it’s like BOOM, the fun is OVER. Get that? Ohhhhh-vaaaaahhhh. You signed up for the full, y’all, and now, you will PAY. The first thing to greet us on the second half of the course was an overpass that had us running uphill. Awesome. And if that wasn’t awesome enough, I hit mile fourteen at the same time the winner of the whole shebang was coming back on the opposite side of the road and hitting mile 25. That’ll encourage you! The guy running beside me as we huffed our way up that hill said, “Kinda makes you want to jump over the median and head back, huh?” Yes. Yes, it did.
I kept running with just my ridiculous thoughts to keep me company, deciding at mile fifteen that I should sing through Michael Jackson’s greatest hits. In my head, mind you, because I didn’t want to subject everyone around me to my stirring rendition of “Pretty Young Thing” or my screeching version of “Beat It.” (“Beat it, woo-hoo, beat it, beat it! No one wants to be de-fea-ted! Oh, naww! Eeeee-heeee!”) Y’all, this is how much I was struggling with the silence. Made me start to think about how shamefully dependent I am as a runner on technology and wonder what I’m missing out on by always having my headphones in. Mainly, I’m missing out on hearing my own labored breathing (which is not an encouraging sound, by the way), but I’m sure there are actually wonderful things I could be hearing. Maybe? Possibly?
By mile seventeen, I still hadn’t been passed by Wes or my friend, April, who was running the full marathon. I either hadn’t been passed or had completely missed the two who were running the half marathon (I think I must have missed them) and was still running with complete strangers. I began to wonder if Wes wasn’t playing a great joke on me, having sent me out to run this thing all on my own while he was somewhere eating Cajun food with everyone else, laughing about how much I was probably hurting out there. (For reals, y’all.) I felt much better when April ran past me at mile eighteen and then again at mile twenty-one. The second half of the course was a series of out and back turns, so I was scanning the same faces over and over again. I finally caught a glimpse of him at mile twenty-two. Yay! By that point, I had stopped at the medical tent for some Tylenol and had shifted into old lady gear – running and walking alternately. You know, when I did the Houston Marathon in 2015, I ran every single step of that thing and told myself at the end that I could do it again. This would be my new marathon norm. My feet, however, disagreed with that conclusion and told me, “Nu-uh, once was enough for that.” And the feet always win when it comes to arguments like this. Besides, I couldn’t keep running and not let Wes catch up with me, right? (Excuses, excuses, I know.)
Wes passed me at mile twenty-four, right on pace to get that PR and to get in under five hours. At this point, I was very nearly at five hours. (Fifteen minutes earlier start, remember?) My PR is 5:13 (which is not fast at all but fast for me), and I calculated that even if I ran the last two miles, I would still come in over that. So I took it easy, walking and running. At this point, I started thinking about lunch. I tend to get sick if I eat too soon after running, but after an hour or so, I’m good to chow down. So visions of all the culinary goodness that New Orleans has to offer were a welcome distraction from the mind-numbing silence. You know, since I had no music, everyone was all prayed up, and I’d gone through the entire Thriller album already. (Have I already mentioned that I was alone with my thoughts?!) “Hmm,” I thought to myself. “Catfish maybe. Or gumbo. Or maybe, just maybe, I can get both…”
Halfway through mile 25, I started running again and felt good enough to pick up my speed and run through the end. I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch at 26.2… and then, Wes (who was at the finish line cheering) told me that it’s not a marathon unless it’s 26.219. What?! Yeah, so now my watch thinks I’m a quitter. Whatever, watch. (You wouldn’t think those watches are judgmental, but they can be quite rude. “Good effort!” my watch has told me on some particularly bad runs before, along with specifying how that was the ninth fastest sprint up the levee that I’ve managed in nine attempts. Awesome. “Last place, loser!” “Way to quit the marathon two hundredths of a mile too early, putz!” “Woo-hoo, slowpoke!”)
I got my .02 in while walking to get my chocolate milk and my medal (in that order), so it’s all good. (And I finished in 5:18, not too far off from my PR. Take that, watch!)
Hooray for marathon #12! Can’t wait for #13!