I did it. I completed my marathon. I actually ran 26.2 miles. It's been over two months and there are still times when I think, did that really happen, did I actually do it?! But I know I did. I have the medal to prove it! Let me tell you a little bit about the experience.
Saturday, I went to the Expo. Picked up my packet, chip, shirt and bib. It was at this moment that it was real. I have to run this now...I have my number in my hand!! We didn't stay too long at the Expo as it was pretty overwhelming. I did pick up a reflective jacket to wear during the winter months. After the Expo, it was time to get off my feet (we had walked around at Navy Pier all morning) and relax for the rest of the evening. Instead of trying to find a restaurant in the city, my family and I ate at the one in our hotel. It was not crowded and very convenient. Thankfully, I was able to custom order pasta and chicken which was very tasty! After dinner I went up to my room, set out everything I would need in the morning, packed and got into bed. I had the lights off and was sleeping by 9:30! Oh, in order to fall asleep, I repeated to myself that tomorrow was nothing more than just a little race, a fun run, something I could do at home... Ha!
Sunday morning, the alarm went off at 4:15am. This was it. Today I was going to run a marathon. I got up, ate my bagel, drank my coffee and took a long hot shower to loosen up the muscles. Once I was ready to go my brother and I jogged over to my friends' hotel where we met up and headed to the starting line together. I thought that I would be nervous...but what I was feeling wasn't nerves at all, it was pure excitement. This was the most amazing, crazy thing I'd ever done! I could NOT WAIT for the gun to go off and to cross the starting line.
It was really cold at the start, 30deg. But once we were in the start corral getting warmed up, the clothes started flying, quite literally! The guy next to me tapped me on the shoulder and pointed forward. There was sweatshirts, pants, jackets, etc flying over heads of runners to the sidelines. Quite a sight! Another fun experience in the start corral: two women jumped in in front of me and on their back they had Phil 4:13 printed on their shirts, "I can do all things thru Him who strengthens me." It was just what I needed as the nerves had started to get to me!
Soon after we began the slow process to the starting line. To prevent too much congestion they kept us back a ways from the previous group. It was a bit frustrating as we just wanted to GO already!! Finally it was time to just run. And run, and run some more.
The first five or so miles were a blur. There were huge crowds cheering for us as we made our way thru the city. I'm telling you, it was the crowds that kept us going! They were great!!! I thoroughly enjoyed the first half...it was then that I started looking for my family and friend, Jennifer. My lips were super chapped at this point and I knew my mom would have some chapstick on her. Unfortunately, I did not see them! I was so disappointed. I nearly started crying...I needed to see them, needed the encouragement I knew they would have given. It turns out they were there! And they were close enough to touch me...and Jennifer screamed my name...and I never knew. I was so focused that I never heard them!
After the halfway, I was still enjoying myself. Mile 15-16, the crowds started to thin out. This is where the "Charity Row" was. All the charities that were represented had booths where their runners could stop and get some encouragement and energy drinks/gels. They were kind enough to be cheering us all on...which was great because, as I mentioned, the crowds were gone at this point. We were south of the city near the highways and business parks.
At mile 21 or so I started to really feel hurt and exhausted. My hips and knees were getting pretty stiff. But my brother was supposed to meet me at 21 and I was stoked to see him. We were going to run the last 5 together. Again, we missed each other. I never saw him and thought he forgot to come. Turns out he was waiting there for over an hour to try and spot me. Blast, foiled again. :(
As I said, I was starting to hurt...I stopped and stretched at this point hoping to loosen up a bit for the last 5 miles. It was rough going until about mile 23 or so. I knew that the end was in sight...only 3.2 miles away. I could do that in my sleep! The last 3mi the course went right up Michigan Ave, we were running straight for the Sears Tower. With the pure blue sky in the back ground, it was a beautiful sight. The crowds had returned and I was pumped to see the finish line.
At mile 26 we turned a corner and faced the largest incline on the course: 24ft. Not so bad, right? Well, try it after 26miles! Actually, it wasn't that bad and as soon as we got to the top we turned again and there was the FINISH line!!!!! Just .1mi away! I nearly lost it at this point but knew that I still needed to breath for that last tenth of a mile. As soon as I did cross the finish line, with my hand raised in grateful prayer that God was with me the whole way and enabled me to do this, I let the tears come. It is a remarkable accomplishment that I did this. I finished! I made my way thru the finishers corral, got my blanket and my medal, tearfully thanking the volunteers who put them on me. We were given bagels, pretzels, water, crackers, cookies and (my favorite) a delightful, hard earned beer. :) I was only able to stomach half of the beer and a few pretzels.
I began hobbling (yes, at this point my legs were toast!) over to the runner reunite area where I was to meet my friends and family, which was almost a whole mile away! Oh, and it was still very cold! It warmed up to about 44deg and with the sun it was a perfect day for running but afterwards it was COLD!! A foil blanket only retains so much heat. I finally found my friends and family and promptly began crying again. Hey, it's an emotional thing! We talked about the race, they told me how they had seen me but I hadn't seen them, we took some pictures, visited the finisher's tent and then decided it was time to get me warmed up and sitting down!
My parents and brother and I took a cab over to the hotel where the car was and after making it down 2 flights of stairs (just barely!) I hoisted myself into the car and we began the 3hr drive to Kalamazoo. It was so uncomfortable to sit for so long but it hurt more to walk around! Ha! We stopped at a rest area to use the facilities and it was all I could do to shuffle into the Ladies room. Another patron took one look at me and (from what I could tell) decided that I looked like I just got out of a drug rehab center or something. I was wearing slippers, pajama pants, my mothers winter jacket that is 4 sizes too big and a knit cap on my head. My mother says to the woman, "she just ran a marathon!" The lady grunted a "yeah, sure..." and left. It was rather amusing... :) At this point I was still shivering, I just could not get warm so a coffee was in order (I didn't care that it was rest stop coffee...I needed something!) and it did the trick to warm me up. The rest of the drive was uneventful...I still hadn't eaten much other than a banana and a bit more bagel. I was looking forward to going out to dinner and getting a giant cheeseburger!
And that's just what we did. I spent the next couple of days in Mich with the fam recovering (Advil works wonders on sore muscles!). By Tuesday I was able to get a couple miles in and once I returned home, I ran a few miles a week for about a month.
Earlier this December I decided I needed another race/challenge to motivate me to continue running. So I found one. A half marathon in Hyannis on Feb 28th. Cold and windy 13.1...sounds good to me! :) A couple of friends are doing it as well and I am so excited. It's good to have a goal again.
I also put my name in the lottery for the New York Marathon on Nov 7th, 2010. I'll find out in a month or so if I get in... It will be another marathon journey and another reason to keep this blog going. Thanks for joining me in my first journey...I hope you'll stick with me in my second!! (and third and fourth... ??!!)