It's always a bit challenging to put an experience like a marathon into words. It's an experience that is so much about feeling that putting it down in black and white almost cheapens it a bit in my mind. With that said, I'll do my best to try and recap (succinctly!) my experience this weekend at the Maine Coast Marathon.
After a very busy week, John and I headed up to Maine on Saturday afternoon to attend the expo and pick up our bibs and t-shirts. Before we got to Biddeford, we drove the course of the marathon to know what we'd expect along the way. We kept saying, "I can't wait to see this tomorrow!" :) Neither of us felt super prepared, but we were going to make an experience out of it - no matter what!
The race was the smallest marathon I've ever done, and the expo was the smallest expo I've ever been too. Typically, they are full of vendor tables and runners wandering around getting samples and looking for last minute gear they may have forgotten. This expo was 4 vendor tables and about 20 runners. Most of the runners were either lined up to get their bibs or to sign up for the bus that would take you from the finish line to the starting line. We were in and out in about 10min.
Dinner before a destination marathon is always a little tricky...not knowing the area and what kind of restaurants you might find. We found a great public house and brewery that had just the right thing: burgers and fries, and a tasty brew just for me. :) Oh, I also found something, or someone else!
Race day dawned at 4:45am. After breakfast (two sweet potatoes, a banana and some almond butter, and coffee - always coffee), we headed out to catch the bus that would take us to the starting line. I have to say, for a small marathon they had their system on lock down. Everything was timed perfectly and went so smoothly. They even had enough portapotties at the start line!!
The first half of the race went incredibly well for me. The course was beautiful! We passed through some gorgeous neighborhoods, along the coast, through downtown Kennebunkport. It flew by - I started out running 10-10:15min miles. By mile 6, I was feeling really good and bumped up the pace to 9:30-9:45min miles until about mile 18. After that I slowed down to about 10:30-11min miles. By the time I got to mile 20, my legs were starting to really cramp up. Karla (John's wife) jumped in with me at mile 23.5, and if her mom had lingered with the car, I seriously would have considered getting in and driving to the finish. Thankfully, Karla was willing to take my Camelbak from me (I used it for extra water - it was hot - and for my fuel - babyfood packets, dates and apricots) and she had cold Gatorade and water for me. She was like my own personal Sherpa!
Karla ran me into the finish and really helped me push through that last mile. My legs were so cramped up at this point that my toes were curling in my shoes! That has never happened before...it didn't feel great. I ended up crossing the line at 4:47:24, my second fastest marathon time! After a lackluster training cycle, I was shocked that I was able to run this under 5hrs. I thought for sure I'd come in closer to 5:30-6hrs. Guess not!
Around mile 24, I asked Karla, "Why do we do this?!" Her first response was, "I don't know..." But then she said, "I do know. To cross that finish line." Yes, that's it exactly. The reason we put ourselves through the many long, lonely hours of training, through running a ridiculous amount of miles in one go is to cross that line and say, "I did it." I pushed myself further than I thought I could go. I overcame the desire to just give up because it was hard. And I'm stronger because of that.
At the finish, I was completely spent and had a lovely volunteer drape my medal around my neck. And another one hand me a take home bottle of ice cold water. The volunteers (so many of them!) were ALL awesome and wonderful. They were all cheering and encouraging the runners. They were at every intersection so no runners got lost and went the wrong way. Again, it was an incredibly well organized race.
If you are ever looking for a fun, small, beautiful marathon to run on the east coast, run this one. You will not regret it. I sure didn't.