I have to honestly say that of all the things on the 101 Things to Do Before You Die, this was the most difficult one to accomplish. It took the most time commitment, mental fortitude, and a rather extreme physical toll. And like most things that take hard work to accomplish, I don’t think there are many other items that I’m more proud of.
Although I had prepared since May and even ran 26 miles during training, I still found myself unprepared for race day of the Outer Banks Marathon. The first problem is that, unlike most people, I do better in places I’ve run a 100 times. I know what to expect and can mentally prepare for the next hill, water stop, bathroom, etc. Some of my worst training runs were in places I wasn’t as familiar (i.e. running in DC). Most people enjoy running in new places because of new scenery and a change in routine.
The second problem was that my knees had come to bother me so much in the last couple of months, I wasn’t doing all of my training runs because 1) it hurt like a bitch to run and 2) I was trying to give them rest/not overextend them and make it impossible to run the marathon at all. Of course, this meant that after running the 26 almost a month before the Marathon, I only ran once with no other exercise. This translated to me losing almost all of the physical fitness I had achieved over the long months of training. During the marathon, after only a few miles I was huffing and puffing, not able to get my breath.
And my last problem that made for a very bad run on race day was stomach issues. I don’t know if it was nerves or what, but I couldn’t keep anything down. I’d drink water or sports drinks or try to eat-it all came back up. So I was running without being able to hydrate or regain calories/electrolytes.
From the Start to a little after the mid-way point, Alex and I ran together, and we were actually doing a great pace. As Alex and I have talked about all year, when he has a good day, I don’t, and vice versa. Alex was having a great day and was running way ahead and then stopping to allow me to catch up. At about mile 14, I asked him to continue on without me; I was increasingly afraid that I would not be able to “beat the bridge” and I didn’t want to hold him back. (The Washington Baum Bridge which goes across to Manteo had a lane closed to traffic for the Marathoners but would reopen at 1:50pm. After that point runners would not be allowed to cross/finish).
Starting at mile 15 I began walking, maintaining about 20 minute miles. I tried to keep running a little bit, but I just didn’t have the energy. I kept asking the water station people what time it was in regards to the bridge; some said I was in fine shape and others said I needed to hurry up, so I couldn’t get a good idea of how I was doing. My stomach was cramping from continuous rejection of any food or liquid. I wanted to quit. So many times I thought, “I’ll just quit. I’ve already done 26 during my training run. That’s enough for this to be counted as done.” The only things that kept me going was 1) I couldn’t quit after so much time and life being invested and 2) I couldn’t quit after telling the world that I was running a marathon and then just give up-that would equal incredible embarrassment. Interestingly enough, my knees weren’t giving me that much trouble and my muscles weren’t even that bad until the last few miles.
After mile 22, the bridge was looming ahead and no one was trying to stop me from getting on the bridge, so I kept going. The only people I could see was one girl in front of me and two guys behind me (there were plenty of times during the race that I wouldn’t see anyone for long periods of time). At the end of the bridge (which is over a mile long and seemingly uphill both ways), there was a water stop, at which an official-looking man was standing nearby, expectantly. “This is it,” I thought. “This is where they are going to tell me I can’t finish.” I had been pretty mad for a few hours at this point but this is where I go super mad. If they were going to make me quit, why let me get across the bridge, just to get near mile 24, with only 2 miles to go, and then not be able to finish!? The man took my shoulder and began walking with me, “Jessica, the course is open until 3pm. That’s 54 minutes from now. We are going to hold the course open for you and you’ll be able to finish. Everyone will still be on the course waiting for you.”
At the time, I don’t think I really appreciated his words. I certainly didn’t say thank you or anything. I think as mad as I was that they may tell me I couldn’t finish, a small part of me was probably hoping it was over. But I only had two more miles to go and I kept trucking. After the mile 26 sign, I only had .2 miles and as I rounded the corner, I heard cheers, mostly from my friends and parents, but also the few volunteers still around. They still had the timing mats out and I was going to be able to finish. Tears actually started welling up but I didn’t give into the emotions: relief, pride, exhaustion, and happiness to hear my name being called over the intercom announcing my arrival.
My “chip time” was 7hrs 15 minutes (time shown in the photo is “gun time;” our start time was almost 20 minutes after the first gun sounded). Alex’s chip time was 6hrs 18 minutes. After me, one girl, one guy, and the two guys I saw on the bridge came through all within about 5 minutes of me and then the timing mats were pulled up. I was this close to not getting my medal. And although I probably would have pushed my way onto the bridge and still finished, I wouldn’t have really counted it because I wouldn’t be on the official results list and I wouldn’t have my medal to show for it. I didn’t care about my time, but I always wanted to finish.
Our friends Lydia and Steve and my parents had come down to cheer us on. My parents dropped us off at the start and met us at mile 8, mile 10, mile 15, and mile 17 and Lydia and Steve cheered us on at mile 6, mile 9, and mile 14. It really made a difference to see them along the course, as well at the Finish, especially since there was barely anyone else there! And I can’t say enough about the community support; all along the course, especially in neighborhoods, people would come out from their houses and cheer for us. One guy was giving out Beer, which Alex took and got a few foamy sips before pitching on the side of the road. If it wasn’t for the pesky 26 miles, I think this would have actually been fun!
Twitter Feed from the race:
- I finished my first (and last) marathon at 3pm after running 7.5 hrs.
- Made the bridge at mile 22
- At mi 19. Worried i wont make it to beat the bridge
- Ive been walking for the pst two miles. Im tired. I want to quit so bad!
- HALFWAY! #fb
- I hate running in sand
- Friends at mi 6 and parents @ mi 8
- Alex just grabbed a beer at mile 5 #fb
- No line at the por a potty at mile 4
- Mile 2. Lots of great community support #ObxMarathon
- And we’re off! #fb
- At the start of #OBXmarathon. 20 min to go
So I’m done. Done with Marathon Training. Done with running. I’ve never been so glad to be done with anything!