You might remember that three years ago, I ran the Wisconsin Marathon. And you might have heard that this past weekend, I ran the Bayshore Marathon.
Two completely and totally different race experiences. Three years ago, for the few days after the race, I was so high on the fact that I ran a marathon. But today, nearly a week after the race, I am high on the fact that I not only ran 26.2 miles, but also enjoyed it!
Let’s back up to Bayshore Marathon Eve.
Christopher and I loaded up the girls and all of our gear and headed up to Traverse City, Mich., on Friday morning. We broke up the 7-hour drive into two legs — Sterling to Three Oaks, Mich., where we stopped for lunch and to stretch our legs, and Three Oaks to Traverse City.
We checked into our hotel, gathered our group together (which now included Mindy and Andi), then headed out to The Filling Station for wood-fired pizzas and craft beers. We stopped over at the high school for packet pick-up, then headed back to the hotel to wind down and settle in for the night.
The three of us girls agreed that it really didn’t feel real until we had our red bibs in hand. We had talked about doing a marathon together way back in November, signed up in December and, for all intents and purposes, trained on our own from January through May. Mindy, Andi, and I finally were together, finally were going to do this big, scary thing called “run a marathon.”
I was very calm about the whole thing, to be honest — and had been for much of my training. Sure, I had some of the typical worries. And sure, I set a time goal that I wondered if I might actually be able to hit. But honestly, I just tried to go into it as relaxed as possible.
Christopher and I put the girls to bed, and then I shuffled next door to spend some quality time not freaking out with Mindy and Andi. We finally went to bed about 9:30 or 10 p.m. I slept pretty well, all things considered.
We were up at 5 a.m., at which point, we promptly ate breakfast, then leisurely changed into our running gear. We headed out the door about 6 a.m.
We waited in the warm high school gym for a while, then ventured outside, where it was 38 degrees, to the porta-potties; we were in line for about a half-hour, then made a bee-line for the race start and ducked into the pack after most of the 8:00- and 9:00-per-mile runners had taken off.
Mindy and I ran the first half of the race together. We maintained about a 10:30 pace, which was comfortable and maintainable. Those 13.1 miles are a relative blur. We talked. A lot. We stared at the stunning bay with its crystal clear, blue water to our right and ogled the quaint beachfront houses to our left. We stopped at every aid station.
Just before the turnaround point, we saw Christopher and the girls! It was so wonderful to see them — Christopher with his clever neon yellow sign and the girls standing in their stroller yelling “Go! Go! Go!”
It’s unbelievable just how encouraging it is to see familiar faces — family and friends — out along the course. It’s a whole ‘nother level of encouraging to see your husband and your daughters. Cue the tears. I thought about them a lot during the marathon — during the comfortable, seemingly easy miles, and through the painful, truly difficult miles…especially during the rough stretches. I reminded myself that I run for them, my girls, because I want them to see me as a role model, not just for eating well and exercising, but for setting big, scary goals and achieving them, for perseverance, determination, and drive, and for confidence. I reminded myself that Christopher, Anna, and Elise were counting on me to run my best race, that they would literally be by my side throughout the marathon. I told myself that I could not — would not — let them down.
At the turnaround point, Mindy took a walk break, but I ran. It was time to run my own race.
Just after the turnaround point, I saw Christopher and the girls again. I kissed the girls, I kissed Christopher, and then I ran.
At Mile 16, I knew I had only 10 miles to go, so I decided to stop not only at every aid station, but also every 2 miles to eat a few Honey Stingers to maintain my energy, as the temperature had climbed into the upper 60s, if not the low 70s.
About Mile 21, I saw Christopher and the girls again. I looked and felt awesome, aside from a wee bit of pain in my left knee — nothing that would hinder my race or my ability to hit my goal. They ran alongside me for a few strides; it was like so many of my long runs for just a few short moments — so comforting and familiar.
But right after that, I experienced some excruciating pain in my right hip. My game plan changed: Run as much as possible (still stopping at the aid stations and 2-mile increments), but walk as needed and for as long as needed. I ran until my hip screamed. I walked to that mailbox, that tree, that bend in the road. I ran again until my hip screamed. I walked again.
I wanted to cry. Why? Why was this happening to me? Why now? I prayed. I begged God to get me to the finish line. I stared out at the water. “Do not waste your energy on tears.” “You can do this.” “You are strong.”
At Mile 23, I sidled up alongside two 40-something guys. “Wow, you’re still runnin’! I gave that up miles ago,” the one guy said. I chuckled. I made small talk. “Don’t let us hold you back,” he said. I didn’t. I ran.
I ran much of the last 2 miles, and I ran all of the last three-quarters of a mile.
As the finish area neared, amid the screams and cheers of the crowd gathered on both sides of the road, my aches and pains and doubts had gone. Just before the turn onto the track, I saw the whole gang — Christopher and the girls and Andi’s husband and his daughters — but I waved to my girls. Then, as I turned onto the track, I kicked it and passed not one, but two (maybe three?) ladies and streaked across the finish line.
After I had my medal around my neck, Christopher found me and helped me get some chocolate milk, ice cream, and a few other snacks that undoubtedly were for the rambunctious toddlers, rather than the girl who just ran 26.2 miles!
As the rush wore off just a bit, I refocused my energy on cheering for Mindy and Andi. This marathon was a big deal for both of them, and I wanted to make their finishes special.
Mindy came up the homestretch, and I made a beeline for the finish chute. I gave her the biggest, tightest, sweatiest hug, and we cried together.
Andi stepped onto the track, and we went to cheer her on. We each grabbed one of her hands, Mindy on the left, and I on the right, and the three of us — the original running girl squad — crossed the finish line hand in hand. Cue the tears again.
That moment was one for the scrapbooks. I thought about those girls so often during my training, knowing that they were pounding the pavement as often and as long as me, that they were excited and scared and in utter disbelief that we were actually going to run a marathon. I wanted to be a touchstone, a supporter, a cheerleader. I had done one of these before; I didn’t know a lot, as a result, but I did know that it is possible. I wanted to be the one who always assured Mindy and Andi that yes, they could and they would. That moment, the embraces that followed proved that my job was complete.
So, to recap: I did it! Again!
I want to dedicate another (shorter) post to the things that made this marathon so much better than my first one. But I would be remiss if I didn’t thank a few people:
- Christopher: Thank you for encouraging me, for supporting me, and for believing in me. Thank you for running some really ugly miles with me. Thank you for stepping up with the girls and around the house to accommodate for my training. Thank you for being a beacon of light on that course, for your witty signs, and for toting those little girls around in that stroller all morning. You are my heart. I love you.
- Anna and Elise: Thank you for babbling “Mama! Mama! Mama” during our runs, motivating me to keep going, faster and longer. Thank you for cheering on the sidelines during the race; your sweet little faces were the best shot of energy. And thank you for allowing me to be your mama; everything I do, I do for you.
- Mindy and Andi: Thank you for being the best running pals a girl could ever ask for. You held me accountable, and you made me want to give all the training and, the pièce de résistance, the race my absolute best. Your friendship is so special to me.
I also have to thank my family and friends for their support, and thank all of you for your words of encouragement along this journey.
Distance: 26.2 miles
Average pace: 11:41 per mile
Miles 1-4: 42:42
Miles 4-10: 1:08:09
Miles 10-13.1: 34:30
Miles 13.1-16.2: 34:07
Miles 16.2-22.2: 1:14:14
Miles 22.2-26.2: 54:11