I ran a marathon yesterday. That's a thing I also do, running. What started out as a way to keep moving and motivated after I graduated college and subsequently was no longer a collegiate athlete morphed into a sickness. Started with a half marathon with my SO, which I liked so much I said "Marathon, next!" and he rolled his eyes, so I did it. What can I say? I like my miles long.
This race was my second marathon; my first was Philly, but this year it was too expensive and on my mom's birthday, so I decided to go with the Bucks County Marathon. And I decided this about a month away from the race. It was a week earlier, but if I wasn't ready to go by then, I had bigger issues. This one didn't really go as I expected, but hey, I lived.
The day dawned as I'd expected: cold AF. Thus, I layered on my favorite Nike tights with my thrifted UA long sleeve and black Nike vest. I like my brand name clothing like I like all my clothing: cheap as hell and probably second-hand. But I really didn't need it all, which I realized before the start, and ditched the vest. Thank god. I would have died out there in all that black.
Philly is an enormous, looped road race; 20,000+ people run it and the city comes out to cheer you on (and offer beer along the way). The Bucks County marathon is an out-and-back course, had less than 200 runners day-of, and a generous estimate of six spectators over the course of 26.2 miles. I was pleasantly surprised by how small and personal the race felt, starting about eight minutes after the leaders as opposed to nearly an hour, as is the custom at bigger races that have huge corrals to wait in.
Like I said, very few runners...and I never saw them again.
The first five-odd miles went by fairly uneventfully. We were running along the canal and up through New Hope, so the scenery was pretty and I could bird watch. I clipped along, drank my Glukos at about five miles in, and felt pretty pleased with myself. First red flag. Because I'm usually mid-pack at Big Box-type races, I was surprised to find myself in the back of this one. Less people = less people my speed, and I didn't realize I was going too fast because I felt fine and was confused about why I was still in the back.
My usual left-foot stabbing pain only nagged for about a half mile early on and worked out, but the instep of my right was annoying me. Around mile 7, I stopped to retie my shoes, and that helped. I didn't see another runner until mile 8/9, when the leader of the race passed me going back. I'd been out for almost two hours and wasn't halfway, and this fucker was cooking by with less than half to go. Fuck that.
However, miles 9-12 were my best of the day, emotionally. I got to see everyone else going back. As runners always are, they were cheery and encouraging, smiling or offering a "keep it up!" on the way by. But soon they were gone, and it was me and my shitty foot and slow ass run alone again. The 13.1 water stop was like an oasis in a desert; they took my water bottles, refilled everything with ice-cold water for me while I did the requisite jog around the cone about 200 yards up the trail from them. I took some time here to stretch on a picnic bench and think about how stupid running is before shambling off again.
Shortly past the 13.1 point.
A lovely second wind carried me to about mile 15, where I shoved an entire packet of Cliff Blocks (with caffeine!) in my face because I am a reasonable adult. I was really counting on that caffeine picking me up, because I was in an absolutely garbage headspace. Lots of "fuck this fuck that fuck feet fuck running." It, however, did not. I won't go so far as to say it was a total Bonk, but I really, really, hated myself until mile 18/19-ish. Once I passed the spot I'd been at when the first-place runner zoomed by me earlier, I started being able to see the end.
Mile 5 and/or 21, depending on which way you're pointing.
I'm not proud of myself for the speed I slowed to, though. (Note to my idiot, fast-out-the-gate self, BANKING TIME DOES NOT WORK.) It was hotter, so I was drinking more water than I had planned on, used 3 Glukos shots, and two packs of Cliff Blocks during the race. Last marathon, I didn't walk at all, but this race got to me, and I ended up walking about a mile and change, if I had to guess, but broken up over the course of the last 8 miles. I'd walk through water stops or to eat a gel, or occasionally when my foot or fantastic ass cramp (hello, new friend!) decided to shit on my dreams. By the power of some well-timed inspirational talks on my iPod and the bulletproof, do-anything voice in my head, I kept going, and in the last 3-4 miles, ran straight through.
I was looking like a shambling mound coming into the finish, and there wasn't anyone within a mile of me when I crossed. Some lovely volunteers gave me a bottle of water and my medal, which I carried in my hand while creaking my way to my car. Another runner, long completed, walking the other direction scolded me, "Put that on! You earned it."
And so I did.
I started the day thinking I'd like to run sub 5:30, which would be taking 00:30:03 off my first marathon. Due to not preparing myself appropriately for the solitude and some real issues with my feet (probs should see a doc), I missed that goal, but still managed to shave off more than 20 minutes, finishing with a time of 5:38:26.
This was 100% my fault for not mentally prepping myself for running alone, and next year, no matter what race I do, I'm shooting for better. Never give up. Never stop trying. It doesn't matter how slow I go, so long as I never stop. Also, so long as I get a burger at the end of it all. And a hard cider. Some things are bigger than us.