Sunday, December 6, 2009

My first marathon

Here I am...nervously smiling minutes before running my first full-distance marathon in Vancouver, B.C. Excited to be meeting this lifetime goal head-on, but also wondering what exactly I'd gotten myself into.

Months before, I'd finished my first half-marathon in Seattle. It had been a feeling like no other crossing that finish line. And yet, I felt it was a goal half-finished. I felt I needed to complete the entire 26.2 distance, if at least just once.

My friend Kim also decided she wanted to work towards this goal and thus began our grueling training. Grueling, because we ran the same route over and over and over. It was mentally exhausting. I remember on days we had to run 16 miles and over, we'd have to run miles around a local school track to make up the distance. Boy, I do NOT recommend that!

Come race day, I was feeling pretty good. Our longest training run had been 20 miles and I was pretty comfortable with the idea of tacking on an extra 10K. The first 8 or so miles of the race I felt great, really strong.

I decided at that point to take one of the Power Gels Kim had given me just prior to the race. It wasn't one I'd had before, but since I'd had similar varieties during our training, I didn't think twice. Bad idea. Two miles later I began feeling sick...really sick to my stomach. I couldn't believe this was happening.

About halfway into the race things started to go downhill pretty quickly. I remember looking for medical personnel or racing staff for assistance. I didn't think I could finish. It was also about this point I had to slow down to walk. I was miserable! But because I never found anyone to assist me back to the finish line, I HAD to keep going. Over the next few miles I was able to alternate running a little with my walking. I was in beautiful Stanley Park, and the scenery definitely encouraged my spirits.

At mile 17, I passed the beautiful gazebo my husband had proposed to me in a few years before! It was another nice surprise and encouraged me to keep pressing on. I also remember making the decision to complete the race about this time. I had completed 17 miles, had trained for months, driven all the way up and taken time off work...I couldn't quit. I'd cross that finish line if I had to crawl.

About mile 20, I was really fatigued. Exhausted. I recall seeing volunteers handing out what looked to be lemon popsicles. Famished, I grabbed one and nearly popped it into my mouth when I told it was Vaseline. Great!

I was completely dragging near the end. I remember meeting a man from Mexico City and we encouraged each other towards the finish line. By the time I approached, the finish line had been moved along a sidewalk to start making way for traffic. No matter - it was still beautiful to cross that finish line! I was proud, relieved, and tired all at once. It was a wonderful rush of emotions. I finished in about 5:45. My next marathon I'd train smarter and shave about 35 minutes off this time.

As difficult as this race was, I still completed it and am glad I did it. It's funny how all the hours of training and racing and effort pay off the instant you cross that finish line and receive your finisher's medal. And then you say, "that was fun. When's the next race?"

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