There is nothing so simultaneously exhilarating and bizarre as running a marathon and realizing that there are people you don’t know cheering for you. There are thousands. They are pressed up against metal grates, leaning into the road rattling cow bells and party whistles. They are lounging on their front stoop in a lawn chair next to a case of beer with a sign that says, “This one’s for you!” They made you jello shots. They brought you pretzels and orange slices as if you were their guest at some strange party. They give you a dixie cup of beer at mile 23 and don’t deny you when you circle back for another. They’re your significant other who won’t protest too much when you cover them with sweat as you steal a kiss in passing. They’re still in their PJs, coffee in one hand. They’re tiny kids, 4 or 5 with their arm outstretched waiting for a high-five from the next passing runner. They let you stop and pet their dog who got all dressed up for the occasion in a tutu and a race t-shirt. They’re active duty in fatigues pacing you at the water stop so you don’t have to slow down. It’s a police officer who tells you, “lookin’ good” as she holds back traffic for you to pass even though you know you’re slow and far behind the pack.

If you ever want to feel like a rockstar, without really doing anything special, take a few months, do some running and sign up for a marathon – you’ll feel like a star but will soon realize that you’ve bought yourself front row seats to the best show in town. And while I am sad about the events at the Boston Marathon, and I am sad for the runners who worked so hard to participate in such an epic endurance event, my heart is broken for the spectators who were just there waiting and supporting the finishers. Those who are standing, waiting expectantly, cheering runners to the finish line. Who else would bear the brunt of this kind of attack?


Training for the Marine Corps Marathon has sucked. I ran two marathons last year and while that training was challenging, especially considering that they were my very first, this cycle has presented challenges that I couldn’t have prepared for and have really kept me from putting in the mileage that I hoped to this time around.

First there was the stress fracture of my 4th metatarsal, right before my two week vacation to Israel. Immediately prior to the fracture, I had really been pushing myself, apparently a little too hard. But it felt so good! I was running regularly in my VFFs. I PRed a the beautiful Decker’s Creek Half , and slow as I am, I was keeping up with the paces of friends who were running 10 minute miles for long distances. I knew that the Marine Corps Marathon could be awesome and it would be seriously possible to cut my marathon to around 4:30. Then on a run to work there was a sharp pain in my foot around mile five and that was it – 3 weeks of the boot. In Israel. Hiking. With no running (except to catch flights.)

Just as I was getting back into the swing of things, my Grandmother’s health took a steep decline and she eventually passed away. Needless to say, running during this time was not exactly a priority.

Two weeks ago I got the cold from hell. No energy means no running. I skipped my long run completely one weekend, putting in just 15 miles for an entire week.

This leaves me at just under six weeks to go until race day with the short runs leaving me sore and long runs on the weekends feeling like a death march. Though I’m raising money for the American Cancer Society (donations welcome!) I haven’t been running with the group or even with friends because I’m just too embarrassed for anyone to see how badly I’m struggling.

That is up until this past Sunday. I got up around 7AM, took the dog out for a mile, gathered my gear and went to my current favorite trail. We had brunch plans but I still had about four hours to put in my long run and I was shooting for anywhere between 17-20. The way things have been going, I figured that would be enough. It was a beautiful morning, cool and a little dewy. The woods smelled like fall. Everything just clicked. Each step felt good, sure. I took a little walk break every two miles or so to simulate water stops and even with waiting for some red lights at intersections, I ended up putting in almost eighteen miles with a pace at about 12:05/mile. For the first time in months, when I got home I didn’t growl when asked how my run went. So, I guess this means I’m ready!

Last year I ran two marathons. It was my first real attempt at to take on any kind of endurance challenge. For me marathon running is both terrifying and exhilarating. You get to the start and wonder – did I train enough? Did I do enough speed work? Run enough hills? Log enough miles? Drink enough water? I secretly love the training, the hours of running, in the heat, in the cold, with the dog. I loathe the last 2-3 weeks before race day where you cut back on mileage to prepare. I get bored, and crabby. I’m really fun to be around during that period.

Having had cancer myself, when I signed up for my first marathon, I considered doing so with an organization that raises money for fight cancer. However, though it may sound silly, I wanted to make sure that I could do it first! So this year I will be running the Marine Corps Marathon through the DetermiNation program in order to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

I am on the hook to raise $1275, which is no small chunk of change. Honestly, I would love to raise more. Please help me with this goal. I will be thanking you every mile.

Yesterday I ran my second marathon in Richmond, VA. I ran my first in Pittsburgh, PA this past year in May after a Christmas Party agreement with my cousin’s husband, Luke last year. After we recovered a bit from Pittsburgh we talked about doing the Marine Corps, here in DC but it filled too quickly so I pitched the idea of running Richmond because it’s still pretty close and is supposed to be a nice time and a good course.

With Joanna gone in Maine for a few months, I thought that I would have plenty of time to train and would get tons and tons of miles in. While I did have a good deal of time I also took on a freelance editing project and work got really crazy. On top of this I ended up visiting in Maine more than I anticipated. A wonderful thing, but the traveling did leave me more tired than I anticipated from time to time. I also ended up being sick on and off for two weeks or so before the marathon. That said, as the marathon came closer, I kept reminding myself that I was averaging about 5 more miles per week in training than I had for the last marathon, was running faster, had been doing more controlled training, like speedwork and tempo runs and was feeling better during and after my long runs. As Luke and I walked out of the hotel to position ourselves at the start I remember talking about how we were each nervous but ultimately, it was like any other weekend – we were heading out for a long one.

My family was coming from around the Morgantown area and were kind enough to offer to pick me up and take me back – I had planned on taking the train as the thought of driving after the marathon sounded completely miserable. So they arrived just after noon on Friday. We had an easy drive down to Richmond, stopping on the way for lunch where we ate carbs, carbs, carbs. We hit the expo and picked up our race packets. Luke got a headband to cover his ears in the cold and I introduced him to BodyGlide. I’m not sure how he has survived running this long without it.

We checked in to our hotel, the Comfort Inn on the north western part of Richmond. It was a bit of a lackluster pit whose advertised internet didn’t work. But it was cheap and we booked it just a few weeks before marathon time. Finding dinner the night before proved to be a complete and unanticipated fiasco. It never occurred to me that we should book a reservation but we found no wait under an hour at any of the restaurants we tried in Carytown so we gave up and hit the chain restaurants just outside of the city. At that point it was a relief just to find a place to relax and I played word games with their son as Luke and my cousin worked out the logistics of the next day.

I was nervous, but I didn’t feel as overwhelmed or anxious as I had before Pittsburgh, maybe because it wasn’t a complete unknown. We went back to the hotel. I got my things together, talked to Joanna on the phone, took a shower and went to bed about midnight.

The next morning I ate a spare bagel Luke had brought with honey and almond butter (I found these great packages where a nut butter and a sweetener is combined in a little packet. Really convenient.) I had a little bit of coffee, and some gatorade. I met up with everyone and we headed out to the car to drive to the start. My cousin, Sherea and Perry were going to try to meet us at a couple of points during the marathon but really, most of the city was blocked off in some way from the marathon. Figuring that out was going to be a real trick for them and as we got further downtown we were noting streets that were open and where they were in relation to the marathon course.

It was freezing when we got to the start. Both Luke and I were wearing top layers. I planned to chuck mine at some point along with the cheapie gloves that I was wearing. Luke was planning to give his shirt to Sherea at mile 3. Instead of stand in line at the porta-potties Sherea located a Starbucks inside the Marriott on the same block as the starting line so she and Perry got beverages while Luke and I stood in line with a bunch of other runners inside the nice warm hotel once, and then again. I will say that the entire marathon, for being as large as it was, wasn’t a hectic experience. We didn’t head outside to line up, maybe 10 minutes before the marathon start, finding plenty of room around the midway point for our respective corrals. I ended up ditching my sweatshirt just before the gun went off and we headed off and were able to cross the actual start pretty quickly.

Last marathon Luke totally went out too fast and bonked a bit at the end so my good pace is his reserve pace so we ran where I felt like I was making a little effort and used my Garmin to reign in our pace around a 10 minute mile from miles 1-4. It was nice to hang out, chat and actually get a little running time in together. It’s funny that we do running events together but haven’t actually run together until this marathon! Somewhere around mile 1, we were still downtown and on a straightaway before me I see a man with a mike, a small speaker and a huge sign that starts with the word, “repent” – no good ever comes after that word, especially on a sign. I quickly scanned the sign and sure enough partway down I saw the word, “homosexuals.” There’s nothing like being condemned to hell within the first 10 minutes of a race. I couldn’t help myself, as we passed the man, I leaped in the air, hands waiving and yelled, “I’m gay! I’m gay!” a second later we heard, “and God loves gay people, too…” I apologized for my outburst but Luke seemed to think it was pretty funny. Around 2.5 miles I ditched my gloves. As we approached the first turn at mile 3 we began to look for Sherea and Perry but didn’t see them so Luke ended up stashing his shirt at the corner of a building, hoping that it would still be there if we came back to look for it post-race.

At mile 4 Luke and I split up because I decided to hit the bathrooms. I grabbed some water at the stop and as I waited in the port-a-potty line there was a guy in front of me with very cool green stripy arm warmers. He was also drinking water and as he turned towards me I noticed that his bib said, “moose”. Being a little over-excited from the initial race endorphin rush, I slapped him on the arm a few times and pointed to my own bib which said, “m00se”. He was very gracious about it and only spilled a little on himself. I got back on the road and had a few sports beans. The back pocket of my knickers was loaded with various energy things and it looked like I had a weird tumor growing out of my back so unloading the oddly shaped things first seemed like a good idea.

Though I was warm from running and I could tell that the temperature was rising, I noticed that my hands were absolutely freezing. This has happened to me a few times recently, that my hands get so cold during a run that by the end I can barely move them. I really wanted those gloves back. It was getting difficult to even change songs on my MP3 player. So, around mile 6 I started scanning the ground for abandoned gloves.

I found a really cute pink striped pair but spotted the mate too late to make a grab. I was still keeping up a great pace for me, about a 10 minute mile, but I was missing pacing myself off of someone for whom the pace seemed effortless. As I was thinking about this I noticed a younger fellow in red shorts and a white top. We seemed to be running at about the same pace. So without thinking I just kind of tried to keep up with him for a while. It wasn’t hard, and didn’t require me to push myself too much but it was just nice to have a focal point for the run. I could keep running and pretty much know that I was on target in terms of pace without looking at my watch all the time. I kept this up until I stopped to make a pit stop around mile 12.

As I ran over the Huguenot Bridge at mile 7 I spotted a black pair of gloves almost identical to the ones I had tossed previously. I thankfully put them on my freezing hands as I took in the view from the bridge.  We were entering the more rural part of the run along the James River. It was simply gorgeous. There were some houses but for the most part they were off to our right with the river on the left and a gorgeous canopy of autumn leaves above us. This was probably my favorite part of the whole run. It was funny how serene it felt even surrounded by all those other runners.

This was also about the point in the race where the crowd support got kind of funny. Richmond is hailed as the friendliest marathon course. So far I hadn’t seen it, but I didn’t really have much to compare it too besides Pittsburgh. Except for a mile or two here or there, the Pittsburgh course felt like a party the whole way, despite the lousy weather. The support over the course of the Richmond Marathon wasn’t as constant but it did have it’s quirks. After we left the riverside, we ran though a more residential area, passing a woman standing at the edge of her lawn with a noisemaker a huge bowl filled with pretzels held out the the runners. Lawn or even living room furniture filled with spectators was a common sight as was people out on their stoop or leaning out of a window shouting support. At one point I high-fived a little girl in footie pajamas still wearing a bit of breakfast on her cheeks. I remain awed by the support one finds when running a marathon not only from fellow runners but from the spectators. Before we took off Luke and I were discussing the way running in a marathon felt, how you could have this little rockstar experience that one might not get in any other context. It is hard to explain, but it is crazy to spend a few hours with people holding signs, screaming, telling you that you can do it, and you’ve got this, and you look great, passing you food and beverages and cops stopping traffic for you. Really, it’s just wild.

Remember those abandoned gloves? Without thinking, from mile 7 until about 12 I proceeded to take those gloves of unknown origins and wipe my entire face with them. Those gloves were on the ground and probably had been run over by a few hundred runners. Long distance running, as a general rule, is pretty gross. Around mile 10 I took a Gu gel which in retrospect was a mistake. I think the gel really screwed with my stomach for the next 10 miles forcing bathroom stops at miles 12, 14, and 16. I didn’t feel completely terrible, but I didn’t feel great either which sucked after the first 10 miles, which were pretty great. As I waited in line for the port-a-john at mile 12 I tucked my gloves into my bra, then realized it had warmed up and I really didn’t need them any more so back to the ground they went.

Around the halfway point I ran for a bit behind a woman who had a sign on her back saying that she was running in honor of her late husband who had died earlier this year. It was a sobering way to think about running as a solitary experience, even in the sea of runners. I saw her several times over second half of the race.

I hadn’t really poured over the course map the way I had for Pittsburgh. According to what I had read, something happened around mile 15, a hill or something. I knew whatever it was, it was coming and I was trying to prepare myself for it. Despite the stomach issues, I really wasn’t feeling too bad, but kept having weird thoughts about quitting, which was strange for me because that rarely happens. As I approached the marker for mile 15 I saw a long bridge stretch out to my left and I got excited because I love running bridges, then I realized that this was the dreaded thing. I couldn’t figure out why just looking at it so I made the turn with just a little pang of dread but still, looked forward to running the bridge. I got a “lookin’ good” from a cute cop as I hit the overpass. I allowed myself to think that she actually meant it just for the ego boost. Then I saw a sign that said, “Make the Lee Bridge Your Bitch.” It seemed like a good plan of attack. The view of the James River from the Lee Bridge was just extraordinary. This was a nice distraction until about ¾ of the way across the bridge when I realized that the problem was the bloody headwind. It felt like you were fighting for every step as the end of the bridge got closer, but then just like that it was over.

My stomach felt the worst miles 16 though 19. I was afraid that it was just going to get worse but as I ran on to mile 20 there was a drastic improvement. Somewhere in here I was offered pretzels, I don’t think it was from the designated junk food stop at mile 16 (where I had a gummy bear and tossed the rest of them. I don’t know how anyone eats a gummy bear while running). Again, a testament to how disgusting running is – the woman offering the pretzels, God bless her, had a hand full suspended over a bowl and deposited them directly into my hands after we made eye contact. Brilliant, because I didn’t even slow down. Disgusting because, well it was. I think double dipping amongst a group of marathoners wouldn’t even be an offense. Eating and running is something that I’ve been afraid of as I’m clumsy and figured that the focus required to chew and run would automatically result in my tripping right into a ditch, but I happily munched on 6 or 7 pretzels over the next few miles. I finally saw my cousin and her son at mile 19 which was a welcome sight and gave me a nice boost as I approached the last 6.2 miles.

Mile 20 always seems kind of scary because you’re tired, and maybe a little bored and you know that “the wall” is supposed to come and flatten you and grind you into the pavement. I made my last pit stop here and as I left decided that I should check out the local NPR station on the radio because I was bored with my music. A little clicking around revealed only a classical music station and no fun weekend NPR shows which was a disappointment, so back to the music. The beginning of mile 22 was a glorious festival of people and snacks. First the usual water and Powerade stop, then no kidding, a homemade sign showing pretzels and beer. As I was offered a cup I said, “beer?” to the nice lady and she nodded as I said “brilliant!” as I trotted off. Part of me wondered if this was a good idea. Theoretically I knew it was not, however as I gazed into the fizzy head atop my little dixie cup of light beer swill (yum!) I said what the hell and took a sip. It was good. I felt good. It was awesome.

As I approached mile 23 I saw what looked like someone stretching in the middle of the street off in the distance. I thought to myself, come on man, you’re going to do that, right there? You can’t move off to the side? As I got closer I saw a man crouched down with his right leg stretched out at an angle in front of him. In typical me fashion I was still a little annoyed even though there was plenty of room to get around him. I waited for him to switch legs and stretch out the other. A few more steps and I saw that his left leg was fitted with a running prosthetic. I don’t know how many times I have to prove to myself what an asshole I am. Running for me has always been a quantifiable way to know that I was improving at something. Distance running especially is a chance to see how I can push myself, to literally see how far I can go. Here was another reminder that there are other ways of pushing myself, to not be so quick to judge and quick to annoyance. Sometimes, yes you do just have to stretch right there in the middle of the street and everyone else will just have to get out of the way. As I passed I sped up and felt the full weight of my body on each foot as it touched the ground, grateful for each step. I cried right through to the water stop at mile 23.

I have a bad habit of wanting to be done with a run just before I hit my target distance. It’s like my body knows how far I need to go and really doesn’t want to go a single step farther and just to ensure that this doesn’t happen wants to stop just a mile or two before I’m done. This was mile 24. I kept flipping songs, looking for the right one and telling myself just two miles, you can do two miles without even trying. This is so easy, just keep going. At mile 25 I picked it up and “In for the Kill” by la Roux came on around mile 25.5. I booked it right into mile 26 and hit repeat. There is a short sharp downhill at the start of mile 26 which I actually think kind of sucked because the grade felt severe on my tired quads. The descent was short though and there was the finish line right in front of me. I surprised myself by running even faster, tired though I was, and was running about an 8 minute a mile pace as I crossed the finish. I hope to learn to maintain that kind of speed through the whole race in the future.

My official time was 4:51:06. It was better than my first by about 22 minutes, but not as good as I had secretly hoped. It was sub-5 hours and that was a time I could live with. I am happy that I learned to eat and run and to know how good a little beer can taste on the race course. I think I need to ditch the Gu for good and find something else that works for me, the bathroom stops are killing me and I’m far to slow to absorb them. Overall it was a fun and quirky race but I don’t think I feel the need to make it a repeat event, but thanks Richmond for a great race!

Today’s run was a fucking revelation. It was the prize for every step I’ve slogged through, every hour on the treadmill, every run I didn’t feel up for and did it anyway. For the past two weeks or so I’ve been cutting my miles back, in order to give myself a little rest before the big push during the 26.2 miles of the marathon. This is usually referred to as tapering in the running world. Very often when someone tells you they’re tapering, this is quickly followed by a reference to “taper madness”. After weeks of training, and ideally peaking your mileage towards the end of of your training cycle, squeezing miles in around your already busy schedule and then going out for 3-4 hours on the weekends all of a sudden, you’re not doing that. You have weird blocks of free time and you’re supposed to be resting those muscles a bit. This free time increases as the specter of the marathon comes closer.

This is not a formula conducive to maintaining one’s sanity. You begin to wish you had a hobby. One of course, which you’d probably have to drop during your next training cycle, so… you see the problem. For me with this free time, inevitably I end up reading more which is nice. However, I also seem to veer towards reading books about running, which makes me want to run, which I’m not supposed to do. This pisses me off and just fuels the fire of my already shit mood. For anyone who has had to deal with me on any kind of personal level for the past two week, allow me to offer my apologies now. Clearly all the blame lies on the taper.

With the Richmond marathon just a week away I realized on Friday that my running plan for this week probably had me logging too many miles. At the last minute I had to rethink my training for the weekend which lead me to shorten my last long run and skip another run entirely. This also didn’t make me feel particularly good. I was planning to do my long run on Saturday but was feeling kind of tired, so I pushed it off until today. Today’s run confirmed that this was the best decision. It took me about a mile and a half to warm up but once I did I found myself running faster than I typically do. I’m a slow runner. I enjoy the distance and try not to beat myself up for logging 12 minute miles. But today, I watched my Garmin report my time and I was shocked when I saw numbers that indicated I was running miles in the 9 or even 8 minute range. I maintained this for about 4.5 miles of my 6.5 mile run. For me this is race pace – like short race pace for a 5k or 10k. While I don’t expect to be able to run the entire marathon like this, it does make me feel confident that can pull down a better time than my lackluster 5:13 at Pittsburgh this past May.

I felt like a million bucks this morning, dodging strollers, and racing through intersections just before the light turned. It felt better, really than any monetary figure I can pin on it because I was running. This was no jog, no training run, no run just to get those miles logged. It was a beautiful thing.

So, I believe in the taper. I believe that sometimes you need to feel like you’re going backwards in order to make progress. I believe that I will rock the house during the Richmond marathon, because really, when you’re running you’re biggest challenger is yourself. Oh, and I also believe in getting new running socks a week prior to the race! So, I’m ready Richmond! See you next weekend!

Sunday, May 2nd was my first marathon. All week the weather was predicted to be pretty nasty – rain and thunderstorms all morning. I hate running in the rain, plus the added possibility of a dealing with lightening made for a doubly stressful week leading up to the race. However Saturday was beautiful, if hot and the severity of Sunday’s predicted weather diminished as the day went on. By Sunday morning, the reports said that the thunderstorm would probably occur later in the day, if at all, and the morning would just have scattered showers.
My cousin’s husband, L. and I decided to run this marathon during a family Christmas Eve party. They live in WV so we met up in Pittsburgh for the weekend. The morning of the race, after scarfing a bagel and peanut butter, some gatorade, and a mini snickers bar, we met up at 6:30 and made our way down to the starting line. His wife and son along with Joanna  accompanied us despite the early hour.
L. is a faster runner than I, so we waited together, heard the gun go off and made our way toward the start line. After crossing the time-chip line, we separated. I tried to avoid starting off too fast and getting caught up in all the excitement at the start line. I checked my pace, and reigned myself in a bit.
Hour 1, Miles 1-5
Typically in any run, I hate the first two miles. Even in a short run, I hate the first two miles, and this experience was no different. During a race my nerves get the best of me and I have to pee in the first 30 minutes. Apparently I’m not the only one because I had my longest port-a-potty wait around mile 2, at 2.5 minutes. I met my cousin, her son, and Joanna around mile three as we looped back near the start line before crossing our first bridge. It had just started to rain in earnest, so they were all under umbrellas. I stole a quick smooch and headed off. The rain really picked up then, and it kind of stung when it smacked you in the face as it dripped from the bridge arches . I started to get worried about the slickness of the metal bridge joints, so I tried to be mindful of them.
Hour 2, Miles 5-10
These miles were uneventful. I was surprised to find myself on the 7th Street bridge near the Warhol museum. I didn’t really take a good look at the marathon map pre-race. I enjoyed the slight incline as we approached the West End Bridge and passed my second runner freak (which I love) – a guy dressed up in a Steelers jersey, complete with football. I checked his bib, and he was in it for the full. I told him that his outfit was awesome, wondered when he was going to ditch that football, and kept going. Around mile 10 I started checking out bibs. There were a lot of half-marathoners and relay runners. I began to wonder what the course would be like once the halfers branched off of the course. By this time it was steadily raining. I was really glad I bought a good lightweight hat. Typically I hate running with anything on my head, but I was so soaked that rain was dripping off the bill of my cap. With all that rain on my face, I would have been beyond miserable.
Hour 3, Miles 10 – 15
Somewhere after mile 12 started the hilly portion of the run. I knew it was coming. I was still maintaining a decent pace, was drinking a lot and walking through the water stops. As a result I had to stop at the port-a-potties pretty frequently, maybe once an hour. Fortunately there was never a line, but it was still annoying as this doesn’t usually happen for me on my long runs. It’s possible that I wouldn’t have needed to stop so much but I kept thinking about avoiding any kind of unfortunate accident near the end of the race so I just stopped when inclined.
At mile 11 the half marathoners broke off from the full marathon course. All of a sudden the course really cleared out and you could see who was in it for the long haul. There were some ROTC kids hanging out in the rain waiting for the marathoners to go by who offered a lot of support which was nice. Mile 12 had the Nike DJ who, at the time was playing MC Hammer which was fun and energizing. Going up the hill around mile 13 on Forbes Ave., I realized I was half way, that so far, it had been pretty easy, despite the rain and told myself that I could just keep going exactly the way I had been, and then I’d be done. Just past the aid station I watched a not-so-lucky marathoner toss her cookies all over the street, stumble over to the sidewalk and do it again. I tried to wave to the paramedics down the hill but they must of thought that I was gesturing to someone else, so I ran down the hill a bit to tell them about the situation. The woman might have been fine, but if I hadn’t said anything, I would have worried about it for the rest of the race.
Hour 4, Miles 15 – 20
These miles were a bit of a blur. I was just plugging away. I was feeling a little tired but was seriously suprised around mile 18 that I felt pretty solid. I was a little bored, which never happens on a long run, sick of all of my music, but still going strong. I started to wonder when I was just going to feel exhausted but quickly put the thought out of my head. If I’m not mistaken, somewhere around mile 17 we ran past a church where there were kids banging on some marching band type instruments, and just down the hill was a band called “Fire and Sex”. There was pretty much no point where you could just hear one group or the other. It must have been driving the band nuts, but the kids looked oblivious and seemed to be having a good time. There were a lot of kids on this part of the route, many lined up for high fives, which was amusing. Around mile 19 was Steel City Greyhouds, a greyhound rescue group. There were lots of dogs. I thought it would be bad form to run over and pet one, but I really wanted to.
During this time, the rain had let up and I was just wet, and tired of being wet. It was still so humid that even the barely-there quick-dri fabric of my singlet was soaked and just didn’t dry at all.
Hour 5, Miles 20-25
By this time I was starting to get tired and hungry. Not  in a I-can’t-take-another-step kind of way, but more like it’s Sunday, and I’d like brunch and a nap. At mile 20, I felt good. I was running a little more slowly, but not by much and despite the tired and hungry stuff, I was still feeling surprisingly good. At that point it was the furthest that I had ever run, and I knew it and was trying not to psych myself out about it. Everyone that I had spoken with who’d run a marathon acknowledged that the last 6 miles were all mental, so I was trying not to screw it up.
Considering that everyone knows that we were entering the worst part, there were lots of great aid station action and fun mile sponsors through this area. Around mile 20 there was a church group passing out water. Near the water table there was a man with a sign that said “Need Prayer?” and an arrow to a few people. I’m not religious in anyway but at that point a little extra help didn’t sound like a bad idea. I giggled as I ran past. Later another church group was passing out orange slices, which will no doubt be the best tasting fruit that I will ever eat. Further ahead another church group was out there with their own cups and water. I was becoming a little overwhelmed by the kindness and graciousness of the volunteers, standing for hours in the rain just to help me get through this run. It makes it hard to believe that, at our very core, humans aren’t hardwired to do good.
Around mile 22 I started to feel it. I was tired. I had taken 3 Gu gels already and could feel my stomach getting a bit weird, and debated opening up the last one I had brought but decided to hold off. At the water station the guy who handed me a glass of water looked into my eyes and said, “You’ve got this – don’t think about it.” For the next mile I tried to heed his advice. Okay, let’s not think about it. Um… so, what do I think about, then? At that point I realized that I pretty much hadn’t been thinking about anything really during the whole race. I had just kind of zoned out and focused on what was in front of me. When it didn’t seem to work, I ran through some topics in my head and felt myself slow down. I stretched my arms, switched songs on the ipod, and just tried to get in a good headspace.
Then I hit Bloomfield and it was just in time. It was like a block party. Thre were multiple bands, a lovely old lady on a PA system welcoming the runners and encouraging us to keep going. The buzz was palpable and I was distracted by everything that was going on. It was perfect. My feet felt lighter, and as I approached the water station, Shakira was playing. At this point I lost it and turned into the freaky runner. I skipped and danced my way through the water stop, while double fisting water and gatorade. After dumping the cups I switched my ipod back on and the Beastie Boy’s “Fight for your Right” came on. I was in. I began running a 10 minute mile at mile 23. I played air drums and pumped my fist in the air to the beat and passed a bunch of walkers who must have thought I was nuts. At one point I saw a woman in a bus shelter give me a weird amused look, I caught her eye and looked a bit sheepish, she smiled and I kept running. It was downhill and beautiful and I was on a roll. I went on like this until mile 25, where I got tired again, but not nearly as tired as I had been at mile 22.
The Last 1.2 Miles
There were lots of cruel turns in the last 1.2 miles. I kept looking for the finish line but really, maybe it was best that I couldn’t see it. Finally at the last turn, there it was. I felt awesome and tried to decide if I should mug for the camera as I crossed the finish line. I rolled into the finish running a good pace and I didn’t feel like I was going to die. I heard my partner yell my name and caught a glimpse of my family as I approached the line.
It didn’t take long for the stiffness to settle into my muscles. Despite the fact that the rain had ended, I was still soaked, and now cold. I never thought that those foil wraps would do any good, but they were welcome insulation from the little bit of wind. My cousin’s husband had already finished so my parnter passed me a larabar and I leaned on my Dad as we walked back to the hotel for showers. After we headed to Primanti Brothers near the airport so Joanna could have her first coleslaw and french fry laden sandwich. I was starving, and stiff but ultimately, felt pretty amazing.
I’m not crazy about my finish time of 5:13:50. My goal was to come in sub-5:00 but I’ve decided to be satisfied with this time for my first marathon. I didn’t hit the wall, I finished strong, and I only walked through the water stops. I got emotional around the start and again at mile 20. After bagging my first half-marathon training with the breast cancer bull shit, I know even when my run sucks, it’s better than not being able to do it. Hitting mile 20 and knowing just how far I had come was an amazing moment. Now,  if I can just figure out how not to stop at the port-a-potties, I can easily shave a whole lot of minutes from my time…
Two days later I am still sore, my body feels oddly swollen, the tops of my feet hurt and my toes are the same shade of pink as a raw, skinless chicken cutlet. I’m waiting for some toe nails to darken, but am hoping they won’t as my feet are already a hot mess. I’m trying not to run until next Monday, but oddly I’m already thinking about it despite the fact that it takes a few minutes to get up the stairs. I’m checking out the race calendar, looking for the next one, trying to figure out how best to improve my time.
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