About 10 months ago Rob and I decided that we would run a marathon together, his second and my first. In my almost twenty years of running history I have done two half marathons, several 10K’s, and too many 5K’s to count. So what makes someone decide to run a marathon? I think Tom Hanks probably said it well (in “A League of Their Own”), “You do it because it’s hard. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” Well, he’s right the marathon is hard. If it’s so hard, is it really worth it? Yes, every ounce of sweat and every painstaking step. I will not bore you with all the details, but I will share a few with you.n
Honestly, the marathon itself is not the event, but everything you put yourself through prior. Our training for the actual marathon started February 1, you remember…the sub zero windchill days and all the SNOW! We picked a training schedule with 6 days of running and 1 day of rest, I made a hybrid schedule that was somewhere between the “novice” and “intermediate”. We would have our long distance run on the weekend (that worked best with school being in session). The bulk of the long runs occured in April and May. Prior to this, my maximum length for a run had been 16 miles when I was overdistancing in my training as a college athlete. In a 5 week span of time I had 16 miler (that was okay), 18 miler (OUCH!), and 20 miler (OUCH!OUCH!YUCK!)–a week of rest (nothing over 7 miles)–then the 22 miler! After that, it was a three week taper to the event.
Now as far as a goal? What did I want to do???FINISH! but you need to have a time in mind that needs to be realistic. I wanted to be at a 10 min. mile average. Rob thought we could do better, he knows me better than I know myself (he told me within 10 seconds what I would run at the Klompen Classic–I had no clue)…so the goal would be 9 min miles for the first 5-6 miles, then we would go 8:30 for a stretch and gage where we were after 17 miles. So we had a little strategy.
The day of the race we left from Silver Bay, MN, at 5:30 a.m. to hop a bus and arrive at the starting point. We needed to be in the starting area 7:15 a.m. with a starting time of 7:30 a.m. WOW! What an event…imagine 7200 runners crammed like sardines for a half mile stretch, a passenger train with cheering people parallel to the starting area, two F18’s with a fly over, the national anthem, and then the start with “Chariots of Fire”…when the gun went off, we could not hear it, but they told us over the loud speaker. We walked, jogged, came to an abrupt stop, walked, and finally jogged a little more to get to the starting line (that took 3 minutes). We were off and Rob was the “little voice” making sure that I slowed down to stay behind the 4 hour pacer (I’ll have to tell you about the 18 mile run when I went out too fast:) We managed to stick with our game plan for much of the race, after mile 7 we passed the 4 hour group and were doing pretty well staying near 8:30. Things were going great and then we hit mile 17…you hear about mile 17 but it’s one thing to be there and live it. At mile 17 there was a runner down and the ambulance was coming…to that point most everyone had been chipper and in good spirits, then it got pretty somber–there was not much chatting, it was getting hot (almost 80 degrees), we were hurting, and I’m sure everyone was thinking the same thing (that could be me at the side of the road). This funk lasted for about 4 miles, but we had other issues to deal with when it came to mile 20.
I got a little excited when I saw the official time was 3:08, I thought we have 6 miles to go and I think we could break 4 hours! Then Rob started having back pain and his leg went numb. Rather than think about breaking 4 hours, the new plan had to be what is it going to take to finish. We walked a little more at the water stops beyond this point to allow more time for recovery and to manage the pain. With 4 miles to go I so badly wanted to go because I was feeling so strong, I looked back at Rob, he was hurting and there was no way I could leave him. I was going to finish, that goal was nearly accomplished. So with the last few miles there were many twists and turns in waterfont area to get to the finish. I stuck with Rob, so much so that he held my hand as we crossed the finish line and I gave his sweaty cheek a peck after we crossed the line. Now Rob’s version of the finish is a little different, he said he grabbed my hand to hold me back so he could finish ahead of me in the results (and he did…hmmmm).
After finishing we donned very large Grandma’s Marathon finisher medals, got in line for our finisher shirt (yeah, you only get your t-shirt if you finish the race), had our picture taken together, and then partook in the piles of food after the race (I had some difficulty partaking in that I just don’t feel like eating after running…I need a couple of hours, but I did force a few things down). Then we met up with a couple of runners from Oskaloosa, took some more pictures. Then we went for the traditional flush out your muscles in the ice cold Lake Superior…it was great, except for the rocks (I’ll bring sandals next time).
Would I do this again? That is always the question posed at the end of a big race like this…I said I would need a week to decide, but I think I made my decision within two days. Yes, I would do it again maybe even next year. However, next time there is hand holding to be done, it will be me dragging Rob over the finish line:)