I was prepared, and I knew I was. Maybe that’s why I slept like a baby the night before my second marathon. Running, like many challenges in life, can be a humbling experience. I knew better than to take anything for granted or to have lofty expectations. But I was very prepared. I don’t think I could have done another thing to make myself any more ready for the big day.
My biological clock woke me up 5 minutes before my iPhone alarm did.
I dutifully ate a breakfast of sprouted bread and natural peanut butter with half a banana. My stomach wouldn’t let me eat any more than that. Quick shower, layers of sunscreen and Body Glide, and lots of glowing neon race gear.
We arrived early, and I had time to stretch. Excited but not nervous. The weather was my running dream – cool and cloudy with very little breeze.
|Smiling before the start in a rainbow of bright colors|
I lined up between the 4:40 pacer and the 4:55 flag. He gave me instructions to stay behind 4:40 for the first half, but not to let 4:55 pass me – ever. My goal was to break 5 hours.
National anthem… not much fanfare… and we were off.
The 4:40 pace team disappeared quickly, but I stuck to my pre-decided pace. I felt like everyone in the corral had passed me by mile 3, but I vowed that some of them would be see me again later in the race.
We wound around some simple neighborhoods for the first few miles. The local support was really great – I always love seeing little kids along the way. But I started to get restless after awhile; I wanted to see some ocean.
My aggravation worsened when I came upon an interesting trio – it looked like a dad and his twin daughters, who were dressed in animal print running gear. They were using an annoying run/walk strategy, and they would pass me at a trot, then slow to a walk, three abreast, in the middle of the road. I wanted to shove their young zebra asses out of my way. Finally, I simply sprinted ahead and left enough distance that they were no longer an issue.
Ahead of the jungle crew, I spied a young woman who was keeping a nice, steady pace, and she looked like she knew what she was doing. I caught up to her and slid in beside her. We were keeping perfect pace together. I wondered if I was bugging her, but I gave her a couple of chances to ditch me, and she didn’t.
A few more miles in the ‘hood, and then I saw him with his familiar yellow support sign and felt a surge of relief and happiness. Ahh… I ran behind my pacer girl and gave him a quick kiss on the move before rejoining her for another mile or so.
Finally, one of us said something, and we quickly discovered that each of us appreciated the other and that although neither of us had ever run with another person before, we were enjoying ourselves very much. I stuffed my headphones in my bra and we talked for a couple of hours about all sorts of things as we made our way down the shore through Deal, Asbury Park, and Ocean Grove.
Pacer Girl wasn’t feeling well and had to make a pit stop around mile 21 or 22, and I reluctantly went ahead on my own. I missed her, but I finally settled back into my own isolated groove with my tunes.
I think if the race had been 30 miles, I could have run 30 miles. But knowing I could stop at 26.2, those last 2 miles just seemed like 10. My groin and my glutes were starting to ache. Where was that finish line? The crowd had thinned out to nearly nothing, and I was sure I was going to finish dead last. But suddenly I became aware that I was passing almost everyone in front of me! I began to “woo-hoo” my way through with new energy, and then… I saw it.
The 4:40 flag.
Oh yeah, her ass was mine. I dug deep and motored past, knowing that I was going to be very happy with my final results if she was doing her job.
Finally the finish flags were in sight, and I gave a final push with every bit of energy I could muster, crossing the finish line faster than I had run any other part of the race.
My body was empty. I felt comforted when I saw him on the sidelines, and then I stumbled down the line to grab a water bottle. Keep walking. Someone asked me if I was okay. I guess I said yes, but I wasn’t sure of it. I wanted my medal more than I wanted the water, but I didn’t see them anywhere until out of nowhere came a smiling woman who draped one around my grateful neck. He was grinning the biggest grin I’ve ever seen and congratulated me with elated eyes, but I was watching the finish line for Pacer Girl.
A couple of minutes later, there she was. She said she had my neon pink tank in sight for the last few miles. She made it.
I can’t wait to do it again.