When we left off, I was bidding a fond farewell to Captain No Shirt standing outside Club Motel 6 and heading to the Bob Potts starting line which I had wisely mapped the previous day so I don’t have any hilarious tales to share about me getting lost in the bowels of York, PA.
I give you…part 2. AKA: The part that more people will be interested to read.
Spoiler alert: There’s no tilapia in this post.
It was right around 5am when I found myself a nice little parking spot at the Grumbacher Center at York College. Despite practically zero minutes of sleep, I was feeling really energetic as I got my stuff last minute organized. One SPI belt held my phone. The other one held a Luna protein bar and Honey Stinger Chews. Then I also had GU packets, but rather than try to shove them all in the belt, I stuck them in the tops of my compression sleeves. I HIGHLY recommend this if you wear compression sleeves. I couldn’t feel them at all in there and they were super easy to access later on when I needed them.
One last pit stop to one of the many port-a-johns and I was on my way to the start. The temperature was right around 50 degrees and I probably would have been cold, but it was REALLY humid as a result of some nasty weather that had come through the previous night. By the time I got down there, the wait was not long. They were just starting up some announcements as the sun was on the rise.
Now I did have a time goal for this race beyond just crossing the finish line. I never mentioned on it on here because I feel like it jinxes it…like when you tell someone what you wished when you blew out your birthday candles and then it supposedly won’t come true. Now that the race is over, I can tell you that my super mega secret time goal was to finish in under 4 hours. I also knew that was probably pretty lofty considering that I had a very delayed start to my training and absolutely ZERO idea what was going to happen after mile 20 if/when I was going to meet the infamous marathon wall.
I looked at the faces of everyone around me and they were all smiling and full of excitement. As the singing of the National Anthem ended, I told myself over and over again that I was going to do this. It didn’t matter how fast I ran or if I had to walk or crawl or whatever. The sub-4 would be amazing, but either way I was going to have a finisher’s medal hanging around my neck by lunch time if I was lucky. Pretty much as soon as I finished my personal pep talk, we were moving.
I started my watch and OMG I was running my first marathon.
The first mile looped around on some of the streets nearby the college and after that we would be on an out and back course of the famous PA Heritage Rail Trail. Abraham Lincoln traveled that very rail line to Gettysburg to deliver his famous Address and even stopped at Hanover Junction, which we would get to run right through. (SO COOL!) Because of my trail experiences near where I live, I worried that the route would be extremely boring, but it was actually really beautiful. We crossed over pretty streams, wound our way through farms, and at many points there were lively spectators holding fun signs and cheering us along. At mile 6 we ran through a long, creepy train tunnel that was nearly pitch black due to the fact that it was so foggy outside. The girl in front of me was using her phone as a flashlight and I followed her, crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t roll an ankle on the uneven concrete.
I realized right away that not having water was a non-issue. They had water and Gatorade stations just about every 2 miles or so. I also started to notice that just before every mile marker there was a white cardboard container at the side of the trail, each with a little sign with a note of thanks from such-and-such a sponsor. At first I thought they were trash cans so that we wouldn’t litter, but I’m glad I didn’t use them for any garbage because upon closer inspection the boxes were filled with GU! They literally sat what probably amounted to like thousands of fuel packets for the runners to take as they needed them all along the course. It was such an unexpected and amazingly pleasant surprise! These Bob Potts people truly thought of everything.
The first half of the race I was feeling very strong. As has become my long run habit, I started out listening to stand up comedy. I had my playlist loaded up with Louis CK (who had me laughing so hard at one point that I started to choke and a woman nearby looked at me nervously like she thought I was about to keel right over), Jim Gaffigan, and then a bunch of great music…a lot of which I pulled from this post and thank you guys so much for the great suggestions! The most annoying thing I encountered was since the surface of the trail was crushed stone, I had to stop multiple times to get rocks out of my shoes. My hip started to ache a bit at around the half marathon mark, but I pushed through it and eventually the pain went away enough that I forgot about it for awhile.
I remembered back to when I ran my first half in October and we saw the marathoners as they passed the half marathon mark. I was talking with these two girls and we were marveling at how fresh faced they looked and how in the world do they look so good right now after running 13.1 miles? Well I actually felt like I looked like one of those marathoners when I passed the 13.1 mile marker; smiling at spectators and laughing at their signs. I was relaxed and enjoying myself! This feeling lasted until around mile 16, when I still felt relatively good but things were definitely getting more challenging. I kept reminding myself that I had less than 10 miles to go now. My playlist had switched over to music and I sang along with it as a distraction. The field of runners had thinned out a lot so I was running solo most of the time. This was fine by me since I’m used to training alone.
I was kind of expecting to spontaneously combust as soon as I passed the marker for mile 20. Or like an actual brick wall was suddenly going to spring up from the ground and I was going to plow right into it. This was unknown territory and I was nervous as hell about it. But still I felt okay. I felt okay at mile 21 also. And then at mile 22?
I hit the wall.
My wheels completely fell off. I still kept running, but I had to slow up significantly. Between miles 22 and 24 I almost threw up several times. I went through that tunnel again, but I barely even remember it the second time. My legs were SCREAMING. I walked through the water stations just to get a break. The last one was about a mile and a half from the finish and the nicest blonde lady must have noticed how completely wiped out I was, handed me a cup of water and told me that I was almost there.
I looked at her and started crying. I would have been horrified by this if I wasn’t so delirious. Instead, I just kept going.
I did end up wearing my Garmin and was successful at ignoring it for pretty much the whole race. When I checked my time I realized that I could basically walk a mile and still make it to the finish in under 4 hours so when I got to the marker for mile 25 and I allowed myself to walk for a few minutes to get everything under control. I pulled out my phone and switched the music to the last song on my playlist: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. I started running again and as soon as the song ended, I could see the stadium and I knew I was close. I pulled out my headphones, hooked them under my sports bra strap, and pushed myself on…past the 26th mile marker, up a hill toward the school – I was running on pavement now and it somehow felt so much more manageable than the crushed stone I had just spent the last several hours on – then into a driveway and up on to the track.
There was a woman yelling at me to GO GO GO I was almost there and pointed me in the direction in which I was to run. I had the whole track to myself at that moment and I could see the finish line just at the other side with a big clock over top of it. And then suddenly my name and bib number and my hometown were being announced over the loudspeaker in the stadium. People were cheering. It was completely surreal.
As I rounded the end of the track I could see that the clock read 3:49:and-change and I decided that my life depended on finishing in under 3:50. I don’t even know where I got the energy to sprint from, but I did. I crossed under the big clock with my hands thrown in the air and then someone was handing me the most glorious soft towel that had been soaking in icy water, and another person was handing me a bottle of cold water to drink, and another person was hanging a medal around my neck.
I finished my marathon. I was a marathoner. I started crying and then I saw my husband and baby waiting for me at the gate and I started crying harder. Betty was yelling “MOMMY WON!! MOMMY WON!!!” and I didn’t even try to tell her that I didn’t because I totally did.
My official finish time:
I told my coworker that I wanted to get it tattooed somewhere and she asked me why because there are going to be other times. I told her that none of those times will be the first time.
A couple final things:
Suz, you could not have possibly been more right. I have a nasty, painful area of chaffing under my right arm which must have been the one spot I missed because I definitely rolled it on everywhere else. I don’t even want to think about how much skin I would have lost without it, so THANK YOU! I will never run a marathon without Body Glide.
I ran without tape!
I probably would have still taped my leg if the roll of KT Pro I bought recently wasn’t defective. The adhesive isn’t sticky at all and it was coming off in the middle of my runs, so I didn’t want to be bothering with it for 26.2 miles. It ended up being a non-issue because that part of my leg felt great the whole race and still does. I’m so glad to have that all behind me!
I so glad I listened to Colby and took out my headphones!
She had the brilliant idea to shut everything down and really take in the finish and I’m so glad I did. Hearing my name announced in the stadium was epic. I never would have wanted to miss that moment.
I WILL run Bob Potts again!
Small, friendly, and from start to finish it couldn’t have been better organized if they tried. The volunteers were spectacular (I think there were more volunteers than runners!) and the course was picture perfect. This race was amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone.
I’m a freaking MARATHONER!
In April 2013 I started running. A little more than one year later, I ran my first marathon, sub-4. I have to admit that somewhere around mile 24-ish I was wondering WTF I had gotten myself into, but as soon as that medal was around my neck I was already looking forward to the next one.
Us runners are crazy people. ❤
And that concludes my recap of Bob Potts 2014. I hope part 2 was worth the wait! (I’m so sorry for that cliffhanger, but as you can see, this would have been the longest blog post of all time if I had done it all at once!)