So when I left off yesterday I had just gotten myself into bed after being evacuated from my hotel by some HILARIOUS person pulling the fire alarm. Let’s just cut to the chase here…I don’t think any legitimate sleep happened. I wasn’t really expecting it to. Last year before Potts I got pretty much zero sleep the night before so this time around I made sure to get as much rest as possible leading up to the race. This worked out fine and when my alarm buzzed at 4:30, I hopped out of bed feeling pretty refreshed.
I had two English muffins, protein bars, water, and a Starbucks doubleshot (best idea) all set up to eat as I got myself ready to go. Intelligently enough, I purchased starting line parking for $5 so I would have a place to leave my car right there at Monmouth Park Racetrack where the Expo had been held. The New Jersey Marathon is a point to point but they had convenient shuttles at the end to transport runners back to their vehicles at the start.
I had pulled a Sue and traveled with an old bathrobe that I could wear around pre-race and then ditch when it was time to go. I looked like a total hobo and received quite a few side-eyes, but whatever…I was warm and cozy in the barely mid-40’s weather. The morning was clear and crisp with a slight breeze. In my thin capris, tank and sleeves I was chilly, but knew I would warm up quickly as I ran.
I had exchanged contact info with Charissa who was running the half and she eventually found me in the ridiculously long bathroom line. It was SO AWESOME to meet her! She’s exactly as sweet and adorable in person as you might think from her blog.
As you can see, we were also sock twins. Lily Trotters rock!
I even got to take a quick pic with Jamal from Go The Distance on Facebook!
Such a wonderful guy!
If I had smelled Cheech and Chong’s room the previous day before attending the expo I could have blamed that on the fact that I signed up for the 3:40 pace group. There was no way with all the back issues I had experienced recently that I would be able to hold that pace for 26.2 miles. But I figured why not and just try to keep up with them the best I could.
Unfortunately the 3:40 pace group was in corral C and I was assigned to D. I could see their little flags up ahead, but the people working the corrals were not friendly about letting people switch. So I figured I could just try to keep them in my sights as long as possible or haul ass and try to catch up with them.
Our waves were set off by an incredibly obnoxious trumpet player and it was then I decided I was going to try and catch up to my intended pace group. In other words…my first mile was WAY too fast (7:38), but it felt good and I don’t think it negatively affected my performance beyond that. I was able to catch up with them fairly quickly – then had to stop and tie my shoe and catch up with them again – but once I did I was able to settle into a comfortable groove. I even took out my ear buds which is something I never imagined I would be doing at the beginning of a marathon. The group was entertaining and I enjoyed talking to them. It felt easy. I crossed the 10K timing mat feeling super strong at an 8:11 pace.
ANd then at the Half things went south
Honestly I stuck with the 3:40 group way longer than I thought I would. I ran into Charissa as she neared the end of her half and was still feeling pretty great . Then a water stop happened and I lost a little bit of ground, telling myself it was okay because I had started behind them anyway. And then at right around my own half marathon mark my right toes started to cramp up. I stopped to walk and it didn’t help. I walked some more and sighed a big, sad sigh as I watched the 3:40 banner disappear in the distance.
Oh well. It was a pipe dream anyway.
I started to text Helly and she was full of all the motivation and inspiration that I was completely lacking at that point. I reached mile 14 and started to run again only to deal with the same cramping less than a mile later.
And this would be how the rest of my race would set up. Running. Cramping. Walking. Wanting to quit. Friends texting me and telling me to not dare quit. That I was still moving forward and that I was going to get that medal at the end.
By mile 19 I hated everything, but I felt like I was at a manageable enough distance from the end that I would finish. My fuel plan was working great and I didn’t feel weak or particularly tired, but my foot just continued to fight me every half mile or so. It got so bad by 21 that I had to stop a couple times to sit and try and massage the cramps out. Both times kind runners asked me if there was anything they could do to help. One woman who was walking by offered me some of her Gatorade, which I declined, but then I started walking with her and we got to talking. Her name is Amy and she was about to become my new BFF.
Strength in Numbers
Amy had gone out that day with BQ hopes and just like me, the race had not gone her way. For the remaining 5 miles, we pushed each other to keep running, walked if we had to, and took some hilarious pics when we came upon the MarathonFoto photogs. When we reached mile 25, I told her that I was going to run to the end. My time no longer mattered, but I wanted to have a strong finish. So I went. My foot cramped and I ran through it. The crowds of people cheering became more and more dense. People were shouting at me by name (I guess I do kind of like having my name on my bib) and as I rounded a final corner with the finish line in sight, I heard Charissa yelling for me from behind a gate. It was exactly the final boost I needed.
I finished in 4:23:38. Way off the time I wanted and I didn’t even care. If not for the people who stuck with me through the worst parts of the marathon – Helly, Amy, my friend, Chip, and my mom – I wouldn’t have finished at all. I was just so happy to finally have that big, heavy medal around my neck.
I waited for Amy to cross the finish line a couple minutes later. We hugged and exchanged information. I really hope to do another race with her one day (and that we both have MUCH better outings than this time around!).
As far as the race itself…I would do this one again in a heartbeat. The course was beautiful with lots of cool stuff to look at and there were plenty of water/fuel stations. I barely needed to carry anything with me at all. And the finish right there on the boardwalk was just amazing. I may have hated everything while I was out there, but looking back it was really awesome.
So that’s it! The marathon that almost wasn’t…then was…then almost wasn’t again…and then ultimately was. I learned A LOT about myself during that race and I’m so glad that I didn’t allow myself to give up when things seemed really impossible. I have wonderful people in my life that believed in me more than I believed in myself and because of them I was able to keep going forward. There will be other chances in my future and hopefully I will go into those healthy.
Now it’s time to heal.
Thank you all so much for your support, kindness, and advice over the past couple months. The running community is such a wonderful thing…something I realized more than ever when people stopped their own races and offered to help me when I was hurting. I’m truly touched and honored to be a part of it.
Happy Tuesday and I love you guys. ❤