This was my second marathon and my goal was to improve my time from last year and – as the year before – I wanted to not hate marathon running after the race. It has been almost a week since the race and will try not to analyze while I write (not an easy task for me).
To understand my neurotic thoughts and feelings before the race, I am going rewind to what happened 2 months prior to last Sunday. I had been commuting to San Antonio for work for over a month and working too many hours. I was feeling sick and fatigued as we ramped up to our long runs. As other times in my adult life, I realized that I was trying to be super responsible and feeling like crap as a result. I had reached my limit. Soon after our first 20 miler, I started having increasingly sharp pain in my lower leg that screamed for attention. I finally went to Dr. Spears. I had shin splints for the first time since I started running 4 years ago. To recover, I was supposed to take a break from running and do physical therapy. What the hell…I was supposed to do better than last year during my training! I was disappointed because after I stopped commuting to San Antonio for work, I was getting rest, felt like I was into a groove with running and had improved my time. Sitting on the pity pot was not going to get me to my goal, so I became determined that I was going to run the Austin Marathon. I drastically decreased my running and felt like a hamster on a wheel as I used the elliptical trainer and watched America’s worst television programs at the gym (I dislike TV so much that I don’t watch it at home).
A few weeks before the marathon, I still felt some pain when running fast or long distances, but it was much better. The doubts lingered, and then yelled at me as I got closer to the morning of the marathon. To combat my doubts, I recalled talking to Bobby a few weeks before about running the marathon, and he thought it was do-able after we discussed my last long run and my recovery. The physical therapist also thought I was recovering well, but was cautious about the hills and pace. I went ahead as if I were going to run it by doing the usual preparation. I went to the pre-marathon presentations at Rogue, which I am thankful I did, and drove the course with my friend, Amy, who was visiting from Seattle to run the half. The presentation by Amy Anderson about trusting the training resonated with me and I reflected on her words and Bobby’s assurance as I started the marathon. I continued to remind myself that I had done the Run from Hell and did one 20 miler. I had worked solidly on recovering. In case I felt pain, my contingency was to run the half and register for a different marathon a few months later, but I did not want to do this. I continued with planning that I would run it. My friend, Amy and I had a restful Friday night and Saturday. We ate healthy and hit the bed early Saturday after a healthy pre-marathon dinner at home. We met my boyfriend in plenty of time after finding a great parking spot close to gear check. I even remembered to slather on plenty of sunscreen onto my day glow white skin before leaving the car. It was all going smoothly; I was more familiar with what to expect than the year before.
I saw a few familiar faces before the race, people from Rogue, including Kim, from Sole Survivors. She, Amy and I started off together. Wow, no pain, I thought. My calf felt a little tight, but I kept it slow and steady. I did not want to burn out early on. During the slow climb up Congress, I spotted Anna, my Sunday recovery run partner, who was spectating. I tried to stay toward the middle of the street to avoid the camber and found this helped with my form. South 1st felt like a breeze and was feeling good.
As I ran past the energetic, cheering Livestrong group on Cesar Chávez, I saw an acquaintance in the crowd who had recently lost her husband of only a year to cancer. I was overcome with emotion as I saw her and knew she had been missing him terribly. I recalled the last time I saw him and knew immediately that he was dying even though he still had a beautiful smile and spirit. This was only months before. I gave her a big hug, thanked her for being there with her husband’s picture and ran on. This reminded me that there were much bigger things happening in the world besides my damn shin splints. I dropped my unhealthy worrying at the curb and kicked it down the gutter as I thought about the sign I had seen earlier that stated something like “Stay calm and just f*cking run”. This is what I thought as I ran past Mopac and past the half marathon turn to the right. For a moment, I thought about how I would feel if I took that turn to the right. I knew that I would regret it because I was feeling really good. It was quiet going up the first inclines, and, like last year, the silence seemed sudden. It allowed me to reflect though and think about the upcoming, bigger hills. Before I knew it, I had made it up the hills and was grabbing an orange slice from Margaret. I still expected to feel pain as I wondered if I maybe I should have walked up the hill as the physical therapist said I might need to. I continued on and started to feel a lot warmer. I made a plan to at least have a couple of sips of water at each water station to stay hydrated.
Shoal Creek came and went and Great Northern was less of a crawl than the year before. Around Woodward, I began to tire and thought about my running form that I had been working on during recovery. I needed to keep my knees over my toes and imagined that I had a small ball between my knees. This visual worked. I needed the energy from the spectators and took it in. I tried not to think about how I hadn’t run this far in over 6 weeks because it made the rest of the race seem so long. I thought about the rest of it in increments.
I usually don’t carry my cell phone, but since my friend had a flight back to Seattle later that afternoon, and I didn’t know if I’d make the whole 26.2 miles, I took it with me. I heard my phone ring around 20 miles and remembered that I forgot to call her to let her know I passed the half marathon turn. I told her I had a little over 6 miles to go and was feeling good. I looked at my watch and realized that my time was a little better than last year. I felt a surge of energy and increased my pace. My hips and glutes started to protest and I noticed I wasn’t sweating as much as my body needed. Even though I didn’t feel like it, I took in more water. I noticed people were tiring and a few stopped and bent over like they were in pain or about to vomit. A woman behind me started making annoying moaning sounds. Oh man, time for the iPod…I needed a distraction. Duvall, my familiar running street, please be here soon. I finally hit Duvall, but was had slowed my pace. A spectator saw my Rogue shirt and yelled something like “Go Rogue runner, you know Duvall”. I needed this and took it in. My calf started to feel tight and almost numb. My energy ebbed and flowed down Duvall. I started to get concerned around MLK because I remembered the hill toward the end and wondered if I would be able to make it up the hill. As I approached it, I saw a familiar figure, and heard Bobby’s voice. He was too far away for me to be sure, but then I recognized him and saw what seemed like a big crowd of people cheering. Damn, I couldn’t believe I made it and gave what I had left on the last hill. I was thankful that Barry continued to run with me up the hill because I didn’t have much left and was feeling the pain. I also was feeling a weird feeling in my stomach and hoped I wasn’t going to vomit on my way to the finish line. I passed the finish line and soon after I spotted my friend who was yelling over the fence. We took a quick photo and took off soon after to grab lunch, get clean and drive to the airport. My legs were weak and craved an ice bath that would have to wait.
I learned many things during this training and my second marathon. The most meaningful are to trust the training and to pay attention to how I am feeling.