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42 degrees, Rain, Wind and My First Marathon

June 3, 2013

Two days before the marathon my sister flew in for the week. Not only was my adrenaline already on overdrive, I was ecstatic that I would get a week with her. The nerves for the marathon, paired with my excitement turned me into one jittery, little lady. Fortunately (for my sake) my sister is obligated to love me and it’s amazing that she put up with my crazy for the 2 days leading up to the marathon. She accompanied me to get my marathon henna and run all kinds of last minute errands in preparation. For example, the realization that the weather for marathon Sunday would be 40 degrees, cold and rainy sent me into a spiral of panic, assuming I didn’t have the “right” clothes (since I had already planned my marathon outfit several weeks prior). What didn’t help my marathon jitters was that my boyfriend, whom I’ll initial, NM (also running the marathon) was as cool as a cucumber. He kept saying, “you will do great,” while I wondered what was wrong with him that he wasn’t more nervous.

Fast forward to the night before the marathon: Carbo-load dinner was finished, and itunes playlist completed; race bib filled out and attached to shirt; clothes set out, and marathon fuel on the table; I was ready. When the alarm sounded at 0445 on Sunday morning I could hear the rain pitter-pattering on the roof, and feel the chill in the air. I remember thinking, “you’re crazy.” As the coffee brewed and breakfast prepared, NM and I kept looking out the window at the pouring rain, then at each other, shaking our heads. The weather couldn’t have been more terrible to run a marathon in, but I was ready and I was more excited than a kid on Christmas morning.

After a bowl of Raisin Bran, 16 oz of Gatorade, 1/c cup coffee, banana, a protein bar and some morning yoga, I was ready. By 0720 NM and I headed downtown to the start, clad in garbage bags (our makeshift ponchos). Upon reaching Battery street, our excitement began to rise, yet I also felt calmer than I had in the days prior. We looked at each other, we were ready. As we jogged down and then up the Battery street hill to warm up, laughing and joking, I had never felt happier. We had trained together and prepared together and there we were; it felt wonderful.

We lined up at the start, and after a few high fives and nervous smooches,  the race horn sounded; we were off! We had previously agreed not to run together during the marathon since we both kept different paces. Within the first 10 minutes, NM was out of sight ahead of me. The first things I remember feeling was such joy and utter calmness. Running up Pearl street, noticing the spectators for the first time sent chills up my spine. Around mile 4, I noticed I was running faster than I should have been (just behind the 3:15 pacer). It didn’t matter though, I was too dang excited. It wasn’t until mile 10 that I really began to focus, that the marathon became a true, mental “game,” requiring my full mental and physical capacity.

I knew I had run too fast for the first 10 miles, failing to pace appropriately. I knew I had a long way to go, but I also knew that I was in it, there was no backing out and the only way to finish was to keep running.  As I approached the halfway mark (mile 13) behind the 3:30 pacer at Oakledge Park and ran along the water on the bike path I remember my teeth chattering, the waves of the lake splashing over the path hitting some runners. I remember thinking, just pass this corner and you’ll start getting warmer once you run up Battery hill.

Rounding the corner onto the bottom of Battery street hill evoked feelings in me I didn’t know I had. The amount of spectators lined up on both sides of the road, the homemade signs, the screaming people, the rain, the music, the flags; it brought tears to my eyes. I ran right up the yellow lines in the middle of the road. I don’t remember much about the people I saw or what I looked like, or how sore my muscles were, or how fast I was running up the hill. But I do remember smiling, feeling intense joy, the tears rolling down my face and seeing my Mom, Sister and NM’s Mom at the top cheering and waving their arms wildly. The energy was contagious and it gave me a boost to finish the last 13ish miles of the race.

marathon yes

Now, I must tell you, the 2nd half of the marathon became a whole new race. I was tired. My left hip flexor was tight, my feet were soaked, I was cold and hungry and like I said earlier, I knew the only way to finish was to keep running. I don’t remember much about the streets I ran down or how fast I was running (I had since lost the 3:30 pacer). As I ran in and around North Ave and all the side streets I remember talking to myself every few minutes, sometimes saying, this is ridiculous, I’m never running a marathon again. Just moments later, I’d be thinking, this is awesome! I am so tired, but this is awesome! I wondered where NM was and how he was feeling. There is a long period of time somewhere between mile 15ish and 20ish where there aren’t as many spectators and that was hard for me. Somewhere around mile 19 my friend, LD, running on a relay team ran up behind me. I was hurting. I was a little dizzy and starting to get a little discouraged. She pumped her fist in the air and was like, “you got this, girl!” We ran together for a short time and she helped me get a little boost in energy. There are so many of those moments during the race, it’s amazing. All I could think was, you only have 7ish miles to go, think how far you’ve come. 7 miles is nothing!

As North Ave turned into the bike path I realized how close I was to actually finishing my first marathon and I felt a slew of emotion. I had biked and run on this portion of the bike path many times. I knew how close it was to the finish line, but I also knew it was just far enough. The sun began to creep out behind the clouds and the rain ceased for a short period of time. I jogged along, more slowly than I had the entire race, at this point I all I wanted was to finish the race in under 4 hours. I stayed as close to the 3:45 pacer as I could. My quads burned, my left hip was popping and throbbing, my hands were numb, and I just remember smiling and crying at the same time. As many of you know, the bike path is very narrow. Running alongside the several hundred runners, all packed in tight, was very inspiring and created a sense of camaraderie.

Somewhere around mile 22.5 ish I lost all chutzpah. I felt like my hip was going to explode and that I would surely pass out. Somehow, I allowed myself to slow my jog to a fast walk. I remember hobbling along the side, crying, feeling frustration, defeat and also some relief of discomfort. Out of nowhere, another friend running a 2-person relay, LR came running up behind me and put her arm around my waist, saying something like, “come-on Lil, you’re so close!” I started to jog again. I was so happy to see her. When we passed the 23 mile marker together, I knew I would finish. I told her to run ahead of me so I wouldn’t slow her down and watching her energy as she pushed forward was all I needed to get myself through those last 3 miles.

As the 4:00 pacer passed me around mile 24.5, I remember thinking, Oh no you don’t! Out of nowhere a surge of energy ran through my body and Flo Rida’s Wild One song came on my ipod. My hip went numb, my legs felt stronger and I sprinted ahead. Close to the finish, there were hundreds of people lined up on the sides, all screaming. I remember realizing that I did it, that I was about to cross the finish line of my first marathon in under 4 hours. As I ran across the finish line at 3:59:54, relief, excitement, exhaustion, pain, inspiration and many other thoughts and feelings flowed through me. When I found NM, I collapsed into his arms and cried (yes, more crying). I felt so proud of myself, and felt shock that I had done it (I never doubted that NM could do it).

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The marathon was an experience that even though I am able to write many paragraphs about, I will never be able to fully explain or articulate what it was really like. I can say that it made me realize how much I am capable of and brought out a confidence that was hiding deep within myself. It made me love strangers just a little bit more, and appreciate the togetherness of such an event. I can’t wait to run my next marathon and beat my time. Even though I was barely able to walk and was insatiable for the 4 days after the marathon, I will do it again.

Thanks for reading :).

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Elyn permalink
    June 3, 2013 4:41 pm

    What an unexplainable accomplishment! You can do anything you put your mind to. You are such a special person. Love Elyn

  2. June 5, 2013 10:20 am

    Awesome Lili!! Great runner. Great writer. Much appreciate your sharing this with me. Congrats to NM too! Bob

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