I just realized that I have some pretty insane running buddies. Okay, maybe I realized it awhile ago, but I chose to ignore the fact. This weekend we were due for our longest training run ever: a joyous 20-miler. Somehow I managed to get trapped into this Tri-2B-Tuff Challenge which involves 3 half or full marathons within a time span of 3-months. Didn’t seem like a bad idea when I actually signed up until I realized that one of the runs was during the weekend of our 20-mile training run. After running last month’s 1/2 marathon race and telling ourselves that we would run 3 more miles after the finish line to meet our 16-mile training run requirement, we knew that we would only be lying to ourselves and would never manage another 7 miles after crossing the finish line of a 13.1 mile race. It just didn’t work out last month because when we got the finish line we were DONE. Finish, after all, does mean DONE. So, we knew that we couldn’t make that mistake again. Therefore, the next suggestion was to sign up for the full marathon so we would be guaranteed no excuses for stopping too early. Yeah, only problem is that we actually wouldn’t stop at the 20-mile mark because when you sign up for a race you have to FINISH it! So, we discussed some more and decided that we would complete the entire race, but planned to run 20 miles and walk 6.2 miles. I will let you know how that panned out at the end of my story.
It was another early morning (which we were used to) and it was a bit on the chilly side (which was actually perfect running weather… if you know Florida then you know that you don’t want to run races in the summer). The four of us huddled together at the start hoping to get our blood flowing soon so we would warm up. We discussed our strategy one more time and made sure that everyone knew that it was only a TRAINING run for us so who cares what the other people around us are doing. We needed to ensure that each and every one of us would keep a nice and easy pace. So, when the gun went off, we were off… but not quickly. It always takes me about a mile to warm up and get my muscles adjusted to running. By the time we reached mile 1, I was feeling great and felt like I could run all day (which was pretty much the plan). We started warming up and the mist was actually a relief. The overcast skies were refreshing because a warm, beady sun is not really as pleasant as it sounds when you are running for a long time.
We tried hard not to think about how many more miles we had to go. Instead, we tried to think about how many miles we had completed. We were delighted at mile 8 when the half-marathons got out of our way and headed back to the finish (okay, a part of us also wished that we could join them). Since there were only 1300 marathoners running the race (yes, that is a low number in comparison to other races), we had the luxury of running without having to worry about weaving in and out of traffic.
Okay, we did have one issue with one very rude group of runners. Actually, they were a runner/walker group which means that they run for about 5 minutes and then walk for 1 minute. They have a very loud annoying alarm that goes off when it is time for them to run or walk. So, us runners don’t usually have a problem with these groups. Whatever works for you to finish a race in your best time. However, we do have a problem when these types decided to abruptly change their pace and walk without looking back or moving off to the side. In this particular group, there were about 10 people. Now, let me also mention that we were on a one-lane road. So, when they decided to walk they spread themselves across the entire road and didn’t even look back to make sure they weren’t in anyone’s way. Additionally, they were not considerate enough to scoot over if you needed to pass them. On top of all that, if you managed to pass them, their annoying alarm would go off while you were in mid-pass and they would take off running nearly knocking you over. Let’s just say that they didn’t like us very much by the end of the race because we were in no mood to play games and had no problem expressing our frustrations very loudly. Fortunately, we finally lost them at mile 20.
The crowd grew really sparse at around mile 16 and we were actually eager to see people shouting from the sidelines. The motivation was uplifting and we needed all the words of encouragement we could get. I would have to say that our fastest mile was between mile 19 and 20 because of the run/walk group I just mentioned. As I stated before, you would often be in passing mode when their alarm would go off and they would race ahead of you. Well, this time I did not let them have their victory. I raced as fast as I could to stay ahead of them. I could not believe how good I felt at that moment. I didn’t feel any pain and it actually felt good to run fast. However, that didn’t last long.
We were mentally done at mile 20. We knew that we didn’t want to get injured so we stopped to walk. Yet, that didn’t quite work out. It hurt more to walk then it did to run, so we basically jogged slowly. Guess who passed us? Yes, that annoying group. I was just thankful that we didn’t see them again after that. We were so ecstatic to make it to mile 20 because we knew that we were running the furthest that we had ever run in our lives… all of us, together. It was a great feeling at that moment. Then, at mile 21, that all changed. The last 5 miles were the most grueling 5 miles I have ever run (jogged) in my life. I felt like my feet and my legs were going to fall off. I was certain that my toe nail had become detached from my toe. The bottom of my feet were burning and my ankle was buckling with each step. Pain shot up both of my legs and my lower back wasn’t happy with the constant slap of my feet on the pavement. Basically, my body was shouting at me: “What are you doing?? Stop right now!!” Of course I couldn’t stop and I couldn’t even walk. At around mile 23 I tried to walk again, but almost immediately started a slow jog that was similar to a speed walk, but maintained the running motion. No offense to the other runners on the course, but I was kind of relieved to see that we weren’t the only ones stumbling over in pain. Some runners had a limp in their stride, while other runners were hunched over like they might fall on their face. I had been thinking about food up until mile 25. At that point, I was instead thinking about vomiting on the side of the road. Somehow I managed to maintain composure. One of our running buddies decided she had an extra burst of energy and she was running backwards shouting at us to keep going and pick up the pace. Are you crazy woman?? I was dragging my feet trying to use all of my leftover energy to bring one foot in front of the other. Then the turn came. The turn that said we had to bring it into the stadium and finish 0.2 miles on the track. The finish was in sight. We brought ourselves together and surmised all of our effort to look halfway decent as we raised our arms in glory while we stumbled over the finish line. That was the most emotional moment of the race. We all had just finished our first marathon ever!
So, I practically crashed and burned on the grass all the while knowing that I probably wouldn’t be able to get back up, but I didn’t really care at that point. When I finally did manage to stand back up, the wind was a blast of chilled air that brought unwanted goosebumps. We decided to hightail it to the bathroom just so we could get some warmth for a minute. I can’t believe that I ran 26.2 miles without having to pee and still didn’t have to go pee at that moment. All I could think about now was eating and getting warm. Somehow I managed to drive to the restaurant for a delicious juicy burger and then headed home for a nice, warm shower. They say that warm water is the worst thing you can do after a long run, but I never follow that advice. I am still awfully sore, but I think that the worst has passed. We will see what tomorrow brings. And just think, we will be doing this all over again in 3 weeks. Are we insane? Maybe, but it sure does feel good when you cross that finish line and hang that medal on your wall. I promise to relax next weekend and only run 12 miles.