Well, I actually put the word “finale” in my title so this has to be the end of the story.
I woke up at 3am. Again. The pain from yesterday’s run remained. There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of soreness, but just enough that I couldn’t imagine running 26.2 miles. Usually when you run a marathon you want to be in prime shape. I was definitely not in prime shape. What the heck was I about to do? It just didn’t seem so fun anymore and I was really nervous. Once again I tried to lie to myself by saying that I would be happy just as long as I finished. I thought about how I could probably surpass the 16-minute/mile requirement.
I knew that I would need to wear cooler clothing (shorts & a tank) because the sun would definitely come up while I was running and the weather forecast stated that it would be a high of 70 degrees. For a runner, that is hot. I couldn’t even believe that it was that temperature in January. I guess I should be used to it by now since I have lived in Florida for over 2 years. Actually, I am not quite sure why I even thought 70 degrees was hot because I had braved many runs through the hot, sticky Florida summer.
I decided to wear my Team in Training singlet because I knew that there would be a lot of supporters out on the sidelines. Even a few of my friends were going to be running the marathon with Team in Training. When you wear the purple you are noticed and I definitely wanted to be cheered on at around mile 22. And this was really a training run for me anyway (sure, whatever) since I am training to do another Team in Training marathon in April. I love the camaraderie of the TEAM so I knew it would help me get through these next 26.2 miles.
After I had my delicious whole grain waffles slathered in peanut butter, I headed out the door. This time I decided to drive over to Epcot because I didn’t want to worry about the shuttle. I also forgot to mention that after the half marathon the day before, I had to walk about 2 miles to find my shuttle home… just not willing to do that after the marathon. I arrived early and actually had an awesome parking spot (just hoped that I would find it later so I wouldn’t have to walk miles around the parking lot) and I stayed warm and snug in my car until my friend called to say that she had arrived.
We met up and joined the herd to the starting corrals. Surprisingly, this herd did not seem as large as the day before. We were actually moving faster than a shuffle. That was a relief. Maybe we wouldn’t have to endure so much weaving in and out of walker/runner traffic during the race. Actually, my friend and I made a deal not to weave during the next 26.2 miles. We wanted to conserve our running and it would also force us to start out slow.
So, Mickey and Goofy were on stage this time and when we crossed over the starting line I could already notice the difference from the day before. It was so much easier to run without smashing into the people in front of me and next to me. My friend and I maintained a good, but slow, pace. Something was bothering me though. My right knee was acting up. It hurt so much that I knew I was overcompensating for the pain and that really worried me. I kept thinking about how much it would suck to have to walk and I didn’t want to make my friend do that (she had been explicit about sticking together the whole way no matter what). Then, miraculously, my knee just suddenly stopped hurting at around mile 2. I don’t know what that was all about, but the pain was gone and I was so relieved. All I could feel now was the residual soreness from the day before. I was certain that pain would stick with me (and intensify) during the rest of the race. I just had to deal with that slight inconvenience.
As my friend and I ran through the theme parks, we would pick up the pace because there would be so much adrenaline from the crowd of supporters (and of course there were people yelling “Go Team!” thanks to the purple). We would yell at each other to slow down, but for some reason we couldn’t until we exited the park. Then our pace would slow during the long and boring trip down the road to the next theme park. There weren’t as many people out on those roads. When we passed the half marathon mark all I could say was “we just did 2 half marathons, only 1 more to go!” Our half marathon time was 10 minutes slower than it was the day before, but we weren’t upset about that. We knew we had done a good job at starting off slow so we wouldn’t die in the end.
Every once in a while I would feel a sudden burst of energy and feel the need to pick up the pace. My running buddy and I didn’t always get these bursts of energy at the same time, but it would force us to push through. I had the job of getting us up the hills (since I love climbing up those hills) and my running buddy would need to get us down the hills (she is a speedster when it comes to downhills). Sometimes we would talk, but most of the time it would be silent. It didn’t matter either way because we were just happy that someone else was suffering right alongside. Sounds cruel I know, but we don’t take offense.
There was a nice incline right around mile 19. I remembered it vividly from last year. It wasn’t the incline that scared me, but what would happen afterwards. During the marathon last year I had lost my 3 running buddies at around mile 20 because I just couldn’t get my legs to go. I had hit the WALL. This time I was running in this same spot again, but I actually felt pretty good. There was an out and back portion around mile 20. I saw 2 people I knew ahead me on the “back” as I was heading “out.” I waved to them thinking that I would probably not be catching up with them. I knew they were strong runners (and they both were male… just had to throw that in). Well, guess what? We passed one of them within 5 minutes and the other one within 10 minutes. Oh, that only got me going. I was feeling GOOD now. I mean, how many people can say that they feel GOOD at mile 22? I was still worried that I would hit the WALL, but it never happened. Sure, I was in pain, but I kept moving and my mind was on a positive vibe. We ran through the last theme park like it was nobody’s business.
When we were at mile 26 I knew I couldn’t really sprint to the finish line, but I tried my best. I focused on looking good for pictures so I could keep my mind off those blasted 0.2 miles. Then we were across and it was over! I didn’t cry this time, but I was full of contentment. Okay, and pain. Lots of pain. But it’s alright because I expected it. Come to find out, I had beat last year’s marathon time by 5 minutes! And to think all I wanted to do was finish… My friend and I also realized that we had run the second half of the race faster than the first half! That was remarkable! We had done a good job at pacing ourselves in the beginning and it helped us get through those last few miles. I was so proud of our achievement!
So, I hobbled back to my car and managed to drive back to the hotel. A nice warm shower was such a treat. My friends decided that we should return to Outback Steakhouse and I agreed. This time we shared a Bloomin’ Onion and I enjoyed a steak! It tasted so good!
If you have been inspired by my story, please make a small donation to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I will be running a marathon in April in support of this cause. Please check out my website: http://pages.teamintraining.org/ncfl/madrid12/haponte