It’s hard to believe, but the marathon is over. I made it to the start line in New Orleans, did my 26.2 miles and finished like it was just another day. It still hasn’t fully hit me that it all happened.
I don’t even know where to start. I know most of you know the story of my first marathon (Go! St. Louis) but I don’t feel like I can do this post correctly with revisiting it at least a little bit. And believe me, I tried because I don’t want to sound like a broken record (or bore anyone), but I’ve realized so much of my success this time around has to do with my rough time during Go!
10 months ago when I completed Go! I was an emotional wreck for almost the entire two months before the race. Which lead me to be miserable during the entire marathon. For those of you that are unaware of what happened at Go! at mile 10 I was told I had to complete the half marathon because I had missed the time cutoff. I argued with the official because I was minutes ahead of the 6 hour (time cutoff) pacer and the race started late, so he let me go, but after that point, I was mentally over the edge. I ended up getting passed by the sag wagon at mile 20 and had to finish the race on the sidewalks.
After Go! I didn’t feel like a marathoner. Sure, I had finished. But I had finished in 6 hours and 41 minutes. My mom and some friends had to beg to keep the finish line up and for me to get a medal. I had been miserable and didn’t enjoy one moment of the race after mile 10. The race had gone nothing like I had planned and even though I finished I still felt deep down like I had failed. At some points, I have told people that I felt like after Go! part of my heart had died. Dramatic? Yes, but absolutely how I felt.
So you can imagine my surprise when I really wasn’t that nervous leading up to the Mardi Gras marathon. In fact, I told numerous people that I was getting nervous that I was more nervous. I knew that I had to do better at this marathon, and honestly there was little to no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t. My long runs were much better this time around even though most of them ended up being on a treadmill, and even though I wasn’t running as much during the week as my schedule said, I was still doing a ton of cross training and was working out a total of 5 days a week. I had gotten much stronger and even a little faster in 10 months and I just knew deep down I could run the marathon in under 6 hours. I just knew, plain and simple.
The only thing I really worried about was having fun. I know many people run marathons to push themselves physically (myself included) but I refused to be miserable like I was during Go!. I couldn’t put myself through that again.
The race started, I crossed the mat at 7:25am and I just went. I stuck to right around my pace and enjoyed seeing the sights and the participants. During the first mile I ran with two NOLA firemen in their flame resistant suits with oxygen tanks on their backs and running with an American flag. A few miles later when the marathoners split from the half marathoners, I met a Marathon maniac, a member of the Air Force that had run more marathons than I could keep track of, and a runner from Canada that had just ran a marathon three weeks ago and was having a little trouble adjusting to the temperature. The next several miles went by quickly thanks to the conversations with these and a couple other runners. At the halfway point, I saw my husband. He gave me some more lukewarm Gatorade, told me I was doing great, and that he had been getting the text updates of how I was doing and forwarded them on.
By this time I was running by Jackson Square right by Café Du Monde and its massive line of people waiting to try the original beignet. I yelled, “Everyone eat a beignet for me!!” I was having a great time and had even thought about my pace. It was starting to heat up though, and every time I passed a water stop I dumped at least two cups on my head. It really wasn’t hot, but I swear, I could overheat if I was running a race in the arctic.
At mile 16 I could have kissed the guy handing out packets of ice. I put the bag on my neck and then quickly emptied it into my Gatorade to try and cool it down. If I hadn’t gotten that ice I think things would have gone South very quickly for me.
Mile 18 things started not getting too fun. My right foot was hurting, the course was getting boring, and I was just getting tired in general. I passed a band playing “Whiter Shade of Pale” and managed to snap myself out of it, because it’s one of my mom’s favorite songs and she would have hated to see me not having fun.
The next few miles I did ok. A nice group of college students at mile 21ish had great signs and gave me high fives. I had slowed down from my first half, but I was still making great time. Right before mile 23 I gave myself permission to walk for awhile as long as I power walked. I did this the majority of the time until the last mile when I decided that I didn’t want to finish the race above 5 hours and 50 minutes. I need to be at least at 5:49. Running hurt at that point, but I crossed the finish line at 5:49:53, just barely making it but also getting a 52 minute PR.
I was exhausted but hadn’t really processed what had happened. I was starving which was a major difference than Go! and I was so happy to down a bagel that I actually wanted to eat. I laid on the ground the in the park and updated my Facebook and Twitter wanting to really feel my accomplishment, but it just wasn’t hitting me.
The rest of the night included me eating and drinking anything I could get my hands on. I wore my medal proudly and I was waiting in line at a food stand on Bourbon street to get a celebratory pecan tart and beignets, some fellow racers congratulated me, asked me if I had a good race, and did some major cheering when I told them about my PR.
The last three days have involved me being unbelievably sore and not able to walk normal, but honestly I think that pain just shows how hard I worked.
Even though the reality hasn’t fully hit yet, I feel incredibly proud of the progress I’ve made. Physically I am so much stronger. But I’m even more proud of the accomplishments that I’ve made mentally. This marathon has made me realize that I actually love and respect the distance. While I want to focus more on triathlons this year and have a schedule packed with them this summer, I am absolutely going to come back to the marathon. In fact, I’m making the commitment right now to go back to Go! in 2012 and conquering the full, under the time cutoff, running a fun race.