Between sips of water and coffee, I do some gentle stretches trying to gauge how my body feels while trying not to think about the 26.2 miles that lie ahead. I wonder if the roughly six hours of restless sleep (thanks nerves and hot flashes) will carry me through the day. Nothing really hurts, but I have my usual residual aches. But the most annoying thing, I feel sluggish and I’m dealing with major PMS. Damnit!
Knowing that won’t happen, I think back to the day exactly eight years ago (May 20, 2004) when a 6-vehicle accident changed my world. I shudder as I think about how close the battle to save my life was that day. In a 24-hour time period, I was given 45 units of blood (A person my size has 8 units of blood) to keep me alive and 20 more units were given over the next few days to replace all the blood my injured body was losing.
It’s no coincidence that I’m doing a full marathon on this day. Months ago, I had searched the web to find one. I’ve always disliked this day and I felt like doing a marathon on it would help me own the day instead of it owning me.
I also think back through my running the previous 4 years and allow myself to have confidence in the slow, but steady way I’ve increased the distances I’ve run. My training hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been consistent and I’ve learned to listen to my body to find the line between pushing it slightly, but not too much. I trust the run/walk/run routine I used in training for my long runs (up to 20 miles) will carry me through 26.2 today.
And while my diet isn’t perfect… I know that what I eat greatly affects my energy and my strength, so I aim to eat well at least 80% of the time. I eat a plant-based diet and try to eat food as close to its original source as possible. Such as… I eat edamane and roasted soybeans, but I stay away from soy-based protein bars and drinks, because most are too processed. And I make my oatmeal from rolled oats and rarely eat instant packets of oatmeal.
So now I eat the breakfast I brought along… oatmeal with chia seeds, almond butter, and a half a banana. I fill my sports bottles with my homemade sports drink. I do a few more stretches and take some deep breaths. Yes, I’m scared… wondering if I can finish the 26.2 miles, but fear usually accompanies risks, so while I acknowledge the fear, I don’t allow it to control me.
6AM: After making sure we have the day’s essentials… music, head phones, timer, sunglasses, etc. Bev, Tab and I drive the few miles to the start of the Bob Potts Marathon with a bathroom stop on the way so we can avoid the porta-pot lines. We walk about 10 minutes to wake our bodies up and be ready to run. We take a picture and post it online (of course!) to let our worlds know we are at the start.
6:30: Race director Sean Potts makes an announcement or two and with a “Ready, set, run!” the race begins. Bev and I plan to run 3/walk 1… so 3 minutes into the race, my timer beeps. I want to skip the first walking break, because I feel like a wimp walking so early, but when I think of the 26.2 ahead, I know it’s best if I take it. We wish speedy Tab well as we know that’s the last we’ll see of her until we pass her on the trail as she comes back.
The first mile of the course loops through a quiet residential area before dropping us on the Heritage Rail Trail, a mostly flat gravel trail. This takes us beside the start area again and we see a few friends waving. I also hear shouts of encouragement, “Doing it, because you can!” from Ron and Helene Horn, the energetic race timers of Pretzel City Sports.
Bev and I about a mile into the Bob Potts Marathon - Photo by Barb Kennedy
7:30: As the first few miles go by… the reality of what I’m doing sets in. 26.2 freakin’ miles. What am I thinking?! I want to go home to my bed! I try to focus on my practiced routine. A sip of sports drink during every other walking break. Then water at the aid stations which are almost every two miles… each one staffed by high-energy encouraging volunteers.
With only 500 people running (and most ahead of us) the field has quickly thinned and there’s only a few runners around us. With our run/walk/run routine, we yo-yo with other runners, so we chat with them. A woman introduces herself as my online friend Marie. We met through the Bob Potts Facebook group and now it’s great to meet her in person. At 60+, she’s running her first marathon. Yay Marie, she places second in her age group!
Tony, who looks young and strong enough to be at the front of the pack, tells us that he did a marathon yesterday. What?! He likes my “Because I Can” reason… but explains that his reason for doing two marathons in a weekend is because someone said he can’t… and he’s trying to prove her wrong. And he does prove that he can! Congrats on the double Tony!
8:30: I like hearing their stories, plus it keeps my mind off the fact that I’m seriously wondering how I will survive the day. I pop an energy burst or two. We’re only around mile nine or so… and I’m tired and want to quit!
I always carry my phone when I run for music and to track my runs with an app. But with tracking and music, my phone dies after about 4 hours and I want music for the whole race, so I decide not to use a tracking app. But I miss it because I’m not sure what our pace is. With the mile markers, I figure out that we’re doing around 12-minute miles, which I can hold on short runs, but not on long runs, especially not with how I’m feeling. Plus Bev feels some pain in her knee, so we slow down slightly.
Then, we see an angel! Our friend Rose (who had done her first half with us at Disney in February) has driven over an hour to cheer us on. She has a cool sign and she runs a mile or so with us… which is exactly the boast I needed.
At some point, the first marathoners pass us on their way back. We loudly cheer them on hoping some of their energy flows into us. I cannot believe the pace (over twice as fast as us) the first folks can hold for 26.2 miles.
We begin counting down the miles to the turnaround, because we’ll get to sit on a bench for a minute or two! Yes, that’s allowed and Sean even encouraged us to. Sean started this race in honor of his father, Bob Potts, and he placed a memorial bench for him at the turnaround.
A little before the turnaround Tab passes us on her way back… giving us high-fives, while saying never, never again! And I’m totally agreeing with her!
While sitting on the bench at the turnaround (about 2 hrs and 50 minutes into the race) I shake out a small pebble from the trail that has found its way into my shoe and I eat some of my high-protein peanut bar and a few more energy bursts.
9:30: Soon after the turnaround I reset my timer to 2/1. Bev’s knee continues to ache and I don’t have energy to do more. On the way back, Rose is waiting on us again… and it’s again good to have her run with us for a time. When we get to the parking lot where her car is, it’s so tempting to catch a ride to the finish with her!
10:30: Bev and I often chat when we run, but not anymore. We both turn our music up loud and focus on one step at a time. I’m tired and I entertain thoughts of not finishing. But as I evaluate my body, I realize that while everything is tired, nothing really hurts. Even my upper left thigh that usually gives me grief (and often feels like someone is tighten a vice on it) is quiet today. Darn, no real excuses to quit!
The aid stations are emptier on the way back, but the bands still play and there’s still friendly folks with water and some munchies. At one, I have a piece of banana and at another a swedish fish… while I dream of the pizza waiting at the finish.
11:30: After mile 20, it’s all new territory for Bev and I. At one point, we power-walk for about half mile to give her knee a break. The pain hasn’t gotten worse for her, but yet she feels it every time we run. The front of my right foot starts feeling like a blister could be forming, so I play around with my stride and with landing differently. Doing that eliminates some of the pain, but I wonder what I’ll find when I take my shoe off.
Around mile 21 or so, I decide, come hell or high water, I’m finishing this darn marathon... no more thoughts of quitting allowed! I do some math (with the few brain cells still functioning) and realize we should easily finish before the 6 1/2 hour cutoff time, so I reset my timer to 1/1 to make the last few miles more manageable.
Soon after mile 22, I see my son Joseph and Bev’s husband and son. It’s great having Joseph do about a mile with me to where Jerry is waiting at the Brillhart aid station with the supplies I gave him before I left home the day before. I change socks and shoes (thankfully, no blister) and enjoy a few bites of an oatmeal/chia bar I make and some ice cold water and diet coke. I’m not a big soda drinker, but there’s nothing like ice cold caffeine for a boast of energy.
12:30: It’s not as hard leaving Jerry and Joseph as I thought it would be because now I can almost taste victory. And while the fresh shoes and socks don’t give me energy like I thought they would (I was hoping they’d be like a magic carpet!) they feel good. Only a few more miles! I can do 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile… Suddenly Bev and I start looking at each other, grinning and laughing. We are actually going to do this thing!!!
It is hard to believe that the thing I’ve feared for
the past few months, I’m now going to conquer. Woohoo!!
As we past below the York College Stadium, I see Jerry waving. And as we round the last corner into the stadium, Sean is there giving each of the runners a high-five. Suddenly I’m flying… only 200 yards down the track to the finish!
We cross the finish line with hands held high!
The race started a few minutes after 6:30, so I’m not sure of the exact time we finish… but the race results list our time as 6 hours and 17 minutes, so it was roughly around 12:50. Some folks are there to congratulate us, but I need to get out of the sun and I need to sit down! I realize later that I rudely brushed past them (sorry to whoever I did that to!) as I headed to a small building nearby to sit down in the shade beside it.
My feelings at the moment are pure joy!
Joy because I can finally sit down!
And joy because of what all completing this marathon means to me!
Extreme joy at being finished!
I could not have picked a better marathon to do than Bob Potts. The course and the weather was perfect and everyone there was so kind and encouraging. Thanks to Sean Potts for putting on a great marathon. Thanks to all the volunteers, especially Chris and Clay who encouraged us the last few miles though we threaten to steal their bikes a time or two.
And major thanks to Bev and Tab for doing it also! You rock!!
Now, three days later, I feel good. I’d been taking it easy until last evening, when I went for a mile and a half walk… and wow, that was harder than I thought it would be. While I don’t have any injuries, I hadn’t realized how tired my legs are! Plus, my left foot is tender and I don’t want to stress it, so I’ll be taking the rest of the
year week off from running.
While I am so glad I did this marathon, I’m not sure if I’ll do another full one. (there’s your answer Janis :) I’m concerned the stress on my body could be too much. I will do more half-marathons… that distance is a challenge, but it is doable both in training and on race day.
Actually, join me at the first Runner’s World Half this fall. I’m a blogger for it and have discount codes here (both for the race and for RW training schedules) Whether it’s your first or your fiftieth, it’s sure to be a fun time as Runner’s World has a weekend festival planned.
For now… where’s the pizza and wine?
More post about my marathon experience:
I asked for your help before taking the plunge to do it
My decision to take the risk and sign up for it
How I went from almost dying to doing a successful marathon
My picture recap