Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The experience of a First Time Marathoner

"When You Cross the Finish Line, No Matter How Slow or Fast, It Will Change Your Life Forever" -Dick Beardsley (Spirit of the Marathon movie)


It's Saturday morning, I said goodbye to my boys, who wish me good luck, and my husband Bruce and I make the trek to Chicago. Why my husband insisted on driving is beyond me? I think between parking costs and traffic, this was not the most frugal choice. However, since I've already rushed him out the door an hour early, I let him has his way on this.

After some travel time and a shuttle bus, we reach the expo to pick up the packets. Bruce notices that Caolan and I are not in the same corral like we were supposed to so I begin to panic. I go to the customer service, get a new bib for me and suddenly freak out that everyone that is supposed to track me won't be able to. Okay breath, out of my control now. (This panic would consume me all night and the next morning). 


The expo itself is overwhelming. Vendors are lined up everywhere either selling their products or trying to get you to sign up for a race. I want it all, but end up with just a bottle of coconut water, a shirt for a friend, and my race magnets. (Hubby doesn't like stickers on cars).



We move on to the wall that has every runner listed. Of course since my last name starts with a W, I'm crawling along the floor looking for my name. Finally! 


Before we leave, I'm able to meet up with a Facebook Friend, Brooke, who is running with a friend as well. We chat for a few minutes and part ways. As we leave, I think about how every time I meet someone from our Women Who Run the World Group, my world gets a little smaller and cozier. I like that!


We make it to the hotel room, and relax a bit. It's still early and Caolan has not yet arrived. I worry some more about the bib change and hope it all works out. 

Caolan arrives at the hotel, obviously exhausted as she flops on the bed. She quickly discovers that it crinkles with every movement. Yeah, I picked a high class hotel. They have to cover their mattresses in plastic. The only reassurance is that there are no bedbugs!

The next morning, we wake up before the alarm rings. I eat just a bit, just so Caolan and hubby don't yell at me. I hate eating before I run, it just doesn't settle for me. What I really wanted was coffee, but that was not to be either, since the coffee maker didn't work well, and we only managed about a cup between the two of us. I'm STILL freaking out that no one will be able to track me, so I send out some quick texts and Facebook posts with Caolan's bib #, just to make sure. 

Hubby and I discuss briefly where he will try and be, and he reassures me that it's okay if I don't see him. We've spectated the Chicago Marathon before and both know how hard it's going to be! I kiss him goodbye, and he says he'll see me at the end. That man is such a trooper and I love him! I know it will be a long cold day for him as well, but he puts on a good game!

Now, I am a person that is always early to everything. So when Caolan needed to use the porto-potties, I glanced at my watch. The lines were long and we were already cutting it close. They close the corrals at 7:45, so I lean over to Caolan and tell her that this is NOT how I usually do things as I feel the panic set in. We finally find some empty ones, do our business, RUN to the corrals, jumping a fence along the way, and finally booking it up to corral K. At this point I'm thinking "Great! All that work and worry to change my bib to the same corral, and it did not make a damn bit of difference." Panic again! Then we wait, take a photo, and the nerves are building. What was I thinking?! Okay, breath. Here we go!


Finally we start! OMG! We are starting a marathon! The people on the side are cheering and it's so amazing that I am giddy thinking of it. Then we go into the tunnel under the first bridge. What I saw, was something I never would have thought of, nor ever want to see again. It's one of those deep dark secrets of marathoning I guess. Men were LINED UP facing the wall peeing. I about died. I think I said out-loud, "That's so not fair!"

As we made the first few miles through Downtown, I had one mission, to find my husband! Around mile two, I began looking for him, and again worrying that I wouldn't see him. Finally, on the OPPOSITE side of the street there he was standing alone, looking for me. I screamed at him something to the effect of "I LOVE YOU HONEY! I"ll see you later!" 

A bit further along, I was lucky enough to see my friends, Beth, Allie, and Aubrey standing there as well. I screamed at them, they held up the sign they made just for me. Sadly, I couldn't read it, and Caolan made a mention of that I had good eyes to see them before they saw me. 
My sign from Beth, Allie, and Aubrey!

My sign from Beth, Allie, and Aubrey!


The miles just started ticking by. I never looked at my watch. I just went by feel and the occasional, "Slow Down" by Caolan. She reminded me that if I ran this smart, all the people that were passing me now, would be walking by the end. We enjoyed these miles. We read the signs, laughed at the costumes and took in all that the Chicago Marathon had to offer. When we past the people with the Bloody Mary bar near Lincoln Park, I mentioned that was so not far. Caolan's response, "They don't deserve it, they didn't work for it!" As we kept going, I even cheered and waved as people shouted "Go, Sandra!!!" Yeah, I had my name on my shirt! I was taking every advantage that I could!



We passed the half way point, but sadly I didn't see hubby again. At this point we were back in downtown and there were so many people, 5-6 rows deep! This was the only time I looked at my watch, and I was only about 7 minutes ahead of my half marathon PR. WOW! This was going well. I knew the hardest was yet to come, but I was happy with the moment. 

About mile 15, things got rough. I didn't tell Caolan, but my knee was hurting something awful! There was pain with each step, but I wasn't stopping. We got quiet at this point, I knew she was watching and gauging me, and I think at one point she tried to make me laugh by reminding me that this was supposed to be fun! I think I cursed at her in my head at this point! This was not fun right now. This was hard and it hurt, how was I going to last 11 more miles. It might as well have been a million! I tried to listen to my music, it annoyed me even more, so I stopped. We were still moving away from downtown, and that pissed me off even more. 

Around mile 20, the cramps began in the calves. you know, that tingle you feel right before a full blown cramp. Caolan had been carrying HEED for me, but I knew if it didn't do something more soon, this was not going to go well. I had to walk. It sucked and I was pissed at myself for having to walk. I quickly downed some Gatorade, and laughed when Caolan mentioned how fast my walking was. I call it my "Walking with a purpose" walk. I needed to keep moving fast and not loose my pace. 30 seconds later, I began running again. We did the walk break again 2 more times, then some ladies on the street screamed at me "Sandra! You've got this keep going!" (At this point I was no longer cheering back, but giving the obligatory thumbs up or wave). However, it gave me what I needed to start running, and I never stopped. It might not have been fast, but I was going to run the rest. 

As we finished the last few miles, I noticed more and more people walking, just like Caolan promised. We ran past the free beer and jello shots being offered. Caolan stayed just a couple steps ahead, and I knew she was pushing me, and again I cursed her for it, because my legs were not happy with the quicker pace. 

Then we got to the last turn, the one I've been dreading since we started. THAT hill at the end, which now looks like a mountain. Now, this hill has kicked my ass before, but it was not going to win this time. With as much strength and determination as I could pull together I chugged up the hill to the top. I made it to the top and began heading downhill and the corner. Suddenly, I saw what I was looking for, the word FINISH! I don't know how many people were cheering, what they were saying and I really didn't even know where Caolan was at that point, but it didn't matter...I ran as fast as I could to that Finish line, and before I could cross it, I began to bawl and shake. Caolan came up beside me, and hugged me and held me as we walked along the finisher chute. 



The crying wasn't from being tired or cold. It was because I did something that I said NEVER to. I would NEVER do that, I could NEVER do that, and now I say I WILL NEVER STOP!  

After a bit of a confusing rendezvous with Bruce, and a celebratory dinner, that included the most well earned Bloody Marys, I slipped into bed, the day swirling around my head. My phone was lighting up with texts, phone calls, and Facebook with well wishes and congratulations! 

The next morning as Caolan left she said to me, "I hope it sinks in, what you've actually done." I'm not sure I entirely know what that means. I understand how special running a marathon is, but I've never thought that ME running the marathon was anything special. I'm not special. I'm a mom, a wife, a daughter, a teacher, and finally I'm learning to be Sandra as well! Who knows the adventures that await....



"When You Cross the Finish Line, No Matter How Slow or Fast, It Will Change Your Life Forever" -Dick Beardsley (Spirit of the Marathon movie)















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