First things first... My random winner for the Publix Gift Card was Gina Maddox! CONGRATULATIONS! Look for an email from me shortly :)
Sunday morning as I was making the 90 mile drive to my marathon, I had to fight hard to resist the urge to turn around and go home. If I had toothpicks handy I would have used them to prop my eyes open. I rested up on Saturday but was still dragging. This race had always been optional in my head, after all I only signed up two weeks ago. At that time, I had a small handful of friends who had committed to the race as well. Since then the handful of friends dwindled to no friends due to injuries and changes in life plans. Suddenly the appeal of the race was lost on me. As every exit approached, I tried to decide if I should just turn around, go home and crawl back into bed.
The thing about announcing all your race intentions to the world via twitter, blog, facebook and 80 other social media outlets is that a DNS, DNF or anything else is magnified ten-fold. The flip side of that is that there is the instant desire to follow through because you have announced your intentions to the world. What would everyone think if I turned around and went home not because I was injured or had some legitimate excuse but just because I didn’t want to race this particular day?
At mile 87, THREE miles before the race start, I turned my car around in the tiny town of Pine Mountain and headed back home. Instead of feeling a sense that I was doing the right thing, I felt like I was cheating myself. Would CR, my biggest cheerleader, be disappointed in me for giving up? Would I be disappointed in myself? I drove a little further down the road and reasoned that maybe I was just tired. I was arriving at the race at least 90 minutes before the start. Maybe I just needed a nap. I turned around at the next intersection and headed back towards the race and a quick nap in the parking lot.
The race itself was uneventful until around mile 20ish when I started feeling the first pains and realized that this might be a tough finish. My legs were aching and I had long since given up any hope of a particular finish time. The math calculations for this race were more along the lines of “if I start walking now, I can still be done under 5 hours” as opposed to the calculations two weeks ago that were adding up to a PR.
Six more miles to go. I was breaking down the various checkpoints in my head. Make it to the water stop at 22, take a GU and run it home. I roll up to the water stop and there is no water. I start to choke back the tears. I am not even sure where those tears came from. My legs were hurting but… I guess not having the water just put me over the edge for a minute. I ate my GU and walked for a couple of minutes to get it together.
If you have ever done a small marathon, it can be a mental battle. Once the half marathoners split off, runners are few and far between. You may see runners here and there but there are mostly long stretches where you are on your own. The race become more like a long solo training run. The sight of another person can be like an instant ray of sunshine to help pick you up. At this point, almost every runner is giving the friendly wave and "good job" as they pass.
Around mile 24 I hear footsteps behind me. I had not seen anyone in two miles so was glad to hear someone coming as a reassurance that I had not missed a turn. A girl passes me. As is habit, I immediately tried to assess whether or not she might be in my age group. I decided she was much younger than me. (...as if it mattered).
It turned out she was doing run/walk intervals so shortly after passing me she stopped to walk. I passed her back and we kept that back and forth going until the finish. She crossed the finish about 200 yards ahead of me.
After it was over as I was in a daze of throbbing legs and dehydration, I could hear her husband congratulate her on a great time for a tough course. She looked back at me and thanked me for pacing her. I was shocked. What? I paced you? She looked so fresh when she first passed me and I was feeling so dead, I did not think was possible. She said every time I passed her she just told herself to stay with me. LOVE THAT. I unknowingly helped someone else to the finish. It made all the pain worthwhile :)