November 24th, 2008 WE ALL DID IT! 26.2 miles---DONE!
It's been a week since the marathon and I feel great; actually I have felt great since I finished...surprisingly I wasn't sore, just tired.
Before I get started I want to say a few words to some important people. Lori and Tim Dreiling, the owners at Fleet Feet Sports—you two are the reason I love this sport now; thank you for welcoming me into the running group and being a constant source of support. Thank you to Chris Lieberman the organizer of the Route 66 Marathon; had you not asked, I would have never been part of such a brilliant event! I can't wait for next year! Thank you to Mike Volksdorf and his wife Dawn at Body Defined Fitness. If I didn't have you guys to weight train me, I would have been a mess and sore after every run including the marathon! Thank you to Coach Paul, Brian, Ben, Steve, Tim, Kathryn and anyone else who ran with the Hawt AsSphalts...you guys are the BEST! Thank you to all of the runners in the rest of the groups, and thank you to EVERYONE who participated and supported me through this endeavor! You will never know how much it means!
So, here we go. My finishing time was 4:55:48; a sub 5 hour marathon—not bad considering........You will understand as you continue to read.
The day started bright and early. I crawled out of bed around 6am, and put on my entire running garb that I had laid out the night before (just as Captain Insane-O and Coach Paul advised.) I wasn't feeling nervous, just cold. At 7am all of the runners with Fleet Feet Sports met at the Spirit Bank near the start line to take pictures and hit the port-o-potties and find our pacers—my pacer for this race was Captain Insane-O herself—Kathryn White (her scheduled time to finish was slated for 4:30:00.) At 7:45, we all gathered together in the starting "pit"; shivering from both extreme cold and excitement. Wearing a running skirt in 35 degrees was...COLD! I had on my running bib, a long sleeve shirt as well as my appropriately named "Geranimal shirt" (a shirt that has built in mittens.) I honestly think I was too cold to know how I was feeling at the starting line; I just wanted to start running so I could warm up. With that said, I'm sure there was excitement going through my body because I kept feeling like I had to hit the port-o-potty—AGAIN! Haha! Before I knew it the gun went off...taking my first step of 26.2 miles! I wouldn't see this spot again for another four and a half hours!
The first mile was a blur. There were so many people that I really couldn't see anything, I just had to concentrate on not tripping over the person in front. Mile two was a stretch on Route 66; by this time I was boiling, so the two long sleeve shirts came off. Kathryn kept the pace group entertained with her trivia, and her laughter, support and encouragement. The last part of mile two was he beginning of a VERY LONG STRETCH on Riverside (close to 18 ½ miles!)
Miles three through six were fun, honestly. Since I was also part of one of the two FOX23 relay teams, I had to pass off my chip to Clay Loney, my co-anchor, around the six mile mark. Clay ran with us until we hit mile seven, then he took off! (show off! Truth be told he only had to run 3 miles!) From 6.25 until mile 11, everything was great. I felt strong mentally and physically and I didn't have a side stitch. Along the way some of the Hawt AsSphalts from M3B who were running the relay were on the side of the road; it was Gladys, Leigh Anne and Dana. They were cheering us on and screaming with excitement—it was GREAT! (Thanks ladies!!) The 96th street bridge from Riverside over to Jenks was mile 11 ½. When we ran onto the bridge, it was windy—really windy. It was causing me to breathe pretty hard—and then the infamous side stitch came to say, "Hello." Kathryn told me to take some deep breaths and to relax...I did and by the time mile 12 came along, I had settled back into a rhythm and the stitch was gone. Crossing over the bridge gave all of us runners a chance to see the leaders as they made the loop back onto Riverside. It was pretty neat; they were so fast, strong and amazing. I remember seeing the first female and we cheered as we knew she would finish in the two-hour and "something" mark. Between mile 14 and 15, it got a little difficult only because there weren't a lot of people cheering. By the time we made the loop in Jenks and got back onto Riverside, I knew if I could run the next stretch of 7 miles everything would be fine.
Mile 15 was also the mark that one of my running buddies hit her "wall." We had already been running for 2 hours and she realized that she still had to make it ALL the way back down Riverside and that we would be running for another 2 ½ hours. That thought messed her up a little bit. I yelled to Kathryn that our friend had hit "the wall" and I needed her help. We slowed down and talked to her...but at this point it wasn't working. I told Kathryn to go ahead and that I would stay with my friend—so I took her hand and ran with her for about a mile. She was desperately trying to work through her brain telling her to stop. I wasn't going to leave her, but she kept telling me to go on as we both watched our pace group--and Kathryn get out of sight. This is where it starts getting somewhat ugly for me.
I think it was around mile 16 ½ when I left my friend (with horrible guilt I might add.) Doing what any amateur--who was still feeling fantastic would do—I *sprinted* until I caught up to Kathryn and the rest of the pace group. Unfortunately, my sprint lasted for 2 miles. Kathryn turned around, and was a little more than surprised to see me around mile 18 ½. At this point, I still felt pretty good; mentally and physically...I was just breathing hard...and then it hit me! I stopped, told Kathryn I was going to puke and to get out of the way. I didn't throw up, but was dry-heaving, became VERY dizzy, and started seeing stars. This was not good—at all. I knew Kathryn couldn't stay with me...she was hired to do a job...and that was to get her pace group across the finish line in 4:30:00, so I told her to go on without me and apologized. At that point she said, "I will come back for you after I finish." I can't remember if I looked at her or not, but right before she took off she told me, "There is no shame in not finishing in 4:30:00. Time doesn't matter what matters is you are here." After she left, I went down-hill, fast.
Jeanean—one of my Fleet Feet M3B-Hawt AsSphalt friends was with me at this point, she had slowed down because she was a little stiff since she had run the Chicago Marathon a month prior. As we were running, slowly, I came to an abrupt halt with pain that I had never encountered. My right quad was cramping, I felt dizzy, and it felt like my hearing was going. I also felt as if I may throw up again, but mostly the pain from the cramping was excruciating. Jeanean and I decided to try and run to each water stop and then walk through them as we were handed Gatorade and water. The cramping continued in not only my right quad but also behind my left knee and in both calves. I was spent, absolutely spent, but I knew I had to keep drinking the Gatorade, eat my Sports Beans and try to press on—I wanted that darn medal and FINISHERS shirt! Haha. When I got to mile 19 or 20, I was not thinking clearly because I didn't recognize friends from work as they were cheering me on (sorry guys!) Jeanean and I finally made it to mile 22; the first hill. As crazy as it sounds, we were actually looking forward to running the hills simply because after running on concrete for so many miles and using the same muscles, change was good! As much pain as I was in, I kept telling Jeanean that I was still going to run the White Rock Marathon in Dallas in December...and Jeanean kept telling me, "Let's get through this one before you make that decision." We would laugh and then continue with our walk/run method. By mile 23 we were in Woodward Park...I thought that I might have to sit down, but I was afraid to do that. I thought that if I stopped, the cramping would get so bad that I would end up in the fetal position and never move again...so I kept going. At mile 24, Jeanean looked at me and said, "Chera, you have some serious salt marks on the back of your shirt!" This was a little concerning---not only for the sheer fact that I was sodium depleted, but also because it LOOKED HORRIBLE, so I had Jeanean put water on my shirt to get rid of it. (This is truly a beautiful visual isn't it? Haha.) By the time we hit 24 1/2 my friend who was hurting at mile 15 and some other Fleet Feet gals with M3B had caught up to us. It was great to have a group again...and it was, in a sick way, comforting to know I wasn't the only one hurting.
Mile 25 was a blur and it still is, but I remember seeing Sandi (also a runner with the M3B Hawt AsSphalts) and she began running with us. At this point I was hitting my right quad—hoping it would stop cramping. It didn't work. Then my toes began to cramp as well as my entire mid-section. Mile 25 ½ was the "down-hill" part of the marathon...and I ran it (if that is what you want to call it) while doubled over. Then I saw Kathryn—she was indeed coming back—not only for me—but also for the rest of our group. And, since she *is* Captain Insane-O, there was no pity; she just yelled and told me to, "Get moving!" I think I kind of laughed, and then she told me to (insert her sarcasm and humor) "Stop crying!" I looked at her and said, "I'm NOT crying!" (because I REALLY wasn't) After that, apparently I took off running with her and Tiffany and Sandi next to me. I do not remember much after that. I don't remember, Tiffany grabbing my hand and us running to the finish line, I don't remember giving some guy a "high-five" and I don't even remember crossing the finish or going to the First Aid tent. I felt a little numb, and it seemed like everything was "graying-out," but apparently I was smiling when I crossed the finish line—as was shown in pictures and video. Hahaha! I was in the First Aid tent for a while and was given a plethora of pretzels and Gatorade. After a few minutes I realized I was in the tent with a number of my friends who had come to surprise, support, and watch me cross the finish line...it was wonderful, thank you!
I had no idea where Tiffany, Sandi and Jeanean went after we finished, but I do remember someone telling me we all finished in 4:55:48. I had only missed my pace time by 25 minutes, but I remembered thinking, "It wasn't 4:30:00." At that point, Kathryn reminded me that my time was my Personal Record, (PR) and that I should be happy. (Insert sarcasm) She was also the one who reminded me that my little "sprinting stunt" was not the smartest thing I have ever done and if I'm going to sprint again, I need to at least wait until the end of the marathon—NOT halfway through it. :-). She was absolutely right. (insert sarcasm—again) I mean, why wouldn't she be right? She's only run, oh let me think...95 MARATHONS!
By the time I left the tent and made my way to the car, I knew I still wanted to run the Dallas Marathon December 14th. Lori Dreiling who owns Fleet Feet Sports, said I had, "The running bug." She's right...I do, I love it. There was something so rewarding about pushing my mental and physical self farther than what I ever thought was possible. It was a test of my strength and will, and how much I could handle and endure. I was happy, and Kathryn, you are right, "There isn't any shame in not finishing in 4:30:00."
That night, Tiffany, Jeanean and I decided to run more marathons. Jeanean and I signed up to run Dallas with Captain Insane-O and a group of people from Fleet Feet Sports. Tiffany can't go to Dallas but is going to run Memphis with her hubby (who was a pacer for the 3:20:00 group.)
Someone asked me what my best memory of that day was, and I can honestly say, it was sharing the experience with all of my friends! There is nothing like the support of your friends to pull you through the toughest physical and mental challenges of your life--and completely "getting it." It was also amazing to see all the people who had been rooting me on and supporting me--people that I had never met before, thank you!
The completion of this marathon is just the beginning of my journey to finish more. I will continue to blog and keep you posted about Dallas. I hope that some of you who have been reading my blogs---that have never run before-- might want to join us Fleet Feeters for a run...it will be the beginning of something remarkable, just as it was for me!
I would love to read your thoughts, so feel free to comment!
As always, happy running! ~Chera