So far I’ve taken you on the journey through all of my marathon experiences, and finally we have come to the last chapter in the story. Congratulations if you’ve made it this far!
Marathon #7: 2010 Cleveland Marathon: 3:37:04
After being dealt yet another hand of bad luck at the Earth Day Challenge Marathon, I bit the bullet and signed up for the Cleveland Marathon that would take place a mere three weeks later. I took a few days off of running all together and iced my legs like it was my j-o-b, as well as stretched like I have never stretched before. Then it was time to get back out and pound the pavement, but not too much. I added another speed workout into my plan, and then just did some middle distance runs here and there, as well as some deep water running and basically pretended like the Earth Day Challenge race was nothing but a training run, and began my official taper for the real race, the Cleveland Marathon. Instead of researching training plans, or anything like that, I just went with my gut instinct this time around.
The Wednesday morning prior to the race, the hubs and I flew to San Diego to attend a friend’s wedding. We spent the entire weekend sight-seeing, relaxing, stuffing our faces and of course spending time with friends and celebrating the love of two wonderful people. The wedding was on Friday evening, and we stayed until mid-day Saturday. The best flight scenario we could find was going to put us back in the CLE between the hours of 11:00pm and midnight. No sweat. That would give me just enough time to fall into bed and log 4-5 hours of sleep, in addition to the entire flight. I have an amazing skill that allows me to fall asleep within minutes pretty much anywhere, so I basically slept the entire flight home.
Since I wasn’t able to attend the race expo, my dear friends Amy and Nate picked up my race packet for me, and dropped it off at my apartment, where it was waiting for me when I arrived home. Have I mentioned how awesome my friends are?
The only thing I had to worry about was waking up to my alarm clock, and getting to the starting line on time. And well, racing of course.
The husband was a total trooper, he drove me as close to the starting line as possible and dropped me off, after a 5:00am wake-up call, sans caffeine. It was a brisk morning, no complaints here, so I immediately found shelter in the lobby of one of the buildings near the start, as well as a toilet with indoor plumbing. Life was good.
After waiting in the longest restroom line that ever existed, it was game time! I shed my outer layers and huddled up with other peeps hoping for the 3:40 finish time. In larger marathons, there are usually pace group leaders, who wear signs on their backs that state what finish time they are aiming for, and they also usually run carrying some form of flag or stick with balloons – so they can be easily spotted from near or far. The main objective of the pace group leader is to run even splits, and get their followers across the finish line in their goal time, or even a tad quicker. Talk about pressure! This was the first time I ever relied on the help of a pace group, but I figured I had nothing to lose.
As I toed the start line, I once again was filled with the inexplicable feeling that the marathon causes, and I was overcome with a sense of calm and peace. Mother Nature was surely on my side that morning and all of the logistical aspects of the weekend and morning played out to a T. In those moments before the race official raised their pistol and started the race, I had a moment of clarity, I knew today was going to be my day, and I was up for the challenge.
Once we were off, I stuck to the pace group like white on rice. I was not going to let them out of my sight, and no matter how bad I may be hurting, I was going to conquer this BQ standard once and for all! I admit, the first few miles were a slight shock to the system, and I was concerned about being able to run even splits for the next 3+ hours, but I quickly squished those negative thoughts and replaced them with more positive mantras.
As the race continued, I realized I had to use the restroom, and decided to pull ahead away from the pace group just a bit, to buy myself some time for when I found a vacant port-a-john. As my luck would have it, there was one available in the next few minutes. I stopped in, did my business, and vacated the facility, and saw my pace group leader now about 50 yards ahead of me. I resisted the urge to sprint back up to the group, and slowing tracked them down within a few minutes. The plan worked to perfection.
The miles continued to click by until I got to mile 10 or so. I was feeling really great, so I decided to increase my speed just a bit. Around mile 12 I had to take a pit stop yet again, and was in and out rather quickly. I looked behind me as I left the john, and didn’t see the pace group behind me, and I didn’t see them in front of me either. Initially I was a tad nervous that they left me in their dust, but realized I was being paranoid, and I in fact had created quite the distance between us. Go me!
As I came through the half-way point, I was on target to finish just below 3:40, and I was feeling amazing! Then I spotted my husband, and friends Amy and Nate! I was so excited I seriously almost tackled them! Amy jumped into the race with me at this point, and paced me until about mile 20. It was so nice to have a friend there to run next to me, and talk to me to take my mind off of the pain. We laughed, told stories, and surely annoyed many of the people around us, especially those we were passing. But we didn’t care, we were having the time of our lives! Before I knew it, we were rolling into mile 20 and Amy admitted she needed to drop off, as she was recovering from some major running injuries, and just couldn’t push herself any farther. I thanked her for her help and focused my sights on the final 6.2 miles.
Those last 6.2 were some of the best miles of my life. I felt completely relaxed, and had a wonderful time. The crowd support was amazing, the weather was perfect, and I knew deep down inside of me that the thing I had worked so hard for all these years was about to happen.
By the last mile, I caught up to some 40-something men, and they were talking about what they were going to eat once the race was over such as: ‘Beer! Burgers! Pizza!’ and I chimed in ‘French fries! Diet Coke! Give me Starbucks!’ and they shouted ‘Yeah you go girl! You are almost there!’
Just seconds after this encounter, I heard someone manically screaming ‘YEAAAAAAH!!!!!!! MOLLLLLLLY!!!!!!!!! WOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!’ I had NO clue who that person was, but I liked it!
Then, as the last mile was winding down, I began to pick-up my speed. The next thing I knew, my buddy Nate was next to me, screaming in my face ‘OH MY GOD MOLLY! YOU GOT THIS! YOU ARE GOING TO BOSTON! FINISH! YOU GOT THIS OH MY GOD! GO GO GO!’ It seriously scared the daylights out of me! But the gesture was beyond appreciated! I saw the finish line and I pushed as hard as I could resulting in a time of 3:37:04. Helllllllllllooooo Boston! I graciously accepted my finisher’s medal, grabbed some snacks, and immediately found my hubs who gave me the best hug of my life.
After all the years, miles, sweat and tears, I finally found my stride and finished with plenty of time to spare. I may not have come in first that day, but achieving my Boston Qualifying standard with some of my best friends beside me was the sweetest taste of victory I have ever known.