After my first marathon experience, I vowed never to run the distance again, I was doing just fine with shorter distances like the 5K, thank you.
After the 2004 Columbus Marathon, I took a few weeks off from running and then eventually got back into my regular routine. Though I didn’t think I was meant to be a marathoner, I still considered myself a distance runner, and I still loved the sport so much. As the year progressed, I looked forward to daily running dates with myself, especially to help process my father’s failing health.
In the spring of 2005, I lost my father after a multiple year battle with cancer. In order to cope and process all the emotions involved, I relied on my running shoes, heavily.
The summer before my final year at Muskingum, I decided to rejoin my cross country team. I felt like I had some unfinished business to attend to, and wanted my final year of co-ed life to be as normal as possible. I had a wonderful time running with the team again, and knew it was the proper decision for me.
Eventually I found myself later that spring in cap and gown, walking across the stage at commencement and receiving my diploma. It was then that it finally hit me, I was about to close a major chapter in my life and start a brand new one. With this transition, I would be leaving behind team sports as I would know it, for the rest of my life.
This was a tough pill for me to swallow as I’ve been an athlete since I could walk. I started participating in organized sports as early as Kindergarten and never looked back. Thank you SO much mom & dad! I’ve been a member of soccer, volleyball, basketball, lacrosse, track & field and cross country teams. After I graduated and started my first job, I realized, there would be no more team camps, daily practices, and weekend meets. I needed to find something to fill this void. I knew I wanted to continue running and racing and I was ready to be challenged in another distance than the 5K. Finally one day I made the decision to give the marathon another chance.
For my second effort I was more knowledgeable. I read everything I could get my hands on; I researched training plans, hydration, nutrition, gear, body glide, etc. When race day rolled around, I was much more confident in my abilities and felt a BQ was definitely within my grasp.
Marathon #2: 2006 Columbus Marathon: 3:41:16
The weather on race day was chilly but the sun was shining. I remember starting out wearing shorts, a tank, a long sleeve shirt over top, hat and gloves. This was my ideal weather condition. After the gun went off, I was overcome with the same indescribable emotion that hit me and took my breath away just 2 years prior. The first mile clipped by way fast. I was nervous I went out a little too ambitiously and decided to slow the pace just a tad for the next mile. As I raced to the second mile marker, I would occasionally look at my watch just to make sure I was running close to my goal pace, but conservatively at the same time. After some time my stomach sank, I was running REALLY slow. I hadn’t made it to the 2 mile mark and I was already at 18 minutes. I was nervous I would never be able to make up the time I lost by slowing down. So I sped up again and the within a few minutes I was zooming past the 3 mile marker. Okay, who slipped crazy pills into my Gatorade?! Obviously I missed seeing the 2 mile marker so the little panic attack that occurred was completely unnecessary. Awesome.
After calming myself down, I locked myself into a nice lil’ pace, where according to my pace band, I would definitely qualify for Boston. Hallelujah!
As the miles clicked by, my excitement increased. Before I knew it, I was passing the 20 mile marker, with a little extra pep in my step and maybe, just maybe a side order of swagger.
As I passed the 23 mile marker, I was completely blind-sided. I didn’t just hit the proverbial wall, I all-out body slammed into it. My leg muscles seized up, my hip flexors felt as if they were going to explode out of my body, my whole body felt as if it consisted solely of lead, I started feeling nauseous and had the most excruciating headache of my life. I started to feel completely out of it, and it was a struggle just to put one foot in front of the other. I glanced down at my watch after a bit and recognized that my pace came to a screeching halt. But I didn’t even have the brain power or the ability of reason to even care. My brain was mush, I seriously thought my body was digesting it. Then I think I witnessed a woman right in front of me collapse onto the ground from her efforts. To this day I am not sure if it truly happened or if I was hallucinating, no joke.
Eventually the finish line was in sight, and I realized if I gave it all I had, and dug deeper than ever before, I still had a chance to qualify. At the time, a woman my age needed to run a 3:40 or better. There was also a 59 second provision, so really, I needed to run a 3:40:59.
The last 50 meters or so of the race.
I ran as fast as my little legs would propel me and I crossed the finish line in 3:41:16. Seventeen seconds too late. SEVENTEEN SECONDS. That is less than one second per mile too slow. As I had my finisher medal draped around my neck, all I could say was ‘Oh my God. I can’t believe I didn’t qualify. Is this someone’s idea of a sick joke?’ After hobbling through the finisher shoot, I grabbed a bagel and some Gatorade and slammed them as I stumbled around looking for my mom.
Once we were reunited I insisted that I sit on the ground for a few minutes and process what just happened. I even requested that my mom document my contemplative moment photographically, so that the next time I said I wanted to run a marathon, I could look at it and be reminded of the sheer hell that I just experienced.
And I’m spent.
I will spare you the gory details of what came to follow, but it may or may not have included the following:
- Shivering and shaking to the point my mom threatened to make me seek medical attention
- My mother forcing me into her Rav-4 and then doing her best impersonation of Danica Patrick on the interstate to get me home
- Me laying in the back seat groaning, shaking and saying my Hail Mary’s
- Hobbling upstairs to the restroom positive I was going to have to start directing my prayers to the porcelain gods
- Finding my second wind after not puking
- Stepping foot into the steaming hot shower, and seeing my breakfast staring back at me from the shower floor once the hot water hit my head Oh heyyyyy oatmeal, dried cranberries and banana.
- Eating an entire pizza, as well as a cheeseburger, fries, chicken nuggets and a weeks worth of sprite. Oh yeah, about that. I wasn’t always a vegetarian or vegan…not my proudest moment.
I was in surprisingly good spirits considering the circumstances. Even though I didn’t achieve my goal time, I had improved SO much from my previous marathon attempt, and I knew I was capable of a 3:40 performance. After I was clean and refueled, I began contemplating my next BQ attempt. There was NO way I was going to get within a grasp of my goal and not try again. Just this time, it wouldn’t be in Columbus…