I did it! Three months of training all came to an awesome end yesterday as I completed my first marathon. I can't believe it's over. Since it might be my first and only full marathon, I want to remember every detail. Get ready for a marathon of a recap!
Last week was terrible. I mean, the stress of race day was overwhelming. I really did not feel prepared AT ALL and when I ran what was supposed to be one of my last 3 runs, a 5-miler on Tuesday night, my body felt TERRIBLE. Particularly my quads. The next day they both hurt, but my left quad felt like it was ready to snap. I made the call then to skip my last two runs and go back to bikram instead.When the bikram class seemed to hurt more than help, I started getting really nervous about getting injured or pulling something before or during the race. Then, I started to think back about all the running and cross-training I should have done during these past 3 months. I had 2 18 milers and 3 20 milers in my training plan and of those 5 long runs, I only did 1 of each. I started to get even more panicky as the week went on.
But the expo Friday night helped calm my fears a bit. Getting into the expo and feeling the excitement and seeing the crowd, I realized that no matter what happened, this was going to be a great experience. The expo encouraged this realization in a couple of ways. One, there were so many people from out of town visiting my city to run. It made me proud of San Diego and I thought back to my first visits here and how exciting that was. It doesn't take much for me to get a renewed sense of appreciation for this amazing city.
The second thing that the expo did was put the size of the race into a visual reality. Aside from the Disneyland Half, this has to be the largest race I've ever been a part of. After the Foxy Trail Half last month, which only had about 200 runners, I was so grateful for the sheer volume of runners: there were 9,000 marathoners registered (though it looks like only 6500 finished). I'm not fast by any means (my planned pace was 11-12 minute miles) and since my only goal was to finish, I really didn't want a repeat of Foxy where it was a bunch of speed demons and then me crawling across the finish. Luckily, the Rock N Roll was nothing like that. There wasn't a single pretentious marathoner in the bunch, or at least, in my bunch. It was just a bunch of runners looking to have a fun race in America's Finest City!
The night before the race, I was too nervous to eat. I forced down two slices of pizza and somehow managed to fall asleep around 9:30pm. Surprisingly, I slept well and woke up to my first alarm at 4am ready to go. I took a shower to wake up, got dressed, drank some Nuun, ate a Clif bar, pinned my bib on and headed out the door. It was so dark out but the second I walked out of my driveway and onto the street, I was met with about 50 people setting up a water station right in front of our house! It was really happening!
I called my dad on the east coast and talked to him while I walked the mile up to Balboa Park where the starting line and racing village were. It was nice to be able to walk to a race and not worry about traffic or parking or getting there on time. In the park, I saw more people than I have ever seen in Balboa. 30,000 total runners were registered for the half and the full marathons, and there were tons of volunteers. I was also surprised to find water and breakfast tents with bagels and bananas for the runners. I've never had that at a starting line before.
I had about an hour to go before the marathon began, so I checked my gear bag, grabbed a banana and headed to the grass to eat and stretch. When they started calling marathoners to the corrals 45 minutes later, I think I walked over like I was walking to my death: I must have looked terrified. I moved into the second to last corral and stood there full of emotions. When they did a moment of silence for Boston and then sang the National Anthem, I lost it. I felt like such a dork when I started to cry, but thankfully I wasn't the only one. Soon enough my corral was at the starting line and we were off. I made the decision then not to listen to music or use my Nike+ because I was worried about my phone battery making it to the end of the race. Going rogue without GPS was probably one of the best decisions I made about the race.
The race itself was GREAT. For one thing, we couldn't have had better weather. It was overcast and a cool 60° degrees the whole time. I have never been so thankful for June Gloom. The first 9 miles were all roads I've run before while training which was great. We started out in Hillcrest where we had some hilarious spectators dancing and cheering for us. Then we moved through downtown and Petco Park into Little Italy where we passed the 10k mark. The tunnel on India Street was decked out in lights and was one of the coolest parts of the race, both literally and figuratively. As we got closer to my house, I was so excited to see Ryan. I was also surprised by my friend and neighbor Anjali and her pup Bauer who came out to cheer as well! Ryan had a sign for me painted on the back of the truck and after a quick, sweaty hug, I was back on the road. I passed by our house a little earlier than when I'd planned on it, which meant that I was running 10 minutes miles - not too fast to worry, but worth taking note.
The next few miles took us through Old Town and up Morena Blvd over to Mission Bay. One of my favorite water stations was the faux Margaritaville set up around Mile 10. Heading into the Bay was a relief, because I've trained and raced there and love running by the water. I crossed the half marathon mark there at 2:29:55 and made a quick bathroom stop once I saw a Porto Potty with no lines. Then I raced on to Mile 15 where I told myself I could finally walk. I should mention now that my race plan was to run straight through to Mile 15, walk to 16, run to 20, walk to 21, and then see how to handle the last five miles once I got there. A random spectator with pizza handed me a slice at the start of my walk through Mile 15 and it was definitely a highlight of the race.
With pizza in hand I walked through Bay Park to Mile 16 then starting running again on my way back up Morena Blvd into Fashion Valley. I got to Mile 19, right in front of the mall and before the 2 miles on the 163 Freeway and my body suddenly quit. I jogged over to the Medical tent, downed some Advil and sat and stretched on the grass for at least 5 minutes, probably more. When I finally stood back up, I knew that I was walking the two miles to Mile 21. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who felt this way. Almost every single person around me stopped running when we got on the freeway and it was obvious why. The 2 mile stretch didn't have any spectators, was uneven, and uphill. It was a good time to walk. Not for the juggling marathoner though: one runner ran by me juggling three balls high in the air as he completed the marathon!
I started right on the exit off of the 163 and about 200 feet later, my friend Maria came out to run with me! I could have cried I was so happy to see her. Maria ran a marathon in China over the Great Wall and has run the Rock N Roll San Diego before. She also happens to be one of the best people I know. Running with her made me realize how much I miss having someone to run with. I haven't really had that since Cross Country in high school and I think it totally changes things for me. My two miles running with her gave me a second wind as I headed from Hillcrest to North Park and suddenly I was flying. When she left, I finally put on some music and the obvious choice was Ke$ha's Warrior album. I've trained with that for about 90% of my runs and it completely re-energized me. I took off and started running 9-10 minute miles for the last 3.5 miles of the course. Coming down towards the finish line, I was so full of emotion and excitement.
I was pretty shell-shocked as I wandered aimlessly through the finish line area. Jamba Juice was there with smoothies, so I downed two of those and picked up my bag at Gear Check while on the phone with Ryan trying to find each other. We met up and took a cab back home where I immediately hopped in the shower while he cooked me some food. Did I mention I have the best boyfriend in the world?
I also have the best friends in the world for that matter. A couple of hours after the race, our friends came over for a post-marathon celebration and BBQ bearing champagne and beer and hugs and some gorgeous flowers from my friend Bonnie. I shocked myself by being far more mobile and not at all as sore as I expected to be, when it hit me all at once: I actually trained enough! All of the blogs and articles I read that promised me I had trained more than I felt like I did were right for once. So, we had a great day of drinking and talking and eating and of course, making drunk Vines of our late night dance parties and group sing-a-longs to 90s music videos on YouTube. Best. Friends. In the World.
All things considered, I am a pretty lucky girl. Lucky to have my health and be able to run a full marathon. Lucky to live in this gorgeous city and have perfect training and racing weather. Lucky to have the support system that I do. I know that hard work and choices are what yields achievements like this, but whenever I sit back and think about it, so much of it feels like luck to me. And for that, I am endlessly grateful. I could not have asked for a more perfect marathon experience!
- ran 2 days for a total of 31.2 miles
- went to 1 bikram class
- ran 94 miles in the month of May
- completed my first marathon with an official time of 5:37:58