Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What it's like to run a marathon

Of course, this may or may not be similar to anyone else's marathon experience. As they say, your mileage may vary - but not much more than 26.2.

The beginning of the day started out early, around 5:30. We had done as much as possible the night before, so all we needed to do was get dressed and head on out the door. As I suspected it would be, the train ride was surreal as everyone else on the train was headed downtown for the exact same reason. After dropping our stuff off at South Branch where the Team One Step pre-race gathering and after party was held, we headed to the start line. I suspect downtown is pretty barren at 6:45 a.m. Sunday mornings. Marathon day is no different except runners and the wonderful volunteers already starting to set up aid stations. After a quick port-a-potty stop, we head to our corral and wait around nervously with all the other runners. During this time you do things like jump up and down to keep warm, contemplate taking off your extra outer layer of clothing but then decide to wait until the last minute and think about the possibility of just hopping in a cab and going home.

Jackie's smiling because she's only run a few miles.
Fun fact: In cooler temperature races, runners will often shed an outer layer of clothing right before or along the race course, which then gets donated. It's fun to see all the shirts, gloves and what not fly overhead. What's probably not fun is getting hit by a fleece because Mr. H. didn't quite make it to the sidelines. Again, anonymous runner who my fleece landed on, we're sorry.

I won't take you through a mile by mile breakdown of the race because that would take too long and probably be boring. But here are some quick thoughts on different things:
  • Even though I peed right before the race, I pretty much had to pee again right away. I waited until the first set of port-a-potties around mile three. However, many men decided that any old wall would do, and there were several of them lined up along the Columbus underpass. So if you're down there and it smells like pee, it's not the homeless people, it's runners.
  • Everyone tells you not to go out too fast. And I told myself not to go out too fast. And I knew I was running too fast the first few miles and tried to slow down, but still was running too fast. It's hard to pace yourself at the beginning because it's just so amazing and exciting and crazy. I guess that's why the pros have rabbits whose job is to pace them for the first several miles.
  • It's great running along the streets with no cars and people cheering. Cannon Drive, Sedgewick, Jackson Blvd, the IIT campus, south Michigan Ave. - all great running streets and such a different view without cars and traffic.
  • You can actually run (even at my slow pace) down Sedgewick faster than you can drive down it in normal traffic.
  • Going north for 7 miles and then turning around and going back downtown is great (this part made even better by seeing my first cheering section Sara, Mike, Sasha, Sophie, Abbey, Jackie, David, Mom, Stephen, Eva Kay, George, Alexander, Issac, and Aiden). Heading west out of downtown and knowing you're only half way to the finish line, not so great.
  • I LOVED running through all the neighborhoods. I was so happy to have so many people cheering through the back half. Pilsen, China Town, even along South Michigan Ave. where there weren't that many people, but those who were there knew how to give you that last bit of encouragement.
  • People love to make clever signs such as: Cheer for this guy (arrow pointing down); Go Anonymous Runner Go; I'm clapping but you're chaffing; Try not to poo your pants (lots of variations on that theme); If you poo your pants, I will judge you; Run like zombies are chasing you; Run faster, the Bears play at 3; Chuck Norris never ran a marathon; Beat Oprah; I thought you said 2.62 miles; Only 26.1 miles until free beer (lots of beer related signs). Of course my favorite sign was the one Sasha and Sara made saying Go Melly Go.
  • An orange has never tasted so good than after you've run 22 miles.
  • Bananas taste even better at miles 23, 24, 25.
  • Knowing you have to go up a hill right before the finish line doesn't make it any easier, but knowing as soon as I turned that last corner onto Columbus I would be able to see the finish line made me determine to keep going.
  • You will never be so happy to stop running as you are when you've just run 26.2 miles (even if your watch says you have done 26.5).
  • You'll probably cry a little bit when you see the finish line, cross the finish line and have a medal placed around your neck.
  • Those Mylar blankets really do keep you warm.
  • Walking a mile back to the after party hurts a lot and takes a long time.
  • Sitting down feels great, getting up, not so much.
In the end, I didn't go as fast as I wanted to go. My official time was 5:23:05. My watch time was closer to 5:11, because it doesn't include the two stops I made. I hit the proverbial wall somewhere between mile 20 and 21. I didn't necessarily want to stop totally, I just knew that I didn't have much more in me to continue to "race" anymore. Luckily I had my sister with me to help me push through.

And now the question, am I going to do this again? Amazingly, I am not that sore. I pretty much went to sleep right after we got home and rested most of the next day. But we did get up and around and by the end of the day yesterday, I was amazed at how good I felt. Part of me thinks that's because I didn't push myself as hard as I could but I also think it's because I trained and was in a good place for the run. I do know I could go faster. Nothing crazy, but I'm pretty sure I could reach my goal time of somewhere between 4:45-5 hours. Does that mean I want to try and do that? Maybe, but not anytime soon. Right now, I'm just happy to be done and to have a really good excuse for NOT going for a run.


daphne debauchee said...

So proud of you Melly Mel! I can't even imagine.

Tina said...

So awesome, Melanie! Your times are about the same ad mine were. Just relish the fact you finished!! Way to go!!

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