“You Never Forget Your First Time”
-Cheering section around mile 19 of the Nike Women’s Marathon
There’s my proof. I did it. I ran a marathon. I still can’t believe it. It didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped but I completed my goal- to finish- and that makes me very, very happy! I ran with Team in Training and raised close to $3000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in order to help patients and survivors of blood cancers live better, longer lives. Thank you to everyone who donated to the cause- your support means the world to me.
My marathon adventure truly began on May 31st with that first day of training, our first TNT buddy run at Lake Merritt here in Oakland. I met my like-minded, sweet, generous, and friendly team mates and immediately knew I had picked the right cause, the right time, and the right race. I started training thinking that I would complete the half marathon but after only 2 weeks with my team and Coaches, I was more than inspired and completely motivated to go for the full marathon.
So, I did.
After 20 weeks of training and 286 miles in all, the day finally came for my 26.2 mile victory run on Sunday, October 16th at the Nike Women’s Marathon.
On Saturday, I BARTed out to San Francisco and checked into my room at the Marriott Marquis- my nerves were wracked! I was so excited and nervous and anxious all at the same time. When I got to the expo, however, all that changed to frustration and anger with a side order of acute claustrophobia.
Okay so it was really my fault for waiting until Saturday to pick up my bib but I really had no idea the special kind of mayhem that would ensue here at the Biggest Race Expo In The Entire World. It was huge. It was beyond packed. The line for bib pick-up went for at least 5 blocks and then did a huge serpentine loop just to get in! Crazy! I have never been to an expo before that required a map:
Got through the line which completely dissipated once the halfers split off from the fullers (of the 23,000 people running this race, only 2,000 complete the full!) and followed the helpful volunteer’s direction towards the check in. As I waited, I was completely amazed at how many people fit in such a small space! Seriously, there was no room to walk let alone grab any free samples. I immediately wanted out of there.
The volunteer finally said, “Uh, I have you down for the half.” Panic set in. She said I had to go to the solutions desk to get it fixed and, to make a long story short, thanks to my awesome team mate Sammie for getting me the phone number to my team manager, and my wonderful team manager Kerri for actually picking up the phone, I got switched no prob. 26.2, here I come. Officially.
Somehow I managed to duck-walk through the expo without going completely postal, went to the info booth and demanded to know where they were selling the NWM apparel. I prayed that the answer would not be, “At the expo, right here.” Instead, it was, “At NikeTown, right over there.” NikeTown was just as jam packed as the expo, if not worse. Nevertheless, I required my $70 commerative hoodie and, of course, a picture with my name on The Big NWM Wall of Participants.
Having survived the NikeTown pandemonium, I proceeded back to my room just in time to change my shirt and head to the Moscone Center for the TNT Inspiration Dinner. It was amazing and inspiring, yes, most definitely. When I entered the hall, I was greeted with cheers from thousands of TNT staffers from all across the country- I felt so lucky and honored to be a part of such an amazing group of dedicated people. They’re all so fit, they cheered like this for at least an hour!
I was happy to hear that the emcee for the evening would be John “The Penguin” Bingham! I had been reading his column for some time in Runner’s World magazine, but never attached the words to the name until I started blogging. And there he was live and in person! He was hilarious, engaging, and just such a great story teller, he had all 5,000 TNTers laughing, smiling, and clapping. (If you are new to running or exercise in general, I highly recommend you read his stuff– he is a self-proclaimed coach-potato-turned-runner, it is such an inspiring story!)
When John started describing the next speaker, I immediately knew he was talking about my running idol, the awesomely-amazing-super-fast-new-mommy Kara Goucher. I gasped and stood up and my team mates laughed, I was acting like such a groupie/running geek I guess I deserved it! Kara came onto the stage, said… stuff… I don’t recall at all what she said, actually, I was just in complete awe of the fact that she was right there talking to me about my efforts and giving running advice. LOVE!
When she got off stage, Coach Al, after seeing my reaction to Kara, asked me to hand him something, anything of mine. I was so stupefied that I handed him a banana but then realized what he was going for. I grabbed a piece of paper, he took it, went to her table and GOT ME KARA’S AUTOGRAPH!!!! AHHHHHH!!!!
After giving Coach Al a big hug and kiss, I sat back down and my team mate Linda said, “C’mon Laura, I’ll be your paparazzi, let’s go over there and get your picture with her!” I felt very star struck and shy but finally gave in just as Kara was leaving. We ran (literally) after her and even though her PR person was saying with a scowl, “No more photos, Kara has to go.” I said, “I’m such a big fan! A mommy too!” Kara said, “One more, it’s okay!” and BOO-YA:
After the dinner, I went back to the hotel room, tried to relax, and laid out all of my gear for the next day. I got in bed at 9:30 but finally fell asleep around 11:00 as my stomach was so busy with butterflies!
I woke up at 4:30am on race morning, ate my Lunabar and banana, got ready, then met Martha and Sammie in the hotel lobby at 5:45. We hung around, snapped some pictures, then headed to Union Square for the final words of wisdom from Coach Al. We still had a half hour before the race was to start so we took more pictures, of course, as well as several deep breaths while we anxiously waited among 23,000 of the closest friends we’ve never met.
The race finally began and after 3 blocks and 30 minutes, we reached the starting line and were off…
In that first mile, I made a mistake that Coach had warned us about over, and over, and over again and may just have been the thing that ruined me by mile 22. I went out way too fast. 8:47 fast when my goal was 10-11 minute miles throughout. Oops. Guess I was a little excited.
The first few miles went by quickly- when I was feeling good and running fine, it was all a blur, the only thought in my mind was, “WOOOOOOO!!! Move. WOOOOOOO!!! Move. WOOOOOOO!!! Move.” As this was a TNT event, there were all types and levels of athletes on the course, basically, a lot of walkers. A lot lot lot. All over the place. Sometimes 5 abreast. It was very frustrating to have to zig-zag-zig-zag throughout the walkers, but I understand that for most of the TNT participants, this is often the one and only event they ever do and for such a very good cause, usually for a friend or family member who has passed away or is currently living with some form of blood cancer.
So, I do not begrudge the walkers but, like I said, this is more of an LLS event than a race and I wish Nike would realize it for what it is and monitor the corrals better, stagger the starts, create a lane just for walkers, and/or add a rule that if walking, stay to the sides of the street. (If you are listening, Nike– yeah, right- that would really, really help! You’re welcome!)
By mile 6 we had the Golden Gate Bridge in our sights, so I attempted one of those self-portraits-while-running. How did I do?
Then, around mile 8 or 9 or 10, I really had to pee. There were plenty of porta pottys along the course but they all had lines at least 5 people long. Not wanting to wait, as soon as a nice wooded area caught my eye, I stopped off and did the squat. That was a race first. I used some KT tape for T.P. (Hunh! Who knew!), felt so much better, and on I ran…
I stopped for water at every water stop but I think I drank too much. I took in some sort of fuel every 30-45 minutes- peanut butter and jelly on white bread, a Clif shot gel, some sport beans, and orange slices- but I think I ate too much. Around mile 15, I walked in order to munch some PB&J but dry heaved and almost threw up right on the spot! My tummy felt uneasy and full, I was even a bit dizzy, but on I charged…
I planned to meet Hubby, his mom, and our kids at mile 21 to get some motivational hugs and high-fives, then Hubby would join and run with me to the finish. I approximated my time and he only had to wait about 15 minutes before I arrived.
And that was my second big mistake. Seeing the family immediately took me out of the moment. I was completely focused but then when I began running with the Hubby I started complaining to him about everything that hurt and then started focusing more on, well, everything that hurt. My feet were cramping, I had killer side stitches, a huge blister on my left foot, and my stomach was in knots. The more I complained, the more I hurt, and the more I walked.
If I had been alone, I would have been saying to myself, “You can do this! Get over it! Mind over matter! Shut up, stop complaining, stop being a wimp, and just do the damn thing!” but with Hubby by my side and his dialogue of, “No problem, take it easy, you’re okay, walk if you have to, it’s okay.” It wasn’t okay. It just wasn’t. I wanted to stop. I cried. I yelled. But most importantly, I found the strength to run… and then… I was almost there…
As you can see, I was not too happy by mile 25 but all of a sudden, like an angel or miracle or happy hallucination, Coach Al magically appeared right when I needed him most. He ran with me for a bit, and I cried, thanking him for getting me to this point. He told me to believe in myself and my training, reminded me how very close to the finish I was, how hard I had worked to get there, and how I got to meet Kara Goucher last night- it was just what I needed to hear, so I took off, finally crossing the finish line of my very first marathon.
And I got my Tiffany’s finisher necklace from the tuxedo-ed fireman…
… and I got my very first heat sheet…
…and I got to celebrate with my BFFs, eat hamburgers and cake and KFC, drink champagne, and wear my new shirt and necklace for the rest of the day! (Until I passed out at 7:30pm, that is.) So awesome, so memorable, so happy, and so very proud of myself!
When you train for a marathon, you are forced to become incredibly honest with yourself- what you need, what you can do, how you feel, when to take it easy, when to push it. In my excitement, I forgot all of that. If you had told me 6 months ago that I would someday run a marathon, I would have laughed right in your face, but now I know that I can do it and that’s a great place to start. How I do it, well, that is still a work-in-progress.
I will never forget my first time, that is very true, yet I am oh so looking forward to the next time… training starts November 12th, stay tuned…