In the days leading up to the race I paid extra attention to every bit of food or drink I put in my mouth, every ache or pain or twinge I felt in my body, I was drinking fluids like a mad woman, and critiquing every step of every mile leading up to race day. I studied the course, I made plans for my race, I wanted everything to be perfect. Guess what, life isn't perfect. A race is rarely perfect. 26.2 miles, there is no way that can always go perfectly. What I should have been doing was training my head to adapt and overcome when things DIDN'T go perfectly instead of expecting everything to fall into place. My last long run was a huge reminder that I am capable, but I forgot how to adapt to things I cannot control during my race like I had done during that long run.
We headed out to Champaign, Illinois after an easy 3 mile run with two of my favorite people and my race companions, Erin and April. The ride up was fun and we talked the whole way about life, running, racing and plenty in between. After we got to the expo and picked up our packets, had some supper, and settled into our hotel, the nerves really set in. I laid out all of my clothes and gear for the next day and April helped me write my prayer list on my arms for the next day. I had 26 names for 26 miles of prayers, with plans to run this race for someone other than myself.
I did not get a wink of sleep that night, with my alarm set for 4:45am so I could eat my breakfast ahead of time and be ready to leave the hotel at 5:30am for the 7am start. I last looked at the clock at 1am, it was a useless night of sleep. I tried not to let my lack of sleep bother me, I'd rested well all week and I really felt fine when I woke up the next morning. We headed off to the starting line after multiple potty breaks, and Erin and I talked about the race and our plans and goals. We went to the bathroom 4 more times once we got to the starting line area, what can I say, I have race day IBS. And then we headed to our corrals. I gave Erin a hug and told her good luck! and gave April a hug and told her I'd see her in a few hours.
Trish and Izzie (fellow running buddies) and I found our spots in Corral B near the 3:35 pace group. Our goal was to start with the 3:35's and try to catch the 3:30's pace group, since our goal was 3:33. We listened to the National Anthem and I almost cried. There were no more nerves, only feelings of happiness and readiness, I couldn't wait to start. The race started, we crossed the starting mats and started our watches and we were off. I tried to focus on effort and not pace, but ultimately failed at that. I run best when I ease into a pace instead of pushing a pace from the beginning, and that just isn't how I started the race. We weaved in and out of people because the start was crowded with all of the 8 minute mile pacers for the full and half marathon. We were always in front of the 3:35 group and caught the 3:30 group by mile 5. The first 10K flew by and I mentioned that we were half way done with the half way point. We crossed in an overall average pace of 7:56/mile. Too fast to maintain for 20 more miles. I was trying not to let myself get discouraged and tried to ease into a little slower pace, but the heat was picking up and I was already feeling tired. I gulped as much water as I could at the water stations, which made my stomach hurt instantly. I tried to sip but it was so warm and I had cotton mouth pretty quick so all I wanted was water. Around the 8 mile mark we headed into a park with a small path to run on. Trish and I looked for Izzie between 8 & 9 miles and couldn't see her anymore. We kept pushing forward and hoped that we'd see her again but knew that we had to keep moving to stay
on pace ahead of pace. Around the 9-10 mile mark I felt myself slowing and I just couldn't keep that 8 minute pace anymore. The 3:35 group was right behind us Trish reminded me, and we needed to push ahead. I couldn't do it, so I told her to go on and I would try to hang with them. I stayed with the 3:35 group until close to 11 miles and then fell off of their pace as well. More than anything I should have ran a couple slower miles, drank and ate my Gu's and recomposed myself, I still had plenty of time to regroup and run the rest of the race well. Instead I just got pissed. But not a good pissed that fuels the fire, a pissed that ruins the day. I started throwing myself a pitty party, complaining in my head about the heat, and how the starting pace was way too fast, and how the whole race was ruined.
I saw April at the half-way point, with my "Jessy runs for Josee Hope" sign and the sign she made us that said "Boston Bound" and I just wanted to cry and quit the whole damn thing. I smiled at her but rolled my eyes and told her so much for Boston. I was totally defeated and gave up before I was even halfway there. What a fool I was for giving up so early. The next 7 miles are a blur of negativity. Around the 15 mile mark I was running with another guy and we talked about our goals for the day, I told him I had set out to run a 3:33 but that wasn't happening anymore. He encouraged me and told me we had just run an 8:30 mile and that is still a 3:45 marathon so to not give up. That made me feel better and worse all at once because 3:45 was still so far off of my goal. I should have listened to him. Instead I listened to the a-hole behind us who quickly remarked, "3:33?! Well you can kiss that goodbye!" Thanks dude, I was unaware that I was running a shitty race, your reminder woke me up from my daydreaming.
Around the 18 mile mark I remember feeling really sorry for myself. I had 8 miles to go, and it had been 8 miles since I dropped off pace and the suffering had begun. I didn't want to go any farther. I kept looking at my arms, all of these people I had promised prayers to, and they are what kept me going. I prayed for each one of them during their assigned miles, but also spent way too much time feeling sorry for myself when I should have just focused on those prayers and moving forward.
The heat was terrible. Starting around mile 14 I had begun drinking a whole cup of water and dumping two over my head at each water station. By mile 20 I was soaked, running through every mist station and enjoying all of the awesome people who were spraying their garden hoses in the street. It could have rained like crazy and I would have been happier than the heat I was enduring. It was in the high 60's by mid-race which doesn't sound hot, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky so we were running in full sun after training the entire winter in freezing temps, my body just wasn't ready.
My Garmin was acting like a fool and said I had run 23 miles at the 22 mile mark. I wanted to rip it off my arm and stomp on it at that point. If my thoughts had been audible there would have been a lot of F-bombs flying I'm sure. We had 4 miles to go and they seemed to drag on forever, partially because I was running/walking so much slower than I had trained. With a 5K to go I tried to give everything I had left. I pushed forward for all of those people on my arms and for the hope that a finish line would eventually come into sight. Mile 24 included the one real hill we had to climb and I tried to use the downhill to my advantage while it lasted. The spectators and signs were awesome and they are the one thing that brought joy to my race. People kept screaming my name (it was on my bib) and I smacked as many hands as I could find. I gave a thumbs up to the camera guy somewhere between mile 25 & 26. The end was near. My Garmin froze at 24.96 miles and never moved forward after that, remind me to never rely on technology again. As I crossed the 25 mile mark, knowing my last 1.2 miles was all for Josee, my feet began to fly. I probably wasn't running very fast but I felt like I was and I was passing people like crazy. Someone yelled "Good push purple (color of my tank), keep it up!" I finally felt encouraged and was going to give it my all for the rest of the race, short as it may have been. The last 0.2 miles seemed WAY farther than a lap around the track but as soon as I entered the stadium and saw the finish I felt sweet relief. I ran as fast as I could, almost cried, and crossed the finish line of my second marathon. 3:54:14. A far cry from my 3:33. I hobbled forward, received my finisher's medal, patronized the volunteer handing out medals until she agreed to give me a second for Josee (I had already gotten permission from the race director via email but she wasn't around to give the okay at the time) and found April in the stands. A hug and a cry, a quick picture and then I went to find the other runners.
I was thrilled to hear that Trish had qualified with a 3:35:05 (she needed 3:40 to BQ) but was worried to hear she was in the medical tent. I flopped down on the stadium turf and pulled out my phone to text my husband and inform him of my failure. I posted a picture online with my feelings of defeat and cried. What I received after that was beyond anything I could believe, 118 people "liked" my picture and over 40 people responded with words of encouragement, reminding me that I had done what most people cannot fathom. I had run a marathon! 26 point freaking 2 miles.
The days following the race have been hard. I've made every kind of excuse in the book, beat myself up like crazy, and crabbed endlessly to my family. But in the end, I simply didn't have it on April 26th. I didn't run my race. I let myself give up. Two of the best comments I've received after the race were from some online friends. One said, " i know you're disappointed you didn't qualify for boston, but you should be proud of yourself. i think you did an amazing job, and i love reading about your running adventures. boston isn't going anywhere, so there will always be another chance to qualify"--thanks Erin Morgan! :) Another reminded me, "So you didn't run a 3:33, so what. You ran an awesome time and this will just give you more fuel for next time." True story Kate, this gives me even more incentive to bust my butt and not give up next time.
Was it a good race?, hell no. Am I glad I did it?, Of course. Practice makes perfect, right? I will qualify and I will run Boston.