After 16 weeks of training, Tom and I dropped the kids off with their Aunt Carol & Uncle Marcelo and drove to the Napa Valley. During the training, I ran my weekday runs with Michelle, Mark and Melanie from work. The weekend long runs were with my husband. We often would push YaYa in the job stroller, while BoBo would ride his bike ahead of us. We would stop, along the trail, at the playgrounds to give the kids a break. It was tough because the long runs too a really long time. We got a sitter when the run reached the higher mileage, and the weather was rainy. It was fun to compare aches and pains after the runs. Even though we didn’t run the same pace, the training still had a way of bringing us closer together.
I don’t remember every detail of that race, but I do remember the feeling of crossing the marathon finish line for the first time. If you haven’t had this live experience yet, it is well worth the training and the pain involved with that. There is nothing like it. But let me go back to the start and tell you the whole story – at least as much of it as I can remember.
On race morning we caught the bus at the high school to the race start. It was still dark outside, but who could sleep anyhow. We were very excited, and very nervous. When we unloaded the bus, the sun was just beginning to bring light to the sky. It was cold and I was in shorts.
The race started as the sun was rising. It was a beautiful sight with the vineyards and all. I started off faster than I wanted and watched as Michelle ran ahead of me. Mark was using a more conservative race and was back with Tom. By the second mile, I was noticing the challenge of the camber in the road as well as feeling a small rock (or so I thought) in my shoe. I stopped, pulled off my shoe…and then my sock but never discovered the problem. The same annoying feeling came right back when I started running again but I decided to ignore it and just hope that it went away.
The race was going well and I was in good spirits. My pace was steady but easy enough to chat it up with the people running along with me. This was how I met Bob. He was groaning about how tough the race was and I tried to pick him up by telling him to just look around and enjoy the sights. He thanked me and ran along side of me. I was at mile 10 at this point. Bob told me that he hadn’t really trained for the race. He had only run 13 miles for his longest run. Okay. Whatever. Well, by mile 15 things were starting to toughen up and needed to focus more. But there was Bob, talking away, asking questions, and annoying me – but I didn’t tell him that. That would just be rude.
So, I tried to lose Bob. I would linger at the water stations and hope that he would take my advice to “go ahead without me.” When I figured that I had stalled long enough, I would begin running again only to find Bob right there waiting for me.
There was a big hill at mile 20. This hill shows really nicely on the race profile but when you drive the course you can hardly notice it. Let’s just say that it is very noticeable when you have already run 19+ miles. On the other side of this hill is a long stretch of road and then the right turn that is a wonderful sign that the pain is almost over.
I had a goal of running my first marathon in 4 hours. I knew that I should have just been happy to finish, but I really thought it would be nice to beat the 4 hour mark. In these last few miles there are a lot of spectators. It feels like you are at the finish but you still have miles to go. So here are tons of people doing their best to cheer and say encouraging things to the runners. They say things like “good job”, “way to go”, “looking good”, and basically all of the things that Runners World magazine had just listed as things not to say. One of the classics is “You’re almost there.” We’ve all heard this one, and we all know that the people who say it at mile 20, 22, or 24 are NOT runners. It’s all relative. Right?
Well, Tom and I had driven the course prior to race day. We drove it backwards and forwards. So I knew where 1 mile, a half mile, and a quarter mile were located on the course – or at least I thought that I did until…
We were running along, Bob and I, and I kept checking my watch. It would be close, but I felt that I would be meeting my 4 hour goal. Bob was groaning and moaning, but still he stayed by my side as I tried to pick up the pace ever so slightly and lose him in the process. Along the side of the road was a TNT fan. She was cheering everyone and offering them tid-bits of encouragement. For us, she offered to comment that we had “only” 3/4 mile to go. It was at that very moment that I totally lost it. Bob smiled and said, “We are going to do it, Julie!” And I freaked.
And I went off on him:
“Are you CRAZY?!”
“There is no way that we can finish in four minutes!”
I let that moment pass. I was frustrated and let the goal go even though I had previously thought that we only had 1/2 mile to go at the point where Ms. TNT was standing. Could she have been wrong? It doesn’t matter.
We crossed the finish line in 4:02:52. Well, actually, I finished ahead of Bob. I sprinted and left him behind. He was close enough to be in many of my finish photos, but I DID beat him. At was the least that I could do. He didn’t even train.
I stopped running and suddenly those legs that took me 26.2 miles could now barely hold me up. And I was crying. The emotions were overwhelming. What had I just done? This was amazing – despite being 2 minutes shy of my goal. My medal was placed over my head and a nice lady put her arm around me and walked with me until I could hold myself up again. She said such nice things. I don’t remember what they were, just that they were nice.
Tom finished in 4:25:13. Back at the hotel we compared aches and pains again, popped all of the blisters on our feet and marveled at the accomplishment.