Although I’ve had a long-standing rule to race ALONE, I made an exception for today’s marathon in Santa Barbara. Coach Jeff offered to come out and pace me for the entire route. I responded with a “hell yeah.” It was only later that memories of running 16 miles of CIM with Big Sis at my side — being a little too honest about how awful I looked — left me wondering if I was too quick to reply. I attempted to reassure myself thinking that surely Jeff would NOT do the same. After all, he’s been reading my blog for years now and knows my quirky hang ups.
Of course I had no way of knowing how running with Jeff would be and, given my sensitivity to even the people running near me, I was rightfully nervous. So after managing to overcome some unexpected challenges in getting from Laguna Beach to Santa Barbara, Jeff telling me that he had a bit of a change in race day plans was met with apprehension.
The night before race day was filled with the typical restlessness and anxiety one would expect. I completed my usual obsessively laying out my race-wear, filled up my CamelBak with Perpetuum, loaded the pockets with GU, and attached my chip to my shoe. Everything from breakfast to the cardkey for my room was set out before my head hit the pillow at 9:30 pm.
Race morning came all too quick. I was out of bed at 4 am and was out the door an hour later with my dear friend Mark, who was to run his 1st marathon. Our chariot, driven by Lesley (Jeff’s friend), met us at the corner by the hotel. Out jumped Jeff wearing a Santa hat — with braids attached! While in route, he filled us in on the plans for the rest of his costume.
Things went like clockwork: we got to the start 1 hour early, took a turn in the port-o-potty TWICE, and got race ready. You could say that a few heads turned as Jeff put the finishing touches on his costume. Just when the clock was nearing start time, the delayed start was announced. More milling about was followed by a mass run for the trees and bushes until finally we were lining up.
Minutes later, we were off and running. Our braids were swinging, jokes were flying, and it was certain that a good day was ahead of us. The race course took us through two loops of Goleta, allowing those who were just not sure if it was Santa they saw running past, or something else, to get a 2nd look. Jeff played along and gave a wave or a high-5 to many of the little kids, and showed some leg to many of the big kids.
The whole way, there was laughter and cheer coming our way. It put a smile on my face in the early miles and made me smile on the inside when I could no longer muster a smile in the later miles. It also caught the attention of Drew — a blogger that I’d only known virtually until race day. Drew ran with us for a bit here and there, adding to the jokes on Jeff’s race attire and throwing some encouragement my way.
The course was much tougher than I’d expected. The pavement pounded on my body and the hills put up barriers for me to overcome — which I DID! The whole way, Jeff ran by my side and told me exactly what I needed to hear. When I was sure that there was no way that I could hit my time goal, he kept me going. When my mind had turned to mush, he took the elapsed time and “extrapolated” for me. Forever he delivered the “Impossible is Nothing” message which I needed to hear and have always associated with the Boston Marathon. When I was feeling weak, he told me that I was looking strong. When the hills wear defeating me, he reminded me of my training and chimed “you eat hills for breakfast.” And, silly as it might seem, it was just what I needed to hear. Even when Ms. Garminia was telling me that my goal was slipping away, Jeff was telling me that I could do it.
I still don’t have my Boston Qualification but I’m okay with that. I’m not at all disappointed in my race experience because I can honestly say that I pushed harder than I ever dreamed I could. It’s a whole lot easier to keep pace when the you are ahead of your goal. When you are chasing that goal from behind, it’s a whole different thing to not give up even as you are watching it slip farther and farther away.
More than qualifying for Boston, I wanted my 15th marathon to be a special marathon. For this reason, I opted not to run CIM (which is familiar and fairly flat). Instead I chose a marathon that would be special regardless of the finish time. This marathon experience was exactly that. The course, although hilly, was beautiful, the weather was great, and the company was beyond my wildest dreams.
Special thanks to: Lesley, Logan, Kevin, Madison, SMSMH, and Thunderclap.
Congratulations to Mark, who ran his 1st marathon in 3:57:28.