I have always wanted a bumper sticker, a specific bumper sticker that read 26.2 miles. Now mind you, I did not run 26.2 miles just to get a cool bumper sticker. If I really wanted a bumper sticker, I could have just purchased a 13.1 mile sticker, or even a 0.0 mile sticker (The latter I have never understood. I am not sure if the people who purchased said stickers are trying to be ironic or serious.)
Anyway, after a lot of sweat, tears, blisters, prayers of survival, and too many early Saturday mornings runs to count I can now officially say I completed the Big 26.2. The race that lead to this accomplishment definitely didn’t disappoint in the excitement category. Here is how it played out.
Miles 1-10. My first thought, “Thank goodness it started!” I was like a little kid waiting for Christmas, and so when I began it took most of my control not to sprint as I weaved in and out of the path of other spirited runners wearing various forms of interesting running attire. I stopped and tied my shoe two miles in. Apparently, I had forgotten to examine the condition of my shoe laces before the race. I paid for my forgetfulness, because a runner who didn’t care that I was in earshot said “Already? It is too early for that!” I probably deserved the barb, but I shook it off like Taylor Swift does so well.
Mile 10-11. At mile 10, the course split for half marathon and marathon runners. It was noticeably quieter once we split, but maybe that was because there were fewer of us (marathoners) or maybe it was because we were all trying to focus a little bit more on the 16 miles we had left. Someone joked “Is this where we sprint?”
At mile 11, we saw the Kenyan runners breeze by like a pack of gracious gazelles. A few people clapped, and I thought “I hope I look that good when I run.” In my heart, I knew that was not the case.
Mile 12-15 1/2. I was suddenly inspired by the Kenyan runners and I ran a little faster. I felt really good. I felt like I could keep up my current pace until mile 20. I passed a pace group. I passed some dudes who looked like professional runners. I thought “I am so happy to be running right now.” I took off my jacket and ran to the beat of Owl City and some Pentatonix Christmas music.
Mile 16ish. I slowed down. My lower body started to feel tight and a little painful. “I ran this many miles in training? Why am I tightening up like this?” I took some energy shots and drank water, but I was slowly starting to cramp up until walking seemed like a good idea. Maybe I had ran the first miles too fast after all.
Miles I don’t really know anymore because I started to be in some serious pain. I no longer felt like a champion. In my running/hobbling/ walking/jog, a lady from my school district (who was running the relay) said “Maybe you should ask your principal for leave tomorrow. I am sure she wouldn’t mind.” I chuckled as I watched her become a tiny speck in the distance.
Miles 22sh-24sh. It began to rain in earnest and I finally gave up on keeping my hair dry. One runner raised his hands as if the rain were a blessing. As for me, I staggered around groaning inwardly as the rain stung my eyes. I thought, “I should have worn contacts.” Then I thought how grateful I was that I didn’t. I also wonder why nobody had invented mini-wipers for glasses. The police officers, directing traffic stood safely under their umbrellas grinning at us runners. They probably thought were crazy, but they still shouted out the occasional “You can do it! You are almost there.” For a second I wished I was a cop, or an observer. Why was I doing this again? The miles seem to stretch on and on and on. . . .
Final Mile. Finally, it is the last mile. According to my running app, I should have already been done like ten minutes ago, but there I was jogging next to another lady in a yellow jacket. “We are almost there,” the Yellow Jacket lady said. “Yes, one mile. I just want to get it over with,” I admitted. The lady agreed. It was her first marathon too, but she was faring better than me. She moved on. Meanwhile, I was pretty sure that I resembled anything but a normal sane being. The only thought moving me forward was the distant cry of the crowd.
0.2 miles. It never fails. Once I see a cheering crowd, my energy tank goes from zero to half full again. I swung my arms and half sprinted to the roar of the crowd. I zipped by Yellow Jacket lady and a few others. It was not a pretty finish, but I stumbled across the finish line regardless, and became an official marathoner. My first words as an official marathoner? “That was mostly horrible.” Yet, in my head I was thinking, I will definitely be doing this again.