The number of times that I have woken up on race morning and thought to myself, “You know what? This was a really good idea.” is approximately zero. Generally, my thought process is more along the lines of “This is stupid” or “WTF bro?” but for some reason it was different at Kentucky. That’s not to say that I thought running a marathon was a really good idea, just that I didn’t spew any hateful thoughts upon “waking” at 5:45 am. I say “waking” because I did not sleep. Turns out Thai muscle relaxers are possibly laced with crack, so I stayed up all night with my mind racing and thinking random thoughts, such as “Who tells immigrants about 911 when they move to America? How do they know who to call?” This is a serious question, so if any of you are immigrants, please let me know who told you. I am very concerned.
I tried to make my traditional pre-race PB&J, because the ever-thoughtful Kristen had brought bread, peanut butter and jelly. She did not, however, bring a knife. Turns out that coffee stirrers are not a viable substitute.
The goal was to leave the hotel by 6:30 so we could get to the Maniacs and Fanatics picture at 7. We arrived downtown with about 8 minutes to spare, assuming we knew where the picture was. We did not, in fact, know where the picture was. We (ok, I) thought it was at the Louisville Slugger Museum because I remembered seeing something about a museum, but in fact it was at the Louisville Slugger park or something. We pretty much sprinted down the street trying to get to the hypothetical picture location, but we were stopped by a Maniac who was also confused and said no one was at the picture. Oh well, at least we got our warm up in, looking like those people who do sprints and high knees before a marathon.
With less than half an hour til the start, the Pee Pants Twins had to pee (surprise!) and Kristen needed to find the gear check. Awkwardly, there were absolutely no porta potties to be found with the exception of TWO, and no volunteers or runners that we found knew where gear check was. Turns out it was in a truck parked in the middle of the street with garbage cans all around it. No signs or anything. Not terribly effective. With no bathrooms in sight, we attempted to make our way to the corral. Too bad 18,000 other people were attempting to do the same thing, and there was literally no room in the corrals. No room! So we stood outside and waited for a spot to clear.
About 8 minutes after the start, our corral made its way across the line and we were off. Obviously, the first order of business, as usual, was finding a bathroom, but there were crazy lines at all of the stops because apparently everyone else was in the same boat. Kate ran off ahead, while Kristen and I eventually stopped at the first water stop and she got in line. After watching some other people run behind a tree, she did the same, and I was very proud. Efficiency is important, and there is no dignity in marathoning, particularly when it comes to bodily functions. Trust me, I’ve seen things. Bad things.
We found Kate again around mile 4 just as the clouds opened up and started pelting us with rain. Everyone except Kristen cheered, because somebody
didn’t listen to me as usual didn’t bring a visor in case of the forecasted rain. It only lasted for about 2 minutes though. On this part of the course, we ran past a senior living center and many of the residents were outside lining the streets in their wheelchairs and cheering for the runners, sticking their hands out for high fives. You know who loves high fives? Hint: She resembles a T-Rex while running. It really almost made me cry, they were so cute.
My favorite “course” moment in a marathon came around mile 8 when Kristen and I, who were still running together, entered Churchill Downs. Yes THE Churchill Downs, as in where the Kentucky Derby itself will be held on Saturday, as in OMG OMG OMG. Ok, most people weren’t that excited, but as the owner of two ex-racehorses during my life, it was a big deal. We got to run all through the grandstands, infield, and in the tunnels. Not on the track, which was probably for the best.
The coolest part? Oh, you know, the horses galloping along the track next to us while we ran. It was the best thing ever. I geeked out so hard. Kristen made fun of me. We took a hideous photo.
Kristen and I split shortly after we left Churchill Downs, and I was
so glad I didn’t have to listen to her bitching proud of her and looking forward to the next 17.5 miles. As much as one looks forward to that sort of thing. In all seriousness, she was having a tough race early on, but I obviously had my motivational quote arsenal ready to fire and she perked up eventually and finished strong! Go Pea Go!
At this point, we could see some of the fastest marathoners coming back on the long return to the city. I saw Baker, who I actually have never met, but I’ve read his blog – unfortunately I didn’t realize it was him til he flew by. I also saw Anders, who was looking strong! I amused myself by yelling words of encouragement to the frontrunners, who completely ignored me. They were so focused that they appeared not to hear anything around them. And that’s when I made peace with the fact that I’m not fast for the 573rd time. I don’t ever want to be so focused and so fast that I don’t know what the course looked like, or I don’t hear my family cheering for me, or anything like that. Yes. So I’m glad I’m not fast. Definitely. Anyway, I yelled to a guy who was running fast but was obviously cramping in his hamstring and had a look of agony.
T-Rex Runner: “You got it! Don’t give up!”
So I think I made him mad. But hopefully he didn’t hear me and he was just yelling in general. Sorry about that, man in the yellow singlet.
I joined up with the 4:45 pace group, which would have been a miracle finish time for me that day. You know how I was feeling suffer? Well, my back was fine until mile 4. Then it started to hurt, so I was just hoping to hang on as long as I could. The 4:45 group had some great people, and I ran with them all through the ridiculously hilly Iroquois Park until my back completely, violently, aggressively quit on me at mile 16.
To be honest, the race was going much better than I had expected given my back, and I was just having fun, so I didn’t mind too much. I talked to some people around me, including plenty of 50 Staters, and we compared “must-do” races and ideas for states. Around mile 17, I came upon a woman who was limping and crying while she hobbled along. I thought it might be her first race, but she was a 50 Stater too. I ended up walking and running with her for 3 miles, trying to take her mind off the pain. I’m not good at getting people’s names when I run, so I don’t know hers, but she kept telling me how glad she was that I was there. The moral of the story is, if you see someone in pain and you’re not one of those fast focused people, try and see if you can make their race a little better. You might need it one day.
The last 6 miles were a bit of a blur as I left my friend behind. I felt ok, but the race was getting hot, my back kept freaking out, and it got more hilly. I was still having a great time though. I don’t remember this portion of the course being particularly scenic, but I did meet an Army Ranger who told me his wife was way too hot for him, and I thought that was cute. I tried to keep him moving along, but he was having none of it. I got a cup of ice from the medical tent at mile 25 and promptly dumped it down my sports bra. Like I said, no dignity in marathoning.
I picked up my pace and tried to run as fast as I could the last bit of the race to prove to myself that I could. As I rounded the corner and saw the finish line, I was really proud of myself. I finished in 5:06, which normally would have made me mad, but today, I was thrilled since my back was feeling suffer. Even better? I had fun doing it.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I saw Kate and Kristen, who were waiting for me. Kate tried to hug me.
We wandered around looking for free beer, but they had run out. Rude.
With that, we began the long walk back to the car and the subsequent long car ride home, sans showers. Remember, no dignity in marathoning. And guess what? Someone who shall remain nameless got us lost.
All in all, it was a great weekend and surprisingly one of my favorite races when all was said and done. And yes, we eventually made it home – one extra state, five bathroom stops, and a lot of pink Rockstar later.