To say that we were all basically less than enthused about running when we woke up on Sunday morning would be an understatement. Although we always hate getting up early, there’s a different kind of hate when you know you’re not really prepared physically or mentally to run 26.2 miles. Amanda, Kate and Jenn erred more on the side of being annoyed by the concept. Because of how shaky my recovery from my stress fracture has been, I erred on the side of afraid. I was not sure how my leg was going to feel or even if I would be able to make it through the race, to say nothing of the fact that I had only been running for 2 weeks (a total of 7 times) and was horrendously out of shape. No matter.
I realized on one of my flights from South Carolina to Omaha that I had somehow forgotten my Marathon Maniacs singlet, marking the first time that has ever happened. Kate had brought an extra shirt, but it had sleeves, and it was way too hot for sleeves, so I decided to just wear one of the tank tops I had brought to run in. We had to wake up pretty early to head to the race, and for once, we actually made it to the Maniacs picture on time without having to sprint in screaming at the last second. Progress!
It was actually pretty cold in the morning, although we knew it would be hot by the end of the race. My friend Terri loaned me her throwaway shirt as Jenn, Kate and I began to panic over not being able to find Amanda or get in touch with her. She had stayed with some friends of hers the night before the race, and she didn’t meet up with us at the time we had assigned and wasn’t answering her phone. As we made our way over to the starting corral, there was still no sign of her as I looked frantically everywhere. I kept reminding myself that the only other time we had met up at a race, she came running up to me at the starting line no more than 30 seconds before the race started, so there was still hope. Sure enough, right before the gun went off, she appeared. I have since banned her from making her way to the start line without supervision, because that is way too much stress for me to deal with. This is why we can’t have nice things!
We had heard the course was flat for Omaha, but the early miles took us on some hills. I guess the adrenaline was going because I didn’t really feel it too much. Kate, Jenn, Amanda, Patty, Terri, Aaron, and I all started together, but we separated at pretty much the first aid station because Patty, Aaron and Jenn ran through while the rest of us walked. Jenn has never run a…shall we say…leisurely marathon, and even though she kept telling us she wanted to stay with us during the race, I kept thinking to myself that she had no idea what she was getting herself into. When we’re slow, we’re really slow, so I was glad that she made friends with Patty and Aaron and they went on their way. The first few miles felt surprisingly easy, although we kept a very relaxed pace. We had to weave through a lot of people for awhile as we waited for the 10k to get to their turnaround, but we still took plenty of time to hang out.
My leg was feeling fine at this point and with aid stations each mile, we had plenty of walk breaks. The course was one long out and back with turn arounds for each race at the halfway points of the 10k, half marathon, and marathon distances. While it didn’t make for a very exciting course, it’s always
depressing fun to watch the leaders come running back past you when they’re at mile 17 and you’re at mile 9. At one point, a college-age guy running the half marathon ran by shirtless and cheering for everyone and I remarked, without even thinking and to no one in particular, that I would “date the shit out of him,” much to the amusement of the crowd of middle-aged guys apparently running right behind me. Oops!
Right as we got to mile 11, my leg started to KILL me. I had told the girls back around mile 6, right before the half marathon split, that I knew I had more than a half marathon in me but I had a feeling that I had less than a full marathon. I figured I had about 18 good miles. I shook off the pain at mile 11 and figured I would reassess at the half marathon turn around. If necessary, I would stop at an aid station and have them take me back to the finish line. Meanwhile, we harassed people around us, including a soldier who was running the full marathon in uniform! I think I told him that one of my best friends is serving in Afghanistan. I am pretty sure he didn’t care, but Tom, just know I was thinking about you.
We were running along the river at this point, and although it should have been lovely in theory, in reality, it was all concrete and it smelled like burning rubber. Not exactly ideal marathoning conditions. I was more than happy to get off the concrete, which was surely not helping my leg, and we were all super excited to see Patty, Jenn and Aaron when we were at mile 12-ish and they were at 14!
By the halfway point, my leg started miraculously feeling better. The problem was that now almost everyone else felt worse. The lack of training had caught up with Kate in particular, so we were now running slower and walking at more frequent intervals. I had no problems walking as much as necessary because a) it’s fun and b) I figured it would be better for my leg, but we all agreed that the second half of the marathon went by REALLY slowly. We hit the halfway point at a little under 2:30, hypothetically putting us on pace for a sub-5 finish, but it was getting hot and we all knew better.
I have to say, I found the whole situation a little amusing. Kate is a very strong runner who has a habit of telling us on a regular basis that she’s “injured” or “undertrained” so she wants to go slow – and then she ends up totally leaving me and Amanda in the dust. When she said that she was out of shape, I took that with a grain of salt. I figured she’d be leaving me behind in no time, but apparently she was really serious. And she got very cranky very quickly, which was basically the most entertaining thing that I’ve ever seen. Fortunately, the situation was temporarily remedied somewhere around mile 17 or 18 when we saw a group of spectators with a cooler and Kate asked them if they had beer. THEY DID!
We all felt better after splitting a beer (Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest, for those who care to know) and everyone was in better spirits. Tragically, my leg was immediately again in bad spirits. Sure enough, at mile 18, my leg called it quits. I was quiet for a little while as I thought about whether not to drop. On the one hand, it seemed like the smart thing to do so I wouldn’t do further damage to my leg. On the other hand, my leg had started feeling better before after there was some pain at mile 11, so maybe that would happen again. I (stupidly) decided to reassess at mile 20, and sure enough, it was feeling better by that point.
From about mile 16 or 17, we had started doing half-mile run, half-mile walk intervals to accommodate our general lack of fitness and desire to move any faster. That worked well until mile 22 or so, when the wheels fell off. Kate was pretty angry by that point (at herself, I think, or perhaps at her boyfriend, who has been distracting her from running) so we switched to quarter-mile intervals. Anything to get it done, at that point. Of course, at mile 22, my leg was done. DONE. I knew that it was not going to feel better. But could I really quit a race with only 4 miles left to go, given that I would have to head back to the finish area to get to the car regardless? Of course not. So we very, very slowly made our way to the finish.
We were winding through town and it seemed like the finish was never going to be there. Fine. Mostly it seemed like the finish was never going to be there because Kate kept telling us it was never going to be there. She was so angry and I thought it was hilarious. I had to do everything I could to keep from laughing! The best part was as we approached the finish. We could see the finish line right in front of us, but there were cones blocking it and directing us into the TD Ameritrade Stadium, where the College World Series is played. The look on Kate’s face when she realized that we had to run a lap through the stadium before we got to the finish line was absolutely priceless.
As we entered the stadium, we heard shouts from Donna and Jenn, who had long since finished their races and were waiting for us! As we did a lap around the stadium, we saw that they were showing all the runners on the jumbotron, which was pretty cool. I’ve had that happen at a couple of races and it’s always fun.
So long after we began the race together, we finished the race together. Battered, bruised, sweaty, and a little angrier than when we began. Ok, the only angry one was Kate.
The best thing about the marathon is that despite the fact that a new company has taken it over, they kept the style of medals that was previously used. The medals are hand-blown glass, and each marathon medal has a unique combination of colors, so they are all different (the half marathon medals are clear glass). Some people don’t like glass medals, but at this point, I love something that’s a little different!
I think we all learned some valuable lessons from this. Kate learned that new boyfriend or not, she has to run SOMETIMES if she’s going to enjoy marathons. I learned that I really should have dropped out the second my leg started hurting. I’ve taken this whole week off and my leg is starting to feel better, so I anticipate going for a short run in the next couple of days to test the waters. I’ll be easing back into training very slowly. The thing is, no matter how bad we feel or how slow we run, being out there together is fun no matter what. Broken leg, lack of fitness, whatever – running together and having fun is the reason we do this month after month. But I’m still an idiot.
LEAVE A COMMENT: Please yell at me and tell me to listen to my body next time. Thanks in advance.