I’m the worst!! So sorry for leaving you all hanging after my marathon weekend, but grad school has owned my soul even more than usual lately. But now, I’m back with the race report you’ve all hypothetically been waiting for and/or forgotten about.
As you all know, I was feeling a bit uncertain the week before the race but was determined to turn my attitude around. I spent the week before the race doing exactly what I said I was going to – repeating the same mantras over and over to myself, visualizing myself crossing the finish line, all that jazz. When the time came to actually head to the race, I felt relatively ok about it. At that point, I had done all I could do and what would be would be. The race was in Wichita, KS, which is actually where my grandparents live. Unfortunately, since I was only there for about 18 hours, I was unable to see them but hoping that being in their city would send me good vibes! As luck would have it, Patty and I had lucked into a room in the host hotel when one of the friends we were traveling with decided to stay somewhere else. We were literally 100 yards from the start and finish line! Good Omen #1.
We headed to the expo to pick up our bibs and I decided to buy a marathon sticker for my car. When I got my Jeep back in August, I refused to put a 26.2 sticker on it because I really wasn’t sure whether I would ever run another marathon. At the expo, I decided to make the leap and grab one, figuring I had to finish now!
We headed out for dinner to a wine bar, which was really entertaining for all of us and probably really horrific for the waiter. I know nothing about wine so I really had to resist the urge to ask him to give me the one that tasted the most like Franzia – instead I just pointed at one on the menu that I couldn’t pronounce. It definitely wasn’t your standard Italian restaurant, and we all had picky runner’s stomachs, so we created quite a few custom orders. For once, I had the forethought to bring my own gluten-free pasta just in case they didn’t have any, and it paid off! The waiter generously agreed to cook mine for me with no fuss. Good Omen #2! Even better? They had a gluten-free chocolate torte on the menu that was to die for. This never happens. Good Omen #3!
Patty and I headed back to the hotel early and talked for a bit before heading to sleep. It was SO great to see her – I really miss Tulsa and living with her and Steve, so it was nice to be reunited, even if not for very long! For once, I slept like a rock before the race. Good Omen #4. Do you see where this is going?
The race started at 7:30 in perfect temperatures – mid 40s. We had to check out of our hotel at 1, which meant we technically had 5.5 hours to finish, but about 5 hours if we wanted to shower before heading to the airport! I felt calm as we crossed the start line. Patty and I had said over and over that our only goals were to finish and enjoy the day, and I crossed the start line truly feeling that way. We planned to walk for short periods at each mile marker, but we didn’t set specific intervals, deciding instead to go based on how we felt.
The early part of the race wound through downtown Wichita, which was surprisingly cute and full of spectators! I’m always shocked when people show up to cheer for pretty much any race besides the big ones like Chicago, New York, etc. For some reason, I just don’t expect it. There were lots of fun signs and enthusiastic volunteers and a really great atmosphere!
Patty and I high-fived at every mile marker, which was a fun new tradition that I really enjoyed. My mindset the entire time was “take one mile at a time.” I was determined not to think about how far I had left to go, even though that normally doesn’t bother me all that much. We took fuel (Chomps for me, gel for her) every 5 miles, which also helped to pass the time. The course was promised to be pancake flat, and while that’s mostly true, we did groan on the 4 very small hills just because.
We began to move through the neighborhoods of Wichita, which really surprised me by how beautiful and shaded they were. Some of the houses were absolutely gigantic! And of course, there were plenty more spectators, including lots of adorable kids. We also saw a lady with a huge yellow banner that said “GO TOM!” Every time we passed her, we asked how Tom was doing. I became extremely obsessed with Tom’s progress. She was everywhere on the course, so it was easy to check in.
Surprisingly, we didn’t take too many pictures. We were running at a steady pace and took short walk breaks at each mile marker and then longer walk breaks at the water stations. I decided that we were the “Positivity Police” and we were both responsible for making sure that neither one of us said anything negative. Realistic things were ok, such as “This is a hill.” Negative things like “I hate hills!” were not ok. I was obviously outside of my comfort zone. We ran through one particularly interesting neighborhood around miles 10-12 that was absolutely FULL of Halloween decorations. I’ve seriously never seen Halloween decorations on this level. It seemed like every yard was filled to the brim with decorations, especially giant inflatable things. It was bizarre but also very nice because it gave me something to look at.
At this point, I was feeling pretty great. Each milestone was being celebrated and I was feeling confident that I would finish, although I still didn’t know what time that would look like. We crossed the halfway point in right around 2:22, which I was very happy with. I became focused on getting to mile 16, because after that, every step would be a new one for me since surgery. The farthest I ran in training was 16 miles, and it was absolutely suck-tastic (I walked most of the last 4), so it was a symbolic state for me. I knew if I could get to that point and feel good, it would be a great sign and give me a lot of confidence. And we crossed mile 16 feeling great!
At 16.5, things were suddenly not so great. My heart condition started flaring up and all of a sudden, I couldn’t get my heart rate down – it was over 200 even though our pace hadn’t changed. I couldn’t breathe, and it felt like my throat was closing. I had to sit down for a few minutes while I waited for my heart rate to come down, and then we walked for awhile. I tried so hard not to let myself feel defeated. I told Patty the situation and she reminded me that our only goals were to finish and have fun, both of which we were doing. I thought about it and reasoned that my back and legs were still feeling ok at that point, and not all was lost. I just needed to do whatever it took to keep my heart under control.
I was able to start running again and we kept a steady pace pretty similar to where we were before. We ran for a bit and then walked, but my heart flared up again at mile 18.5. At that point, we walked for almost an entire mile. I was becoming a bit discouraged but still knew I would finish. I changed my attitude from “positive” to “realistic.” No, the situation was not ideal, but my back felt ok and I was doing the best I could. I was enjoying a beautiful day (temps were still in the mid 50s and it was cloudy – Good Omen #5!) with one of my closest friends. Things were not so bad. Of course, the fact that I only ran 16 miles on training eventually took its toll. The last few miles were a struggle, and I just couldn’t move my legs nearly as fast as I would have liked. We still didn’t walk much at each mile, I just couldn’t run very fast. I kept checking in with myself and asking if I was doing the best I could. As long as the answer was yes, I was happy with that.
For some reason, from about mile 20 on, it seemed like every spectator we passed told us we were “almost there.” As you all undoubtedly know, there is no phrase in the English language more grating than “You’re almost there” when you still have 6 miles left to run in a marathon. If I cannot literally see the finish line, I’m not almost there. Anyway, I took the first few in stride but eventually just wanted to punch everyone. I kept my head down and just tried to keep going. Patty, ever the world’s friendliest and most sociable human being, kept thanking everyone and saying hi. If I didn’t love her so much, this exuberance would have made me add her to the punch list. Still, despite my growing hate for humanity, I wasn’t letting myself think anything negative about my ability to finish the race, my speed, or anything else. I was just focused on getting to the finish line.
And get to the finish line we did.
If I was a person who cries, I would have cried crossing that finish line. I got a little choked up, actually. We finished in 5:06:02, which far exceeded my wildest dreams for this event. I even had time to shower after the race! I truly thought it could be a 6 hour day and possibly my PW, but it defied all my expectations. I defied all my expectations.
This race felt like completely starting over. It was pretty hard to imagine that I had run 44 marathons before this. This felt like my first one all over again, and in a way, it was. I don’t know where my training will take me from here and I don’t know what my future races will look like, but I know I’m a marathoner. Turns out I always was and I always will be. Thank you all for your support and encouragement!