After sleeping nearly 10 hours the night before the race (off and on, let’s be honest), I was pumped and ready to go on Sunday morning. I had no idea what lay in store for me in Marathon #4, but I knew I was ready to give it my best shot. For those of you keeping track, I’ve had stomach problems, back problems, and heart problems affecting my running lately, so the marathon was basically a waiting game to see which of those tried to hold me down today.
Kristen dropped me off bright and early near the starting line. The race started at 7:20 am, and I had time to find a friend of mine who I knew was planning on running the race too. Only about 1200 people ran the race, so we all found it very amusing that there were corrals at the start. For non-runners, these are basically areas where people are grouped by time so that the fastest people start first and the slowest people start last so that slow people don’t get in the fast people’s way, you follow (or follah, as Tom would say)? My friend Elisabeth was there with her two training partners, and all of us were planning on trying to run the race at around the same pace, so we figured we would stick together.
The weather was perfect at the start and enthusiasm was in the air. I made a last minute executive decision not to wear my pirate socks, much to Kristen’s disappointment, but you don’t want to try anything new on race day. We set off through a residential neighborhood enjoying the early miles a little too much – Elisabeth had to keep politely reminding us to rein in the pace a little bit so we would have something left for the later miles. She also informed me of the rules: no negativity, we have to talk to someone different every mile, and you can’t be offended when anyone burps, farts, spits, or snots. Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy negativity a little too much, so this was hard for me, but I gave it my best effort. I would generally say things like “Ugh I hate running when it’s sunny out [insert death stare from Elisabeth]…um…but I love breathing!”
At about mile 3, we passed by a Methodist church with a minister/preacher/father/priest/other religious title and his wife outside. The man was dressed in full preacher gear and his wife held a sign that said ” U R Awesome.” Normally I can’t stand when people abbreviate such short words, but you can’t be mad at cute old religious people.
The course ran along the water for many of the early miles, which was spectacular. I’m not the best at noticing things along the course while I’m running since I’m generally concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, but this was hard to miss.
We also ran past the site of the First Flight somewhere around mile 8, aka where the Wright Brothers changed our world forever by starting the chain of events that would eventually lead to the complete absurdity that is the TSA. They have a cool looking memorial that made for a good photo op, according to race photographers.
The water station at Mile 9 was sponsored by the Jolly Roger, better known as the restaurant that gave me and Kristen eye patches the day before. I even saw our waitress! I think she was disappointed that I wasn’t wearing mine, but I’ve broken enough bones for one lifetime, thanks. Shortly thereafter, I saw Kristen, who provided me with the essential saltines in hopes of quieting my angry stomach, but I was already feeling pretty sick. I told Kristen that it was only a matter of time before I threw up. Elisabeth and Christy kept going so they could keep up with their goal pace, and I told them I’d catch up, but that never happened since we were about to enter the trail portion of the race.
The trail portion of the race really wasn’t so bad until the last mile. I had run on it in the 8k the day before, the shade was a welcome change, etc. However, just after mile 12 there was a giant mulch hill that might as well have been Mount Everest in terms of both size and hateability. We were supposed to run up this? I think not.
Shortly after the mulch absurdity, we reached the halfway point and got dumped out onto the main thoroughfare for the Outer Banks. The crowds (I use this term loosely) were excited to see us and were cheering us on. It seemed like every third person was wearing a shirt that said “Team Casey” on it. I don’t know who this Casey is, but they have a lot of fans and I’m pretty jealous, quite frankly.
We weaved in and out of neighborhoods and back onto the highway until I saw Kristen again at Mile 17. Apparently she was having a grand time, making lots of friends and talking to people. She gave me saltines, which were no longer glorious. She asked me if I had thrown up yet and I hadn’t, but as soon as I tried to take a bite of those evil crackers, I almost did. I took the bottle of water and pack of crackers from her and carried on, trying to find less auspicious place to throw up than in front of a crowd of soon-to-be-traumatized children.
That happened a couple miles later, in the front yard of a house that looked pretty much like this:
After that point, we were headed towards the William Baum bridge at Mile 23, also known as the OMG bridge (literally, that’s what it says on the medal). The bridge really isn’t that bad grade-wise, it just feels like it is when you’ve already run 23 miles. I wasn’t having the best race and had been walking a good bit at this point to calm my stomach down, but I was determined to run up every step of that bridge, just to prove to myself that I could. Yes, I could probably have walked up it faster. Yes, I think I got passed by a 60 year old speed walker. Erroneous.
After I made it over the bridge, I knew the end was in sight. I was cruising along to “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” as we entered the town of Manteo, which is maybe the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. I knew Kristen would be waiting for me at the finish line, and even though I knew I wasn’t going to love my time, I am always proud of a marathon finish.
I crossed the finish line and collected all my sweet medals. I got to grab the one for finishing the marathon, plus the one for completing the Blackbeard Challenge. For those keeping track at home, that’s 3 medals in 2 days. The marathon medal was a treasure map with the course drawn out on it and an “X” marking the finish line – so cool! The X is also a charm that you can put on a necklace or charm bracelet. Guess who has a marathon charm bracelet? That’s right. The Blackbeard Challenge medal is also a bottle opener and has a pretty sweet skull and crossbones on it.
I was fortunate enough to see Elisabeth and Christy at the finish line. They were unfortunate enough to be roped into taking a picture with me.
I was pretty tired after the race and required Kristen’s assistance to walk to the care. I hate being touched, but it was necessary to hold onto her arm. She made sure to point out to me that this was happening, just to enhance my discomfort. She was all “oh, it’s only a short walk to the car. We’re basically there.” I’m pretty sure the car was parked in South Carolina. We had to walk through a cemetery to get to it, which was a delightful allegory to exactly how I felt at the moment.
And that’s pretty much the story, aside from the 6 hour drive home. This was an absolutely incredible marathon, aside from my performance in it, and I’d recommend it to anyone. I fell in love with the Outer Banks this weekend and I hope I get to go back some day. Obviously I will dress as a pirate upon my return.