I was going to wait until the official race photos came out to write this post, but who knows how long that will be. I’ve got stories to tell, yo! I’ll make sure to share the pictures later, because I’m sure there are some gems. So without further adieu, I give you the Jacksonville Bank Marathon race report!
I woke up at about 5:30 on Sunday morning after my usual routine of waking up a thousand times throughout the night. I woke up at about 1:30 am and never really quite got back to sleep, which was kind of annoying. Summer
belligerently graciously agreed to take me to the starting line, so we left at 6:15. We couldn’t really figure out where exactly I should be dropped off, so I got out of the car in the middle of the road, like any sane person would do, and headed towards the general vicinity of the start. One great thing about this race was that it started and ended at a school, so runners were allowed in the gym to stay warm. I was just wearing my Maniacs singlet and some shorts and it wasn’t exactly warm, so I headed over to the gym to stalk find other Maniacs. None of us were so smart as to bring a camera, so there’s no pre-race picture. However, I did meet Nemo, Maniac #316. You could tell just by looking at him that he is crazy fast, and I was right. He finished in about 3 hours and has run multiple races sub-3. Thus, the only time I ever saw him was on the out-and-back when I was at mile 11 and he was at mile 18. Eff my life.
The race was relatively small, with about 1200 marathons, 2000-ish halfers, and some 5k people of an unknown quantity. We all started together, but it was never crowded. I stood near the 4:30 pace group, figuring I would try and stay with them for as much of the race as I could. The girl pacing the half at 2:15 (and thus running the same speed as the 4:30 marathoners) introduced herself to me as a fellow Maniac when she saw my shirt! It turns out we both qualified for the Maniacs on the same day. Kate is #4670 and I am #4674! We geeked out.
We spent most of the miles til the half split from the full talking about races we had done and races we had planned to do. It turns out Kate just got divorced so we were like two peas in a happy little crazy marathoner pod. She is way more hardcore than me, though. She drives to EVERY RACE no matter how far away it is, basically. She once drove 13 hours to a race by herself, ran the race, and then drove home. She changed in her car. And y’all think I’m crazy? No. At least I always insist on late checkout and take showers. What? My parents told me I’m special.
I was sad to see her go when the half split from the full around mile 8.5, but I joined the 4:30 pace team. There were about 7 of us, I would say. I don’t remember all their names, but I remember all their stories. One guy told me about the Fargo marathon and how hot it was in North Dakota in May. One girl was running with the 4:30 group and her marathon PR was 4:49. She has 3 kids and runs to keep her sanity. She’ll be doing Disney too. Another girl and I bonded when super attractive and super fast guys cat called us on the out and back. On that topic, it does me no good to meet guys that are runners but are the kind of runners that run a 2:45 marathon. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m impressed, but our relationship can go no further. You know how you hear stories of girls eating their lunches in the bathroom stall at school because they are ashamed to be seen with food? That’s how I would be if I dated a guy that ran that fast. I would only run under the cover of darkness. I would pretend I had to go to work early but really I would go running. It would just be one big web of lies to cover my slow pace. ANYWAY.
So, like I said, Summer and I had made a bunch of signs for use during the race. I had been told to expect to see her around Mile 19. She had to go back to sleep for awhile since she, unlike me, is a normal person who doesn’t find waking up early to run 26 miles fun.
Throughout the race, I just kind of kept going. My plan was to try and hang with the pace group until Mile 16, which would have been one mile longer than I hung on in Dallas. When I got to Mile 16, I thought, “Well, let’s see if I can get to Mile 17.” The rest of the race basically continued like that. Like I said in my last post, I had read part of the chapter on mental racing strategies the night before. The book basically said that there are two schools of thought when it comes to how to think during a race: associative and disassociative thought. Associative thought is when you are constantly monitoring your body, your pace, your stride – basically you are always thinking about how you feel during the race. Disassociative thought is when you think about anything other than the fact that you are running. A lot of people use music as a way to disassociate. Elite runners generally use associative thinking, while mid-pack runners use disassociative thinking to try and block out the pain. The book goes on to say that a study was done with two groups of mid-pack runners, with one group using associative thought and the other using disassociative thought. The associative runners consistently outperformed the disassociative group, set more PRs, and felt better at the end of their races. Can you guess what type of runner I typically am? Here’s a look at my typical thought process during a marathon.
“Oh, that’s a pretty house! I wonder who lives there. Red BMW? Probably a high-end escort.”
“I can’t believe I’ve already run 16 miles and there’s still 10.2 to go. This is bullshit.”
“I bet the people of North Korea aren’t really sad at all that Kim Jung Il died.”
“Dammit, Tim Tebow is so annoying in some ways yet so likeable in others. Is he really a virgin? Ridiculous.”
“Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle, YEAH”
For the race, I was determined to at least attempt to use some associative techniques. Around Mile 19, I was still hanging with the pace group, and I got to see Summer! She was having a splendid time high-fiving and apparently talking shit to all the marathon runners.
She ran alongside me for a minute and gave me a high five while I reminded her to text my mom and tell her I am still alive. I know she worries. Amusingly, my mom thought the race started at 8 (my fault), so when Summer texted her a little after 10 to tell her I was at mile 19, my mom thought I was on pace for a world record. Close, but no.
Somewhere around mile 20, John (the guy in the blue shirt and white hat in the above picture) said something to the effect of “I’m really starting to hurt.” Not thinking about it, I replied “No, you’re not.” I was trying to be positive and encourage other people to think positively as well, but even a positive Danielle is still an asshole. Anyway, around mile 23, we saw Summer again. By this point John and I were running next to each other.
Summer was holding a sign (that we tragically do not have a picture of) that we had made that said “Humpty Dumpty had wall issues too!” For those of you who don’t know what “hitting the wall” is, it’s basically the point in a marathon where your body switches from burning carbs for energy to burning fat. There’s a lag period where this takes place and you feel like you can barely move. For most people, it happens around miles 18-22. Apparently, people absolutely loved this sign. One person clapped. CLAPPED! Summer said she has found a new favorite spectator sport. I think she likes the ego boost.
Around mile 24, John and I had broken off a bit from the 4:30 group. We were running a bit faster than they were and trying to push our way to the finish. Talking a bit, he said “you know, the only reason I’m running right now is because of you.” I mean, I get that I inspire the masses, but really? I just met him. He said that back when he had said that he was really starting to hurt and I told him that no, he was not, he basically snapped out of it. Me saying that made him stop doubting himself and just believe that he could do it. Hooray! Funny, because he was the one inspiring me! He was running his first marathon and has lost almost 100 pounds while running to get healthy for his family. He works night shift and then goes home and runs. If he can do it, I can do it.
The marathon finishes in the stadium of the school where the race started, so you run about 3/4 of the way around the track to the finish line in front of bleachers. They call your name as you enter the stadium, and John and I were side by side. We decided to sprint to the finish! Running as hard as I could, John was now the one encouraging me to speed up and run faster. I ran as fast as my pale little legs could carry me, but he pulled about 2 seconds ahead. I literally almost fell down about 20 feet from the finish and I was determined not to be that person since I embarrass myself enough as it is. I crossed the finish line at 4:28:02, a PR of 7 minutes and 55 seconds, and FINALLY broke 4:30! That has been my goal since I started running marathons and it was surreal to see it actually happen.
I learned a lot during this race. I learned that I can hang tough when I need to. I learned that I don’t have to walk at all during a marathon (except during water stops, obviously, since I am literally incapable of drinking while running). I learned that I don’t need to listen to my ipod at all and I can still PR. I learned that talking with other runners and learning their stories is the best form of entertainment.
Shortly after I finished, the rest of the pace group came through, including the mom who broke her PR by an amazing 20 minutes and crossed the finish line hysterically crying. We took a group shot that will
never eventually be posted by the race photographers.
So, my last minute marathon decision was a success. I had a great time with a great friend, blew my PR out of the water, and made a few friends who I think will be friends of mine for a long time (see you in Alabama, Kate!). The course was scenic, the weather was perfect, and I inspired someone by being a bitch. Doesn’t get any better than that.