Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.- Theodore Roosevelt
Yesterday I ran the New Jersey Marathon in Long Branch. I had three goals for myself. To finish in 3:48, to finish in 3:50 and finally to have a respectable finish. Since I was babying my back & hip last week to finish was my main goal.
I woke up feeling GREAT! So great I didn't think I needed to massage my back & hip from the dreaded sciatica issues I had last week but I did because I knew I should. Ritually I go outside before I get dressed to feel the weather. It was overcast & drizzly. No major rain. I became friendly with a three guys in the lobby and we decided to share a cab to the start. The baggage claim & some bathrooms are inside a hotel on the boardwalk. It was nice to stay warm while eating, stretching, & prepping. Oddly I had no anxiety before the start like I normally do. Today was going to be a true test and I was prepared.
After nervously seaching for my 3:50 pacer I found him. The guy, Tom, was 6'3, hard to miss! I informed Tom that I planned to stay with him the whole time. How many times has he heard that? I waited with the group anxious to start. The race was supposed to start at 7:30 am. At that time it was still just light drizzle and 51 degrees. Perfect conditions. For whatever reasons we didn't actually start until 7:55.
I have to say I didn't really sightsee much during this race. I just focused on Tom, my pacer, in the orange shirt. I mainly tucked behind him most of the time. I felt great going into mile 9 when the hip started to get sore. I tried to focus on smaller strides because this seems to help. This was a really flat course with two tiny inlines at mile 9 & 18. This was also a double loop course. The first half merges with the half marathon finishers. We continued on the course for the second loop. I was kinda wishing I looked around more so I could recall markers but it didn't matter at this point. It started to rain a bit harder by now. I stayed with Tom up to mile 18. I grabbed an orange wedge as I passed the aid stations and sucked on it. For some reason I felt a bit lightheaded. Worried I held back a bit. Tom was still about 20 feet ahead of me while I tried to access my fuzziness. It was at this point that I started to think "am I hitting the wall?" I've never hit the wall before! I soon guesstimated that I did not hit the wall. It was pouring torrential rains at this point and my clothes were drenched. Being soaked led to cold. My hands & fingers were numb. My legs heavy. I couldn't even feel my fingers to reach into my pockets for shot blocks. I decided I didn't need them if I couldn't get them. I also felt a blister on the ball of my foot at this time so I was trying not to apply too much pressure on it as I ran. Going into mile 20 I did the math in my head and knew a BQ was still within reach if I pressed on. Unfortunately my legs were so heavy they weren't moving as fast as I wanted them too. I started falling behind my pace group. I could now see Tom about 200-300 feet ahead. I just wanted to keep him within sight no matter what. My time at mile 23 was 3:23:47. Fuzzily I did the math and figured I needed to run sub 9's for the next 3.2 miles to qualify. It was pouring, I was drenched, my limbs were frozen. I decided at that point to haul butt to mile 24 then readjust my game plan from there. I hit mile 24 at almost 3:33. I knew I didn't have it in me anymore and just wanted to quit. I could attempt to haul my butt to the finish and barely qualify by 2-3 minutes but I decided to enjoy the last few miles. I ran hard but did not look at my watch anymore. I turned off my Ipod and enjoyed the cheering crowds & cowbells. My name was on my bib and for the first time I was happy to hear people cheering for me. One man yelled, "You're a sub 4 marathoner Fran!!" I just smiled at him. Years ago all I wanted was a sub 4 marathon. Here I was on my way to my second sub 4.
I crossed the finish line at 3:56:19 according to my watch. (Official results-3:56:20.) When I crossed the finish line and stopped my knees buckled. Someone caught me. Thank God! A young man held me up as they rushed a wheelchair over to me. I screamed, "No, I don't need that, I just need a few minutes here!" I just kept repeating, "give me a minute, give me a minute." After about two minutes I stood up straight and started to walk. The same guy who held me up walked with me a few feet. I knew I was fine and told him so. I don't know if I thanked him and that bothers me still. Thank you angel at the finish line! They gave out medals & hats at the finish. No heat sheets because it's not environmentally safe. I hurried over to the food tent. I wasn't hungry but knew I should eat/drink something. There were serving hot food but it was gone. I was told to wait for it. I was so cold and wet I just wanted to go back to baggage claim and change into my dry clothes.
Even when I finally changed I was shivering uncontrollably. I went to purchase a cup of coffee to try to warm up. The cashier commented on how I was shivering and didn't let me pay for it the coffee. I called a cab to take me back to the hotel. I waited 40 minutes for the cab, shivering the whole time. The hotel I stayed at had a 4pm check out just for marathoners. When I got back to my room I took the longest HOT shower ever. It was spiritually & physically cleansing.
After that I got a good look at the blister on my foot. If you saw the movie "Run Fatboy Run" you saw the part where the guy got a huge blister on his foot. Mine was almost as big! I now have three black toes too.
After all the tears I've straightened up and realized how well I did despite my injury and the weather. It is my best marathon time to date. I was mainly upset because I felt like I needed to prove to my family that hard work pays off. It does eventually. Going back out there and trying again is a more valuable lesson.
When I came home everyone greeted me with great big hugs & kisses. That's quite the reward if you ask me.