After the Hamptons half marathon I had one more long run before cutting the miles back and going into my taper. Over the course of my training I had entertained ideas of running on the “real” roads, the same roads that I ride on. I was always too afraid. I was afraid of being completely vulnerable to passing cars. I thought about it and it was no different than riding on those roads. On a bicycle I’m also vulnerable to passing cars.
I was supposed to meet up with my coach that morning for a run on a hilly loop. I woke up late and had stomach issues. That’s when I decided to run free. I mapped a route of roads that I knew well to make sure the mileage was correct and committed my route to memory. I drove to the lot that I would normally ride from. A few of my friends were there and it was nice to see them.
I ran and I felt so free. I was seeing all of these roads that I had rode on many times before with new eyes. I saw things that I had never noticed before. I took it all in. I took in all of the different scents and all of the different colors of the trees. I took notice of the leaves that were on the ground. I looked in awe at all of the beautiful houses. I enjoyed going up and down the rolling hills. I loved the feeling of being small in a big world. Towards the end of that run I picked up the pace and finished strong. That’s when I knew I was ready. I was ready to take on the world as big as it was.
I followed my pre race routine to a tee. I did my pre race leg opener run and then went to the race expo to pick up my bib. I had paid the fee to pick my bib up on race day but I decided to pick my bib up at the expo instead. I had emailed the event organizers in advance of my change in plans. I rested the remainder of the day in preparation of my longest run ever. I ate my usual pasta dinner and went to bed at a decent hour.
I woke up early and left the house with plenty of time to spare. I sipped my coffee on the drive in and arrived before the line to get into the parking lot began. I ate my overnight oats and then started getting ready. I decided to wear my fleece active jacket because it was chilly even though I knew I would soon abandon it on the side of the road. It was very inexpensive so I didn’t care. I clipped my bib on, locked my car, and carried my hydration pack filled with all my race nutrition to board the shuttle bus.
Once I was off the bus I stopped to put my hydration pack on under my jacket. I got on the porto potty line while it was short and took care of business. I socialized with an acquaintance for a few minutes and then made my was closer to the starting line to find the 4:30 pacer. Being that it was raining with heavy wind gusts, my coach and I thought it was best to take shelter within a group. I saw the 4:00, 4:15, 4:45, and 5:00 hour pacers but the 4:30 was nowhere to be found. In fact, there were two 4:15 pacers! I started slow hoping that they were behind me so I could jump on as they passed but they never appeared. There was no 4:30 pacer and I was on my own. It was just as well. I trained on my own and I enjoyed my own company. I focused on maintaining a steady pace that I could sustain for miles.
I wasn’t completely alone as there were many people around. I was also getting plenty of encouragement on the RaceJoy app. I spoke with two ladies for about a mile until they stopped to use the porto potty. Shortly after, around mile 3, I got warm and abandoned my fleece on the side of the road at a water stop. I was hoping it would be picked up, laundered, and donated. At mile 5 I ate half of a nutrition bar and I ate a gel at mile 6. At the half marathon turn around things thinned out quite a bit. Suddenly there was nobody around me anymore. There were people ahead of me and people behind but it was quiet all around me.
I caught up to a guy and we chatted for a bit before another guy passing by joined us. They had both completed marathons the previous week. One guy ran in Scotland and the other in Georgia. The guy who ran in Georgia was celebrating a marathon anniversary by running his 75th marathon, he is only 38! He said that he only ran in Georgia to get another race in so he could hit 75 for his special anniversary as well as the 75th anniversary of D-day. We parted ways at the next water stop when they slowed to take a drink and I just kept on moving. It was at that water stop and all of the rest to follow that I asked if every cup with gold colored liquid was beer. At every stop they laughed and said something witty or funny to make me laugh in return.
The course turned left a couple of miles later into the wind. I ate the other half of my nutrition bar at mile 10. Shortly after I caught up to another guy and ran behind him to take shelter from the wind. We took turns running behind each other for a couple of miles until he picked up the pace and I didn’t follow. We made another turn and we were running through a park I had once ran a long training run in. At mile 12 I ate a gel and handed the wrapper to a cyclist standing on the side of the path. People were all really nice about taking my trash. The only litter I discarded were the tiny tabs from the tops of my gel packs. Around mile 13 I was about to catch back up to that guy but then he went into a porto potty and I kept on moving. What’s up with these people?
At mile 14 I was dead to the world. My tracker was no longer functioning and my hands were too stiff to play with the app on my phone. I caught up to a nice lady and we chatted for a bit. I told her to pick up the pace with me at mile 15 and we did but, after some time, she was no longer beside me. I ate half of a nutrition bar at mile 15. The course turned into what I think was a country club with fun fall decorations that had clear bags over them to protect them from the rain. It was fun to run past them although the path was made up of small pebbles that were hard to run on. I ran on the grass beside the path whenever available. I ate a powerhouse gel at mile 18 that had twice the amount of caffeine as the rest of my gels. It was around then that I felt as if tiny gremlins were tearing up my quads with large garden shears. I think it was around then that I caught up to two guys running side by side. I took shelter from the wind behind them until they chose to walk over an underpass hill and I just kept on running.
We made another turn into what I think was a campus that may have led into a golf course that brought us back to the road that we were previously on. That was around mile 20 when I ate the other half of my nutrition bar. My hands were so stiff that I dropped it and had to turn around to retrieve it. That was the only time I stopped. Once we were back on the main road there was a constant battering of wind. I was growing weary and even whimpered to myself a bit. Close to mile 21 I was passing two guys. One of them said something encouraging. I turned around and saw a familiar face. I didn’t know how I knew him and I asked him. He actually holds public office. I recognized him from the local news channel. I slowed to chat for a bit. At mile 21 I said goodbye and picked my pace back up.
At mile 22 I was growing more weary and my legs were on fire. I ate my last gel. I was running through the quiet town. Most of the spectators had left, except for one really nice and supportive guys who shouted words of encouragement to me. I thanked him. Around mile 23 I entertained ideas of stopping for a second. During my training runs I would stop and it gave me the temporary energy to go faster but the risk of cramping up was too great. I told myself that I didn’t have to run fast, I just had to run. I reminded myself that pain is weakness leaving the body. That’s when Georgia came by and passed me telling me that we were almost there. He remained ahead of me for a while.
Around mile 25 I could smell the finish line. I couldn’t see it but I knew it was there. I found the energy to pick up the pace. I passed Georgia and that was the last I saw of him. My eyes were blurry but I could see the lights of a police cruiser. A banner came into focus. It was the start line and the finish line wasn’t far behind it. The nice guy from town was there telling me I looked strong and that I was almost there. I blew him a kiss. His support really helped me, it helped me more than he could ever imagine. I had a sudden burst of energy as I made my way to the finish line. I was so happy to see it. The announcer called out the town I live in, then my name. They cheered me on to the finish line where I was overcome with emotion. I bent over and cried after I crossed the timing mat. I hugged the nice lady who remembered me from my email and someone put a space blanket around me and handed my medal to me. The nice lady and I took a picture together.
My husband was there outside of the barriers. I was so happy to see him. I made my way down the desolate row of what had been the finish line festival. I retrieved my results printout to discover that I had come in fourth in my division! I then stopped at the beer tent and chugged two IPAs within 5 minutes and then rode the shuttle bus back to the car with my husband who was awesome enough to ride the train to meet me so he could drive me home. We didn’t go home right away, we stopped to eat at Aunt Mia’s pizza so I could stuff my face first.
With the exception of not having a 4:30 pacer, the event was perfectly run. The volunteers were cheerful and encouraging. All of the water stops had plenty of water and gatorade as well as more than enough people to hand them out. The stops later on in the race had food with people almost begging the runners to take it. The police were respectful of the runners as well as the drivers that wanted to pass. If I don’t run in this event next year then I will volunteer to help out. I’m all about supporting our veterans and benefitting a worthy cause.
I want to thank everyone who believes in me and for cheering me on. Thank you for supporting me and encouraging me to meet my goals. That you for making a broke girl from Queens feel rich. Thank you for standing beside me as I do all of the things I never thought I could or would do. Thank you all for everything and thank you so much for reading!