Third from Last: My Marathon Story

Post-Race GongThe moment you’ve been waiting for is finally here.  Welcome to the laughter, pain, and tears of my first marathon…

Party Time (miles 1-8):  The race day nerves were getting to me in a bad way, but once I got there, met up with my buddies, and started running, I was as ready as I’d ever be.  I began the race with the 5 hr 45 min pace group as planned and was glad to be running with friends. We started off slow and spent the first 7+ miles running, talking, laughing, and even broke into song at one point (“I Will Survive,” if you were wondering).  Against all odds, I was actually having fun.  Then we hit mile 8.  Half of our pace group went right towards the half marathon finish (those lucky SOBs) and the rest of us went left to continue on the marathon route.  This is when it started to get real…

Reality Strikes (miles 9-12):  When we lost half our group, I started to really notice the pain in my feet and my right leg (which had been bothering me in the weeks leading up to the race). I hadn’t expected to feel pain quite so early or so intensely, but I was running through it.  No need to call me hero, it was just the right thing to do.  We picked up the pace and I was keeping up, though it was hard not to focus on the fact that there was still so much further to go. We all got a little quieter, a little more serious, and that’s when I started to feel a little overwhelmed…

Orphaned (miles 13-16):  At around mile 13, I lost my pace group.  They were keeping a good a clip, but the pain in my feet was getting worse and I just needed to walk for a few minutes. I’ve run several half marathons at this pace and have never had this kind of pain, which felt discouraging so early in the race.  I mourned the loss of my pace group and the likelihood that I would finish in under 6 hours and just kept moving forward.  Besides, all wasn’t lost, there were still plenty of runners around so I at least I wasn’t alone…

Who’s Crying? (miles 17-22):  Where did everyone go?  I can’t see any runners in front of me, I can’t see any runners behind me.  This sucks.  I’m all alone, in more pain than I’ve ever felt, and this feels so unbelievably never-ending.  Guys, I’m not a particularly emotional person, but put me in a marathon and, apparently, that changes.  Cue the waterworks.  This happened off and on for miles and miles.  The tears were mostly for the pain I was feeling, which was unreal, but it was also for the lost goal, times I missed or slacked off on my runs, concern that my aging body will never forgive me for this, and the millions of miles that were still ahead of me.  I cannot stress enough how miserable this part of the race was.  It was the worst.  There was just one thing keeping me from getting an Uber…

Second Wind (miles 23-26.2):  At around mile 23, my husband and friends were there to cheer me on, and boy did I need it!  The day was not going as I had planned and I’d already spent so many hours in my head.  Seeing them hooting and hollering and holding funny signs was a site for sore eyes.  I tried my best to reign in the tears and look like I was doing awesome, but I don’t think I pulled it off.  It doesn’t matter though, because seeing them gave me a second wind.  Now, don’t think that I started running a 10-minute mile at this point, that is not what happened.  The physical pain was almost too much to bear and I could barely walk, let alone run, but I kept moving forward. I spotted a few other slow pokes and we had a good laugh about how differently the day was going than we expected.  It was a welcome distraction and brought me back to reality.  With about 2 miles to go, I saw a friendly face running my way!  My pace leader was worried that I had died or was in the fetal position somewhere so she came back to find me!  She walked with us to the end and gave us some perspective – no one in the world cares about our pace, just that we showed up and did it.  She may have called us heros.  Or maybe that was me.  It’s all a blur really. I do remember the finish though…

The Finish:  We turned a corner and spotted the final downhill to the finish line.  We were immediately struck by the fact that there were no runners anywhere in sight, it was a big empty road that was just for us.  We laughed.  Nothing mattered, we were almost done!  We picked our pace back up to a run and spotted all my friends cheering us in. We crossed the finish line laughing, smiling, and pumping our fists in the air.  My new friend crossed the finish line a millisecond before me, which is how I got the honor of placing third from last in this race.  It took 7 hours and 2 minutes, but I did it.

I learned later that there were about 25 more people behind me, but they got swept up (meaning that they were going too slow and not allowed to finish the race), so it wasn’t so much that I was almost last, it was that I was lucky enough not to get caught up in the sweep.  I am thankful that I got the opportunity to finish.  I am thankful that my body took me to the end. I am thankful for my friends who were still cheering after 7 hours.  I am thankful to everyone who has followed my blog and showed their support.   I share my medal with you.  This is what it feels like to be third from last, and it feels pretty amazing.


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