I had a lot of unrestful nights leading up to my marathon. I had dreams of everything going wrong, from oversleeping to becoming completely immobile at mile 13. Then I had a dream where I crossed the finish line and cried from the overwhelming excitement of my accomplishment.
—Race Day Morning—
I woke up at 4am to pouring rain with more excitement than nerves. I put on my full Nike gear; leggings, dri-fit tank, half-zip pull-over and of course my Pegasus. I grabbed my already packed gear bag and waited for my friend Karina, who was doing the Hartford Half, to pick me up.
We drove up in the pitch black pouring rain making a pit stop at Dunkin Donuts for a pre-race bagel. I was so thankful she was driving. Finally making it up to Hartford we drove around in search of a free lot I had read about. Realizing we were cutting it close to the start, we opted for the $10 parking and made our way over to Bushnell Park. A homeless man in a wheel chair stopped us to ask if we were racing that morning. When we confirmed he began to chuckle. “It’s going to rain ALL day” he said “Its going to pour ALL morning!”. He seemed uncomfortably excited by this.
When we got to the race tent that the Fleet Feet half marathon crew was congregating in, the rain picked up. I aimed to stay under shelter while I figured out which nutrition to take and how to carry everything. (Something that should have been decided the night before). I pinned my race bib to my pant leg just incase it cleared up and I wanted to take off my pullover. We had just enough time to ditch our bags and make a quick port-o-potty stop and then it was over to the start line. By this time I could hardly feel my toes. My shoes were wet and the 40 degree weather was certainly not helping. I found my friend Chloe who was racing the half with her mom and sister. Chloe was my co-worker at Fleet Feet who had planned on doing the Marathon with me until she got plantar fasciitis halfway through the training.
I was more than ready to start at this point and luckily we set off at 8:00 on the dot as scheduled. I stuck with some Fleet Feeters for the first mile until us marathoners were sent another direction. We wished each other luck and I set off for my 25 mile solo journey.
Halfway through mile 2, I gained back feeling in my toes, but it wasn’t until most way through mile 5 that my painfully frozen fingers began to turn back from white to a normal skin tone.
Mile 5 through 10 I played mind games with myself. I calculated the best way to mentally break down the race. Every 2 miles or so we were greeted by a big group of spectators who came out in the rain to cheer us on. Those moments helped a lot. People had signs and yelled out personal compliments to racers. I tried to make friends on the course but most people had headphones in, were already running with a buddy or were in their zone. My chats never lasted more than a minute. Part of the course was out and back so at mile 13, I was able to see some elites getting close to their finish. They looked like they were in pain. They were running the pace of my record 1 mile time for 26 miles! It made me appreciate my mantra of “slow and steady”.
I passed the 4:30 pacer right around the time that I found my mom standing in the sidelines holding this sign. I ran over and gave her a hug, a big smile and two thumbs up. It was mile 19 and this was the point that I knew I could do it.
The rain picked up for the last 7 miles. My hands were numb again, making it impossible to open my gu packages with my fingers, as I literally could not feel them. I resorted to unzipping pockets and ripping everything open with my teeth. My this point I had eaten two GUs, two packages of Clif Gels and chocolate chip Clif Bar. I ran with my Nathans 16 ounce water bottle, which I poured a cupful of water into at every water station. I was hydrated throughout the race but a little hungry. You get to point where you can’t stomach another artificially, obnoxiously sweetened food.
When I hit mile 25, Kevin, who had taken my running clinic, was there to cheer for me. Kevin starting working with me with the goal of a 5k back in the beginning of the summer. He now will be completing his 4th 5k next week! He said it was his turn to cheer me on so he came all the way up to Hartford to watch me run. He jogged next to me along the sidelines for a minute or two, documenting my success in an embarrassing video.
When I got to the final stretch, the rain began to lighten and the streets were packed with supporters. With a miraculous boost of energy I picked up my pace. The severe arch pain that had been effecting me for the last four miles disappeared. I was about to cross the finish line of my first marathon.
I didn’t cry. I wasn’t even in shock. It felt as if I had done this distance before. I retrieved my metal and shuffled around the muddy park to find my mom. She found me, hugged me and told me how proud she was of me. This meant a lot coming from a non runner who happily stood out in awful weather for hours to cheer me on as ran by for 30 seconds. I headed to the food tent, got myself some grilled cheese, peanut butter and a banana and went to gather my belongings. Kevin met up with us, shared his awe and took some pictures.
Originally a goal to cross of my bucket list, this journey played a much bigger role in my life. Chances are it won’t be my last marathon. I’ll be signing up for more, maybe even an ultra one day or a 70.3 triathlon. Most importantly, this confirmed one of the greatest lessons of all. A lesson of determination. You can do anything you put your mind too. I did not have proper training or good weather conditions. I did not have a friend to suffer with or complain too. I kept going because I didn’t want to quit. I completed the marathon because I wanted to with all of my heart.