It’s almost 1:00 a.m. and I should’ve been in bed hours ago. I also have work to finish and a camping trip to pack for. But I tonight I saw the premiere of “Spirit of the Marathon II” and after seeing those great stories I’m determined to finally sit down to write my own!
Rest assured that I’m not going to write a full recap, complete with 26 miles of splits and a breakdown of exactly what I ate and when. (I couldn’t even if I wanted to because the GPS for my RunKeeper app went nutso during the race … Pretty sure I did NOT run 29 miles!) But even writing just the highlights will take some time and probably two posts. So if you want the short version — spoiler alert — here it is: I finished a marathon. It was awesome.
If you want the longer version, read on!
As I think back on my Flying Pig marathon experience, it’s not the black-and-white numerical data that I remember. I can’t recall what happened at each individual mile. There are even some pretty large chunks of time that are a total blur. But sprinkled throughout the race are several key moments, so clear in my memory, kind of like my own personal highlight real.
THE START – I had been so preoccupied with race preparations and the frenzy of getting to my starting corral that my brain was too busy to comprehend what was happening. Suddenly I found myself standing there, surrounded by a sea of runners, facing a beautiful sunrise over the start line and it hit me like a ton of bricks: This is IT. After all of the work and sacrifice, joy and grief, I am finally HERE … And I started to cry.
Seriously? Already? Sheesh. But as we moved forward, I snapped out of it. I wiped the tears from my face and held my head high. I had a monumental task to accomplish and I needed to focus. So it began!
THE SIGN – I loved reading all of the signs along the course. Some were funny, some were encouraging, some were even a little suggestive. But the one that stuck with me the most was held by a woman I saw around mile 2. She was sitting on the curb with a poster propped up in front of her that said something like, ‘I fractured my hip training for this race. Finish for me.’ For a few seconds I actually thought about trying to turn around to go back and give her a hug, but it was so crowded I would’ve gotten trampled. Sign-lady, if you’re out there, please know that I thought about you repeatedly whenever things started to get tough. Thanks for the extra motivation.
THE VIEW – I had studied the course enough to know that I should anticipate an uphill first half, but since I’m not from Cincinnati, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I tried to focus only on the road that I could see immediately in front of me, not worrying about what still might be ahead. As I rounded a bend around mile 7, I was practically smacked in the face by an amazing view down over the park and back onto the city we had just left. It was astounding to see just how far I already climbed, especially compared to how good I felt, and I knew that after only another mile or so the toughest hills would be done. I was flying high, literally and mentally!
THE EXCHANGE – At some point, I decided to calculate whether I had brought along enough fuel for the duration of the race. I am normally pretty good at math, but something about running turns my brain into scrambled eggs and I started to worry that I hadn’t put enough energy food in my belt after all. And the jacket I had tied around my waist was annoying the snot out of me. Mentally, I was just at the point of starting to slip a little.
In the meantime, my poor husband was doing his best to navigate the bus system to try to find me at some point along the course. I was relieved when he texted to say he was waiting at mile 12, and I sent him a desperate reply, requesting that he be ready to hand over all of the extra Honey Stinger waffles and Sport Beans in his backpack. I must’ve looked like a woman possessed as I made a beeline to the sidewalk, while flinging my jacket at him and greedily stuffing a bag of jellybeans in the waistband of my shorts. For some odd reason, just having these extra provisions brought back the mental confidence that I was now prepared to endure the second half of the race. (Side note: I did not end up using ANY of the extra food he handed off to me. Too funny.)
THE HIGHWAY – After winding through some scenic, fun, lively neighborhoods, it was time for a reality check at mile 18. The course takes you back toward downtown along the shoulder of a highway, so you are combining mind-numbing scenery, little crowd support, and mileage that is starting to add up quickly.
Thankfully the Flying Pig organizers very strategically plan a water stop at this point, manned by none other than the local chapter of Parrotheads. It’s hard to be down when people in coconut bras and flowered shirts are cheering for you and dancing to Jimmy Buffett music. Seriously, these people were having a blast while hanging out in the rain on the side of a highway. Awesome. I enjoyed my brief trip through Margaritaville, and soldiered on …
(To Be Continued)