It’s not supposed to be raining this hard. I have to pee again. Why is it raining so hard?? Should I change into my long sleeve? Do you think it’s going to keep raining?? Ok I don’t have to go, but I need to go- just in case… even if it’s a dribble. I can’t have that dribble on my conscience all marathon. I wish I could just pee while running…
How do you have more in you?? We’ve gone twice and I’m empty. Maybe I could manage a drop like a leaky faucet but at this point but that’s it. Empty. Nada. Nothin’.
For a moment my pre-race butterflies subsided as I was dumbfounded that she was actually responding to my soliloquy. I have shared my last three marathon starting lines with my friend and athlete, Lisa Grafton and I am insanely lucky to have her in my life. She’s more than a friend: she’s family. Lisa and I huddled together in our Chicago shirts (not planned) at the start while staring up at the sky willing the steady rain to lighten up.
There’s no doubt about it: I was nervous. I respect the marathon distance enough to know that anything can happen on race day. I didn’t even have a goal in mind. How was I nervous? Because my body has felt like a wreck all training cycle, my weight is a little higher than it typically is for race day, my stomach has been a mess on every single long run I’ve done this training cycle and because – it’s a GD marathon.
We left the dry safety of the tree branch and moved to the starting line. It was a muggy 50 degrees and the rain was starting to lighten up.
I reframed my worries into something more positive: I’m giving myself permission to detach from all of the other stressors that are out of my control. Focus on the task at hand: running a point to point marathon. It’s the only thing I have to do, my sole responsibility. One mile at a time. Focus on that one singular task. All I have to do is my weekly long run. Smile. Have fun. Somewhere inside of you decided this is fun. (gulp)
The gun went off promptly at 7 am and we were off.
(Planned: 7:50-8, Actual splits: 7:42, 7:48, 7:52, 7:55, 8:00)
The first few miles of Sugarloaf are nice and flat, perfect for settling into a pace. At about mile 3 the flat terrain turns into a very gradual uphill grade. It’s barely noticeable, but it’s there and your splits and breath will feel it.
It was a muggy 50 degrees at the start. I felt the humidity with each breath; 7:50’s should have felt manageable but the effort felt much much harder. Right off the bat I started to doubt whether or not I’d be able to hold the pace. My breaths were shallow and my thoughts were panicky.
Panic does not help you run a marathon. I knew this and I reminded myself of it. Doubt can’t help you. Panic will make it worse. You’re in this now- 24 more miles till you can stop running so figure it the F out Kass… you’ve done this before. It’s just a long run and you always feel like ass in the beginning of your long runs. Slow it down and allow your body to settle in.
Settle in I did.
(Planned: Aim for 8’s on slight incline, hold it to 8:30 on nasty hill; Actual splits: 7:54, 7:53, 7:57, 8:34, 8:08)
Miles 6-10 of the course brought forth a few punchy hills (short but steep) and then one nasty, steep hills from mile 8-10. As I ran the punchy hills the humidity started to drop. The air felt a little crisper and my legs started to open up. I kept the pace manageable on the hills and reminded myself that miles 11-20 were all downhill. Stay comfortable, manageable. Run the mile you’re in.
I knew what was coming around mile 8: one NASTY, steep hill that “just goes on forever” as Lisa lovingly described. I approached the hill with excitement because this is it- just up and over the hill and it’s mostly downhill from there to the finish. I put my head down focused all my energy on getting up and over the massive beast in front of me- ok most of my energy, some was dedicated to trying to memorize the lyrics to Shoop by S&P as it played through my earbuds. I was in a beautiful space of feeling focused on the task at hand while also allowing myself to be distracted from the pain. My thoughts were centered around maintaining my effort and keeping the average lap pace at 8:30 or faster (which I did, but then I dropped at GU- doh- and lost a few seconds picking it up)
(Planned: 7:45-7:50, no faster than 7:40, Actual: 7:37, 7:39, 7:48, 7:50, 7:44, 7:32, 7:42, 7:46)
Up and over the nasty hill we all went and the other side was a glorious downhill for miles. The part of the marathon is relatively uneventful. Even though I felt great I kept my pace in check as we descended into the Sugarloaf valley and allowed my mind to wander. sang more song lyrics to myself and just relaxed my mind. Downhill makes me happy. 🙂
It became clear that many of the spectators on the sidelines were traveling from point to point to watch their runner. I didn’t have any spectators but that didn’t mean I couldn’t recruit some of these spectators to cheer for me too!! I kept noticing one dude in an orange Boston marathon jacket and a red hat. Standing alone he cheered on the crowds and seemed genuinely excited to be there. The third time I passed him I shouted out, “I’m not sure who you’re here for, but you’re now cheering for me too! Ok?!” He nodded and cheered and I have to say that mystery dude came through!! Throughout the entire marathon I saw him about 5-6 times. He honked at me as each time he passed by in his car, he high-fived me as I passed him late in the race and his energy was simply off the charts. Thank you mystery dude!!
Around mile 17 I crossed a split mat and later learned that at that point in the race I was runner 158 out of 588.
(Planned: sub 7:40 and give it hell; Actual splits: 7:37, 7:44, 7:42, 7:42, 7:43, 7:37, 7:34, 7:39)
Discomfort is part of a marathon and I’m learning to welcome it. It doesn’t mean I’m weak or that I’m going to have to stop and walk. It’s just the body wining like a toddler an I’m pretty sure I have mastered blocking out that noise 😉 so I figure why can’t I block out discomfort too? Well, I have and I did.
I can tell you that by mile 19 I was very uncomfortable. My legs and body recognized that it had already ran 19 miles and I was starting to feel the wear and tear. But I refused to lose focus. At mile 19 I had 7.2 miles left- the same exact distance as my go-to loop from the YMCA out to Houghs Neck and back. I just have to run to Hough’s Necks and back. That’s it. I do that ALL THE TIME. I started to visualize my go-to loop as I know exactly where the 1, 2, 3 mile (etc) points are. At one mile I’ll be at the gas station on Sea street. Two miles is the Boston overlook. My body may have been in Maine, but my mind was in it’s happy, safe space on Sea Street in Quincy. I ignored the previous 19 miles and convinced myself, You are just starting your run. You are fresh on your feet and ready to get to Nut Island and back.
My mind was a barrage of positive mantras and visualizations through Sugarloaf’s final miles and rolling hills. Yep, the final 6 miles of the course are small, but dreadfully annoying rolling hills. I knew they were coming. I also knew what was on the other side: downhills and ultimately a finish line. Any negative thought was immediately turned into a positive, a motivator and a reason to push. My body was cooperating on this long run: no hamstring issues, no GI distress, all fire inside me.
I passed the mile 23 water station and screamed out jokingly “5k to go bitchessssssssss.” The volunteers laughed at me as I smiled like a golden retriever chasing a ball. That’s it, just a 5k to go! My mind now ignored the previous 23 miles and I told my body to reset: now you’re just starting a 5k. Twenty four minutes or less of running. Twelve laps around a track. Count it down. One mile at a time. I leaned in as much as I could and pushed. I was passing people who were clearly struggling and in pain. Those poor souls are running a marathon, but you just started a 5k. You are fresh. You are energized and you only have 24 more minutes to run. You have trained for this. You are in control. The final miles ticked off were a 7:37, 7:34, 7:39. I wanted 7:20s but I gave it everything I had left.
At mile 26 I ran by mystery dude who cheered for me as if he had known me for years (thank you MD!) and told myself that I had ONE LAP LEFT. Well… it was more like 1.75 laps on a track left as my watch read 26.4 miles, but that’s ok. I crossed the finish line in 3:25:46.
Minutes after finishing I collapsed onto the grass foaming at the mouth and heard my name being called. Apparently I won an award. I came to realize that I won my age group for women age 30-34! Crazytown. I passed 41 people from mile 17 to the finish and ultimately finished at 117 out of 558 marathoners. Well that’s pretty darn cool. I was still reeling from running the marathon and tried to climb on top of the boxes and the race director handed me this awesome (and very large) prize. Naturally it slipped out of my hands and I nearly decapitated the girl who came in second- doh! It meeeeeee and my chaotic glory. Haha. Oh well.
What a day! What a race! I did it. I BQ’ed. I ran my heart out. It wasn’t until the drive home to Boston alone that I realized that I ran the entire marathon and didn’t think of him. I let go. I wasn’t sad, lost or empty. I was focused, determined, proud. I was my best self out there doing what I was meant to do. I felt calm and so at peace.
I feel it inside and out- I was born to run.
Note: Lisa ran INCREDIBLY WELL and managed a 3:57, crushing her old Sugarloaf time of 4:12 from 2015!! WAHOO!! Proud of you Lisa. <3
Can’t stop, won’t stop, NEVER STOP Running,