Well, kind of. Those of you keeping score at home know that I didn’t get to finish my first marathon. But since it’s not exactly my fault that the Chicago Marathon black-flagged the race and re-routed us in 2007, I suppose I’ll count it. (I never known what to say when people asked me how many marathons I’ve run. I just came to this conclusion this week.)
Anyway, I digress. This is the story of my PR at the Twin Cities Marathon on October 6. Better late than never!
We arrived in Minnesota late on Thursday night and I spent a lovely, chill day with my friend Emily before heading to the expo. I took my time exploring the booths, and then… well… I have a confession. Because I wasn’t sure that I’d make the race cut-off of 6 hours, I bought my own “medal” and “race shirt” at the expo, just in case I didn’t earn them at the finish.
I know what you’re thinking. It seems kind of silly, right? Well, I wanted a back up plan. To me, 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles even if I don’t finish within course limits, and I knew going into it that this race was strict with the cut-off. If, God forbid, something went wrong, I didn’t want to be killing myself for a medal.
Anyway. I took it easy on Saturday, enjoyed a college football game, and carbo-loaded at Olive Garden with Luke, Danny, my cousin and her husband, Eric.
Over dinner, we discussed Carolyn and Eric’s spectating plan for the next day, which turned out to be: “bike the entire course with cowbells and see you every three miles or so.” Her plan actually came true, too. My cousin is amazing.
Before bed, I tucked my dad’s race bib from the 2002 Chicago Marathon into my pocket, attached my shoe chip, and made sure to pin my bib on straight.
I also stuffed approximately 7,000 Chocolate Outrage Gus into my Spibelt. Or 6. But that’s kind of the same thing.
Luke, Danny, and I woke bright and early on race morning and headed to downtown Minneapolis. The Metrodome (where the Vikings play) was open so we could wait inside, but I pretty much hated it. It was hot, stuffy, crowded, and it made me super anxious. I liked waiting outside better.
We made our way to the starting corral and I felt remarkably calm and happy. It was certain to be the best marathon weather I’d ever had, I knew I had trained hard, and I was ready for what they day would bring. Hopefully it’d bring a shiny new PR. Before I knew it, the race had started and I was on my way from Minneapolis to St. Paul.
There was just one problem. Six Gus in one Spibelt is a LOT of Gus. The belt was bouncing all over the place, and it was driving me bonkers. Fortunately, I saw Carolyn before I’d even finished the first mile. I quickly took 3 out and handed them off yelling, “This thing is too bouncy! Can you take these?!”
Carolyn is the best, so she did.
I made my way through the miles, running consistently, enjoying the sights (both big city buildings and pretty lakes), and grinning from ear to ear at friends along the route. Sometimes it hurt a lot, sometimes it hurt a little, and sometimes it didn’t hurt at all. I took my Gus on schedule and enjoyed the spectator support along the route. Most notable were tap dancers, a woman twerking with a sign that said, “You run, I’ll twerk!” and a man who shouted in my face, “GO YOU LADY GO!”
Carolyn and Eric were amazing, biking their way around the course, handing me Gus, cheering like crazy, and updating my parents (who were at home) along the way.
I was ahead of the 5:30 pace crew for a while, but somewhere around bathroom break number 3, they passed me. And then at mile 19.5 I made a friend.
Jamie was crying, convinced she wasn’t going to finish the race in time. I heard two people (who I now know were her husband and sister) on the side of the course, trying to encourage her to keep going. For a split second, I thought about staying out of it, and then I ran over and introduced myself.
Over the next 6.7 miles, I found out that Jamie has three kids; her youngest born nine months ago. This was her first marathon! Yes, she ran her first marathon nine months after having a baby. She’s amazing. Anyway, I somehow convinced my new friend that we’d make it to the finish line in time, and we chatted, motivating each other through the rest of the miles.
And then… somehow… we did it. In 5 hours, 52 minutes, 33 seconds, we crossed that finish line.
After finishing, I had some important things to do. First and most importantly, I gave my new friend a bear hug. I was so happy to have found her on that course. Second, I got my medal. Because, hello? Give me my medal that I worked very hard for. Jamie and I posed for photos, and then, while I was walking (slowly) towards the finisher shirts, I called my parents.
They already knew I’d met my goal — Carolyn and the race text alerts had shared my finish time — so they were cheering and screaming and telling me how proud they were as soon as they picked up the phone. Hearing their joy made me so emotional that I could barely squeak out, “I have a marathon time that starts with a five!” (In fact, the first two times I said it, my dad responded, “I have no idea what you’re saying, but I’m so proud of you!”)
It took six (seven?) years, five marathons, and a whole lot of hard work… but I did it. Sure, it’s not a Boston Qualifier. It’s a time that some people could run without even training. But I know all the guts, hard work, and perseverance that went into that time… and it means a whole lot to me.
Have you run a marathon? Are you much speedier than I am? Tell me your stories!