There is a lot to be said about the amount of time, dedication, focus, and determination a runner goes through to race an endurance race distance. What is an endurance race distance? Well for some, it may be 13.1 miles half marathon or it may be the 26.2 miles full marathon. It may include distances beyond but for the sake of time and reference, we’ll just stick with the 26.2….
I love this because it’s true. We train and train and mostly in silence pounding out the miles in preparation to our race.
As I have posted before, training taught me a lot of life lessons. I shared some of those lessons with you in prior posts. I try to take up all that life offers in my life an apply what I feel are lessons. Training prepares the body and cardiovascular system to handle the distance; however, the race….oh yes, the race offers so much more in lessons If you are receptive.
So you know I survived my race, you know who was with me, and you know my finish time. I want to share with you what it was actually like to run the race itself. What I felt, saw, and learned about myself.
At the starting line, you could feel the nerves and excitement rise above the crowd waiting for the siren to start the race! I kept thinking to myself…”don’t go out too quick”. I repeated this over and over and over. Then the siren sounds…the race is on! I look down at my HRM watch and quickly realized it was not tracking the mileage!! WHAT?? I am about to run 26 POINT 2 miles and it won’t show on my HRM watch?? Jeesh! This is not a good sign. So I continue to run. Runners are passing me rapidly. Some are clustered in packs of friends and talking already about the next marathon they are signed up for. Some share historical data of marathons they ran before. Some are coaching and cheering on strangers already walking after mile 2 when our first hill approaches. Lots of discussions, laughter, and excitement passing me by as I continue to chant to myself “don’t go out too quick…don’t go out too quick”.
I am running along the course very disciplined and focused on running the tangents properly. CONFESSION: I just truly learned what they meant by running the tangents the night before the race…true story!. For those that may not know this either…you’re in great company because as I found out, there is a language to racing not just running. Tangents are those turns and curves in the road. If the road bends to the left…it would be less mileage on your feet equalling to a faster time if you take the inside narrow elbow of that left turn. Not the center or the outside of the turn. You can add time and mileage if you don’t take tangents. Make sense? Napa had a lot of tangents to tackle. I was focused and taking them like a near pro! Hugging to the left…passing runners as I moved side to side to take the tangents almost running on the gravel shoulder. Oh yah, like a boss! I would occasionally notify my target, ahem, I mean my fellow racer I was about ready to pass….”on your left” or “on your right”. Things were running (pun intended) smooth…GPS finally kicked in…now my minute/per/mile pace is showing…now I only have 23 miles to go. I can do this!
At around mile 4, everything changed. I made eye contact with my running sister Olivia! Remember that beautiful gal…to the left of me in this pic:
I have many nicknames for her because she is one that I have secretly (well it’s not a secret now) watched and mimicked her form, her methods, her badassness. That’s a word…google it. On hills…she’s a beast! Her nickname is billy-goat. She can take a hill and make it cry as she runs up and down it. I watch her running form, her cadence, how she handles running drills, and on some days that I am feeling super sassy, I try to pretend that I can catch her! She’s always ahead of me. On the track, her nickname is little rocket! She’s a little shorter than I so I can call her ‘little’…and it’s truly out of admiration because as I grow as an athlete…I want to be just like her! She’s fast and an amazing athlete, runner, and triathlete. So now that you know a little bit about Olivia imagine my surprise to see her at mile 4 in a marathon. She was waiting scoping me out. She says she needed me that day but I needed her so much more!
I remember saying “What are you doing here at my pace!?!” She was battling a hip injury for the past few months. She trained through recovery and wasn’t sure it was going to hold out for Napa. This was her race to set a personal record (PR). This was her race! Napa would not relinquish anything for her this time. Napa fought back. At around mile 4 she felt the pain, she wasn’t sure she would continue. She knew there were a few of us in the middle and back of the pack that she may run with to see how much it would help if she slowed down. She wanted to test it out. I was her target…I had mixed feelings. I was scared because this elite badass runner was going to hang around me for the entire race. What if I wanted to walk, or stop, or I don’t know…anything. I felt scared and not sure why. hahaha. But that truly was a fleeting thought and a knee-jerk reaction. I quickly realized as we started running together that this was going to be a great journey and experience that I would cherish forever!
She paced me, coached me, and helped me through some dark moments of my race. She watched for me when I hit the physical wall, the emotional wall, and the mental wall. She asked me if I am good on nutrition, did I hydrate, how was this mile compared to last. She had me covered and under her wing. I asked her several times how she felt and she always responded with a positive answer…”it’s ok, doing better”. Well, she was not. She ran with me and pushed me through to the very last POINT FREAKIN 2 miles. The last stretch to cross this finish. She pushed me to finish and sprint strong. I did. I ran across the finish line in 4:22:19…tears in my eyes and joy in my heart! My first marathon done. I am a marathoner!
I turned to find her a literally a second behind me. I turned around, hugged her, and totally balled my eyes out on her shoulder!
The lessons I learned that day include: how to pee outside before the race starts when there is a huge line at the PP’s, that I should have taken my Immodium MUCH earlier the day before than I did, I held back out of uncertainty and could have pushed harder…and when you think you are alone, you are not. Just because you’re strong and independent, you always need someone (sometimes you don’t even know that you do). When the “wall” hits you…there is always a way through it. And finally, during the most intense, most impossible moments of your life when you think you cannot do it, you can! You just have to push through and do it. I had the honor of an awesome teammate, running superstar, badass rockstar, and now my marathon sister help me through a tough race and build a wonderful experience!
Who is your Olivia? What lessons did you learn during a race?