Well, I did it. I ran a marathon. (My hometown marathon, the Twin Cities Marathon, to be more specific).
I wish that I could tell you all about it, but it was kind of all a blur. I’ll do my best to recall what happened, but here is what you must know if you are thinking about running a marathon: There is a good chance that it will be so hard on your body that your brain will fail to function normally.
My good friend Jordan volunteered to run the whole freaking thing with me. Hearing this, you may think “Oh, that’s nice.” Yep, well, you’ll think it’s even nicer when I tell you this: His marathon PR is a sub-3:05. While throughout our childhood, I mostly recall him obtaining his desires by talking (and charming) his way to get whatever he wanted, apparently the kid knows how to work hard for things as well. Who knew?
Anyway, I told Jordan about my sub-4 goal soon after signing up for the race. I told him after my terrible half-marathon that a sub-4 goal was no longer reasonable. I was only running about 20-miles a week. I was in no way prepared to run a sub-4.
Well, Jordan wasn’t ready to let me give up my dream. He convinced me to let him pace me at a sub-4 pace at least for a little while. He agreed that he’d slow down when I told him that I needed to.
Obviously, this was a terrible plan. I mean, clearly running at a pace that you cannot sustain is no way to run your best marathon. But, I didn’t think I would ever have a friend to pace me again, so I figured I might as well agree. I thought a 4:15 would be a reasonable goal, but there was that little voice in my head saying, “What if…” and I decided that I’d let Jordan pace me for a sub-4, at least for as long as I could stand it.
When race day arrived, I was much less nervous than I thought I’d be. “We’re just going for a little run,” I thought to myself, “just one foot in front of the other.” And that was that. Soon enough, we were taking off.
As I said, I don’t remember much of the race. I remember thinking, “Try to look around! Look how pretty it is!” But in reality, it was just one foot in front of the other, pounding the ground, breathing, and crowds of people.
My friend Holly had convinced me to paint my name on my shirt, and tons of people were out screaming my name, “Go Becky! Yay, Becky!!!” That was pretty fun. (There were crowds cheering for us almost the entire way…awesome job Minnesotans, you are the best!) I also saw some friends out on the course, cheering for me, which was the greatest thing ever.
At mile 3, I felt blisters forming. By mile 5, my “normal” achilles pain kicked in. By mile 8, I was already starting to tire out. “I’m struggling,” I told Jordan.
“Okay, no problem,” he said. “The struggle is part of it. Just keep going.”
I decided to keep up the 4-hour pace till the halfway point, but it was painfully clear to me by mile 10 that I would NOT be sustaining this pace.
At mile 12, I told Jordan that I was not planning on continuing at this pace. He said, “How about if we wait until mile 16 for you to make that decision.”
Clever little pacer, that made perfect sense.
However, I did not think I could sustain the pace for another few miles. My parents were supposed to be waiting for me at the halfway point, and I just wanted to find them. I kept watching and watching, and finally, there they were! I was so excited for an excuse to stop! I ran to them, and traded my empty Nuun bottle for a full bottle of Nuun. I told my parents that I would NOT be finishing near the 4-hour mark.
Trading off Nuun bottles with my mom. So happy to not be running for a few seconds!
When we started running again, I told Jordan that I wanted to use the porta-potties now that the sub-4 dream was crushed.
Still happy at the half-way point!
I finally saw some porta-potties and I was happy! “But there’s a line!” Jordan protested, trying to urge me forward.
“Yep!” I said, super excited, “And I’d like to stand in that line. I don’t want to run. Standing is better.” Much to Jordan’s dismay, I waited in line for a porta-potty. Standing was bliss.
I think you should know that I am a very stubborn person. So is Jordan. I was worried that he would freak out on me and try to force me to keep up the pace that was not sustainable. But he didn’t. He tried with his clever let’s-wait-till-the-16-mile-point-to-decide ploy, but when I said that I couldn’t, he accepted. He did a great job of trying to push me to my limit, without pushing me over the edge.
After the porta-potty, we began our journey of I-don’t-want-to-run-anymore, this-stinks. My pace slowed a ton, and I walked every once in awhile. I remember that it hurt. It hurt so badly. What in the world? Was it supposed to hurt this badly? I even whimpered a little. When I complained to Jordan that I hurt, he said, “Yes, it hurts. It’s going to hurt. That’s what happens. You just have to keep going. The hurt will come and go.” I wondered if it would have hurt less if I had actually trained properly. But then I realized that if I had trained better, I would have run faster, so the pain probably would have been the same. Ow.
As I said, the race was somewhat of a blur. Just a lot of running, whimpering, hurting, and trying to keep going. As I ran and experienced the pain of the marathon, I remembered things that experienced marathoners had shared with me:
I remembered how Robyn had discussed “respecting” the marathon after she had qualified for Boston. I hadn’t known what she was talking about at the time, but now I understood. This was NOT just one foot in front of the other. It was one foot in front of the other, and ignoring the urges of your body to stop, to slow, to quit. The marathon deserves respect. Also, I now know that anyone who finishes a marathon (regardless of their time) deserves respect.
I also remembered running the last mile of Tasha’s marathon with her in Wenatchee. Tasha is a freaking beast when it comes to running, but in that last mile, she was complaining of pain, and walking quite a bit. I asked her what was wrong and why she was having such a hard time. She gave me a confused look and said, “Because I’m running a marathon!” I didn’t understand at the time, but as I ran my marathon, I understood. It hurts because I’m running a marathon. Marathons hurt. They’re not a walk in the park for anyone. They work your body like crazy.
This is what my face looked like for most of the 2nd half of the marathon.
And of course, I remembered the look of pain on Nicole’s face as she ran Seattle Rock N Roll. I now understood why she looked like that. I know that I didn’t look quite as pained as her, but I looked pained. I almost cried a few times. It hurt. Marathons hurt.
While I was very grateful to everyone out cheering and handing out goodies, I was in pain. They didn’t seem to understand. This HURT. Why were they cheering when they should be offering me a wheelchair?
Jordan convinced me that the hurt was normal. My job was to just keep going. Jordan didn’t like it when I walked, but every time I started running again, he was pleased and told me how awesome I was doing.
The weather was pretty perfect for the first 20 miles, cool enough that I was comfortable, but not cold. At mile 20, it began to rain. On the bright side, my brain wasn’t really working all that well by mile 20, so I didn’t particularly care about the rain. I remember wanting to cry, and turning a corner, and hearing someone yell, “Becky Joy!” And there were my parents! I thought I wouldn’t see them again till the end, but there they were! It was kind of embarrassing that they had seen me with my miserable face, but that’s okay. I felt miserable.
At some point, we passed a clock that read 3:20. “Oh look,” Jordan said, “This is the longest I’ve ever run before.” I wanted to simultaneously punch him in the face and hug him. Seriously, who’s worst marathon is a 3:20? On the other hand, who runs 3:20 at Boston, and then agrees to run with their slow friend Becky for their next marathon?
At mile 23, I looked at my Garmin and did some quick math: If I ran 10 minute miles till the end, I could get a sub-4:20! Okay! I could do it! I could run those last 3 miles!
And I did…till I reached a little hill. Then I stopped to walk. “Jordan! I can’t!” I said.
Jordan turned around. “Becky, you can! C’mon! You’re almost there!”
“No. I can’t. I don’t care.”
“Becky! Seriously. You’re so close. Just keep running.”
By this time, some nearby runners had joined the argument. “You can do it! Keep going! You’re almost there! You’re so close! Don’t walk!”
“Where’s the finish?” I asked Jordan. He told me that it was at the American flag that I could see up ahead.
“Okay, I can do it,” I said, and I started running towards the flag. As I drew closer, I could tell: The flag was not the finish.
“You lied! The flag is not the finish!!!” I was mad. I said some swear words as well.
“Becky, look. The finish is right there, it’s not that much farther past the flag. Look, you can see it from here. Just keep going,” Jordan said.
I looked, and I could see the finish. It was upsetting to me that it was farther than what I thought, but I knew that I could get there quickly. I pushed until I made it past that stupid finish sign. 4:18:34.
I was a bit delirious at the finish line. I could still walk and all, but I just wanted food and fuel and to put my legs above my heart. I was so distressed that I grabbed a chocolate milk, despite being lactose intolerant. At the time, I didn’t care how my stomach would react to that delicious, perfect beverage. They had hot broth at the finish, which really helped me to perk up.
Jordan and I at the finish, in front of the State Capitol building.
We stopped and stretched, ate some finisher’s food, got our medals and tech shirts, and found my parents. (After I had eaten a little, I came to my senses and realized that I should NOT drink my chocolate milk). When I got my phone back from my parents, I found texts from Husband Saign and other friends, encouraging me along the way. I felt so loved!
While it all seemed a little foggy, I was able to recognize something: I had come a long way! Thirteen months ago, I was in a boot cast. Nine months ago, I was running every-other-minute for a maximum of 20 minutes under the watchful eye of my physical therapist. Suddenly, I was grateful for every step that I was able to take during the race. I don’t ever want to take the ability to run for granted.
In general, the marathon was miserable. But it was also amazing and intriguing. How much better could I do? What is possible? When’s the next one?
A HUGE thanks to Jordan for running this memorable race with me! Thank you also to my friends and family for cheering me on and supporting me through this race!