We picked the Shamrock Marathon for a couple of reasons:
1) It was in March. We wanted to train in the winter and run a springtime race because it wouldn’t be so hot to train for or run.
2) It is a pretty big race. We wanted a good crowd of people to keep us going.
3) It was flat.
I’m really really happy we picked Shamrock. Mostly because of reason number 3, because reasons 1 and 2 turned out to not be so true. I’ll start at the beginning.
When we woke up, it was pretty mild out. We got dressed in shorts and t-shirts for the most part, because it was warmer than even the weather report had called for. We made our way to the start line, which was pretty well organized and had pacers marking every 30 minute interval. Two of us lined up with the 3:25 group and three of us lined up with the 4:30 group. There were four starting corrals, but it was unclear what it meant or how they grouped us into them, but it helped keep stuff relatively organized.
We had agreed to start at a 10 minute pace, and we did. We chugged along nicely behind the 4:30 group and skipped the first water stop (it was on the left, we were on the right, and we didn’t notice it.) Somewhere around Mile 2 or 3 was the Bridge. The bridge was the only real hill we encountered on the run. We were told in advance to not be the sissies that walked over the Bridge, but after running Uwharrie, that bridge was a piece of cake both times we ran it. After the bridge, we got to the next water stop, where we stopped and noticed that we were already sweating. There were water stops every mile and a half, which seemed excessive when we first read through the book, but on race day, they were necessary. The first ten miles took us south of VA beach, through one of the military bases that was there. This was one of the coolest parts of the race – we got to run past crazy helicopters and all of the enlisted men came out to cheer us on and give us high-fives. They were fantastic and totally made my day – I always consider military folk to be absolutely the most hardcore, badass people I’ve ever met, and here they were acting like we were awesome.
Around 9.5 miles, we hit the bridge again. My friend J. fell down and S. stayed with her while I stayed with our pace group (I was too in the zone to see J. fall and we had agreed we would stay with the 4:30 runners and catch up to it if any of us fell behind at a water stop, etc.). I was still feeling really good at this point. We ran through downtown Virginia Beach again, through the boardwalk and then out onto Atlantic Avenue and hit the 13 mile mark. Shortly after that was the 13.1 mark, and we started looking for S’s parents, who were cheering from the sidelines and waving giddily at us. S’s mom joined us for a few short moments and checked in on how we were all doing. Once we left them, we started looking for my sister, who I knew was going to camp out around Mile 14. At Mile 14, there she was, with my husband and my brother-in-law. I grabbed a handful of gummi bears from them, because my husband was on the other side of the course with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I was able to hang-ish with J. and S. for another two miles, but around Mile 16, J. and I went to the bathroom. I could feel myself falling back, and I knew I was through the toughest part of the race and it was downhill from there, and I could do it on my own, so I told J. to go ahead and that I’d see them at the finish. As I powered through Mile 16, I thought about my iPod Shuffle which was in my SpiBelt. I had put together a playlist for the race, since I knew I would be running at least a portion of it on my own. I decided that I would break out my shuffle at the next water stop if I really needed to, so I ran for the next mile, enjoying the cheesy shamrock and leprechaun jokes that were on the sides of the race course and enjoying the company of the crowd. At mile 17, I had a bite of my cliff bar, but couldn’t even get it down because my mouth was so dry and I didn’t have enough water yet. Around here, I passed the Lululemon race station, which was awesome and they were blasting music and waving signs and cheering everybody on, and we all picked up the pace for a bit at that. At this point, I settled into a groove, but it was hard to ignore how much I was hurting.
Thanks to an utterly fantastic tape job on my knee by E’s husband, my right knee, which would usually be bothering me by now, wasn’t at all, but everything was just starting to hurt. I was pleased to notice that my toenails weren’t hurting yet, which was good. At mile 18, I thought with relief, “ah, only 6 more miles” and then realized that I cannot do math. Around here, we went through Ft. Story, which my friend warned me was really boring. It was true. There was virtually no-one here, and we were all low on energy and just trying to get through to the end. And it was HOT. It was really hot out. It was whatever my temperature threshold where I have to run slower because I get sick running fast in the heat. One rest stop around Mile 20 had a table of food, including bananas, which I snagged, and jelly beans, which I tried to eat but instead got rid of. I started walking at the water stops plus a bit at this point, because I was just feeling so leaden, but I realized pretty quickly that my body hurt more if I tried to walk than running, but my lungs hurt more if I ran. So I kept running. And I ran most of the way until Mile 23, which I knew would put us back on the crowd-heavy part of the course.
Around Mile 22-23 we came out of Ft. Story and back into the residential part, which wasn’t nearly as crowded as earlier – because a lot of people had finished, and even more people had gone to watch their racers cross the finish line, but I knew that my team was still going to be at Mile 25, so I kept going. I wanted to look strong for them, and I felt like it was very important that I not let them down by walking the last three miles. I felt my toenails and my feet felt so swollen. My back had started to hurt, and my calves and hamstrings were incredibly tight. I was running at the same pace that several people around me were walking at.
At Mile 25, I was relieved to see that my sister was dressed in her running capris and her green t-shirt from our wedding weekend 5k. She had told me she was bringing running clothes in case I needed a pacer, but I wasn’t sure she’d be ready. I’ve never been so happy to see her, and as I passed them, I said, “are you coming?” and she jumped out to join me. She gossiped with me, let me complain about my back, ankles, feet, legs, everything else, and got me through the last mile. As we tore towards the finish line, she hopped off to the fenced in spectator areas and I crossed at 4:55 clock time (4:48 chip time) and hobbled to pick up my medal, hat, sweatshirt, and then got handed water, gatorade, a banana, and a shamrock shaped cookie.
I expected to feel something huge and powerful after finishing. I expected it to feel as emotional as finishing Uwharrie. I expected to let an incredible sense of accomplishment wash over me. Instead, I just felt tired, and I felt a desperate need to put on the crocs I knew were in my dry bag. My sister met up with me and got me my crocs and then we walked over to the beer tent and met up with everybody else. Team in Training was selling cokes and I bought one and downed it, and after that I started to feel better. We all hung out at the tent for a bit and then hobbled back to our hotel (Holiday Inn Express – can’t recommend it enough – clean, reasonably priced, nice showers, comfortable beds) where three of us made quick work of a bag of potato chips (my favorite post-race food, and especially important for our gluten-free friend.) We also realized that we were all sunburned and chafed (I will write more about what to pack in your marathon race bag later.)
So that’s that. I get to check it off my 30×30 list, and make a nifty race-medal/bib shadowbox, and put a sticker on my car, and all of those other annoying marathon-y things that people do. And I think, much like being married and being a lawyer and being 26, being a marathon runner is something that I have to settle into a bit, because it is kind of huge.