Gearing up for the Run River City Marathon, I had three things I wanted to focus on correcting and/or improving: mental strength, humility and better cross training. I mentioned them in my recap of the Hogeye Marathon. They are, I believe, what led to such a horrible race that day.
My friend, Christi, my running mentor, Annette, and I hit the road to Peoria bright and early the day before. We had a long day of driving and wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get to the expo, pick up our race packets, check into the hotel, grab dinner and prep for the next morning.
When we got out of the swagger wagon at the expo, I think it finally hit home just how warm it was going to be the next day. My stomach did a little somersault. The marathon coordinators were strongly suggesting everyone to scale back their time goals and run at a slower pace due to the high temps and humidity.
The numbers for the race bibs weren’t assigned until you checked in to pick up your packet and the issuing of the numbers was totally random. I ended up with number 12 and Annette with number 11. I thought that was pretty darn cool.
We enjoyed a nice dinner at a local Italian place, laid out all of our gear and nutrition and were all settled into bed by 9. The race was set to start at 7, so I set my alarm for 4 o’clock. I like to eat my breakfast three hours prior. I also like to give myself plenty of time to take care of bathroom needs. Looking for a porta potty on the race course is never fun. Trust me.
We made it to the start area with plenty of time to spare for pre-race pictures, last minute runs to the bathroom, etc. I was starting to feel pretty nervous at this point. I was so thankful that Annette was running it with me. I knew she would coach me through it. We positioned ourselves in-between the 5 hour and 4:45 pacers. We didn’t have any kind of time goal, but we knew we wanted to bank some time early on before the sun started beating down on us full force.
Before we even hit two miles, I had sweat dripping into my eyes. The humidity was Horrible. Notice the capital H. ::snort::
Annette was monitoring my breathing and whenever she felt like I was breathing too hard, we would slow our pace down for a little bit and then pick it back up. There was only one rough hill during the entire marathon ~ that I recall. The rest of the course was pretty flat with some rolling hills here and there. For a long time, clouds covered the sun and provided some much needed relief. It wasn’t really until around mile 24 that the torture from the sun began. We were on open road at that point with no shade in sight. That’s right about the same time I ran into the concrete wall.
I was toast. I was out of all nutrition and salt sticks and my camelbak was empty. I wanted the race to be over. Like yesterday. I questioned why in the world I wanted to run another marathon. I swore to myself I was never going to run another one after I finished. I was done. Retiring. I was shuffling forward at the speed of what felt like a tortoise, but I just kept my eyes on the back of Annette’s head. She told me later that she imagined she was holding a rope and was pulling me along. She was afraid if she stopped, then I would stop and not be able to start again. She was right.
People were yelling out words of encouragement like: You look strong!
At that point, I didn’t feel strong. I felt weak and stretched thin.
I know I’ve shared quotes before from Dean Karnazes’ book, 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days, but it’s just such a great book I have to share again.
When you’re running, 90 percent of your conscious attention is absorbed in one thing: resisting the feelings of fatigue, suffering, and weakness that are telling you to slow down and quit. Through the act of running, we can all learn to push farther than we ever thought we could.
Running teaches you that there’s a difference between working hard and feeling bad. Consumer culture tries to teach us otherwise. How many television commercials talk about “making life easier”? If everything you knew about life came from TV, your goal would be to live the easiest, most comfortable and unchallenging life you possibly could. You would believe that the only good feelings are sensual pleasures such as the taste of a good soft drink and the fun of driving an expensive car and lying on the beach.
But it’s just not true. Challenging and testing your mind and body, even to the point of exhaustion, failure, and breakdown, can feel as wonderful as anything else life has to offer. I suppose the enjoyment of hard work is more of an acquired taste than the taste of pleasure and fun, but once you’ve acquired it, you’re blessed with more ways to feel good, and life is good. Harder and better.
Annette and I crossed the finish line together, then I proceeded to lay myself out on the curb.
Harder didn’t feel wonderful just then. Harder just felt plain hard.
After some water and orange slices, my perception of what I had just completed began to shift. The taste of harder began to fade and the taste of pleasure began to emerge.
Life was good.
P.S. The course was really lovely. We ran through some urban areas, beautiful neighborhoods and on some shaded, paved trails. The spectators were phenomenal. People had set up tables outside their homes with food and water. They rigged hoses onto ladders to spray runners as they ran by. Children were out with water guns ready to squirt anyone willing. Overall, it was a great experience. With this being the inaugural race, there were definitely a few things they need to work on: more porta potties, more consistent placing of aid stations throughout the course, and more mile markers (the mile markers didn’t start until mile 9 or 10).
P. P. S. Although this marathon wasn’t a PR for me, I do feel like I redeemed myself from Hogeye. I felt stronger mentally and physically and I went into race day with the knowledge that anything could happen.