Kiawah Island 2007 Marathon - Part I

I have never been in so much pain in my life.

That's the bad news. The good news--no, the great news--is that I finished, I had fun, and yes, I am going to do it again.

6 a.m., Saturday: My alarm goes off. I've been awake on and off for over an hour, but for the most part got in a good night's sleep.  I hop in the shower and into my clothes laid out the night before. Stepping out onto our beach deck at 7, the air is mild. The predicted high is 78. I start the race in a sleeveless tee and am grateful I did. By 10 am, temps are in the low 70's and I'm sweating.

I told myself I'd run the first 3 miles at a 9:30 pace.  My first mile was actually 10 minutes, partly due to course congestion at the beginning. My second mile was 9 minutes, and my third was dead on at 9:30.  I had problems throughout the day holding a steady pace. However, I hit mile 13, the halfway point, at 1 hour 58 minutes, only 1 minute behind schedule.

Blair was on it as my pit crew. He met me at the halfway point and handed me Gu and water. Then while I applied chapstick, he opened BioFreeze and spread it on my lower back. One quick kiss and I was off. "See you in two hours!" I said.

Miles 13-15 were good, but quiet. 3100 people signed up to run the half-marathon compared to 1200 for the full. The course seemed very empty and stretched ahead of me like a racetrack unfurled. I was feeling okay. Taking the turnoff at mile 13, where all the half-marathon runners zoom on to the finish while the full marathon runners go on to lap 2, didn't bother me. I'd run  much farther than 13 miles before and while I felt a bit tired due to my uneven pace, I still felt good.

Then I hit 16. 5. Or rather, mile 16.5 hit my outer, upper right thigh.  It felt like a small spasm, which wasn't bad. I stopped and stretched and kept on. The spasm got an eensy bit stronger and the lower back pain chimed in.  A woman who saw me stop and stretch (and pound my thigh) handed me her tube of Aspercreme. I applied it, but it didn't do anything for me.  I walked a bit between miles 17 and 20 but knew I was in trouble. My thigh hurt.

"Suck it up," said my brain, but my body said, "Right. You are not in charge," and started walking. And that was my marathon. I walked the better part of the last 6 miles. Oh sure, I'd run sporadically, but the pain felt worse each time. However--and I want to be clear on this--I don't think the pain was so debilitating that I needed to walk as much as I did. I think I just didn't have the mental toughness to bear it out. There were a few times I absolutely HAD to stop, because of my leg. Plus, I was compensating for the spasm and had a very weird run going, making other parts of my body hurt. But overall, I think if this had been my third or fifth marathon, I could have gone much farther than I did.

I had started out hoping for a 4-hour marathon and when I started walking at mile 20, my time was still good enough that I thought if I ran/walked the last 6.2 I could still eke out a 4:15. But by mile 22, I was wondering if I'd be able to meet my outside goal of 4:30.

Then, a savior appeared. Jack, my running partner from home, appeared at mile 23.5. (Jack was a volunteer in the race but had run a marathon two months earlier.) I didn't even recognize him until I heard him say, "You're looking strong." (I was running at that point.)

Now people, I love my husband with every fiber of my soul. But I might be lying if I said I was ever so happy as to see another human being. Jack fell into step beside me and ran me in the final 3 miles. He talked to me, to keep my mind busy, and several times acted as impromptu masseur when the leg really cramped up  b/c I was running again. I walked/ran those last miles, more walk than run, but I credit Jack with getting me in under a 4 hour and 30 minute marathon. Formal results haven't been posted yet, but according to my watch, I was right at 4 hours and 27 minutes.

Here's an interesting thing. I sprinted the final .2.  That's not a long distance but it was easy and I felt no pain. That's why I say I think I could have overcome the leg trouble. I was able to ignore it when I needed to at the end, which means I could have done it before then.

TOMORROW: Seeing Blair at the finish line. After the race. Acquiring an empathy for the elderly and disabled.