Well, it’s official: I’m a marathoner!
Yep, I ran 26.2 miles. It wasn’t pretty, and it certainly wasn’t fast, and there may have been some walking involved, but I crossed the finish line after 16 weeks of a regimented training schedule. Let’s start from the beginning. (This post is a long one.)
The last two years, I’ve run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I got really nervous the night before. Well for the full, the nerves kicked in about five days prior. I was on pins and needles all week. Nervous, excited, scared out of my mind, etc. But I tried to rest up, drink a lot (water, that is), and try to focus on the end goal. Watching this video didn’t help. It made the race seem so much longer. Thanks for scaring me, Russell. 🙂
I hit up the marathon expo Friday night after work. It’s funny, but as soon as I saw that green bib, I felt like I was the shit. The half people always get the white bibs, so for the last two years when I lined up in my corral on race day and saw those in green bibs, I was in awe. “Wow, they’re about to run a marathon,” I thought. Well, I felt so proud when I was handed MY green bib. And you betcha I waved that sucker around the expo. Ain’t no shame.
Saturday I woke up and watched some Saved by the Bell to keep my mind from not freaking out. Watching Lisa and Screech do “The Sprain” is quite calming. I ate some carbs, chugged some water, then hit up a high school track for a quick, flat two-mile run. At the track, I went sans Garmin and iPod and just listened to myself BREATHE. Something all runners who are gadget-obsessed like me need to stop and do once in awhile. A nice older gentlemen asked me how I was doing while I passed him. I replied, “I’m good….I’m running the marathon tomorrow!” I had to stop myself from telling the high school cashier checking me out at Rite Aid shortly after when I bought Gatorade. “Not everyone cares,” I told myself.
Saturday night my mom made me a lovely spread of pasta, bread, chicken cutlets, salad, and peanut butter pie. Ah yeah. I couldn’t really sit still. I finalized my playlist, watched Rocky (I’m such a dork), and finally went to bed at 11. I was WAY too wound up to go to bed any earlier. Surprisingly enough, I fell asleep right away and slept soundly the whole night. This is not typical for me the night before a race, as I’m usually up every hour making sure I didn’t sleep through the 12 alarms I set.
HELLS yeahhhhh, it’s marathon day! I woke up Sunday morning ready. I had plenty of time to put on my clothes, eat some toast and peanut butter, and listen to some George Michael. My friend Autumn and I were downtown and parked by 6:30, despite one wrong turn, so we had plenty of time to pee, stretch, drink water and eat a banana before we lined up. I will not reveal our secret bathroom spot on this blog so the rest of Pittsburgh doesn’t know our secret for next year. I don’t want to wait in those dang porta-potty lines, darnit!
At 7:15, we took our spot in Corral D. We were supposed to be in E, but that felt too far back. Sorry, I break rules. Next time I do a race I am just going to lie about my time on the form so I’m put up higher. Hehehe. Anyways, as we were standing waiting to run, my high school lacrosse coach “Big E” just so happened to be standing next to me! He was doing the half. It was so great to see him after 10 years. Small world to see him out of the 25,000 other runners. After the national anthem, at 7:30, we were off! It was time to start this thing.
The first few miles, as always, were a breeze. I looked up at the sky and thought, “Holy shit, I’m running a marathon! Check me out in my green bib!” (Side note: Sorry for the potty mouth in this post, but running makes me swear.) The beginning of the Pittsburgh Marathon is in the Strip District. At about mile 1.5 we saw the mile 25 sign and I jokingly said, “Almost done!” We’d be back in the Strip soon enough for that very mile marker, and I couldn’t help but think how the hell I’d feel then. But I snapped out of it and ran the mile I was in. I was surpsied at the Strip this year. It was pretty sparse compared to years past, especially as we turned the corner on the 16th street bridge. It wasn’t as crowded, and people were quiet. I wanted to be like, “Um, hello people! We’re running over here! Make some noiiiiissssee!”
Anyways, we passed into the North Side and I put my iPod on for the first time. I started with Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow.” Extremely upbeat and fitting for running the Pittsburgh Marathon. (My music strategy for the marathon was to turn it down a lot to hear the crowds and bands. I’ll talk more about certain songs throughout this post, and my exact playlist is at the bottom.)
When we ran down the 9th street bridge and onto Fort Duquesne Boulevard, THEN the crowd picked up. There were crowds and cheering on that street, and turning onto the 7th street bridge as well. People were lined up and cheering. I LOVED it. Here’s where I saw three amazing signs: 1) “Your training lasted longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage.” 2) Picture of the “Riduculously Photogenic Guy” and 3) A Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” sign. Something about it being OK you can’t fit it in your skinny jeans because your muscles are so ripped from running.
I even spotted my parents here for the first time. Here’s the amazing sign they made me:
Side note: My dad said so many people yelled, “Go Steelers!” and “Defense!” when they ran past. Um, people you are running, there is no fence sign next to it. We are not at a football game. Damn yinzers. 🙂
Back in the North Side, I spotted my friend Emily. Her sign said “Run Like a Boss.” LOVE her. Before we knew it, we were crossing the 10K mark and into the West End Bridge. We hit the 10K mark in 1 hour flat with a 9:42 average pace. “Wow!” I thought. “At this point last year, I was feeling tired. Now, fine.” My how things changed. We crossed into West End which is always a fun place, and we were off to Carson Street. West Carson always sucks for me. I hate this road. There’s really nothing on it. But once you hit Station Square, crowds formed, relays switched, and lots of action. I high-fived some kiddos, and we were in the South Side. Me and Autumn decided to pee here since the porta-potties were open and we had to go. We were done in 30 seconds flat. And then, the split. This was another key moment for me. In years past, this is the place I split from the marathoners as a halfy (I just made that word up), and watched them go on their merry way. This year, it was ME who was going on my merry way. This was it. We split from the half at the Birmingham Bridge, and mentally I thought this is where the race really begins. At the end of the Birmingham Bridge, I spotted my parents again. I was still in great spirits, then we turned the corner to the death hill going into Oakland. If you don’t know about this hill, it’s the worst incline of the whole race. I don’t know how long it is, maybe a half mile? But it sucks. I blasted some Britney “‘Til the World Ends” and just ran it. Autumn was suffering here from the HEAT, so this is where she
demanded asked for water from a random bystander not running. Love it, Autumn. We approached Craig Street in Oakland, and hit the 13.1 mile mark at 2:13, with an average pace of 10:12. Not too shabby, but slowed slightly.
The Second Half
When we turned on Fifth Avenue right into Shadyside, Autumn and I lost each other for a bit. She was feeling sick, and I couldn’t slow down because I wouldn’t be able to start again! I made sure she was OK, and kept going. This is when I started to feel HOT. The temps in Pittsburgh were easily at 80 degrees at this point, so I needed to make sure I drank enough. I opted for Gatorade at each water station. I turned on Walnut Street in Shadyside and then back up Fifth again. This is where homeowners busted their hoses out and just sprayed the runners. These people were a Godsend. Thank you, thank you!! I spotted my friend Anna on Fifth, gave her a high five, and kept going. This is when I started to walk a bit. I was feeling extremely hot, so I wanted to pace myself. No sense in overdoing it and hurting myself, especially when I saw more and more people passed out on the side of the road. On the border of Shadyside and Point Breeze, I saw my boyfriend’s aunt. I gave her a hug, since this is when my emotions started going all over the place. Running a marathon makes one bi-polar. I was on a happy high, then saw her, and started to cry a little. Not because I was sad, but because I was really doing this. Point Breeze was when I had to stop and stretch for a quick moment, but was then back at it.
And then there was Homewood. Somewhere we skipped on our previous 20-miler. I didn’t know what to expect, but Homewood was AWESOME. First of all, they were handing out all kinds of stuff. Some woman gave me ice water. ICE WATER! As hot as I was, this was like gold. I made sure to hang on to it and sip it slowly. Then I heard the Electric Slide being played. Had I not been running a marathon, I’d of definitely stopped and danced. But alas, I had lots more miles to run, so I kept going. Here’s where Autumn caught back up to me, and then left me in the dust! This happens every time — she speeds up, and I slow down. I was glad she was OK. She said the orange slices people were handing out were her Godsend. Yay! Anyways, Autumn went on her way and I was not far behind when the Cupid Shuffle came on my iPod. I realize this song is old and overplayed at weddings, but my God do I love it. And with that, I was running and dancing. Yes, I’m a weirdo. But music helps push me when I need that boost on a long run. I ran with my legs and danced with my upper body. Wish I had a video of that. A little ways down the road, my friend Julie came and ran with me for a minute or two. I spotted Julie a few times on the course and she was awesome being all over the place! Thanks for being a great cheerleader for us, Julie! The final part of Homewood included firemen opening a fire hydrant for us runners to get a quick spritz. I proceeded to say “Heeey Firemen!” when I ran past. I just couldn’t resist; one was really cute. I can’t help but checking out a hot fireman. 🙂
Soon I was in Highland Park. I was struggling a bit, but then I hit the 20 mile mark (in 3:44; average pace 11:14). This snapped me out of my struggle, because I had never passed 20 miles before. This was the unknown, and that last 10K I had thought so much about. This is it! I even heard “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction here. Love me some underage boy bands. That song is so fun, and uplifting. So the combination of that song and the 20-mile mark had me yell to the crowd, “I’m running a marathon!!” They loved it and cheered.
Well that didn’t last long. I was walking again. “Am I in effing Bloomfield yet??” I thought. I hated running. “What mile am I at?” “I need some more ice water.” “I should NOT have started walking.” These thoughts were in my head. One thing about running that long is in my opinion, walking just makes things worse. When I stop running after a long distance, then I start to get sore. I knew this from my previous long runs so I kept my walking to a minimum. Walking in the marathon made me get sore too soon, so when I started back to running, my whole body hurt. But it was too late, I had already walk/ran, and I would just continue this and just try to run as much as possible for the rest of the time. FINALLY, I passed through Friendship and was on Liberty Avenue again. “Two more neighborhoods to go!” I told myself. But wait — there’s another hill. EFF.
Going into Bloomfield is one hell of a hill. This is the third place I saw my parents. Later they told me every.single.person just looked completely miserable here. Most were red faced and either walking or slow jogging. The sun was beating down on me, and when I saw my parents from a distance, the crying started again. I just wanted to be done. I saw them and said, “This f*cking sucks.” I don’t typically drop f-bombs in front of my parents, but it was needed. They gave me some words of encouragement, and I was running again. Then, Journey came on my iPod. You may remember from my 20-miler that “Don’t Stop Believing” was the song I belted out loud the last time I ran through Bloomfield on the last leg of my run. It was perfect timing and made me smile. One foot in front of the other, I had made it to the downhill leg of Bloomfield. When I skipped ahead to the next song, another perfect fit was there. “‘Til I Collapse” by Eminem. My iPod was on shuffle, so it’s like it KNEW I had only a 5K left to go. As I approached the Strip, I told myself I had 2 or 3 more miles ago. That typically helps me, but at this moment it felt like that was still an incredible distance. My legs hurt. I was overheated, I’d been running for over 4 hours. I needed something. And at mile 24, I saw my boyfriend Dave. I had strategically placed him here, because I knew I’d need to see him for that last push of encouragement. I gave him a kiss, and kept going. I saw that mile 25 sign again. I was back in the Strip. “Just keep going,” was all I could think.
And then I was downtown. “No walking allowed” I told myself. The Pittsburgh Polka came on, again, how fitting. I listened to it for about a minute and then shut off the music. I wanted to hear the last mile. Just a quick note here — starting at 13.1 miles, I switched my Garmin so I could not see my pace and time. Mentally, I knew that 12:30 would be the 5-hour mark. I wanted to beat 5 hours, but once I was around mile 22, I couldn’t care less about my time or pace. I don’t know if it helped or hurt me not being able to see my pace, but I just wanted to run and finish. When I saw 12:30 came and went, I knew I didn’t do it, but when that finish line was in sight, it didn’t matter. I saw a guy snatch up his little boy, and carry him to the finish line so he could be with his dad for the finish. It was the cutest. The crowd cheered, and I passed the finish line at 12:47 pm, in 5:09:26; average pace 11:48.
I DID IT! It was over. The misery ended. I got my medal. I was a marathoner.
After the race, I tried to drink a lot of fluids. We went to brunch afterwards, but I could barely eat. It’s funny, you run 26.2 miles, but aren’t hungry. I think your body is just all of of whack at that point. I barely ate the rest of the day, but the next day my hunger kicked in. I was also incredibly sore the rest of the day, and until about the Thursday after the race. I didn’t do any physical activity until the next Monday (a week later), where I did Autumn’s spin class. My black blister is finally gone as well, in case anyone is dying to know. And then there’s this on the back of my car:
It’s been exactly two weeks since the marathon, and two weeks since I’ve run. I’m not itching to get back just yet; but I know in the next week or so I’ll lace up my tennis shoes for a quick run. I love running, I just don’t love that rigorous of training. However, I will do another marathon. I said all along I didn’t know if I would, then I was a definite no, but now that I’ve run one, I want to do it all again so I have a better run. No walking. Or at least, very minimal walking. I should have definitely beat 5 hours. 11:48 pace is just not good for me personally. I know I’m not fast, but my pace should have been in the 10s. And that my friends, is the curse of the marathon bug.
No training for a while. I need to look ahead at races, but I’d love to do another half and beat 2 hours (my current PR is 2:03). I’d also love to do a fall race. Maybe in another city (that’s flatter). I’m not sure if I’ll do Pittsburgh next spring. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this race and this city, but I actually think I’d love to be a spectator. I have a really good sign I want to make! Maybe fall 2013 I will do my second full. But I don’t want to put pressure on myself. Marathon training is an investment in your time, body and spirit, so I want to make sure I’m fully ready. So for the time being, I’ll do a few 5Ks and just live life. My next 5k will be in August at North Park in Pittsburgh for the Sweet Summertime Sprint in memory of Michael Czerwien. Read his story and run it!
And for all you “halfies” contemplating if you should do a full or not: JUST DO IT. You’ll never regret running a marathon.
And now, the playlist, in 3 parts because it was SO LONG. My motto is put more songs on your playlist than you think you’ll be running in case you have an urge to skip a lot. I probably listened to about 40 songs since I paused my iPod quite a lot: