26.2 with Donna

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  Yesterday, I officially became a marathoner. I’m still really, really stoked. Probably more so today that yesterday, because yesterday I was tired and sore and kind of spacey.

So here we go. I’m kind of terrible at race reports, so here are the highlights of my day.

E and I had been planning to run this race together. I asked him long before I ever decided to do this marathon if he would run my first one with me. He agreed, and we’ve done most of our training together. So on Thursday night, E came down with an awful case of food poisoning. As a result, it was pretty touch and go, right up until the start line on Sunday, whether he would be able to run. Friday after work I went to the Expo (let me tell you how much I *love* a good race expo) to pick up our packets and do a little browsing.  Needless to say, a little browsing turned into a new pair of Saucony running capris plus two BondiBands, which I have heard so many good things about but never got around to ordering.  Upon getting home, we discovered that they had given E a women’s half-marathon shirt, necessitating a trip back to the Expo Saturday morning. 

The first part of the course you go over a bridge on a highway which takes you to the beach. We had gorgeous, gorgeous weather for this race. Because of where the race begins, there is no parking anywhere near it, meaning you have to pick one of a dozen or so locations to park your car and take a shuttle to the start line. We live fairly close to where the race started, so it was a bit out of our way to drive to the shuttle stop, but that was ok. I had been stressing about what to wear for the race, since it would be in the 30s when we started but 60 by the time we were done.  Meg talked through some of it with me, since I tend to err on the side of ridiculously hot within a mile of running, so I wore capris, a long sleeve shirt and a pullover. I neglected to take into account the two hours we would be standing around outside prior to the race start and I was freezing. Shivering, teeth chattering, freezing.  There was some issue with the shuttles (and about a bajillion people at our shuttle stop) so we didn’t get to the start line until about 10 minutes prior to the starting gun. We got there, threw our bags in bag check and found our place in the corral, between the 5:30 and 6:00 pace groups. Then the gun went off and away we went!

Once over the bridge, you find yourself at the beaches, where most of the race is run.  You run through neighborhoods and the beach community, even doing three miles on the sand. The area is where my grandparents lived when I was growing up, so it’s an area I’m rather fond of. There was also a lot of crowd support through these neighborhoods. Jacksonville loves any excuse to tailgate, and this was no exception. In addition to the race-sanctioned water stops (which were well spaced, located every half-mile to three-quarters of a mile) people came outside of their homes, setting up lawn chairs, stereos and tables full of water and oranges and other fruits.  People also decorated with banners and balloons, all in pink for breast cancer, and I thought many times it’s one of the only races I’ve ever run where fans and spectators are thanking each other.   There was one awesome woman around mile 15 who was sitting in a lawn chair by the roadside.  She took off her wig when we passed by and said “Thank you, thank you from a survivor, my wig goes off to you!”  There were live bands too, which was really neat and lots of people with fun, creative signs.  My dad, his girlfriend and my aunt met us at mile 10, so we got gels from them and gave them our jackets – the day warmed up quick with the sun in full force and no wind.

My legs were a little more sore by mile 10 or 11 than I had expected, but the miles were going by quickly.  Poor E, still recovering from his food poisoning, was in pain for most of the race, but was doing his best to make sure we finished together.  He really gave it everything he had.  As an athlete in general, he amazes and inspires me with his discipline and dedication, and his overall mad skills.  Yesterday really blew me away, because I could tell how much it was costing him to do the race, but he was relentless in his desire to finish.

And then suddenly, we were over the bridge and off the highway and the finish line was in site.  It was awesome.  We picked up the pace for that last little sprint and we were done.  I had finished a marathon.  My aunt got video of us during the marathon and crossing the finish line, so I’ll post those soon. My dad and his girlfriend got some great pics of us as well, so more of those to come.  I was so happy they were there to share the experience with us.We saw the family again around mile 16, and then we were on our way back towards the finish.  Around mile 19 is when I really started to hurt. My right knee felt tweaky, my hamstrings were hurting and by mile 22, my toes were killing me, which is a problem I never have.  Then we were back on the highway headings towards the finish.  At that point we were both pretty tired, so we alternated running a minute, walking a minute.  There were still a lot of people out cheering us on.  A couple schools’ cross country teams were out, and did the whole tunnel of high fives thing.  I have no idea what this is called, but E said it is part of the marathon experience.

Today, my hips and right knee are pretty sore – I’m doing a great job at demonstrating what a hobble looks like.  My toes did get pretty shredded yesterday, so I have them all bandaged up today.  But overall, I feel pretty good.

Favorite signs from yesterday:  “We <3 Boo [insert pictures of bees here]”

Most inspiring moment:  Watching an older gentleman on arm-brace crutches complete the marathon.

Overall touching moment: Realizing how many woman I know, several of whom have been close to be, who have been affected by breast cancer, and then reading all the shirts and signs of other people running the race for women who had been touched by the disease.

Creepiest moment:  The water station with the guy dressed as a leprechaun clown, who was passing out water, completely stone faced.

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