So you ask..... how was it? Well I can honestly say it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It started off great. I slept great the night before and the night before the night before. I didn't sleep in, I was early, but not two early. I wasn't nervous but I wasn't overly excited either. The first 10k my pacing was spot on. I was between the 3:50 and 4 hour pace bunnies.
The factor out of my control... the weather. It was humid and much warmer than the day before. By the time I had ran 3k I was soaked with sweat. And at 4k the negative self talk crept in. I battled with those voices for another 8k. Something else happened that had never happened to me while running - EVER! My stomach betrayed me. I was concerned about becoming dehydrated, but decided to slow things down a bit and see how I felt.
Between 12 and 14k I wallowed in self pity and had talked myself out of the race. Then I saw my husband. I switched sides of the road and ran closer toward him. Fighting back tears, I was preparing myself to tell him I was pulling out. I couldn't do it anymore and was foolish to even consider trying. But when he saw me he started cheering like crazy. Yelling at me to go and telling me I looked great. At that point I realized I couldn't quit. I couldn't let him down and everyone else who had supported me throughout my training.
I thought of my parents and mother and father-in-law who had watched my kids on early Saturday mornings and left encouraging messages about the race. I thought about my co-workers who wished me luck and would listen to me talk about the race and ooh and aah over my shiny medal. I thought about the people I ran with and fought through training runs with in all kinds of horrible weather. I thought about my husband who had woken up at 5 am that morning because I needed to eat and drink that early and a bazillion other things to support my running and then I thought about my kids and the kind of example I wanted to set for them. And I continued on.
The 4 hour pace bunnies passed me and I let go of that goal. I thought I would stay ahead of the 4:15 bunnies and maybe try to beat my time in Niagara Falls even if it was only by a few minutes. Regardless of the time.. I was going to finish. I owed it to all of the people who have supported me and most importantly I owed it to myself.
I settled into my run and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the course. The bands were great and the crowds were better. It started to rain about half way through the race, but people were still out there cheering for all of the runners. Our names are on our bibs and the people in the crowd look for your name and say it to you. I think at least 25 people said my name. I thanked everyone of them and high fived all of the kids I could.
What I find inspiring about distance running is the comrade that happens between runners, how you move in and out of groups of people and how everyone on that course has a story as to how they got there. You often catch a glimpse of the elite runners if the course has an out and back portion and they have incredible focus and movement but more inspiring to me are the "normal" people who are pushing themselves to overcome the pain they are feeling to complete the 42.2 distance.
I saw a man in a wheel chair - a normal wheel chair, not a racing chair at the 30k mark. Each and every runner who paced him said "Good work" or something similar. I watched a man watching the race offer a shoulder to a woman so she could stretch and then ran along side her yelling words of encouragement. Someone at a water station said to me "Keep going little lady - you're going to finish this" when I was feeling down and out. Her words moved me because at that moment being called a 'little lady' made me feel as light as a feather and my running became effortless.
I learned from this marathon that yes - a marathon is about pushing yourself to your absolute limit to the point of mental and physical exhaustion and continuing even though you think you can't. It is the individual running that has to put one foot in front of the other for all 42.2k. But it is your loved ones who have supported you and are thinking of you during the race and the total strangers yelling for you to go that remind you that you can. To all of those people I say "Thank you".