This weekend I ran my first marathon (!). I started training for it back in August, in the middle of Houston heat. I ran 3 half-marathons from 2010–11. The Houston half was my first long-distance race, and I was hooked. The Houston race is flat and fast, but the Austin, with it’s hills, hills, and more hills, has far better race support. The whole city comes out to celebrate the craziness of 18,000 runners. Home to Lance Armstrong and legions of hippies, the Austin marathon celebrates the best of both cultures. So even though Austin is technically more challenging than Houston, the Austin race feels easier because there’s always someone in a thong holding out free beers cheering you on. Actually, I don’t think Leslie made an appearance. Unless he was running himself.
My only goal for the race was to finish, which took some of the pressure off when face-to-face with another ugly hill. After a lasagna dinner at Vespaio, I went to bed at 8 pm, knowing that I would wake up a half-dozen times before the race began. I only had a small bout of insomnia at 2:30 am, when the 6th St. revelers left the bars. I went back to sleep and woke up for good at 5 am. Husband wrote me a good luck msg in soap on the hotel mirror, and with a skip in my step, I walked the half-dozen blocks to the Capitol building. There were already volunteers and runners milling about. I sat down and tried not to use up too much nervous energy. After an unexpected downpour on Saturday, the weather was perfect and cool Sunday morning—46 and clear. I had a long-sleeve shirt over my racing gear and I envied the runners with those tinfoil heat blankets. I people-watched for the next hour, watching the sun slowly rise over the city I love.
At 6:55, we (mostly) sang the National Anthem, and at 7 AM, the official race began. I was back with the slower runners, so we mostly huddled together for ten minutes before breaking into a slow jog to the start line 14 minutes into the race.
The first few turns are mostly flat, and then the race begins the slow climb up Congress. Hundreds of spectators turned up to watch us stream past—thousands of runners, some decked out in sequined tops and purple leopard-stripe pants, others in yellow-pink-purple gear indicating they were running for a cancer survivor.
The first 6 miles are mostly a blur because I was trying not to think. I let my training take over, trusting my legs and the gatorade and Clif Shot Bloks to take me where I needed to be. Once we turned the corner and started heading downtown, the downhill slopes helped me increase my pace and eventually catch up with two friends who were running the half. We chatted and gossiped for the next two or three miles, running into Husband and Brother-in-Law on Cesar Chazez.
After the Enfield split, I was on my own again. Husband and BIL were posted on Bull Creek between miles 14 and 15, and at the top of a wicked hill on White Rock. I saw them again at Northcross Mall with two Austin friends, and, thinking that I wouldn’t see them again until the finish line, the long, slow hills of the marathon began mentally. My little cheering squad of four appeared magically at mile 21, and, now that I was on the mostly downhill slope, I started to feel better emotionally. I almost started crying at mile 23 (I don’t know why) and the jog through the UT campus in the last few miles was the gentle push I needed to finish. Husband and team (now joined by SIL) waited for me 400 meters from the finish line at the top of the sadistic climb at the end. I gasped and could have gone into a full-blown crying jag, but the finish line was in sight and I wanted my Silipint. Then, before I knew it, the marathon was over. I ran a marathon.
It still seems unreal to me. I finished in 5:25:and change, and there were still scores crossing the finish line as my team packed me into my car to go home. I took a shower at a friend’s house and we ate the victory dinner at Maudie’s Mexican restaurant.
It was the best run I could have asked for. My left knee, the one that gives me troubles on the half marathon, did not flare up, and my calves handled the hills like a champ. There were always people around me, runners limping and struggling, and I felt grateful that my body did not break down. I mean, I was in pain, don’t get me wrong. But it’s the pain that comes from a hard workout, not the body falling apart.
I’ve been limping around for most of today. I hopped on a stationary bike yesterday for 5 minutes and today for 20. Hopefully tomorrow I can walk without a limp. I got a minor sunburn, but otherwise, I feel like I’m in pretty good shape. It still feels unreal though—I ran a marathon. It doesn’t seem like it happened although my body is screaming that yes, yes it did.
Life goal, check. Bring on the next challenge!