I ran the Maine Marathon today. (Yep, that’s what I said…)

I signed up for the Maine marathon last spring, mainly to have a focus over the spring, summer, and into the fall. This was before Janet and Margaret wanted to head back to Philly.  So, when we signed up for the Philadelphia marathon, I planned to switch my registration to the Maine Half Marathon instead.  Janet had signed up for the 1/2 marathon to use it as a training run (she did that last year, too.)  But I never switched.  For the Maine Marathon, you can switch events right up until the race, so I figured I’d just fix the registration when I picked up my race number the day before.

But then a bunch of things happened.

First, unlike the Maine Marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon requires an event switch way in advance – for the November 23rd race, the last day to switch from full to half or the other way around was on September 30.  Due to the reality and demands of life, Janet was feeling a wee bit behind in training mileage, but had made peace with that and was planning to do some catch up last week. And then she got sick – really sick – with pneumonia.  No way she could do any running at all.  Janet had to decide last Tuesday whether or not she could go the distance in Philly, and she made the wise decision to switch to the half marathon instead.  And then, Margaret needed to do the same.  So, for really good reasons, both of my Philly Marathon teammates needed to take the 1/2 distance registration instead.  I’ve got a lot of miles in the bank, so I decided to stay on for the full Philly.

So, since Janet has pneumonia, there was no way she was going to run the Maine Half Marathon today. NO way. My marathon training plan called for 20 miles today.  I was dreading those 20 miles – it’s a long way to go alone.  So, when I went to pick up my race bib yesterday, I kept my full marathon registration. I figured I’d just go for it. No pressure, no plan. Walk if necessary. Take advantage of the other runners’ company and the fanfare and just clock in the mileage.

This morning, I got up early and got to the race an hour early.  To give you some perspective on the difference between congestion at a 3,000 runner race (Maine) versus a 30,000 person race (Philadelphia), the port-a-potties are actually a helpful gauge:

Here was the potty line 1 hr before race start this morning:

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By contrast, here is the potty line at Philadelphia last year, 1 hr before the start:

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*Anyway*, I was looking for some friends at the starting line. My friend John, was running the 1/2 today and he’s pretty tall, so I was hoping I’d find him milling about the start. Nope. I was also looking for my college friend, Wendy, who was running the full and I knew what she was wearing, so was really looking for her, too. Nope.

I got in line, the canon went off, and I set off to just cover the distance. No pressure. It was gorgeous weather, gorgeous views (go MAINE!), and I just did my thing. One of the nice things about this race is that that it is an out-and-back (like Philly), so if you watch carefully, you can see those ahead of you pass you going the opposite direction on their return.  I was SO focused on the returning runners, but I never saw either of them – too fast!!

Because I was just running for mileage, I took the time to take a potty-stop at about mile 8.  I walked through most water stops. I stopped and stretched my calves along the curb (multiple times.)

And then, I had a very awesome experience. There was only ONE wheelchair competitor in this race. Her name was Carla.  I ran up behind Carla who was pushing herself up a particularly awful hill. Runners going by her on both sides.  She was nearly at a stop, just trying to keep her chair from going backward. She was amazingly determined – and STRONG.  I asked her if she wanted company to reach the top and she said, “YES – and you can yell at me if you want!”  So, I walked next to her and talked to her (not yelling!), encouraging her.  We were slow. So slow that my watch went onto “auto-pause” because it thought I had stopped.  But, it was totally worth it. Carla made it to the top of the hill and went cruising down the other side full speed. I picked up my gait again – amazingly inspired. Truly amazing.  It was enough to get me through the next 15 miles.

THEN, just after that, I saw JANET waiting for me on side! Janet – the one sick with pneumonia – made her way out to the course to cheer for me.  That’s an example of terrific friendship, and I was so happy to see her! She was on the side for me TWO times, which was a huge pick-me-up in my step and determination.

Here is the photo Janet took of me as I ran past her:

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Shortly after that, I ran past Janet’s husband, Michael. He wasn’t running the race – but he had been part of the volunteer race crew before the start. I’m not sure what he was doing – we were pretty far out and he was running by me the opposite direction – I think just getting his own long run in for the day. (He’s also running the full Philly.)  He saw me and yelled happy, encouraging things, still yelling to me long after we’d passed one another. I loved that.

So, just like last year, I made it to mile 20, the infamous “wall”, and still felt pretty good. This year,  I assumed it was because I had given myself those little breaks along the way and might be able to cruise on through to 26.2.  Not so.  Just like last year, mile 23 was my wall. And it was BIG.  But I kept pushing, grateful to have my body working for me, even if working a little less efficiently.

But – I made it. And, just as I crossed the finish line, the announcer had time to see my number and call out my name on the loudspeaker. I felt like a champion. 🙂

I finished 1 minute off of my Philadelphia time last year. This is pretty astonishing considering I had more training mileage completed before Philly last year, and I took all those (brief) stops today. But, I think I am stronger this year. I am definitely faster in my training runs. So, I think I overall ran well even though the time might not show it. And I felt really proud of crossing the line at the end.

A very nice stranger at the finish line took this picture of me:

 

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Onward!

 

(P.S. – my friend, Wendy, qualified for Boston with her time today! That’s very cool, and very fast. Go Wendy!)

Tough and tougher.

Last year at this time, I was coming up on 15-16 mile runs and was just plain scared. Scared about the training distances,scared about the running schedule during heavy work travel,  scared about cramps, tendonitis, fatigue, and just basically scared that I wouldn’t be able to finish the actual marathon.  This year, with one marathon in the bank, Janet and I both know we can get to the finish line. This year, it’s more about “finesse.”  Or, maybe not finesse, actually. Maybe more like an “organized” finish. And, by that, I mean my body being more organized in receiving motion signals from my brain, getting my feet in front of each other without flailing around and shuffling through the finish. We’re aiming for “strong” finishes. I’m not sure we’ve defined exactly what that means – we’re allowing the training to help sort that out.  “Strong” might mean faster, or less dilly dallying at the water stops, or a pacing plan by intervals, or whatever. I’m not sure yet.

But, this week was a real test for us both. Janet in is the midst of the THE busiest two weeks of her year – long work days, every day, managing a million things at once. That she can even think about scheduling a long run with me is a testament to her strength. I did a round trip – late night drive – from ME to PA and back to pick up Ellie from the Poconos, to get her back in time to have 48 hrs to say hi, do laundry, repack, and leave to drive back to PA for her 3rd year of college. Plus, I had work when I wasn’t driving to and from PA.  And I was fighting a cold at the end of the week. I was feeling a bit pressed, to say the least.  I had to toughen up to get it all done.

As a side note, knowing that I had a challenging week and heavy workload in Maine, I did manage to crank out a run in PA. My hotel was in the middle of a very busy area, no safe opportunity to run on a road and the treadmills were all being used. So, I went outside and took advantage of the hotel being part of a huge office park and I just looped up/down/around all the parking lots until I got some miles done.  I had some time in between my run and when Ellie was free to get picked up, so I hit the diner across the street – this place:

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Just the right breakfast for a full week and long drive ahead.

Back home, I had packed work days and then had to swing by the hardware store to buy a maul.  I had been borrowing Janet’s but I had to return it and I still needed one at my place. (Who knew so many outdoor projects would require a maul? But many do.)

I asked the sales guy at the True Value to show me where the mauls were located. This is how the conversation went:

Him:  “You want a maul?”

Me:  “Yes”

Him: “Not an axe?”

Me:  “An axe would be OK, but I really need a maul.”

We go to where they are located… and he looks at me…

Him: “Are you the one swinging it?”

Me:  “Yes.”

Him:  “Well, we have several sizes…” as he rests his hand on the small one.

I pulled out the one I wanted.  What I really wanted to say as a follow up was this:

ME:  “Dude.  I obliterated the pounding block  pounding a 4 ft mailbox stake into the ground with a MAUL like THIS.  This is the damage I can do when I swing a MAUL this THIS SIZE. Dude.”

(Evidence of my toughness below:)

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Today, Janet and I planned to run long.  I hadn’t been sleeping well and I don’t think Janet has been sleeping at all…  Still trying to get rid of the cold, I had to load up with cold medicine before heading out.  We stayed together for about 6 miles and then broke up to follow different routes/distances.  Each of us in our heads. Each of us trying to catch up in training. Each of us trying to shake off a crazy week and figure out how to manage the day ahead, whatever planned and unplanned challenges might arise.  At mile 13, I was hoping someone would drive by and offer me a ride.  (No luck.)   By mile 14, I was determined to get to mile 16.  It was tough, but I finished.  (Actually, I finished at 15.9, but I’m giving myself the .1 in mileage on account of the cold medicine. 🙂  )

I plopped in the ice bath, got out, and got on with my day.

What I have learned in marathon prep, but also as it applies to life, is that however tough I think I need to be, I might need to be tougher than that. And I can be that tough.

Onward.