“When you cross that finish line, no matter how slow, no matter how fast, it will change your life forever.”
488 miles, 16 weeks, and 1 pair of running shoes ago… I started this journey to train for and then run in my first marathon at the inaugural running of the Lansing Marathon, just down the road from where I go to university.
April 22, 2012, Race Day, was finally here.
I woke up at 4:00am. I could still hear my fellow college students spreading out the drunken fun from the night before into the early morning hours. Tried and true breakfast of oatmeal with MRM vanilla whey protein powder and peanut butter. I got my marathon spirits high by watching “Spirit of the Marathon” until it was time to leave, pick up my mom, and meet my dad at the starting line.
As race day approached, people kept asking me what my goals for the race were.
A - FINISH the race
It was my first marathon and so ultimately I just wanted to conquer a distance that I had never done before. But, I also had another goal, a time goal.
A+ - 4:0x
I wanted to finish in 4 hours. I knew that with a 9-ish minute/mile pace that I could get it, but when it came down to it, would I be able to keep it together and do it?
B – 4:30
Erring on the side of caution, I told my family anywhere from 4 – 4.5 hours. I wanted them there to see me finish and didn’t want to risk them not being there because of pace was off. Luckily, I thought to buy a SPIbelt to hold my phone and text L (and Twitter) my mileage once an hour.
Once we got there, most of the runners huddled in the lobby of the Radisson (mad props!) to keep warm and go to the bathroom. Temperatures were around 30 degrees at the start, so sunlight and warmth was a luxury. I finally lined up about 10 minutes before 8, even though the race didn’t actually get going until about 5-6 minutes after that when the anthem was song and the mayor and race director had spoken.
Mile 1-3: We started in front of the Accident Fund building and headed east on Michigan Ave for about the first 3 miles. Sunny and uneventful. At this point I was sticking to my “run 2 miles-walk 1 minute” technique and walking through the water stations (every 2-ish miles and Port-A-Potties every 4-ish, which I did not partake in) and doing it pretty easily. Started off pretty fast, around 8:17 pace.
Mile 4-6: Once we reached the western edge of Michigan State’s campus, we turned south for a scoch and head west over the highway. This was really when the “flat” course that we were promised started to be called into question. The overpasses were a bit of a struggle, but my go-to mantra and fellow runners kept me going strong. 8:28 pace.
Mile 7-9: We headed into the agricultural portion of Michigan State just south of the main campus. The wind really started to pick up here, and continued heading east following Mt. Hope Road. I was still keeping on pace and still following the 2-1 technique and hitting every water station. I think that this was even the portion when we got to see beef cattle! 8:53 pace.
Miles 10-11: Going out to the easternmost edge of the route, we finally got off the main roads and entered into a neighborhood. One of the trainers at my gym, Jess, was waiting at mile 11 (another client was running the full, too) and it really helped my spirit to see her and have her shout my name. 9:03 pace.
Mile 12-13.1: The neighborhood was really fun to run through. Lots of families were sitting on their front lawns and cheering us on! I ran a couple of miles with a 59-year-old who qualified for Boston 2013 and will be repping the 60-year-old age group with an awesome 3:45 time. Seeing the halfway mark was definitely a sight for sore eyes. 8:53 pace. Half time: 1:53:28
Mile 14-15: Finally done going south! Kind of felt like the middle of nowhere even though we were passing people’s homes. 9:22 pace.
Mile 16-20: This. Was. Death. The wind decided to shift direction apparently and all of us runners felt like we were barely moving. Running nearly 4 miles on College Road into a headwind was soul crushing. This was when I seriously considered stopping and just walking the rest of the way. With the agricultural land, there wasn’t much cover from the wind. L and my mom were waiting for me at Mile 18 ready to take pictures and cheer me on, but it was tough going none the less, and my body wanted to quit. Switched to walking 1 minute after every 1 mile. 9:51 pace.
Mile 21-22: Finally out of the wind, but the damage was already done. My calves hurt and I knew that my pace was on the way way down. I nearly burst into tears when I saw my dad at the corner of Forest Road and Aurelius right by Mt. Hope Cemetery, I was so happy to see him there cheering me on. 10:37 pace.
Mile 23-24: Across the river from Potter Park Zoo. Trying to hang in there with my calves on fire. 1 mile run. 1-2 minutes walk. Can’t stop because then I might not get going again. Slow and staying slow. 10:39 pace.
Mile 25-26: I knew that I was close and I couldn’t give up. We had a few good downhill portions to keep us moving forward. Going under the highway rather than over it. We finally re-entered downtown Lansing. 10:22 pace.
Mile 26.2: I saw the finish line, and I ran. I don’t know what came over me, or where the energy came from, but all of a sudden it was like I couldn’t feel my legs and I just let it rip. I sprinted that last bit. Literally, I topped out at 9.0 mph as I got on my toes and let the adrenaline overtake me. This was mine. This was for me.
I crossed that finish line in 4 hours 5 minutes and 46 seconds. This was good enough to earn me the overall ranking of 169/404 total finishers and 2/15 in my age group (F 20-24).
After I got my medal and my space blanket, I started looking around for my family. I wanted a hug dammit!
My dad got to me first and I broke down. I sobbed tears of joy and pride in what I had accomplished. How hard that I worked for this and how happy I was that they were there for me to witness it. And he held me tight and let me cry, saying how proud of me that he was. Once L and mom finally caught up the initial flood of emotions had pretty much subsided, thankfully.
I don’t like to think of myself as a huge crier, but I had been holding back tears several times out on the course and it was about time that I let them go. Ya know, when breathing wasn’t quite as important.
My calves were killer. I had a huge knot in my left calf muscle that one of the chiropractors worked on for awhile. That was almost enough to make me cry, too, but for far different reasons. Needless to say, I’m stretching, rolling, and icing that baby tonight. Ouch!
Afterwards, L had promised me that we could check out a frozen yogurt place that I had heard of on the way home, Sugar Berry. Since we had driven my mom, she of course joined us.
It. Was. Awesome. Seriously, obsessed now and L may regret ever having agreed to let me go.
And I got the biggest cup. Hey, I just burned about 3,000 kcal, I think I deserve it, yes? Plus, it’s healthy…ish… if you don’t look at the toppings EVER.
Back home, showered, and happy.
All in all, this has been such a defining moment in my life. I don’t regret a second of it, even the pain and discomfort, that these past 4 months have brought me. That medal was worth every penny spent and every footstep taken.
While the wind wasn’t exactly welcomed, and I probably could have broken 4 hours if they weren’t gusting up to 20 mph, I don’t regret my time at all. No disappointment. ZERO. And I applaud the race organizers. This was not just my first marathon, but the city of Lansing’s first marathon as well. I can definitely see this race growing in popularity and would recommend it to others looking for a spring race.
And in case you’re wondering: no, I do not plan on running another one. But at least I can say:
I AM A MARATHONER.