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26.2 miles and so much more

Although I was stuck on the couch for most of Friday and Saturday, I kept an open mind about the marathon. In the midst of sniffling, coughing and trying to clear my stuffed up head with green tea and probiotics, I kept telling myself that I don't have to run 26.2 miles, I get to run for 3 1/2 hours.
So, with my positive attitude and very little sleep for 2 days straight, I woke up at 515 on Sunday morning and started my morning with tea and after my coffee was ready I got dressed and ate my oatmeal, banana and raisins in the car, on the way to the race. The race venue was just 4 miles down the road so I didn't need to rush to the race but I was a bit nervous about finding a parking space at Bolles High School.
After I arrived to the race I headed straight to the restrooms. I knew my nutrition wasn't the best over the past few days because my head cold made me feel a bit nauseous when I thought about food. I did manage to get in eggs, toast, veggies and fruit on Saturday but I felt a little carb-depleted going into the race.
As I stood on the starting line I only saw a few familiar races. I saw my good friend Kellie who is suffering from a hip fracture. Nonetheless, she always brightens my spirit.
At 7am the gun went off and off 2000+ people went. The half marathon and marathon started together and I stuck to my plan to run at a 8 min pace, rather than trying to keep up with all the fast runners.
The first few miles seemed to go by really slowly. Even though my pace was fine and I felt ok, it was just really really boring. I had ran parts of the course tons of times so perhaps I knew exactly where I was and each and every turn reminded me how much more I had to go until the next mile.
By the time I got to mile 5, I used the next 2 miles to create an excuse to quit the race. I was just so besides myself of how I could finish the race. I kept thinking, WOW-A marathon is a LONG race and I am not enjoying this. I hoped that I would see Karel on his bike and I could hop on and get a ride home. However, I knew that Karel was on a 90mile ride, far far away from me. Then I wished that i had my radio. Although I never run a race with a radio, this was the first time I actually wanted my music that I always use when I train. Although I was contemplating quiting, I felt the endorphins around mile 7. So, I changed my perspective and decided I would just try to hang in there. If anything, I was still on pace for a 3:35 finish and I had built in about 2 min of cushion time in case I needed to slow down in the end.
Then, the worst happened. At mile 8 my brain and legs stopped working together. I felt great, just had a gel (at mile 7) and I was getting powerade after every aid station. But, my legs were not cooperating. My hip flexers just stopped working and I couldn't get my legs to move right. It is hard to explain but I just thought of all the Ironman DVD's I have seen and seeing people falling to the ground right before the finish line. I have ran 8 miles on an empty stomach and no fluids during the run and felt great but why now!?! I didn't want to be forced to stop so rather than just trying to hang on until I couldn't go anymore, I decided I would need to walk a little. So, I ran to the aid station and walked for about 30 sec. I decided to start running again and decided to hit the grass rather than the concrete. I love running on trails and the grass and I felt a lot better. Still at mile 9, I wished I would have just done the half marathon. I hadn't even gotten to half way and I was just filled with all sorts of emotions. The negative thoughts were hard to ignore and although my nose was running a bit, that was the least of my concerns. MY nutrition was going fine and when I convinced myself that I only had 3 more miles until half way, I decided to add in 20 sec walk breaks at the aid stations. So, I walked for 20 sec at each aid station and that really helped break up the miles and to keep my body going. I forgot about my goal time and by mile 11 I was at my goal pace and I had no more cushion. Bummer.
Mile 12 was in Mandarin park and I was starting to feel much better. I picked up the pace and then the worst happened. As I was passing a group of people on the left, I tripped. Yep, right on my knees and I was frozen on the ground. Some people asked if I was ok and luckily, my sunglasses hid my tears as I toughed it up and tried to run again. So with blood running down my legs and my hands burning from the fall, the running didn't come so naturally after my knees took a big hit on the ground. After another break to walk I was just so mad at everything that had happened for the first 12 miles that I just started running. I ran and ran and ran. There was lots of spectators around so I had to wipe the blood off my legs at an aid station so I wouldn't be the talk of the crowd but after the 13 mile aid station, it was time to finish the race just like I had intended to do before I signed up for the race.
By mile 14 I was heading back and I just look forward to each mile. I would run, walk for 20 sec and run again. Sometimes I would need to walk twice but I tried to keep it around 10-20 sec. of walking. I was passing lots of people and I was pleased with my pace.
As the miles came, 15, 16, 17 I thought about all the people who may not be able to run right now. Kellie with a stress fracture, marathon virgin friends who are amazed how a person can run 26.2 miles (I asked myself the same thing as I was running this race). Then I thought about Kate and all my northerner friends who are stuck on treadmills, inside their homes and who would love the warm weather we had for the Jacksonville marathon (it was a bit hot for a marathon in Dec.). I then thought about Karel, Campy and Smudla (my fan club) who could care less how I finish, so long as I am there to give love to them all. I've learned that a race is a good race when you finish it. It is great to have goal times and to train hard for a race but in the end, somewhere between pain and wanting to quit, there is an inner strength that you have to find to finish a race. For me, however, it took me 13 miles to find this strength.
The best part of the race happened at mile 20. I was looking at my watch and I thought that I was at mile 19. I kept running and I just hoped, so badly, that I was at mile 20 rather than 19. However, I was pretty sure that I would see mile 19...and when I saw 20 I think I yelled out loud...THANK YOU!!!
I knew I could make it 6 more miles but I knew it wouldn't be easy. I just started to break down the miles and kept with my walking strategy. It began to get hot when I got to 2 1/2 hours but at 3 hours and 6 more miles to go, it was a long morning.
There was little excitment in the last few miles, except for the last 2 miles when I really wasn't sure if I could make it 2 more miles. As I continued to pass people and reach mile 25, I told myself, 10 more minutes...that is it and I will be finished!
When I made it to the track of the HS and finished my last .2 miles, I did it. I finished my first solo marathon since Jan 2006. There was nothing easy about this race and my 3:45 finish time was a great time for all that I went through. If I saw 3:59 I would have been fine with that as well. I finished, I got my medal and now I can wear my t-shirt for the Jacksonville marathon.
I was 9th in my age group, 180th overall and 23rd female.
Here are the splits:
Finish:3:45.48 day didn't end after the marathon. Please stay tuned for my horrible afternoon with a dog who ate 6 ounces of chocolate when I was gone. Campy is fine but it was a tough day for us both yesterday.