This is probably my longest post yet, but bear with me, it's worth it. :)
This was one of the best weekends of my life. My three friends and I arrived in San Francisco on Thursday night. We crawled in bed at our hotel ready for the sun to come up and the fun to begin.
T, C, N and I on a cable car.
Friday morning we all woke with excitement and tons of energy. We decided a quick running tour of the city would be just what we needed to start the weekend right. We ran down Market Street to the Embarcadero and walked around taking in the sites.
Dinner in North Beach: Carbs and Wine. What else do runners need? :)
After a day of excitement at Alcatraz and Italian at North Beach, we found ourselves Saturday morning at the Expotique and Niketown.
We met up with my marathon friend from LA. This was going to be both of our first marathons.
Of course, I had to find my name on the wall! I'm not sure which marathon thought of this first, but I think it's such an excellent idea. I kinda want to do Chicago now so I can find myself on that wall too!
We woke up early. My mom sent me an awesome text message telling me how proud she was of me. It made me tear up a little bit. My wonderful husband had left me a note inside my running shoe that I found Friday morning before our run. I purposely did not open it till race morning. I'm so lucky to have such a thoughtful, loving husband!
The other girls were a little jealous, so we decided to write each other notes! I was getting more and more nervous as I dressed and laced up my shoes. But C told me in her note to "put on my big girl spandex" and none of the girls had any doubt that I could run 26.2 miles. Best friends ever!
Dressed and ready to run in our "I eat hills for breakfast" shirts.
Walking to the corrals. Pretty sure my stomach was turning in knots.
The race was amazing. Yes, everyone was crammed into the corrals. And no, no one was lined up where they were supposed to be. We picked a spot right behind the 4:15 pacer (even though my goal was 4:45!). It took us about 14 minutes to cross the start line, but it gave us plenty of time to take some Gus and get all our "good lucks" out of the way. I was actually pretty happy that they did not split the half from the full at the start. T, C and I ran together for as long as we could. It felt like any normal Tuesday run. At the 10k, we didn't even feel like we'd gone a mile! The temperature was perfect and we were at a good pace. Mile 6 came and we lost each other in all the walkers. Up until this point, the course had been wide so that everyone had room to run even though we were crowded. The hills were narrow and there wasn't any room to get around. We wanted to run the hills because we had trained for them and we were ready. The course faltered here. There should have been room for the runners to run and those who wanted to walk the hills should have been courteous enough to move to the side. I know people will probably argue with me on that or take offense to it, but we had every right to run just like they had every right to walk.
Once the huge hill was over, the next miles went by like a breeze until already it was mile 12 and the Half folks were splitting off. The crowd finally dispersed and we were able to set a steady pace. I was still feeling good, couldn't believe I was almost halfway there. I put my headphones on and started focusing. I knew the fun was over. The spectators were gone and I was mostly alone. The park was beautiful and I was taking in the sights. Before I knew it, it was mile 16 and the half was merging in with us again. Of course this time they are sprinting for the finish line and we are just trying to maintain our slow and steady turtle pace. They only stayed with us a few hundred yards and then we were on our own running down the Great Highway.
I'm not really sure why they call it a highway. It was a horribly paved road with a slow speed limit and red lights. I really had to watch my footing and brace myself for the cold gusts of wind coming off the Pacific ocean. It started sprinkling here and the rain was cold on my face. By the time I hit mile 18 at Lake Merced, I was starting to feel it. The lake might have been pretty, but I didn't notice. I was cold, wet and running uphill again. I started walking through the water stops and drinking both water and Gatorade. It took everything I had to start running again, but I made sure my walk breaks only lasted as far as the last trash can. I kept seeing my training friend in my mind telling me I could do this. Her image was the strength I needed to keep going. The route around the lake was boring and we were running alongside traffic the whole time. I finally made it to the Chocolate mile and the last Facebook update at 35k and I was ready to kick it back into gear. My two bites of chocolate were evidently just what I needed.
I focused on my feet and just kept moving. Each mile marker just kept appearing out of nowhere. I lost track of time. It seemed to be moving quickly. At mile 25, I was miserably cold and already back out on the Great Highway, but I took off my headphones and went for it. About mile 25.5 C appeared and started running with me. She talked to me to try to distract my mind from the pain and cold. Then N appeared, jumping up and down screaming "That's my friend!" and pointing at me. I almost cried then. She joined us and they ran with me until mile 26 when they were told to leave the course. I travelled the last .2 miles in the fastest sprint I could muster. I crossed that finish line with my hands up, proud. I was exhausted, but I couldn't believe it was over. I had just run 26.2 miles.
I started crying uncontrollably. I refused help from the medic and walked to get my Tiffany's necklace. I honestly can't tell you if the fireman was hot or not. I can't even tell you what color hair he had. I just took my blue box and started walking. Someone shoved an open bag in my hand and people just started dropping things in it. Chocolate milk, G2, pineapple juice, fruit, etc. Another volunteer bent down and took my shoe tag off and I managed to muster what size finisher's shirt I needed. I was on autopilot. After I walked out of the last tent, N was there waiting for me. I laid my head on her shoulder and cried. I just ran a Marathon.
After I contained myself, we found the rest of the girls and headed for the shuttle line. Without them, I wouldn't have been able to make it. They carried all my things and walked me up the hill. My legs were stiff and tired and I was freezing. It was so nice to get on the warm bus (after over a 35 min wait) and sit down. My energy started to return and I was feeling more myself.
Our group Finisher's picture in the warmth of the hotel.
We found the sign in the trash. I didn't run with the pace group, but I figured it was appropriate.
My final time: 4:30:08
I couldn't be more excited about that time! For a girl who was only hoping for a 4:45, I was ecstatic - still am! Now that it's a few days after and my knees are fully recovered, it almost feels like a dream. But then I look around my neck and see my Tiffany's necklace and I remember I actually did it. I am a Marathoner!