I had visions of what this post might say when I shared my goal of running my first full marathon with you back in January. Would I be joyful and happy, still reeling from the runner’s high I got as I crossed the finish line? Or would I be able to write it at all, fearful that I might get injured or not be strong enough to finish?
For those of you who read my posts like this one and this one, you probably know that my fear came true just weeks before the gun went off for the 36th annual Chicago Marathon. I got injured.
So I rested, I rehabbed, I prayed, I got sick with the same damn cold everyone else has and then I ran. If you hadn’t gathered by now, I tend to err on the side of competition. Throw in a good cause and familial support and there was little left to do than to push through and finish the goal I had set so many months before.
And so I did. And it was miserable. I want to tell you it was awesome and believe me there were several points it was oh-so-very awesome, but I also want to be honest with you. And the pain I put my body through was anything but awesome. I do take complete credit for it however, because it was none other than me, myself and I that continued to inflict 26.43 (thanks Garmin) miles worth of pain on Sunday.
I was going to post this yesterday but between the napping and the anti-inflammatory doses, I was of neither sound mind nor body to share my experience with you. I’d like to believe that had I not run injured I might be feeling a little better today, but at least I have a small sense of appreciation for those crazies who run marathons without training at all.
The day after my first marathon went a little something like this:
And for once I’m not exaggerating. Getting out of bed yesterday took literally minutes. I could hardly bend my left leg and my calves felt like little monsters with tiny knives issued an assault from underneath my bed at each of them. A delivery driver stopped short of an intersection for me last night. Big mistake. My apologies to whomever got a cold pizza. My bad.
But let’s backtrack a few hours, shall we?
My family arrived. I was overjoyed. I wasn’t sure if they would be able to make it up for the race so to have them in town made all the difference in the world. We discussed plans for the race day, had some dinner and ice cream and then Jake showcased the t-shirts they had planned to surprise me with the next day. 3-year-olds and surprises do not mix.
Race day: 5:05 a.m.
I woke up before my alarm and ate my normal pre-run breakfast before hailing a cab downtown. I had planned on walking as a sort of warm up but my mother had something to say about her daughter walking in the city alone in the dark. Not like I’ve ever done that in my 5 years here before. Anywho, I took a cab, mom.
I stopped by the CARA event at the Hilton and then met up with a few friends from high school who were also running and in my corral. It was nice to catch up as we waited for the start. Considering there was 40-some thousand runners in this thing, the volunteers did an excellent job of getting us all through security and packed nicely in our corral in plenty of time to take in the sights and sounds of race day, including a runner-led national anthem, jet flyover and a nauseating odor of biofreeze and bengay. Race day, yay!
My wave crosses the start line. I’m a little stiff from standing in the cold for 20 or so minutes but I just try to let the crazies fly past me and settle into my run.
No way! they carpeted the Columbus bridge for us. This is going to be awesome!
And then it hit me. That oh-so-familiar sharp stab into the outside of my left knee. Between mile 1 and 2 no less.
Seriously IT band? You’re already pissed off? You couldn’t even give me 8 miles? Not 5 even? We’ve got 25 more miles together you better lock it up!
Ask and you will receive. The son-of-a locked up and screamed at me for the next 5 miles. Things like ‘haha you thought I would just go away, silly runner’ and ‘nope, still here and getting angrier by the minute.’ At mile 6 the other one joined in. I was actually relieved. At least then the pain was even on both sides. I considered how long I had pushed through the IT band pain before without relief and wondered if perhaps mile 9 or 10 was the magic number in which the IT band eventually let’s go and let’s you run.
But it wasn’t all bad. I had a few smiling moments the first half of the race as well. The frontrunners in boystown were fun to see and the lululemon cheering section was explosively loud as usual. I started taking mental notes of my favorite signs (‘smile if you peed a little’ and ‘chuck norris would never run a marathon’) Some of my best friends came to watch me at miles 4 and 11. It was upon seeing them that 1) I realized I wasn’t going to win this thing (har har har) and 2) that I might as well make the most of the time and energy others were putting into watching this race. After all, it’s tough to run a marathon, but volunteering or watching one is no easy feat.
So I decided to start walking through every water station. To thank the volunteers whenever I had a chance to. To smile and wave to those who shouted my name along the route (tip: put your name on your shirt if you run a marathon. Strangers will become your best friends). And to be grateful for each mile I was able to push through as I got closer and closer to my family.
I wouldn’t say I cruised through the halfway point but by mile 14 I still had a slightly decent pace. Believe it or not my legs hurt less when I ran faster for the first half. Normally, I would start to get emotional at this point and I did nearly cry at the 13.1 mark when I passed the bagpipers but that was mostly because I knew I still had 13 more to go.
Miles 14-16 were nothing but happy because I had these bright smiling (and model-ready) faces to feed me ibuprofen and hug me. Running through charity village and my friends Trista, Paul and their cute baby girl also made for happy moments as we entered into the second half of the race.
So here’s where it gets fun. I often run through Little Italy. I really enjoy it actually. The smells of Italian food, the friendly faces. I had just passed an aid station and was coming up on mile 18 when my nose started running like crazy.
Oh great my cold is back. Wait a second. What’s with all this blood? Oh isn’t this just lovely. I can add first bloody nose to the laundry list of firsts today. Just great. Oh well at least my face will match my limp now.
That’s right. I had the privilege of running another mile and a half with a bloody nose. A bystander gave me a wad of Starbucks napkins, bless his heart. The race guide told me the next aid station was just a few yards away. The nurses at distant aid station swore I didn’t have blood all over my face. I’m convinced they lied to me. Just like the race guide and the people who told me I had “great form” and “looked strong” at miles 22 and 24.
Liars! Very kind liars but liars, all of you!
But there were happy points along the way. Like the time I nearly bear-hugged the man who was handing out orange slices in China Town as he was my only hope for getting this blood taste out of my mouth and stomach. Or when I literally broke down in laughter after realizing we had to run all the way to US Cellular field before making our way back North to the finish.
From mile 23 on I secretly reveled in the fact that everyone else was starting to feel the level of pain I had been feeling since the first 5K. I know it’s mean but that’s what happens in survival mode. It was every man or woman for herself time as runners were pulling up with cramps left and right. For once I felt like my fueling strategy was paying off. My IT bands had stopped working miles ago, but my calves were barely hanging on, scooting along like an old lady on her way to a high-stakes bridge game.
By mile 24 I couldn’t make to the next water station without alternating running and walking. Only problem was walking felt just about as bad as running at that point. I had just about given up near mile 25 when I determined that 800 meters meant TWO LAPS around a track and I surely only had enough gas for a 200. It was at that moment that I heard my name from an area pretty sparse with spectators. A friend and frequent marathoner was there like a little marathon angel and gave me some very encouraging words when I needed them most.
Unlike my other races, there was no final kick. No overwhelming feeling of elation when I saw the big screen or the stupid Mount Roosevelt that stood between me and the finish line. Just sheer determination and knowing that as soon as I got there the pain would start to fade from my body.
But I finished. With a watch time of 4:36 and a chip time of 4:53. Knowing that those 17 minutes I stopped to hug my family and friends and thank volunteers (plus go to the bathroom and clot a bloody nose) were completely worth the extra time.
I shared this on Facebook shortly after the race and I think it’s worth another view. Because even though I didn’t have the most joyous and happy marathon experience, the experience itself left a lasting impact.
Today I ran a marathon. Strangers told me I looked strong when I clearly looked anything but. Volunteers kept me hydrated when I longed for something to drink. Family and friends told me to keep going when all I wanted to do was stop. If you want to see the good in humanity go out and run a marathon. Today I may have run a marathon, but this overwhelming sense of pride is a result of what I saw along the way.
21 thoughts on “This is not a joyful marathon recap”
Blood and screaming leg bands, an inspiration to us all. Way to go Little Girl !!!
Congratulations on finishing your first marathon! Sounds like you had a doozy, but that means you deserve even more props for overcoming it all! Mine didn’t go as planned, but I managed to finish.
Thank you for the kind words Glenn. Congratulations to you on finishing. It’s no easy feat!
Congratulations! That is an amazing time and to think you did it in pain every step – wow. I ran Chicago as well and it was my first marathon!! Absolutely loved every minute of it and it is truly a fantastic event.
Thanks Ani! I’m so glad you had a great run! It is an outstanding event and I am very grateful to have participated in it this year. You should be so proud of yourself!
Your story gave me chills!!! You inspire me. Congrats on finishing!!! Great time, too! Hope you heal quickly.
HOLY COW! What an accomplishment. I was already impressed that you did the race but now to read this and hear about all the obstacles you went through, and that you stopped for 17 minutes, and STILL got an awesome time?! That’s amazing! Good for you, Sarah! Nice job.
Thanks Deanna. I don’t know if I’d say awesome but I definitely don’t regret the stoppage time 🙂 Don’t let my experience deter you from trying a full. The training is very time-consuming but the race is worth it.
Congratulations, Sarah! What a huge accomplishment to complete a marathon. I have been a spectator/cheerleader at three marathons. I’m always amazed at what it takes to train and complete one.
I like your genuine writing style. It’s honest and refreshing. Best wishes from Jill’s Mom
Thank you Mary Jo! That’s so sweet of you to say. Not all of my posts are as melodramatic I promise 🙂
Great post! Congrats on finishing through the pain! If I knew you were running I would have had a mimosa ready for you at mile 14
Thanks Mike. Had I known there was booze at mile 14, I may not have finished!