Warning: This a long post, read it anyway, but know it’s one of my longer blog posts. (See the double meaning in title now? get it? haha)
About a year ago, after finishing my first half marathon, I decided I wanted to run a marathon. And I didn’t want to run just any marathon, but the Big Sur International Marathon (rated one of the best marathon’s by Runner’s World Magazine). So I counted down the days and signed up as soon as I could. I started training in November and was doing great right up until the end of January when I ran my first 18-miler and then promptly got sick. I never got back into a good training routine, never ran more than 18 miles again before Sunday’s race; basically, life and school got in the way. But dang it, I was gonna run this race. And I had one goal (I abandoned my 4 hour goal long ago) and that was to finish.
As many of you might know, back in March part of Highway 1 collapsed. This forced the race organizers to change the course from a point-to-point starting in Big Sur and ending in Carmel to an out-and-back. Many people were disappointed with the change (me too), but hey things happen. Let me tell you, this was a BEAUTIFUL course despite the changes.
I headed down to the Monterey Conference Center Saturday morning. It was already super busy even though I got there right as it opened. I picked up my bib (with my name on it, which I love), my bus ticket, and headed down to the expo floor. I usually never buy anything at expos, I’m poor and I have good running stuff. But I splurged this time buying a running skirt (love it!), a headband (eh), and my Big Sur finisher’s shirt… premature? Yes, but I worried I wouldn’t be able to get it the next day and I wanted a short sleeve one in addition to the long sleeve one they gave us. The rest of the day I chilled and carbed it up (pasta, pasta, and more pasta). I tried to go to bed early but still didn’t get to sleep until after 10pm.
At 3:02am my alarm went off. I somehow pulled myself out of bed, dressed, and had a cup of coffee. I toasted my bagel and put PB on it (eating it on the drive down to Monterey). Once parked, I climbed aboard and soon was surrounded by other nervous, excited, cold, and talkative runners (not me – something about 4:45 am makes me uninterested in conversations). We arrived at Marathon Village and I tried to find a place to hang out for the next hour and a half. After roaming around, I saw Safeway was open and along with several hundred other runners hung out there until 6:30. I then dropped off my warm clothes at the sweat check and lined up for the race. I wasn’t nervous, I just wanted to start.
The first 9 miles I felt great! I had planned to follow the Jeff Galloway plan to Run-Walk-Run. Basically you run a mile and then walk a minute. In these first nine miles I didn’t exactly follow that routine, doing more of a run two miles, walk a minute. Mile nine I had to make a port-a-potty break. Let me tell you, the BSIM has more clean, open, available port-a-potties than any race I’ve ever seen. I only had to wait once to use one and I only had to wait for one person.
After I got out of the bathroom, I hightailed it back on the race. I passed the 4:30 pacer team and felt great. In fact, I would stay ahead of them for the next 10 miles at least. Here and there I saw packs of people: mainly relay runners and volunteers at the many aid stations (again bravo to BSIM, I felt like there was a water available to me all the time and the volunteers were AMAZING). I love when they print your name on the bib because all those strangers I passed by yell “Go Meg!” “Great job Meg!” “Keep it up Meg!” And every time I smiled, how could I not? I made it the turn around point, and started my way back to Carmel. I felt great. And then…
Right around miles 17-18, my stomach rebelled. I have stomach issues fairly often when I run. I usually avoid eating much (GU or Shot Bloks) when running because they tend to cause me problems, even water can bother my stomach. But I was terrified of hitting mile 20 and having no calories left for my body to use – I didn’t want to hit “the wall.” So I ate some shot blocks and half a Gu (I hate the stuff!) and lots of water and Gatorade. My stomach apparently hated it. During this time I was so happy how many port-a-potties the course had. It slowed me down a lot and I had to walk more than I wanted to.
The Worst Part: Miles 21-23
By mile 21, I was exhausted. I had been entertained by Michael Martinez playing the baby grand piano and the Japanese drummers. I had been cheered on. I had enjoyed the amazing views. But I HATED the hills. I felt that I was never on flat land (we climbed 2400 feet… the regular BSIM course climbs 1700 feet). I had succumbed to walking up most of the hill and running down. At mile 21.4 I found the strawberries. A little fruit tasted great! But there I was tired, my legs hurt, my feet hurt, my stomach hurt. When I walked my hip killed but when I ran everything else hurt. And either there wasn’t a mile marker for mile 22 or I missed it, but I was convinced until I saw the Mile 23 sign that I was in the middle of the LONGEST mile EVER. During this time they routed us through Point Lobos park… it was beautiful but I wanted to be closer to the finish line. I tried to focus on each sign after 18 – reminding myself that no matter what happened, I had run farther than ever before.
Finishing … Strong!
We came out of the park just after mile 24. My goal now was to run/jog the rest of the way. I knew Kevin, Pat, Trevor, and Kelsi were at the finish line and I wanted to be running when I saw them. It hurt to run, it hurt to jog, but I kept telling myself how close I was – how happy I would be when I finished. I thought about all my dailymile friends who had wished me luck the days leading up to the race. I saw a girl who had passed me several times throughout the morning. She was walking, she looked done for. I leaned over to her and told her how she had passed me all morning and she had to run the end to… she had to compete against me! She had to beat me, she was so close! I said it because that’s what I would have wanted someone to say to me. She ran, I did beat her, but she ran in the end.
Then I saw Kevin and my friends. I was so happy! Standing with all the spectators they cheered me on. I was so happy that I was running. I was so happy they were there. I could see the finish line. I ran… stronger and faster. The race organizer (in the blue blazer!) gave me a high-five, I got my medal, I got my snack pack. And then I sat down. I did it! I RAN A MARATHON… I RAN 26.2 MILES!! I finished at 4:49:38 chip time (I did stop my watch during the potty breaks and have 4:43 as that time, which I like better, of course!). It wasn’t my dream time, but it wasn’t the worst.
After my terrible training I believed that this would be both my first and last marathon. But… immediately after I finished, I wanted to run another marathon! It will have to wait until I have more time to really train, but I will be running another and hopefully Big Sur again! I also have to really give props to BSIM for excellent organization of a massive event. Every moment of my race day was made wonderful by the volunteers and organizers.