My second, in fact. I was honored to share the experience (though not the run as I am slower than all of them) with my running partner and one of my best friends, both of whom completed their first marathons, and boy oh boy am I proud of them!
The thing is? This was a marathon for the records. Because it was POURING RAIN. Not just drizzle, not just hard rain, but pouring. With winds up to 35 mph that blew the wind sideways, straight into our faces. As we sometimes ran into a headwind. I was soaked literally to the skin--yes, my underwear was soaked. I have chafing in places I've never chafed before because when you are that wet, well, chafing is what happens.
And at my speed, it rained for 18 miles. That was about 4.5 hours. It was WET. The crazy part? I prefer it that way. I would rather run in a rainstorm than sun any day of the week. When we started, this mass of people crossing the start line, the wind gusted and blew rain right at us. You could hear the, whoa!, coming from every throat. And I knew then that as hard as it was going to be, this was just going to be epic. My music died on my after mile 5, which led to 21 more VERY miserable and boring miles, and it was STILL epic. I came in way past the time I should have and my sciatica was killing me, but it was STILL epic. Why? Well, because I finished. I am a marathoner. That's pretty darn cool.
There are so many things about races, be they a 5K or a 100 miler, that you have to experience to really know. Moments you want to catch but can't because you are running, your are in the middle of them, and forward motion does not allow for stopping. The low thunder of thousands of feet pounding pavement at the same time. The screaming and cheering from volunteers and spectators all along the course. The sides littered with discarded clothing, fuel packages, and in this case ponchos and garbage bags with holes cut in them for hands and arms. The fuel stations where you zip up and grab a cup, drink as fast as you can and keep going. The fuel station litter of Gu packets and cups and other types of fuel scattered over pavement from runners who have come and gone, a huge mess that you add to as you toss your cup and Gu packet on the ground. The visceral understanding that this is only OK because it is a race and they will pick it up, otherwise you would NEVER litter. Heck, you have to be involved in sports just to know what Gu IS, as well as know about sports beans and Gu chomps and Clif blocks and the pros and cons of each and how often you should fuel and electrolytes and hydration and the difference between powerade and G2 and electrolyte tablets. Oh, and body glide, blessed body glide, that doesn't work so well when you are soaked to the skin. And the safety pinning Gu trick. If you run, you know what I mean.
There are the signs you see along the route. Go runners, run for beer, you are almost there! Saw a sign this weekend that said chafing is temporary, finishing is forever, and blisters are for wimps. Also saw a very apropos sign that said you thought this was a good idea three months ago. You have to do a race to experience the Wall, that moment when you want to give up and know it is crazy...and no matter what length of race you do, you WILL hit that point. You experience the mental process of pushing through and keeping on moving, when your leg muscles are trashed, and when ALL you want to do is get dry and eat and drink a beer. You have to do a race to understand that while physical training is vital, during the race itself 75% of it is mental grit. You have to want to finish. And when your body plays out your mind keeps you moving and gets you through.
And it is only when you do a race--let me again emphasize of any length because I know people who can run a marathon every weekend and those who suffer from such physical ailments that doing a 5K is a major and laudable accomplishment--that you experience the utter thrill of crossing the finish line. To know that you did it, that you worked and fought and accomplished something hard. And the older women fighting arthritis who finishes her first 5K and comes in last place is as inspiring and just as much as an achievement as the person who wins the CIM.
I am a runner. I am a marathoner. You would never think so. I am very slow--I did the marathon in a 15:15 per mile average. I am not skinny. I don't look athletic. But in my mind and in my heart, I KNOW what I am. I know what I can make myself do. And because I do...I am a marathoner.
God bless us all...