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2009 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon – Race Recap

I don’t even know quite how to start this post. This past weekend was so intense, so happy, so HARD…and it was worth every second. Yesterday and today have felt so strange. Leading up to the marathon I didn’t even ever think about the aftermath, but it’s tough! I guess you could call it the post-marathon blues. Looking back over the last four months of early mornings, sore legs, and hours on the road…it seems surreal that it’s all over. It was all summed up in the 5 hours and 9 minutes we spent pounding the pavement between Bricktown and Lake Hefner and back. Yes, that’s right 5 hours and 9 minutes. I’ve spent endless time analyzing our final time. Our goal was to hit somewhere between 4:30 and 4:59. We didn’t reach that, but we finished. It was grueling. It was painful. It was emotional. It was exciting. It was the most intense thing we’ve ever accomplished. And as the words “I’m never doing this again” (said on mile 25) echo in my head, I know that I’m already being lured back in:)

First, let me talk about the elements. I was so concerned that the marathon would end up being canceled due to the storms that were predicted. It didn’t storm at all though! Surprise, surprise…the weathermen got it wrong again. I was so relieved. However, the morning of the race the humidity was between 75 and 80%…and the wind around 25 miles per hour. It was insane. So hot and so windy!

Before the start we had found the 4:30 pace group and decided that we would take our chance and try to stick with them. I had never run with a pace group before, and it was really fun! It was nice to be a little bit distracted by listening to the pace setters talk, and they dedicated each mile to someone different. I didn’t even take note of mileage at all for about the first 12 miles. I know that sounds crazy! J was wearing his Garmin, and I totally could have asked him, but I just didn’t want to know. I knew that I just needed to settle in and keep running at a good pace.

However, it started getting harder and harder to stick with the 4:30 group. I think we officially lost them around mile 12 or 13. I got really discouraged as I saw those balloons (the pace setter carried a stick with yellow balloons attached to the top that said 4:30) get further and further ahead. I know we shouldn’t have set such a goal for our first race. When we ran the half last year, we paid absolutely no attention to time, and it was such fun! But, I knew that J really wanted to finish around 4:30, and I wanted to do that for him so badly! It was clear to me that my hubby could have stayed with the pace group, at least for a lot longer than I did…but he wouldn’t leave me. I have the sweetest husband that I could ever dream of. Toward the end I kept begging him to leave me so he could still finish in under 5, but he wouldn’t budge. And I was so thankful by mile 22 because at that point I needed him to help me get to the finish.

When we hit the half marathon point, I was feeling pretty good! We were keeping pretty steady, and were almost to the lake. I had been telling myself that if we could just get to the lake, then it would be all downhill from there. Wow, was I ever wrong. When we hit the lake, we also started heading south for the first time. That 25 mile/hr. wind hit us full force and didn’t let up for the entire rest of the race. It was brutal! I don’t really remember much about miles 14-16, except that we just kept winding around the lake. I didn’t realize how much time we would actually spend at the lake, but it started to seem discouraging because leaving the lake meant that we would be heading back toward Bricktown. But if we never left it, we’d never get home! Which is what it started to feel like!

Finally, somewhere between 16 and 17 we headed back. I remember telling myself that if I could just whittle it down to 8 miles left, then I could make it. We run 8 miles all the time, right?
So, we got to 18 miles, and I think I hit my first wall right about that time. All of these doubts started invading my head. I was so tired and in so much pain. I knew I had to keep going. At this point, it was still possible for us to make it in in under 5 hours. I wanted that so badly…for myself and for J. Miles 18 through 22 were pretty much the same. Just trying to get through the pain, stay hydrated, focus, get lost in my music, whatever it took to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Honestly, at this point, I think that fighting the wind was really killing me. I mean, hitting my first wall (so to speak) at mile 18? We had already run an 18 miler and a 20 miler in the few weeks before. Sure, they were painful, but I was fine. I’m sure knowing I still had that 6-8 miles left didn’t help. But it just seemed like I was putting out twice the effort as usual for every step.

Mile 22 was the point at which I hit wall #2. Nobody ever told me there were 2 walls. Just one. One wall at mile 20 was all there was supposed to be. I mean, I know I hit wall #1 a little early, but still. Mile 22 also happened to be the point at which my best friend jumped out of the crowd. She and a friend of mine from high school (who ran the marathon last year) were watching for us. They encouraged me so much. Katie (friend from HS) briefed me as to the last 4 miles of the course and told me that her dad was finishing about 30 minutes later than his usual time due to the wind. This made me feel so much better. I don’t like to make excuses for myself. In fact, it’s one of my biggest pet peeves. But to know that someone who runs marathons all the time was struggling so much more than usual just really helped my morale. And of course just seeing my best friend’s face and getting a hug didn’t hurt either!

Let’s just say the last 4 miles were the most grueling but rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I felt so helpless at certain moments because I just didn’t know if I could finish, but I knew I had to. So, I kept going. J was so patient. I can’t believe he sacrificed his one goal so that I could get through it and we could finish together. Actually, I can:) But I’m still ever so thankful.

The first tears came with about a mile and a half to go. This guy was standing about 2 feet away from me on the side of the road. We made direct eye contact and he said “Great job, first timer.” I don’t know what it was about that statement, but I just lost it. The next round of tears came when we turned that last corner and saw the finish line. A split second later I saw my mom and step-dad on the sidelines, and I just started crying. I couldn’t control myself. The level of emotions at that point are something I don’t think anyone can understand until they experience it. I know I didn’t understand.

Edit: For the record, the first tears actually came when we split off from the half marathoners around mile 7 or 8. That’s when I officially realized there was no turning back, and I got so emotional!

I was so ecstatic…so relieved…so filled with pain. It was crazy intense! We crossed the line, and I grabbed my husband and just held on. It was one of our finer moments I do believe. One of the family members of the bombing victims put our medals on us, and it was such a great feeling. You can’t beat the combination of knowing you accomplished something that you’ve worked so hard for and doing something for someone else! Love it! My sweet Grandma, Grandpa and aunt Angie were waiting for us as well. And the crying continued:)

So, that’s it. A very lengthy and disorganized summary of our 26.2 miles. Congratulations if you’re still with me. I’ve had so much time to think and analyze everything since Sunday…and I’m going to save some of those thoughts for later posts. Here are some pictures!

In the hotel room getting ready for the race… approx 4:30 a.m.

On the way to the race… Jon and his power snack: the ole Peanut butter bagel.

We met up with some friends pre-race who were running the half!

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