“Sure, the 5-k is friendly, the 10-k classic, and the half marathon is a self-esteem pumping ‘long distance’ race. But none of these has the cachet that is the marathon’s alone. From the time you finish your first shorter race, the specter of the 26.2-mile Full Monty hovers in your mind. Something that one day you want to do. Have to do. Will do. Why? Because, like Everest, the marathon is there. Because it gives the ordinary person an opportunity to do something extraordinary.” – Doug Rennie
Marathon weekend, or the Weekend of the Grand Undertaking
We had been carbo-loading for two days leading up for the marathon. We ate pancakes, rice, cereal, bananas, pop tarts, you name it, in order to help our glycogen stores be good and high for the race. The plan was to leave Friday in order to get to Birmingham by the evening. There was a misunderstanding on my part about what time we would leave, but all was well. We got to Birmingham around 10:30pm.
Uncle Joe, Henny, and my cousin Neal were already at the house. Pate didn’t arrive until the next day, after we had said hello to my Uncle John and my cousin Elizabeth. It had been three years since I saw him, so of course we had a lot to catch up on.
Saturday morning came, and my aunt Henny made us some waffles and we made ourselves the toast. After a bit of digestion, Jan, Uncle Joe, and myself went on a 2-mile loosening up jog. Jan later commented that he was more tired after that jog than after the marathon. 😉
The weather was good, only slightly windy. We cleaned up and then went to the Race Expo downtown. It was smaller than the one I went to for the Women’s half, which made for easier getting in and out. Uncle Joe was among the first 100 people to sign up, and I wasn’t too far behind. Jan was in the next line over, getting his number. We have a little joke about him being one of the last people to sign up for the Jingle Bell Jog and then the marathon as well. We got our goody bags, which weren’t anything spectactular. It was a yellow drawstring bag with flyers for other races inside it. The shirt is awesome though, a mustard yellow with “26.2 Mercedes Marathon” on it. It was created and distributed by Trak Shak, a famous running store in the area. The back of the shirt has the sponsors on it, all of them in black. The shirts look the same for men and women, except the women’s has a “v-neck” and the men’s is a regular neck. There’s probably a slight difference with fit as well. There were gloves we could choose from, blue ones with grips for small hands and yellow ones without grips for bigger hands. I ultimately chose the yellow ones, because my hand felt uncomfortable making a fist in the blue ones. As we made our way down the steps, our names appeared on a screen when the machine picked up our chip signal. It was so cool seeing my name next to “Marathon!”
We headed back home, where Uncle John had just arrived with his oldest daughter Elizabeth. There was more catching up to be done. That evening we had a good meal of potatoes and steak. We continued our carb eating streak by also having some of Pate’s red velvet birthday cake. We settled into what has become the Mitchell tradition of rehashing stories about each other, old and new. My Uncle Joe and his boys sure do know how to tell some intense stories about each other. I can see where my Mom gets it now! The evening ended with a three or four man pile up, in which the person on bottom (Pate, I think?) was getting pretty irritated. We tried doing some prank calls with this system that Neal had been using, but he had run out of credits, and my mom wasn’t available for easy pranking this time. Hahaha.
I didn’t sleep very well Saturday night, and since our sleep time was reduced to get up early for the marathon this didn’t help much. Jan and I had set out our clothes the night before, so that all we had to do (hypothetically) was put it all on and be ready to go. We got up around 5, but did the time pass by quickly! We dressed and each ate a waffle. I think I may have had a piece of toast too. I also think Jan and I split a banana. After the advice Jan and I had been reading, I worried that it might not be enough, but then I remembered how we had been eating well the days leading up to the race, and how I also didn’t need to be so full that I was still digesting at the beginning of the race. We took several pictures, and started veering into lateness territory. We were firmly into it by the time we left, which was around 6:30 I believe. (The race started at 7:03!!!) We were driving at a fairly ordinary pace, and I was feeling nervous. I was already telling Jan that if we didn’t make it on time, I didn’t want our training to go to waste and that I was going to contemplate signing up for the Music City Marathon if it weren’t too late already. We got there maybe 10 minutes before the race was due to start. Jan and I scooted out of the car and fortunately didn’t try to bring our bags with us, because bag check ended several minutes before. We went into the crowd, and started out standing around the 4-hour finish crowd.
The initial standing around waiting for the race to start part has always been weird feeling for me. I felt nervous about us standing so far back, and I looked longingly at the 3:45 group. My and Jan’s goal was 3:49, so he thought standing by the 3:45 group might encourage an overzealous start on our part. I suggested we still move up a bit, and so we moved up closer to what I imagined would be the 3:50 finishers. The race only had a bit of sluggishness at the beginning, and we both started our watches at the first timing chips. I don’t know how far off mine was, but Jan’s watch ended up being only a second off from the official race clock! Pretty impressive. We set off and felt good for our first few miles…we even sang part of a song! We more or less were trying to keep our pace around 8:45-8:50per mile, but we didn’t mind if we dipped below that as well. The GU stations started appearing after the first few miles. The choices were Strawberry Banana and Vanilla at most stops, so I stuck with Strawberry Banana.
Whenever Jan would get his GU, he devised this funny dance in which he spun around for one or two rotations. It was seamless in the kind of way that meant I wouldn’t dare try, lest I trip and damage something. Around mile 13, there was this group giving out free beer in cups to runners who wanted some. Jan couldn’t believe it. He was like “Are you guys really giving out free beer?” And when the girl said yes, he took a cup. We laugh about it because he knew I thought it was dumb, and because I said “Okay but I’m not going to wait for you to finish it!” lol. I think around mile 14 or 15 Jan and I were feeling pretty good, because we were cracking silly pick-up lines to each other. I thought I saw at least one runner kind of turn back to look at us as if to ask Are they for real? It’s because of funny memories like that that I can tell we were having a good time.
During the run, we would give people names. Sometimes these were competitors we wanted to beat, but sometimes it was when someone resembled a person we knew, like our running club president. Jan thought these two men looked like him, and then I explained how I thought only one of the men looked like him, because of his body type. We had crazy-shirt guy, who was a member of Marathon Maniacs. We had striped shirt girl, who was ahead of us during the race but would go to a bathroom stop lightning fast, then speed on ahead of us and stop at another one. By the time we noticed this pattern we never saw her again, leading me to wonder what happened to her. We spoke with this young man wearing a dark shirt, and then an older man who told us we were on pace for the time we wanted.
Around mile 17, Jan encouraged me to go on up ahead. He had mentioned it around the halfway point, but I was nervous. I didn’t know if I had enough in me to maintain a good pace for the second half. I slowly began inching my way up. I gradually passed people who had been ahead of us the whole time. I set my sights on person after person, and passed most of them. Then, this yellow shirted girl passed me in the next mile or so. She didn’t seem that fast at first. I ran into this short white-shirted lady around 18 I believe, and we did a little back and forth for the next few miles. For a bit, she was close to yellow shirt girl, but then yellow shirt girl started pulling away. If I could do anything over, I would have tried to go fast with yellow shirt girl, but again I wasn’t sure if I should go for it. My times varied over the next couple miles. Around mile 20, I felt both that six miles was nothing and that six miles also seemed like a small eternity.
Nonetheless, I was enjoying myself. I really liked that though Jan and I had already run 17 miles before we parted, that I wasn’t winded or hitting the infamous “wall” that everyone talks about. I was enjoying myself and thinking about how pleasant it felt. I kept debating when I should finally go fast, and around mile 24 I finally decided to do so. I just let it out! I felt almost like I was flying. As I passed people, I heard a person or two tell me “Good job,” and I really appreciated it. When I reached the last turn around point, I had this moment where I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this!!
In my last few meters I passed someone waving to family, and got my medal and metallic blanket. I had done it!!!
I waited for Jan and when he finished, we walked around together to stave off soreness. We thought about going to wait for my Uncle and cousins, since we figured they had to be finishing shortly. We were about to go get our free lunch and come back when we noticed my cousins! They had apparently taken the halfway point option and finished with half marathon medals instead. They didn’t seem to have regrets about this, however; Pate had an injured toe and a bleeding nipple and was quite happy to be done.
We waited for Uncle Joe to finish inside the convention center. When it got closer to time, we went out and waited for him. We finally saw him .When Jan and I started jogging to be beside him, Jan almost pulled something in his leg and laughed/grimaced in pain. Uncle Joe finished with great timing; we saw Henny and Uncle John and Elizabeth not long after. We took some pictures and celebrated our accomplishment. Uncle Joe was too tired and grimy feeling to eat out so we went back to his house. We took some more pictures, some of them funny ones that Jan thought of. Everyone washed the sweat and dirt off and then we set about to doing a few things before Henny made dinner. Instead of feeling the post-race euphoria, I was in a bad mood due to my period and a phone call from my Dad.
That night, we talked some more, and soon it was time for Uncle John and Elizabeth to leave. After this, the rest us talked until we got too tired from the long day to stay up any more. Jan and I both put up respective posts about our accomplishment on Facebook. I was also introduced to this hilarious video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpccpglnNf0 Watch it 🙂
The next morning was bittersweet. Jan and I got up and packed our things, and spent some time talking to Pate and Neal. Poor Uncle Joe was trying to get some work done on his Ph.D. at the house, but with his sons talking and coming in he had to leave for the library. It was around this time that Jan and I knew we had to leave if we wanted to get close to making it back by the time Dad needed me to look after my sister. We left with promises to meet again soon, and thus began our trip home. We were fortunate to have a safe trip home, with the memories of the huge and monumental goal we had just completed. I can’t say I never thought I would do a marathon, but I can say I didn’t think it would happen for a while.
It was an awfully big adventure, and I can’t wait for the next one.