It’s taken a while for me to write this post, mostly because even three days later it still hasn’t really sunk in that I ran a marathon. People keep coming up to me and congratulating me (or asking whether I’m absolutely bonkers crazy) and I smile and shrug it off and tell them that anyone can run a marathon if they decide they want to because the idea that I actually did it sounds too insane. After all these months of training, it happened.
Anyway, here’s the recap.
5:30 a.m. After waking up approximately 1287933 times in the middle of the night convinced that it was morning and time to start getting ready, my alarm went off. I hopped out of bed, already a bundle of nerves and excitement, brushed my teeth, and then made a slice of toast with banana for breakfast. I don’t run well with food in my stomach, so I wanted to eat as early as possible to give myself time to digest. Then I got dress, double and triple checked my bag to make sure I had everything I needed (Cash? Check! Clif Shot blocks? Check! Body glide? Check! Bandaids? Check!).
6:15 a.m. I headed to the front gates of the university to meet a bunch of people from the running club who were also racing. We called a cab, waited about 30 minutes for the car to arrive (apparently all of Washington D.C. was taking cabs that morning) and clambered inside. We had an extremely talkative cab driver who, when he heard that I was planning on running 26 miles in the next 6 hours or so, said “What are you crazy? That sounds painful.” Um, YEAH! He then proceeded to talk our ears off for the duration of the 20 minute cab ride about the movie Prefontaine and how great it is. Duly noted.
7:10 a.m. I planned on meeting my Mom at the armory, where the race started, but when I got there I couldn’t find her. I allowed myself to freak out for approximately 5 minutes before I decided that I had better go to the bathroom and check my bag and hope to run into her later.
8:0? a.m. ~ Miles 0 – 4: After about 20 minutes of nervously jumping around in my corral (still no sight of mom!) I crossed the start line! 26.2 miles to go! I grinned ridiculously at the person next to me as we started running and said, “Isn’t this great!” She was wearing headphones, so I don’t think she heard me, but she smiled back. Five minutes later I heard someone yelling my name. It was my mom! I slowed down to run with her and we chatted our way through the first few miles.
Ouch. Heel strike.
Miles 4 – 8: After the initial excitement wore off, I started feeling really nervous about this race. It was only 8:40 a.m. and already it was SUPER hot (almost 70 degrees). After having trained in 30 degree weather, how was I going to run 26.2 miles in this? At mile 5 I saw two of my next-door neighbors and best friends at school, who pumped me up by shouting “You’re a beast!” at me as I ran by. Soon after that I spotted another one of my friends, B-, who I ran part of the Marine Corps Marathon with in October. She hopped in and ran up to Dupont Circle with us, which was another great confidence booster.
Miles 8 – 12.4: One third of the way through! At this point I just needed to zone out a bit and think about the monumental task to come. We saw my dad at mile 10.5, where he took this gem of a photo:
Thats me looking absolutely nuts with my hands in the air. Sarah! Get your head in the game!
As we approached miles 11 and 12 I tried to keep a steady 10 min/mile pace as all the half marathoners started to pass me. At mile 12.4 we suddenly split off and the crowd of runners thinned out a TON. Suddenly it dawned on me that this was it. I was running a marathon. I started tearing up (I’m WAY overly sentimental. I embrace it.)
Miles 12.4 – 16: I rode that high through to mile 14, where two of my best running buddies from school, K- and K-, met up with me. I was feeling good as we ran past Union Station for the second time and turned down towards the National Mall, but I was starting to worry about the heat. That and my shorts, which were giving me MAJOR chafing on my inner thighs. Sorry if that’s TMI, but we’re all runners here, right?
Miles 16 – 18: Oh boy. This is when the race got tough. Once we left the National Mall and turned down towards Southeast DC, the crowds all but disappeared. There was no one spectating, no one cheering, and no shade. Plus my thigh was beginning to bleed a little bit (I’ll spare you the photo). At the medical station at mile 18, I stopped and got vaseline for my legs. It burned for a little bit, but then the chafing went away entirely. Vaseline = miracle substance. This is also when I started walking through aid stations to ensure that I was drinking enough water. The goal was a cup of water and a cup of gatorade at every water stop. Plus another cup to pour over my head.
Miles 18 – 22: A little after that, we ran past a whole group of friends from school. In addition to a fantastic sign, they brought me pretzels and a bottle of water. I desperately needed a cheering session, so I stood with them for about a minute, shoving pretzels down my throat and drinking gulps of water. After about 60 seconds of that, I knew I needed to get moving again. We did a shortish out and back and then headed over the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Bridge into Anacostia.
Me and my running posse, K- and K-. I couldn’t have done it without them. That’s the bridge behind us. It’s no Brooklyn Bridge, that’s for sure!
After this point I started slowing down a LOT. My only thought was about how hot it was. I don’t think it ever got over 80 degrees, and I’ve run in worse, but the sun seemed relentless and there wasn’t much shade on this part of the course. At mile 21 we met up with another running buddy, N-, who wanted to run the last 5 miles with us.
Mile 22 – 23: This was hands down the hardest part of the race. It was a mile-long loop around a barren part of Anacostia. On our way out, we passed by a water station where people were handing out ice cubes and for the entire length of that loop I just kept thinking, “At the end there’ll be ice cubes. Just make it to the aid station. Just make it there.” I honestly hated what I was doing during that loop. I kept asking myself why I ever thought that a marathon would be a good idea. Three quarters of the way through the loop, I told N-, “I think I’m going to have to walk,” and she said, “Okay.” But even though part of my brain said, “walk,” the other half fought it. I promised myself that I wouldn’t walk till mile 23. That way, even if I did walk, I would have less than 5K left to go.
Mile 23 – 25: Well, mile 23 came and went and I didn’t walk. Slow as my legs were moving (it must have been 12 minute miles by this point) I kept running. Soon after my mood started to pick up. A girl in a pink shirt who was also racing came up and introduced herself. She said she was from Long Island, and I exclaimed that I was from Brooklyn. It was her first marathon too. We talked for a little while about how hard this was, and how we wished there were more water stations. I remember at one point I said something to her like, “I keep having to remind myself that being able to run this race is a privilege,” and a man running in front of us turned around and said, “You said it sister!”
Mile 25 – 26.2: I just wanted to be done! Oh my lord 1.2 miles has never felt so long. The last mile went back over a bridge over the Potomac and then up a smallish hill to RFK stadium. At the 26 mile marker my posse left me and I headed up the last .2 miles alone. As tired as I was, I forced myself to raise my arms in the air and smile at the finish line. I knew I would want that photo. Four hours and 45 minutes after crossing the start line, I had finished my first marathon.
Everything after that was a blur. I was definitely severely dehydrated by the end of the race, because at one point my vision started going spotty. All I wanted was salt. I grabbed a chocolate milk and a salty peanut bar thing that they were handing out at the finish line. Chocolate milk has never tasted so good. I met up with my parents and friends and sat down on the grass. Standing up when my dad wanted to take a photo was about the hardest thing ever. But this photo is fantastic. I could never have finished without these guys. We did it!