OCTOBER 4, 2015
Well, I made it!! All the way!! Finished the Portland Marathon on October 4 in a little less than 7 hours (6 hours, 39 minutes to be exact.) If I can do it, anyone can do it. So, here’s what you need to know…
At my age (53) and with recent health issues (relatively minor hear surgery), I was afraid of dropping dead during the race—literally, practically, truly dropping dead. I read news stories of people much younger than me and more experienced in marathon events literally dying on various courses in Montreal and other places. Sure, there was heat involved, but these were young, experienced runners dying from heart attacks during the events. Although my cardiologist approved of running half-marathons, I never really asked him if I could do the whole MaryAnn, even if I just walked it instead of running it. Since my goal was to run about a maximum of 7 miles of the marathon, and because the weather in Portland is so cool and the start time was so early, I figured I didn’t need to ask my doc about whether I should take on such a daunting task. As it turned out, I should have consulted an orthopedist, not a cardiologist, but more on that in a bit.
The morning of the race came too quickly for me. I trained for the event the way various online programs said I should, and I even tapered for about 10 days prior to the race. Since I had been working toward this race for about 10-11 months, there were lulls in my training during the summer months, especially after completing various halves in June, July and August. My knees, hips, and feet hurt following those races, so I backed off for a week or so after each one. I rationalized to myself that since the marathon wasn’t until October, I had plenty of time to resume training and be ready. Further, I told myself that I wasn’t running the whole thing (or even half of it, for that matter) and I wasn’t out to set a world record during it, so I had plenty of time to get ready. However, come the morning of the race, I had severe “walker’s remorse” before the race started that I wasn’t ready. Suggestion: don’t be a procrastinator when it comes to training for such a grueling, difficult event that is not designed for the average human being to complete.
I set my alarm for 4:30 AM for the 7 AM start time. My hotel was only 3 blocks from Corral H, where I was assigned to line-up for my group’s start time. BTW—Corral H was assigned to the slowest runners/walkers in the event, and there had to be more than 2,000 of us in the one block roped-off area. I woke up ahead of my alarm from anxiety about missing my start time. I got dressed in the dark of my room with just the street lights illuminating me as I put on my clothes, slipped on my way-too-tight compression leg sleeves, and then my knee brace and socks and sparkling new shoes. I smiled in the mirror as my brushed my teeth, allowing myself to feel proud of me for a moment in an otherwise overcast of worry and fear. Would I make it? Would I have to quit 2/3 of the way through? Do I have enough Band-Aids on my nipples? What if my heart starts to hurt? Then, the good thoughts started to creep in: wait til I tell my doctor I did this, wait til I put that 26.2 sticker on my truck for fellow commuters to gawk at, wait til I get my medal at the finish line!!
I grabbed a protein bar, my hat and sunglasses, and left my room to walk to Corral H. In the lobby of the hotel, there were tons of supremely-appearing fit runners, almost all way younger than me, contorting on the carpeted floor as they stretched, loosened up, and relaxed, all of which both impressed and intimidated me. These people looked and acted serious!! They didn’t seem worried like me. They seemed confident, fit, and excited about what lay ahead. That made ME feel that way, too. Come on, folks, let’s go—let’s go attack the streets of Portland!! I felt that way until I walked outside through the lobby door. The morning cold hit me and I was freezing!! Suddenly, I wanted to go back to bed and get warm!!
I walked the few blocks to Corral H and found it easily enough. It was dark and cold but with so many people on the city streets already, there was this great buzz all around me that distracted and invigorated me. When I found my way into Corral H, I looked around at my fellow Corral H’ians. Old, young, overweight, normal weight, male, female, you name it. Quite the diversity. Some seemed over-dressed and some under-dressed. Everyone was talking to someone and all had one thing in common—they were smiling!! Everyone was happy to be there!! It was a neat thing to see. All of the people came from all over the country, all woke up super early, mostly trained hard to be here, and all wanted to complete this huge challenge.
The marathon was scheduled to start at 7 AM sharp—for Corral A, at least, where the elite runners were stashed—so the PA announcer started making announcements about one thing or another starting at 6:30. The whole mass—approximately 14,000 of us—sang the National Anthem as one. Very moving. Then we heard but could not see the start of the race for the first group. As one corral was moved to the starting area, the remaining corrals were led one block at a time toward the starting line. Each time I moved forward toward the starting area by walking with the herd for one city block, a new wave of adrenaline washed over me.
The sun began to rise behind me as we Corral H denizens moved toward the now-visible starting area. There were groups of people—mostly ladies—running together in matching T-shirts and posing for group selfies as we neared the starting area. Family members there to watch their loved ones would duck into the crowd and take photos of their dad, mom, brother, sister, wife, whomever and then duck back under the ropes into obscurity to wait for their conquering heroes at the finish line. It was really touching to see such pride and love shown by family members toward their specific runner.
As I approached the starting gate, I double-checked what I thought was important—bib on securely? Check. Shoes tied with timing chip in place? Check. Hat and sunglasses still on my head? Check. Need to go to the bathroom? Double check. Heart rate ok? Check. People in Corral H that I know I can beat? Check!! Fanny pack with hotel room key and cell phone securely in place? Yeppers. All that was left to do was just run and race-walk 26.2 miles and triumphantly cross the finish line with arms raised proudly in victory!! Uh-huh…ok…time to do this!!
Next entry: the agony and the ecstasy….