Like I said in my last post, I’ve spent the past week or so trying to come up with a way to accurately express the emotion and energy that went along with this marathon. Turns out, I still don’t have the right words. So, I’m just gonna give it a go. Bare with me. This is long.
To be completely honest…it wasn’t until Ryan and I had arrived at the Expo that I had that “HolyEFF.I.am.about.to.run.26point2miles.WHY?” moment. You all know what I’m talking about. It’s that feeling when your stomach just drops. I’m pretty sure this feeling comes around with any big event – be it graduation, jumping out of a plane, hitting a wombat, getting married…(Okay. So maybe I’m just takin’ a stab at that ‘ole married thing, as there’s no ring on my finger. But I’ve heard it’s a big deal).
Sure, I trained for this race all Fall (and some of summer), but as I said before, this training cycle just was not as big of a deal to me as it was my first go-round. I can thank stress from school, work and life for that.
You see, I’ve always looked forward to my training runs. The first time I trained for a marathon, every new long-run was a new PDR (personal distance record) and ended with an “omg I just ran the furthest I’ve EVER run!”
It was exciting.
And it happened every damn time. (It’s the little things, y’all).
This time around, though, I never viewed my sixteen-, eighteen-, or even twenty-milers as some crazy feat at the end of my run. (Note: two weeks post marathon, though (aka, now)?… I’m back to viewing ‘em as a crazy-feat). But at the time of those runs, they were just runs that were a part of my training plan. Sure, I always felt accomplished at the end of them (because don’t get me wrong, I realize that running a distance like that is a big flippin’ deal), but I saw those runs as a time to escape from my crazy-chaotic world and just be. A free mind is a wonderful thing, y’all. And that’s what the long-runs of training allowed me. And what running (for kicks) still does.
Anyway, I digress…I know y’all are here for my recap. So here we go.
Saturday morning at 4:13AM, I woke up (if that’s what you call rising out of bed even if you’re not 100% sure you ever fell asleep…), whipped on my race-day outfit, sprayed on the perfume my mom gave me way-back-when (the exact same kind she wears) so I could be reminded of her throughout the race, made (and ate) a sandwich, enjoyed a date with the foam roller, grabbed the rest of my fuel (water-bottle, box’o’cereal to snack on, apple, gu-chomps for the race, bread), threw on my fleece and headed out the door with Ryan. All by 5AM. We were aiming to be at the “mall shuttles” by 530.
You already know how I felt about those damn mall shuttles, and driving to said mall on race-day morning confirmed that my feelings were valid. We got there just fine and dandy, but not fifteen/twenty minutes later and the traffic was really starting to back up. A lot.
There were a ton of busses lined up, one after another. It was actually quite a site to see. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were over 100 buses. I kid you not. Once we parked, we got our things organized and hopped out of the car (into the cold) and started following the masses to where the lines were forming to wait for a bus.
At this point it was 5:40, and the lines weren’t too bad. We probably only waited about 10 minutes to board. Oh! Funny story. While in line, the mother/daughter duo directly behind Ryan and I tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Do you…by chance, have a blooog?” Ryan laughed as I said yes — because the last time I was recognized for my blog was during my last marathon, at the mile-six water-stop. Oh, and I guess at my last race. (Must be something about race-days?). It truly amazes me that people besides my family actually read what I write. Anywho, after a little chit-chat, we boarded a bus and were on our way to the downtown start-line.
I took our time sitting on the bus to try and relax. Try, is the keyword here. I can’t explain it, but my adrenalin is always rushing before races. I ate some more grub, drank some water (gotta stay hydrated!) and realized “Oh snap. I still have to pin on my race-bib. Efffff.” Now I understand to most of you, this would be an easy feat. This is not the case for me, my friends. I have major issues attaching those flimsy things.
Thankfully, my hands weren’t too useless from standing in the cold, so I was able to fumble my way through four eight safety pins. Yes. That’s right – eight. Race-day morning was cold. Not horribly cold (we’re not talking freezing), but considering the fact that it has been an abnormally warm Fall (and a hot as hades summer), I’ve only felt truly “cold” weather a handful of times so far this year. This equated to me layering up for the run. So being the smarty-pants that I am (ha!), I figured I could save myself some grief by attaching four pins to my tech-tee ahead of time. That way, when it came time to shed my long-sleeved running jacket, I could easily just unpin the bib from my jacket and repin the bib to my “already-attached-tee-shirt-pins.” I know I know —brilliant, right?
And with that, I ended up occupying myself for about 30 of the 40 minutes we were on the bus. Ryan was quite entertained by my pinning abilities. I told him I had exhausted my true pinning skills on Pinterest. He gave me a blank stare. Thus is my life.
Thankfully, our bus was not one of the ones that got lost. (Because yes, this totally happened). In fact, there were busses at other locals that did not even show up (Bless you Tybee island folks. I woulda been pissed, too.) Our bus dropped us off quite close to the area where the corrals started. There were tons (TONS!) of porta-potties. It was like a village of porta-potties. No. Scratch that. It was like a village of people dressed in funky-shedding-layers waiting in lines for said porta-potties. I got through a line pretty quickly and stated quite confidently that since it was only 6:20AM, I’d be needing to have another spin with the PJ’s at some point. Ryan looked at me with the biggest “…duh” face. Obviously, he already knew this. What a guy.
I must say, the people who put on Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons know how to do it right. The atmosphere surrounding the start-line was unreal. They had music pumping (good music, mind you) and the overall buzz on the street was very enthusiastic. The only thing that would’ve made the morning better was if the frigid air stopped whipping up from the river. I mentioned it was cold, right?
Ryan and I weren’t the only pansies, though. The hotels along the main street all had their doors open (now that’s what I call Southern hospitality) in which people could wait. As Ryan and I started to walk towards my corral, we noticed the lobby areas of all of the hotels were packed with runners. Obviously, we wanted in on the action. So we randomly choose a hotel and walked through it’s doors. I felt like a sardine in a school of fish.
There were people everywhere. “Welp. There goes my idea of stretching in a warm area,” I thought to myself. And not ten seconds later, I realized… even if I had the space, I wouldn’t have done a whole lot of stretching. Why? Oh you know, because I had spotted a familiar face. The face of someone I hadn’t seen since the day I graduated high school. Seriously people, I have skills when it comes to running into people.
So yes. Out of the 30,000 people at the start-line area, I ended up being a few feet away from a girl I grew up with and attended high school. Talk about a small world. I squealed in excitement and dragged (a very confused) Ryan through the mass of people over to Jenni and her boyfriend. Turns out, she is still living in Cincinnati and had run the Flying Pig (half) in May. We didn’t have too much time to chat, but it was so nice to see and talk with her.
After parting from Jenni, I heard my name being called. Turns out, Brittney, Kelly and her husband, Brad, had spotted me a few minutes prior and were trying to get my attention without actually crawling over all of the people sitting in the room.
We talked to Brittney, Kelly and Brad for quite a bit. This was Kelly’s second marathon, too… and Brittney and Brad were there to support her. Hearing this, Ryan perked up and exchanged numbers with Brad so he could meet up with them after the start of the race.
Soon enough it was 7AM (the race started at 7:30AM) and I knew it was time for me to head back to the porta-potty lines if I wanted to make it to my corral in time for the start. Ryan, being the sweetheart he is, stood in line and waited with me. I was outta there and in my corral by 7:25AM. And by “my corral” I really mean “a corral that I randomly jumped into.” No one (that I could tell) was being strict about where people started. So, I ended up in corral #10 outta 25. Fine by me. I stood near the edge so that I could chat with Ryan (and hand him my fleece) as my corral moved up to the start line.
(Fun facts: there were 23,000 runners total. All 50 states, as well as 21 countries, were represented. In fact, the race sold out in August.)
I made sure to stretch a little bit while we waited our turn.
Anywho, I really like the way the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons control their corral-system. They release the corrals one at a time on a 30second to 1minute interval. This way, each corral gets it’s own chance of being “at the start line” and in a sense, has their own start! I loved this. It felt like the beginning of a small race, even though it was, in actuality, a pretty big race.
As we lined up close to the start-line, the MC?DJ? announcer-person made sure everyone was pumped up, and the crowds surrounding the start-line all up and down the barricades were cheering. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. I still get chills thinking about it. It was such a contagious energy, and it made me SO excited to get moving.
Once we crossed the start-line, I had such a surge of energy. They always tell you to conserve your energy and start out slow, and my lord did I have to make a conscious effort not to go out too fast.
The first few miles were a straight-shot from the start-line. We ran up a gradual hill, over a bridge and looped around through areas of Savannah that I probably would have never seen otherwise. Sure, people commented that this part of the course was in a “not-so-great area” of Savannah, but I have to say that this area was one of my favorites. The folks lining these streets were SO excited to have us running through their neighborhoods. There were people standing out on their porches — kids in tow with blankets around them to keep warm – yelling out “Welcome to Savannah!” and “Good Mornin’!” It was so neat to see their support for the race. In fact, there was a part of the route where garbage-truck workers had stopped and parked their trucks and cheered us along. Gotta hand it to ‘em, I’ve never seen that before!
In addition to the cheering sections that gathered organically, the Rock ‘n’ Roll folks did a descent job stationing “entertainment” along the race-route (although, In my humble opinion, I think the Flying Pig did a better job at this). There were adorable groups of cheerleaders from surrounding-area schools, and tons of bands (probably one at every mile). But to be honest, I was kind of disappointed in the quality of the bands. Some where quite good, but overall, none of them really stood out. And to me, that is shame, considering this marathon series is known for it’s music. Oh well, I personally wasn’t there for the music, I was there to RUN! And run I did.
The first half of the course absolutely FLEW by. We ran our way through the poorer areas of Savannah, looped around and headed back towards the city through an industrial area. The density of the pack was never something I had to worry about, as the corral system did a really good job at keeping everyone spaced appropriately. In fact, around Mile 3, I ran into (literally!) Michelle and Paula, two other bloggers running the race.
Michelle yelled out “Allison??! Hey! I THOUGHT that was you!” as we were running down a straight-away. Once again, I was floored that out of so many runners, I kept running into people I knew. Let alone… in the middle of the actual race. I “met” Michelle and Paula back in the early summer through our blogs when we realized we were all training for the same marathon. (I know, you don’t have to say it… us bloggers are an interesting breed). Needless to say, I ran and chatted with them for a few minutes, and became even more excited about the meet-up Michelle had organized a few weeks prior for all the bloggers running the race (about 20 of us) later that night. After a bit we fell into our own paces and we separated ways.
Around mile 5 I decided it was time for a potty-break. I saw a line for porta-potties in the near-distance, but decided “ha, Eff that, I’m just gonna pee in the bushes.” I totally have no shame, so when I found a woodsy-area kinda/sorta near the porta-potties, I joined the other dudes and peed in the bushes.
It was funny to hear/see the women standing in line calling me a genius — while I was doing my thing…in the bushes — and watch them come do the exact same thing right next to me. The key is keeping your eyes down on the ground (for everyone’s sake). Seriously, it’s an art I feel like I’ve perfected.
Ryan and I had been keeping in touch via text message, and I told him about the trend I started. (Note: I am well aware I did not start this trend. I know tons of women who do this. ) Brittney saw the text and got a kick out of it, and ended up taking a picture.
Soon enough, the course led us back towards the historic distract. This made me super excited not only because I love looking at the beautiful (and historic) architecture…like this:
but also for the canopies of overhanging trees and spanish-moss…
It was this part of the course where Ryan, Brittney and Brad stationed themselves as a cheer section. Partly for the beautiful location, but also partly because of the food:
So, while I was doing the ‘ole runnin’ thing…
They were off enjoying a warm, scrumptious brunch.
Unfortunately, when I came up to them at mile 8, they did not have any left overs. Ryan did, however, have my Aquaphor. I may or may not have texted him requesting him to have it at the ready. It’s kind of sad, actually. I use this stuff ALL.the.time on my lips. People are always dumbfounded when they ask me what kind of lipstick I use (I have really abnormally red lips…that sounds really weird. But it’s true. And I get this question –usually at work—at least once a week). When I tell them I use Aquaphor, I usually get blank stares. Or an intrigued head-tilt. But seriously, don’t knock it ‘til ya try it. Although,you might not want to try it. I think I am officially addicted to the stuff. Hence…why I did this on a race-course…
Major props to Ryan for providing me the good stuff during a flippin’ marathon. Obviously I have my priorities straight.
After some stretching, I parted ways from my cheer section. Kinda bitter-sweet, as I knew I wouldn’t be seeing any familiar faces again until I crossed the finish line.
There was a Gu station around mile 9, and I got my hands on a yummy vanilla one. I was still feeling good physically-wise, and mentally I was having a great race. I was in high spirits, and digging all of the spectator support. My rockin’ playlist didn’t hurt, either. (Sorry bands, y’all just weren’t doing it for me).
Around mile 11 was the half/full split.
Just like my first marathon, I felt a surge of energy rush through my body as I parted ways from what seemed to be a majority of the runners. Even though us marathoners were smaller in number, I felt a shared sense of togetherness. Especially when we took a turn right after this sign…onto the freaking onramp of a highway.
We were in it for the longhaul.
Immediately after splitting from the half-marathoners, our part of the course journeyed onto a legitimate highway. For about… oh, I’d say a little over three miles. Part of me was thinking “WTF…is this highway business for real?” and yet, another part of me just laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation. I’m so glad I was in a good mood at this point of the run, otherwise my spirits would have been immensely crushed. Because let me tell you, there is nothing more boring than running a few miles on an entirely blocked-off highway. Nothing.
So there I was, scootin along, zoning out and listening to my tunes…when all the sudden I saw this guy:
I don’t remember how exactly my body felt at this point of the run (mile 12ish) but I gotta tell ya, any sense of doubt/pain in my mind was suddenly erased. If that guy can run a marathon carrying a 50lb+ pack on his back AND balance two (TWO!) flags on either side of his body… I have zero issues to complain about (or even think about). None. It’s amazing how things can snap you into reality and give you some perspective. Did I mention he had zero problem passing me? Yeah. This girl’s hat (okay, visor) is off to you, Mr. Marine Man.
Around the 13 mile mark (halfway done!) I decided I was getting’ a bit toasty, so I started the process of taking off my jacket. Remember when I spent my good ‘ole time fastening some pins to my tech-tee on that busride? Of course you do. Because it was a brilliant idea. And I must say, my plan worked just as I had hoped — brilliantly. I was able to detach my bib, take off my ipod and Garmin, tie my jacket around my waist, put my Garmin and ipod back in place on my arm, and reattach my bib, all while running. If that isn’t skill… I don’t know what is.
The mid-teen miles were spent running around some suburbs. And of course, a phone-call to my mom. I always called her when I was doing my long-runs during training, so I figured I’d give her a call during the race. At one point, a road ran adjacent to some marshy-lands… the kind you always picture when you think of the coastal south.
My run was going super-well, especially since I was halfway expecting to start feeling some dull aches in my legs as the mileage continued to get higher and higher. Sure, my legs felt tired. So I made sure to stop and stretch every few miles. This course, because it was so flat, was much easier than the Flying Pig course I ran earlier this year. So the fact that I was feeling so fresh definitely helped keep my spirits up.
At mile 19, they had salt packets available. I don’t know about anyone else, but I always craaaaave salt during my long runs. I’ve read (and learned in school) that this is normal, though — you lose a ton of salt through sweat during these types of endurance events.
Around mile 20, they had another Gu station. Obviously, I was a fan. Those things are like candy to me. And in all actuality, they probably are candy. Same goes for Gu-chomps. I bought a pack at the expo and used those for fuel, too. I also took part in downing the Cytomax (this race’s version of Gatorade/Powerade) they provided at the water-stops. I alternated between water and Cytomax as I ran by each station. This worked well for me, and always has.
Soon after this, the course looped back around to my oh-so-beloved highway (note the sarcasm).
This time, we had to run up a very long and very gradual hill. In fact, it would be safe to say that this entire stretch of the course was “uphill.” What made this gradual hill so bad, though, was the wind. Not only were we facing a 20mph(ish) headwind the entire stretch of the highway, but we were also at times running against 35-40mph gusts of wind. Not exactly my definition of “ideal” running conditions. In fact, I think I’d rather run in the rain. But alas, I pushed on, as did everyone else. You could tell people were really starting to hurt, though.
It was this part of the race that really took a toll on me mentally. For those of you have never run a long race (or who are super-athletes and refuse to stop and stretch…or I guess, never feel the need to stretch?), you may not be aware of the fact that. as a runner, you get to “know” the runners surrounding you in the later miles. No, I don’t mean “know them by name” (although this does tend to happen with me because I can be Ms. Chatty-McChatterson). Instead, I mean know them by association… through your observations while running.
As a runner, you become acutely aware of your surroundings. You are aware of the runners who are behind you and ahead of you a few hundred yards either way because you’re all passing each other (over and over and over again) as you take your own turns to stretch and/or walk. A lot of people stretch/walk at different intervals, but for the most part, you end up passing and repassing the same people. So in a sense, you kind of build a “camaraderie” among the people surrounding you. You urge each other to push on, give the ‘ole head tilt (my personal favorite), and tell each other “good job!” and “keep going”! These things were especially important during this section of the race, as this (damn) highway did not allow any spectators. Because this part of the course was just plain ‘ole inaccessible to the public. (Note to racecourse planners: Miles 21-24 are ESSENTIAL for race-support/spectators).
Anyway, I wasn’t originally going to mention this in my recap, but as I said earlier, this race took a big emotional toll on me and what I am about to share is a big reason why. It’s why I’ve taken all week (plus a few days) to figure out what to say. In fact, I tried to figure out a way to leave this out, but in all honesty, this race had (and still has) so many emotional undertones for me.
Of course, I feel a (huge!) sense of accomplishment and joy over the fact that I ran a flippin’ marathon, but I also feel feelings of sadness. During this race, a man passed away. It was his very first marathon attempt, and he had trained well and he had trained hard for it. The fact that this man was among those people I was running along side during that highway stretch just breaks my heart. I saw him stumble and fall to the ground, as I was only about 2o feet behind him at the time of his fall. He fell right in front of one of the band stages, and the band immediately stopped the song they were just started to play and started yelling into the microphone for a medic and the ambulance. This is probably one of the most terrifying things I have ever witnessed, and it still feels so surreal. A few of us runners who were near him stopped once we got to him, and a few seconds later, the medic arrived. He was not responding (at all) and my gut just knew he had gone into cardiac arrest. The medic told us there was nothing that we could do and that they had it under control and that we should move on. Rationally, I knew he was right. But my lord. I did not want to leave. I could not bear not knowing what happened to him. But I left. Physically, I left. Mentally, for the rest of the run, all I could think about was what was happening to him. I wondered if they were able to resuscitate him. I wondered about his family. Had they been contacted? Were they waiting for him? Was his family here at the race? (It wasn’t later that night when Ryan and I were going to bed that I heard on the local news station that there had been a fatality at the race. Even though they did not release any information in regards to who/where it happened, I just knew it was this man. They released this report later on in the week relaying further details, thus confirming my gut-feeling from race-day.)
My body during those last few miles did not really register any pain or dull aches. I made sure to stop and stretch, though… because I knew my body needed it. I turned my iPod onto Coldplay’s song, “Waterfall,” and listened to that on repeat for the remainder of the race.
I had been texting with Ryan and told him what I saw. He told me I was almost done and he was looking forward to seeing me at the finish line. I was excited to see him, too.
The last few miles absolutely flew by. Mile 24 led us back into the historic downtown area, and the atmosphere along those last roads was just unreal.
I still get chills thinking about it. (Like I said, this race had so many emotional ups and downs). Running down the chute was an absolute thrill.
I got choked up, once again, and even though I felt like crying, I don’t recall any tears. None that I remember, at least. I saw Ryan about .1 miles before the finish line…and it was at that moment that I noticed the notes from my mother’s perfume. So of course, I started to cry. There’s nothing like the comfort of your own mother that allows you to put your guard down. My tears weren’t anything significant, but they were there. Even though my mom was hundreds of miles away from me at the time, she was still able to somehow make me feel worlds better. Needless to say, I had SO much emotion as I was crossing the finish line.
For those who are interested, here is a recap of my stats:
Chip time: 5:16:05
Clock time: 5:30:18
Garmin time: 4:59:03 (stopped for stretching/potty-breaks/and the event that happened at mile 22)
And most importantly…
Miles run: 26.2.
The post race goodies, in my opinion, were not up to par. They were only giving out Cytomax, water, and bananas. Apparently, the half-marathoners got those delicious Snickers-marathon bars. Totally not fair.
After the race, Ryan and I sat around for a bit and talked while enjoying the bands that were playing. I got a phone call from Raul, and we chatted about our respective races (he finished in 2:21!).
I also made use of my beloved “Stick”
After stretching out, Ryan and I walked around Forsyth Park for a little bit before heading to the area where we needed to catch the “mall shuttle” to get back to our car. Yet again, there’s that obstacle-course mentality the Savannah RNR planners are so fond of. (I do realize this type of public transport was necessary, though. But you must realize, after running a marathon… all you want to do is relax. And taking multiple forms of transportation to get wherever you can do said relaxation was not on the top of my to-do list. Ending rant).
On the way to the shuttles, we stopped to take more pictures.
Oh, and does this fountain look familiar, by any chance?
It was what the medal was based off of…
Finally, we made it to our last line of the day…
And guess who we run into while standing in line? Oh you know, just Michelle, Dan (Michelle’s husband) and Paula! You know… the ones I ran into at mile 3. I seriously LOVE these ladies.
They are freaking hilarious and riding the entire bus-ride home with them really made my day.
Ryan and I finally made it back to his car after about a 30 minute busride. And I’ll tell ya, that loaf of bread sure did come in handy…snack bag FTW. Back at the hotel, I promptly landed on the floor and did a little a lot of this…
Talk about an activity-filled day. I’ll recap the rest of the afternoon and night-on-the-town in my next post. If you read the entirety of this post, I am amazed! And I truly thank you for reading