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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

St. Jude Memphis Marathon Race Report

A mile by mile account of my experience in the Memphis Marathon.

5:15am: I wake up. Get dressed, eat a bowl of cheerios with some honey and milk.

7:07am: Ride downtown. Listening to my favorite pre-race music: AC/DC.

7:25am: Arrive at the starting corrals. I am wearing my black and pink nike shorts and my matching short sleeve pink top. I also have on a long sleeve tshirt that april extracted from her “give to goodwill” pile for me to “give to the homeless” once I got warmed up.

7:27am: Walk up and down Third Street, trying to keep warm. My legs are freezing, I have constant chill bumps, I just wanted to get this thing started.

7:35am: Decide to line up ahead of the 4:15 pace group, so that I’d know when they passed me.

7:42am: Start glaring at all the people breaking the rules with their headphones.

7:43am: Wish that I, too, could be a rule breaker and have some pump up music on.

7:46am: Wonder if it’s possible to get hypothermia in 45 degree weather.

7:47am: Right leg goes completely numb. Decide, that, yes it’s not only possible to get hypothermia, but also frostbite in 45 degree weather.

7:51am: Glare some more at those wearing headphones. Punks.

8:00am: The elite runners start.

8:09am: Cross the start line and activate my chip. And I’m officially started. Note that this should be an easy number to work with as far as computing my actual start time. It should be easy to just subtract 9 minutes from all the mileage time clocks on the course, right? Well, as easy as subtracting 9 minutes is to compute in my head now, that day, I wasn’t ever able to accurately figure out my actual time. It’s like once I start running, math is not possible to compute. I remember thinking about one point… oh, I can just take 10 minutes off and then just add back one. And then everytime I passed a clock, I tried to compute and could never figure it out. Sad? Yes.

Mile 1: Freezing cold. Seriously, my legs feel like they have cinder blocks attached to them, I knew it was going to take me awhile to finally get warm.

Mile 2: One of the things that I always hated about not wearing headphones: Hearing my own breathing. Well, as it turns out… that’s no big deal… in fact, I didn’t notice my breath at all during the race. But, you know what I did notice… other people’s heaving. Uggghhh it was soooo annoying. And this was at mile 2 for chrissakes when I first noticed this. Obviously, you’re running a little too fast if you’re heaving and huffing and puffing at mile 2 in a marathon or a half marathon. Take it easy, big guy.

Mile 3: Warm enough to finally chunk my long sleeve t-shirt to the sidewalk. So long KD tshirt, you were a great help. Incidentally, there was a guy that was sprinting through the crowd screaming “I’m sprinting in cowboy boots, I’m sprinting in cowboy boots.” And then he told us, “I gotta find my wife, she’s way up there somewhere… gotta take a picture.” Everyone laughs (note: when you are at mile 3 of a marathon, people will laugh at anything, seriously… I think we would have laughed at a racially, religiously, gender inappropriate joke about 9/11 at this point). About 100 yards later we see cowboy boot sprinter sprawled out on the side of the road. Someone asks, “did you find her?” He holds up his camera and hollers, “I got it man, I got it.” And we all laugh again (see above note).

Mile 4: My first cup of water. Water only. I got maybe 1-2 tiny sips down, no big deal. At this point in the race, we encounter our 2nd (and last) Elvis impersonator serenading us as we run. Actually, I’m not even sure if that’s the right way to word it. He was singing Elvis songs, but he was dressed like he was living in like 1993. So, I don’t know how you refer to that. A woman to the left of me was actually calling someone on her cell phone. Finally the other person answered and she said.... “do you hear that?” and she held the phone up in the air and apparently the person on the other end didn’t hear, probably due to the fact that by the time that person actually answered the phone, we were already like 75 yards away from the speakers, so she asked again and held the phone up (now about 80 yards away) and she then tells the person… “It’s Elvis.”

Mile 5: Around this point is where I got my only glimpse at what this race is all about. A St. Jude patient, a little boy, was on the sidelines cheering us on. You can sign up to run as a “St. Jude Hero” and you end up raising money for St. Jude and they supply you with a jersey to run in and pay for your expenses for the trip in exchange. One of the heroes was running close to me when we approached the boy and she got a hug from him. The rest of us were jealous and for a brief second I felt so selfish about my lack of willingness to try and raise money for my races. Then I realized that I’m still helping out, and I felt good about that.

Mile 6: My 10k (6.2 miles) time was officially 58:38 (which translates to 9:28 pace). Of course, I had no idea this was my time, but I did have a general idea that I was under 10 minute miles, so I felt good about that. I was finally warming up a bit and feeling like I was hitting my stride. Only 3 and a half more hours to go, I kept telling myself!

Mile 7: This part of the race actually went through Overton Park. Here I encountered a dude dressed up as a gorilla trying to hand out candy. Like, this is some Halloween contest or something? Jesus. We don’t want candy, we want gu or accelerade or maybe a wheelchair.

Mile 8: Boredom sets in pretty heavy. During this boredom, I decide to take a gu out of my pocket and be ready to take it at the next water station for an added boost.

Mile 9: They are actually handing out gu, so I take one from a volunteer, only to discover that she’s given me 2 instead of one. And I only have room in my pocket for the one extra, so I shove the other down inside my bra. They are vanilla flavored, which I’ve never had, more on that to come.

Mile 10: This is the home stretch for the half marathoners. They’ve just gued and they’re getting ready for their finish. This run is along Poplar Ave and parts of it seem pretty familiar to me. I spend about 6 minutes of this mile trying to compute what my half time would be… I consider quitting at the half.

Mile 11: I realize, that I can’t just quit at the half. Because, April and Greg will be waiting to see me at mile 20 and who knows when they would eventually give up on seeing me and realize that I didn’t run the whole thing. And then I realize… ohhhhh.. I have April’s cell phone number written on the inside of my bib number just in case of emergency! So, I could just call her! Then, I feel ashamed for considering being a quitter, when honestly, I feel pretty good.

Mile 12: I encountered several spectators yelling…. “Come on, just one more mile to go.” And I sooooo thought about yelling back… “not for all of us, dumbasses!” But, I was nice and just smiled as I passed by, cussing them under my breath. Thanks for reminding me that I have to do this all over again now. Damn you.

Mile 12.5ish: This is where the half marathoners split from the marathoners. The split occurred right at Sun Studios. I felt triumphant as I joined the few on the left side of the road. As I ran by a race official he said to me…”real women run full marathons.” Indeed, my friend, indeed.

Mile 13: I do a check of how I feel. Going through all my body parts and noting that I feel really good. No tweaks, no stiffness, and mentally, I’m good, really good. I start realizing, only a little more than a couple more hours to go! A lady to my left is listening to headphones, which is bad enough, but she is also singing out loud along with her music, which is totally annoying. I speed up to pass her. I mean, jeez… its bad enough you are breaking the rules, but then you have to rub it in and actually make it worse to the non rule breakers making them listen to you singing. Uggh.

Mile 13.1: Half time: 2:07:04. My best half yet. Right on track for a 4:15 marathon. (Of course I couldn't figure this time out when I passed the clock. I wouldn't know till the next day when it was posted). Which, by the way, I still haven’t seen the 4:15 pace group pass me yet, so I know I’m still ahead of them. I don’t look behind for them, though, because I am afraid that they might be right on my heels.

Mile 14: After running through Beale Street again, this is where the boring part of the race sets in and honestly, the whole rest of the race is boring. No more scenic downtown runs (till the very end), just industrial, ugly parts of the city and neighborhoods. Boredom is becoming a factor.

Mile 15: I pull the vanilla gu out from my bra and take it. It’s extremely sweet and it catches me off guard. I only take half of it. I start to think… only 5 more miles to see my friends rooting me on!

Mile 16: The gu has left such a bad taste in my mouth that I guzzle down two huge cups of water. I start seeing the light at the end of the boredom tunnel… just about 10 miles left now.

Mile 17: I start feeling the water sloshing around in my empty stomach. It progressively gets worse and worse. And then I feel it coming straight up my throat… I run over to the sidewalk and puke right there on the edge of the sidewalk and the road. About 4 good heaves. A couple of people around me stop with me and make sure I’m okay, I assure them that I am and start to walk a little and then eventually work back up to a slow jog.

Mile 18: I have to start and stop running constantly. I’ll start running and then the feeling will come back and I have to stop and walk. It totally sucks. A runner beside me saw a spectator she knew and he told her… “you’re doing great! The 4:15 pace team is just ahead of you!” Crap, they passed me while I was puking.

Mile 19: It’s a catch-22. I know that the water will just make me sicker. But, I just threw up! I have a horrible taste in my mouth, so I drink some powerade at the next stop. It seems to help and perk me up a little bit.

My Cheering Section:

Mile 20: Just in time to see April and Greg cheering for me with their awesome posters! I was starting to feel like I might have overcome the whole bad stomach issue. My 20 mile time was 3:28:12 (10:25 pace). If I finished the last 6 miles at 10 minute miles, I could make it around 4:30. The 4:30 pace team sidles right up next to me. I try to keep up.

Mile 21: I puke again, this time, barely getting out of the way of the other runners, but lucky for them, it was mostly dry heaves. I have to start back again with the walk for a little bit, then run as far as I can. At
this point during the race, there is a
ton of traffic. And now I know why they have a no headphones policy. Because, there are cars driving RIGHT beside you! Seriously. The course isn’t closed to traffic, there is traffic all over the place and the car exhaust fumes are killing me. (In case you’ve never heard me complain before, car exhaust makes me sick while I’m running… it’s the worst smell during a run).

Mile 22: I find God. I realize that I’ve just got about 40 minutes left and I will be all done. Everyone around me is using the same technique as I am, running a little and then walking a little, but they are all stopping to stretch various body parts out. I, on the otherhand, feel great body-wise. No aches, just some soreness in my feet (to be expected), but no where near the pain that I experienced with my first. Just my stomach. Arrgggg my stomach.

Mile 23: I am miserable and start considering if I could actually run the Huntsville marathon this upcoming weekend anyway. Especially since I’m
having to walk so much.

Mile 24: Only 2 miles to go and yet those 2 miles seem so far. We pass by St. Jude Hospital and it’s windy as hell. Have I mentioned that yet? This whole race was very windy.

Mile 25: Now, when people yell at me, only one more mile to go, I yell back, “Thank god!” or “Just a little bit further” I am jubilant that I am actually going to make it and with my fuzzy math, I feel like I can still make it in under 5 hours.

Mile 26: Rounding the corner and into the ball park for my finish, I can hear that the announcer is actually
announcing the names of the
finishers! How exciting! I hear the announcer call out my name just before I cross the finish line.

Mile 26.2: I start crying from utter relief at having this all behind and at the fact that I crossed the line at 5:03, which, when you subtract 9 minute from that, it had to be under 5, right??? I have my chip cut off, get my medal placed around my head and still fighting back the tears I see April and Greg waving at me, I make my way up through the stands (yeah, what genius came up with that? Making marathoners climb up steps after running 26.2 miles?) and see them and its all I can do to keep from just completely breaking down into an embarrassing sobbing situation. I tell them that I need a diet coke, so I go over to the food section, grab a diet coke and a beer to bring back to them and I decided that I wanted to sit down for a few minutes. And then I decide, oh crap, I’m going to puke again. I run in the bathroom and barely get into the bathroom stall and puke my guts out. I come back outside and feel great. We take pictures and then leave for my post marathon celebration lunch.

The rest of the day was much better, I got drunk, hung out with best friends and got to get dressed up. It was lots of fun.

The next day, on my way home… I got a flat tire, though. So, there’s that, too.

I was okay on Saturday, but on Sunday the disappointment set in. And I know, I shouldn’t be disappointed, I did just fine and there will be plenty of marathons left in my life, but ya know… I trained for 16 weeks. I’ve missed every Monday night football game so far this year because I’ve had to be in bed. I’ve skipped alcohol almost completely in those 16 weeks. And my body was in really good shape, I was barely sore or stiff the next day! And my damn stomach screwed it over for me.

But, I am proud of myself… My official finish time: 4:54:25 (11:15 pace). I survived a no headphones, no partner marathon.

And, I’ve already picked out the next one! I’ll let April make that announcement!!


April said...

Great race report! I love the mile by mile reporting...awesome!

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