If you follow me on Instagram (or let’s be real, know me in the not square life), you know that I’ve been training for the Mountains to Beach marathon for FOREVER. Ok, not actually forever, but 18 weeks sure feels like a long time.
The race was Memorial Day weekend, and I’ve been spending the last week (or so) trying to figure out how I feel about the whole thing. I don’t think I’ll ever really know how to feel about it, so, here’s what I’ve sorted out so far.
For the race, I opted to wear a bright pink tank top, black Oiselle shorts, and my trusty patterned Stance compression socks (all designed to make me easier to spot). My outfit was tried and true, I knew that nothing should go awry, because nothing is worse than being uncomfortable for 26.2 miles (and the cute patterns with bright colors didn’t hurt either).
The morning of the race, I had to wake up at the ungodly hour of 3am in order to make sure that I was at the 4am shuttle on time. Marathon excitement had me waking up every hour or two, just in case, you know, my alarm decided not to go off. Fortunately, I got enough sleep to feel pretty well rested (or just had enough adrenaline coursing through me to make me feel that way). Big thanks to my amazing Mom who braved the pitch dark with me to find the shuttle!
After a half-hour bus ride up the mountain, we made it to the adorable town of Ojai to wait for the start of the race (which wasn’t for an hour and a half). Waiting wasn’t that bad, though, considering there were lots of other people waiting around, too, and runners are probably some of the friendliest people out there (at least on race mornings). While I waited, I finished off a bagel and did some light stretching/warmups.
The start: my goal was to finish in about 4:30, so I put myself at the back of the 4:21 pace group, figuring that if I kept at the back of the group, I’d be well on my way towards my goal.
Miles 1-2: realized that the 4:21 pacer was banking time early in the race to make it easier for people to meet their goals. The 9:30 pace she was running was comfortable, but I knew it was way too fast for me to maintain. So, I dropped back to the 10:30-11:00 pace I’d planned on starting with.
Miles 3-6: met an awesome fellow runner gal (Karen) who had the same goal 4:30 goal as me, so we started running together. We passed the time chatting away – I actually forgot for a minute that we had over 20 miles to go. Karen, wherever you are, thank you for making those miles so much fun!
At mile six, my body decided to yell at me because I hadn’t eaten anything yet. Since low blood sugar hit me like a ton of bricks, I decided to slow down and eat some shot blocks. In my crazed, hungry, don’t want to miss my goal state, my body decided to tell me that it would be a great idea to eat the entire tube.
WRONG. BIG MISTAKE.
Mile 7-10: I knew that 4:30 wasn’t gonna happen for me, but I still had a chance to make it in under 5 hours, so I pushed (with some downhill assistance) and came pretty close to where I should have started out the race (oops). Pretty sure you can see how real the struggle was in my mile 8 photo below.
Mile 11-12: internal thoughts: holy cow. Pretty sure I’m dying. WHY did I eat so many shot blocks?!
Mile 13: Hello insides, why are you hurting so much? Oh, because you’re about to be sick, that’s why. You know how I said eating all those shot blocks was a bad idea? This was my body’s way of telling me that. Also, that I probably should have started out the race at an easier pace.
Mile 14-18: my inner mantra of “YES YOU CAN” going in full force, I managed to run a half mile, then walk a half mile. I managed to keep a smile on my face, because sometimes the best thing about running is that it’s hard. This was totally working until mile 18, when my body decided yet again to tell me how it felt about things (hint: NOT good).
To the cross country teams manning the water/food stations: THANK YOU. Pretty sure the only way I made it was because someone walked up to me and handed me a cup of pretzels.
Mile 19-23: I probably should have pulled off the course, and taken the DNF. But, I’m stubborn. Also, at mile 19, the cheering sections started. These were groups from local non profits all competing to win a big prize – all for boosting runner morale the most. My pride wouldn’t let me walk through those cheering sections, so I ran the best that I could.
Honestly, I’m so glad that I did. The energy boost from those wonderful people was just what I needed (cue dorkiest grin possible). I love running, and pushing through those miles reminded me of why.
Mile 24-25: coming back into downtown Ventura, so many runners who had already finished were out on the course, cheering us later finishers on. I have to admire all the cops and volunteers at this race – they were cheering on ALL of us runners until the very end. Mostly, I spent these miles trying not to die.
Mile 26-26.2: holy finish-line Batman! I’d made a promise to myself that I would RUN across the finish line – no matter how terrible I was feeling – and I’m so glad that I did.
On one side of the finish line, there was a giant beer garden for all the finishers. At one point, a woman yelled “GO PINK SHIRT!”, sticking out her hand for a high five. Not one to pass up a high five, I made my way over to give her a high five. After that, everyone else standing along the finishers chute stuck out their hands for high fives! Of course, I maximized the opportunity and high fived EVERYONE! Fellow runners, you’re the best.
Even though I didn’t come close to my goal, I am still so happy about finishing this race. I pushed through, found the joy, and didn’t give up (even when I could have).
Here’s the thing about running marathons (at least for me): they build you up, and sometimes tear you down, but they always make you believe that things that feel impossible really can happen.