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26.2 Miles Done!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Where to even begin? I guess at the beginning. Yesterday was the big day when I ran my first marathon, the Niagara Falls International Marathon. I got up at 6:00 having had only about 5 hours of nervous on and off sleep. I got dressed and set out in the dark to walk the 1.5 miles to the shuttle bus. I grabbed a muffin at Tim Hortons because there was no time to wait for the toasted bagel I'd been hoping for and then I ran the rest of the way to the bus. I got on with 2 minutes to spare!

The bus ride takes about 45 minute bus ride to the start line. The race started in Buffalo so we had to stop at the border and a border guard came on the bus and checked everyone's id. Once we were cleared it was off to the start line, which was at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The gallery was open for runners to hang out inside and keep warm which was nice since it was pretty chilly out. It was about an hour and a half wait which I thought would be torturous, but it wasn't that bad. It gave me lots of time to wait in the line up for the port a potty Everyone was so friendly and I met a lot of different people. It seemed like 4:15 was a popular finishing goal since most of the people I talked to were aiming for that too.

I was looking around for the 4:15 pace bunny, but there was none. There was only a 3:20 and a 4:00 bunny. I briefly considered sticking with the 4:00 group, but the wind was crazy and I didn't want to go out too fast. There were two men who I was talking with at the start line and they had the same goal time as me and I decided I would try and run near them.

It only took me about a minute to cross the start line once the gun went off. I held back and ran at a comfortable pace since I knew I had to save my energy. The first four miles were through Buffalo and I felt good, but as we approached the Peace Bridge to run into Canada the wind was in full force. It was brutal on the bridge, at times it actually felt like I might be blown right off the bridge and I lost my hat twice. Once we were into Ontario we were running directly into the wind. The wind was absolutely crazy and there were actual wind warnings in the Niagara Falls area. I felt like I was running sideways a lot of the time. Finally at around mile 8 the course turned and the wind was behind us. That felt amazing and I picked up my pace a bit.

Things were going well and I was on pace for a 4:10 finishing time. Around mile 10 I knew I'd have to stop at a port a potty. I drank a lot before the race, which I don't normally do for this very reason. I've never stopped at a port a potty before. It was something I've always dreaded. I kept waiting to stop because I kept hoping I would get lucky and there wouldn't be a line up at the next mile, but I couldn't wait any longer and stopped at mile 13. This stop cost me about 4 minutes, but what's 4 minutes compared to peeing your pants...nothing.

The course changed direction again around mile 14 and we were back running into the wind, which was now worse. The sky was getting dark and I was sure it was going to rain since there was a 90% chance, but it never did. Hooray for small miracles! I was slowing down, but still keeping a pretty good pace, running 9:37 minute miles. Still on target to finish under 4:15.

Around mile 16 I started walking through every water station. I needed it mentally and physically. Plus it's much easier to drink your water when it's not sloshing all over the place. More of it actually gets in your mouth this way. I ran by the two men I had been trying to use as my unknowing pacers. They had stopped off to the side and were stretching. I had lost sight of them around mile 4 so it was nice to see them again.

By mile 18 everything hurt. My back was having spasms, my legs were so sore and it felt like my toes were going to fall off. I just wanted to get to mile 20 so bad because then it would be less than an hour until the finish line.

At mile 21 the two men had caught back up to me and ran by. One asked how I was doing and I told him I thought I might be dying. He seemed totally emphatic and said he knew what I was talking about. It was strange to know that I was experiencing a lot of the same emotions and thoughts as complete strangers.

At mile 22 it hurt to walk just as much as it hurt to run. I contemplated jumping in the river and swimming to the finish line since I knew I'd get there faster thanks to the current and the Falls. I decided against it and kept on running. My pace had slowed considerably over the last few miles and I was now running around a 10:30 mile. My dreams of a 4:15 finish are dashed, but I don't even really care. At this point I just want to finish.

Somewhere around mile 23 I realize that I'd better take my race bib off my t-shirt and put it on the outside of my jacket so that I'll be able to get the picture of me crossing the finish line. I had put the bib on my t-shirt thinking I would send my jacket back on the baggage check bus, but it was too cold so I kept it on for the entire race. I attempt to make the switch while running, but this isn't a good idea since I now have open safety pins in my mouth. I stop and walk long enough to get my bib on.

At mile 24 there is just over 2 miles left and we're finally back in the city where there are people cheering and I can see the Fallsview Casino where the finish line is off in the distance. I know from running the half marathon last year that the end is near.

I run through the mile 25 water station and pick up the pace. I'm in incredible pain, but the faster I go, the faster this is all over with. The last 800 feet I go as fast as I can. I remember last year at the half giving it my all and sprinting to the finish, but I have nothing left at this point. I feel like I'm going fast but I'm sure I'm not. The announcer pronounces my name right for once, but I laugh at how he pronounces where I'm from, but I don't care, it's so good to be across that finish line. I did it! I conquered the 26.2 mile monster!! My finishing time was 4:28:22. Not what I was going for, but not horrible.

There were so many different emotions afterwards. I was proud that I'd finished, disappointed with my finishing time, sad that there was no one there to celebrate with me and very annoyed that I had a 1.5 mile walk back to my car. Ouch! If you had asked me yesterday if I would ever run another marathon I would have given you a very definite "NO WAY!!!" I was in an incredible amount of pain. I was exhausted and could barely walk. Today I feel a lot differently. I'm still very sore and it still hurts to walk, but I'm already thinking about the next marathon I would like to run and how I can improve on my time. I know I can do better and I will!

Thanks to everyone who left supportive comments and encouraging words! I really could not have done this without you. So many people on here have inspired me. My Spark friends are a constant source of motivation to me and if it wasn't for this site I don't think the idea of running a marathon would ever have occurred to me. Lastly, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this. I tried to keep it short, but it's hard to condense such a monumental experience into 1,500 words. Thanks for letting me share!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I love you Sarah!! You're super inspiring even as you say how much it sucked. See I read here that you do want to do it We'll see if I am not completely broken and if I haven't sworn off running we can train together????
    I might regret ever posting this...
    2311 days ago
    You are amazing and an inspiration! I was feeling weak today and you helped! Congratulations on your finish! You should be very proud of yourself!
    3813 days ago
    I just "met" you in the Roadrunners forum and thought I'd check out your blogs. I love reading about marathon experiences - your blog is inspiring, funny and very moving. What an amazing day you had - the wind certainly would have worked on my psyche and you overcame so much that day. Thanks for sharing :)
    3823 days ago
    Wow, congratulations on the marathon!!! I really appreciate you writing about your experience. Kind of scares me a little, but nice to know what to expect. I'm doing my first marathon in November, I'm going at it alone. I'm scared that I won't finish, but also scared that I will finish and have to do it all over again next year lol!
    It sounds like you had a great experience and thanks for sharing!
    4303 days ago
    I know I am a bit late reading this but just found your page today because you were a motivator. (Congrats on that!) I am currently training for my 1st marathon and find your story both inspiring and motivating. I appreciate the time you took to share your experience. Quick question…what was your longest run? Did you do more then one 20 miler? I am just curious on what you did to prepare yourself for this great accomplishment!
    4485 days ago
    Congratulations! Great job! I was kind of laughing at your portapotty dilemma - at my half last month I didn't have time to go beforehand, and while I made it through without having to stop, I did contemplate ducking behind a bush or even peeing while running! Hey, if it's good enough for Olympians..... LOL! Glad you finished successfullly!
    4581 days ago
    Sarah, I remember reading about you running your 10 milers and wishing I could do that. Congratulations on your run, it sounds like you did very well. Our little darlings are going to be 3 soon. Nuts, isn't it?
    4587 days ago
  • MDEAN1177
    WOW! Thank you for sharing!
    4592 days ago
  • ROBINS78
    WAY TO GO!!!! That's amazing!

    I was at the same event but did the half marathon walk. When you described the wind, dark sky, and the road, and miles, I was picturing it all over.

    I have always thought highly of marathoners and doing the half marathon walk my thoughts are of total amazement and inspiration on the amount of work, dedication and perserverance that goes into it!

    Way to go!!
    4598 days ago
    What an amazing experience! Thanks for sharing.
    4599 days ago
  • ORLA2002
    Sarah, I am so proud of you - what an achievement!!! You are such an inspiration!
    4602 days ago
    Wow what a great accomplishment you made- How awesome is your story- You are a inspiration! ;) emoticon
    4606 days ago
  • ELLIE381
    I so enjoyed reading your blog and keeping up with where you are running and your whole experience. You have accomplished so much. Congratulations!
    I know it is nothing I will ever be able to do, but I can feel the whole experience through your words. I have only done a 5k.
    Thanks again. Continued success!!!!
    4608 days ago
    Sarah, you are a phenomenon! Thanks for inspiring me to be my very best! Congratulations on finishing - you are totally awesome! hugs....lynne
    4610 days ago
    I felt cold and achey just READING that entry! I know what you mean about having no one there to support you at the finish line. I just finished my frist 10K (i'm a bit behind you in lengths) but i finished and i was like, "oh now what??" Nothing. But after a few hours and days, I'm so proud and ready to reach for even higher and better things. A marathon is such an amazing accomplishment. YOU RAN A MARATHON SARAH!!! *high five*
    4611 days ago
    Wow! I think your time is awesome! I would so be thrilled by that! You are an inspiration!
    4611 days ago
    CONGRATULATIONS!!! You are my Heroe, Lady Marathoner! emoticon What a great race report! You make me feel like running that Marathon right now! LOL

    So, is it true what they say that you never feel the same once you have become a Marathoner? Do you feel any different? Not mentionning the post-race soreness of course... LOL
    4612 days ago
    I'm so proud of you! Way to go! But, don't you dare be disappointed with your time, you be proud that you did this because not a great deal of people can say they ran a marathon.

    4612 days ago
    Congratulations!! Ata' girl!!!!
    4613 days ago
    You did so great!! Congratulations .... and like I've said to a few other 26.2-ers, please repeat after me ....
    "There were days I did not know if I could run a marathon, I now have a lifestime of knowing I did."
    Welcome to the *other* side!!
    4613 days ago
    What an inspiring race report. And we all want to improve ,but a 4:28: 22 is a very respectable finish! Congratulations! This is one you will never forget.
    4613 days ago
    You've brought tears of joy and wow! and smiles to me. Your story is a grabber start to finish. Hope, pain, funny, and optimism warmed my heart. Thanks for letting me(us) who ain't even close to this experience share your path to victory and the title "FINISHER!"
    4613 days ago
    congrats on your first marathon sarah!
    very proud of you. just yesterday i decided to do one in may. now i am thinking maybe not - lol. rest up and i hope your recovery goes well. i am glad you didn't jump in the river.
    4613 days ago
  • RUN2009
    You have much to be proud of! Congratulations!
    4613 days ago
    That's you, Sarah! You are an absolute star. Well done. I so enjoyed reading about your experience, thanks so much for sharing. It's so tough to set out on such a journey without your loves there in person to share, I know, but you know they were thinking of you and you ran fantastic anyway. YAY!
    You've given me more food for thought for the future.

    4613 days ago
  • MARLIE13
    WOOOOOHOOOOOO Sarah!! You Did it you did it you DID IT!!!! I'm so very happy for you. You inspire me so much that after I read your blog on Saturday, I actually started googling some training plans for a marathon to see what I'd be looking at. Your time is wonderful in comparison to what all you had to deal with...the wind, your hat, the potty break, your bib...etc etc but I totally understand you wanting to improve. And you will! You're awesome!
    4613 days ago
  • no profile photo CD557571
    Congratulations on your finish (and under 4:30 is fantastic in my books).

    So sorry that noone was there for you at the finish line, and also that you had to walk so far back for your ride. Hopefully next year, that will be one of the things that changes.

    Onwards to the next one now! WOOHOO....
    4614 days ago
    congrats & way to go! i am always always awed on people who run marathons. i cannot even fathom the training & always amazed on how people do it.

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    4614 days ago
    Congratulations!! Regardless of whether you meet your time goal or have anyone else to celebrate with, you ran a marathon!! That's huge and you should give yourself a HUGE pat on the back (and remind everyone else to, also)! I'm glad to hear that you're already thinking of the next one - it always seems to happen that way! Congrats again on an excellent race!!
    4614 days ago
  • BRUIN2

    emoticon emoticon

    You rocked it!!!

    Sounds like even though you thought you were dying, you definitely had a memorable race!! I can't believe you tried to change the location of your bib WHILE running! And losing your hat TWICE!?! What an experience!!!

    Way to finish strong!! Rest up this week - take the down time to investigate your next one! hehe.

    4614 days ago
    Oh, I certainly could relate to both the emotions and the physical pain--- glad to hear you're feeling better! You know, it's atotal learning experience. And, as you reflect back and look forward to your next goal, certain "light bulb" moments will come up out of nowhere.
    You finished running 26.2 miles--- that' s a huge accomplishment! Hold on to that, put your head up high and walk proud, very proud!
    Sorry to hear that there was no one to celebrate. Your next one, you got to have someone waiting for you or some other running firend. It makes the success so much sweeter!
    Big hug!

    4614 days ago
  • no profile photo CD696706
    Congratulations. well done. I can so relate to all that you have written. I went through all of that just a couple weeks ago, except for me it's not the wind that slowed me was the hills. I was asked if I would do it again at the finish line, and I said NO!!! it's just to painful, it takes way to much time in training...this is/was a one and only event...and then the next day came, and just like you, I know I will do another. I hope to train smarter (add hills) and do better. Your blog was did wonderful. Next year, we will compare notes again. gail
    4614 days ago
    Congratulations! I loved your account of the race. You made me laugh emoticon
    4614 days ago
    WOW, I am sooo amazed!! Well done :)
    4614 days ago
    You are awesome--thank you for "taking us with you" so we can imagine what it might be like! What an amazing accomplishment!
    4614 days ago

    I can only imagine the sense of accomplishment; you are amazing. You are strong; be proud.

    4614 days ago
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