It’s pretty humbling to fall apart midway through a marathon. I did not hit my ‘A’ goal or my ‘B’ goal, but I did I finish in 5:07:29, about 40 minutes faster than my first marathon. I’m blaming the collapse primarily on being sick but also inadequate fueling and just plain lack of experience.
Before I go into all the details, I just want to say that I was really moved by the kindness of friends and strangers and I don’t want that to get lost in all the complaining and the melodramatic agony of the actual running part. It’s not lost on me that I’m incredibly privileged to be able to do this dumb hobby with the protection and support of thousands of spectators and volunteers and city workers. So if I come across as ungrateful in any part of this rambling diatribe, it’s just because I had a rough day.
Even though McMillan said I was capable of running a 4:10 marathon, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. (Even if I hadn’t been sick, I seriously doubt that would have been possible.) But I thought maybe 4:3X might be attainable, so that was my secret ‘A’ goal. My ‘B’ goal was to finish in under five hours, and my ‘C’ goal was just to finish. (Although I was pretty certain I’d at least finish faster than the last one.)
The race part!
I arrived downtown and parked around 7:15, and I had plenty of time to use the bathroom at the convention center (INDOOR FLUSHING TOILET YAY), check my gear and meet up with my friend Susie.
Susie and I run about the same pace and she finished her first marathon (last year) in about 5 hours, so I decided to stick with her for a while. We agreed to leave one another behind without discussion whenever it became necessary.
There were four seeded corals for fast people but we mediocre schleps had to self-seed and we started out super slow. In the weeks leading up to race day, my plan was to start out in the lower 10:XXs and work up from there, but it was incredibly congested (much more than I remember when I ran the half in 2012), and rather than waste energy dodging and weaving through the crowds, we decided to hang back and run easy until we left downtown and the road opened up. Susie and I chatted and those first miles were unexceptional.
Miles 1-5: 10:41, 10:43, 10:56, 10:36, 10:40
At mile 5 we saw the 4:45 pace group and I decided – like, right at that moment – that I was going to get ahead of them. I sped up and left Susie and the 4:45ers behind me. I had my one bottle of water and I was eating shotbloks and sipping water every mile or so.
At mile 7 we split off from the half marathon and I remember feeling just the slightest twinge of that was my last chance to turn back but I was still cruising at that point and feeling pretty good. It occurred to me that I still had to run 19 MILES but I pushed that thought right out of my head.
Miles 6-9: 9:52, 9:57, 9:57, 10:01
By mile 10 I was starting to feel a little fatigued. I finished my own water around mile 11 and started grabbing water at every aid station. We ran down a long stretch of a quieter residential street and I was looking forward to Broad Ripple and 13.1. When we reached Broad Ripple there was a huge surge of crowd support. There were unofficial beer “aid” stations (I did not partake) and a lot of fun, noisy people in costumes. I saw Sloth from Goonies and that sort of lifted my spirits, but I knew already that I was feeling too tired for only being at the half.
Miles 10-13: 10:16, 10:21, 10:26, 10:30
After Broad Ripple it got quiet again and I had some time alone to let myself get really messed up in the head about how much farther I had to run. I kept having these discouraging thoughts. I decided to turn on my music. I have never used music during a race, but I brought my phone/earbuds with me as a last resort, and I was glad to have them.
I”ve been listening to the same Pandora station for weeks and instantly, a song I love came on. (Kiss the Sky – Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra feat. Nino Mochella) and I sang under my breath.
I hold my head up just enough to see the sky
And when we go we won’t go slow, we’ll put up such a fight…
So that got me through another 3 minutes and 38 seconds. I slogged on.
Miles 14-18: 10:36, 10:48, 11:32, 10:53, 11:34
The 30k timing mat was at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. We later learned that mat was malfunctioning, so my husband and parents did not get a text update when I crossed (and my mom naturally thought the worst), but I imagined they were receiving alerts and pulling for me and that thought gave me a boost.
But after that, things starting falling apart. There was another very quiet stretch along White River Parkway and I was having trouble taking my gels (something that never happened in training). I felt hot. Not from the sun, but that internal heat you feel when you’re starting to get nauseated. I took off my arm sleeves and tucked them into my bra. I stopped around mile 19 to stretch and it was tough to get moving again. It took me two miles to force down one gel.
Miles 19, 20: 12:48, 12:47
Midway through mile 21, the 4:45 pace group caught up to me. I heard a woman remark that she loved my shorts (Coeur!) and it turned out to be the pace leader, Betty. THANK YOU, BETTY. I told Betty I was going to try to keep up with them and she was like “Yes! Join our team! Run with us! You can do it!” And for a while I could. Betty made me feel hopeful again.
I can’t even really remember exactly what else she said except that it was loud and encouraging. It was so nice to have a group to run with and I was kind of devastated when I couldn’t keep up with them anymore. But I was still hot and still had only taken about two gels since the half.
Miles 21-23: 11:51, 10:38, 10:59
And so I felt apart again.
At around 24.5 miles I said fuck it, and started walking. I had less than two miles to go but it felt like 100. I hurt so bad. I texted my husband and told him I was walking. This part of the race is a long two mile stretch down Meridian and I had zero fucks. Since I wasn’t running anymore, I got cold again and put my arm sleeves back on. There was a head wind.
Mile 24: 13:05
As I closed in on the 25 mile marker, I decided to try running again because it was taking forever and I realized as long as I didn’t seriously screw around I could probably still make it in under five hours. But as soon as I started running, my legs cramped up like oh holy shit (something that has NEVER happened to me EVER) and I sort of hobbled over to the sidewalk and sat down. It scared me. A medical attendant on a bike checked on me and asked if I had something to take and I told her I did. I pulled out a gel and took the whole thing and this fucking cool dude playing a bongo gave me an unopened bottle of water. Another spectator, a woman, sat down next to me and offered to rub my legs. (Kindness! But I declined and did it myself.) The whole inner front of my right thigh was going berserk and so was the left thigh, to a lesser extent. I drank some water and rubbed until it seemed to abate. But when I tried to get up, the muscle instantly clenched up again and I had to stay put.
That lady sitting by me was so nice. She just sat and talked to me while I rubbed my leg. I told her I didn’t want to quit with only a mile to go. I kept rubbing and drinking water and the next time I tried to get up, my legs cooperated. I stood and thanked the woman and the bongo player and starting moving.
Mile 25: 18:05
I was terrified of my legs cramping up again and thought I’d have to walk all the way to the finish, but in the last quarter mile or so the crowds really picked up. People lined the streets again and I heard someone ask where the finish line was. A voice yelled, “just three turns and you’re there!” A glimmer of hope.
Mile 26: 22:00
As we turned onto New York, I started running again. Miraculously, my legs didn’t cramp up and I actually felt sort of good. We turned onto Capitol and everyone was screaming. I just felt so relieved. I saw my friend Jorja and I cried. A few yards later, my husband and the kids. Sobbed. He was holding Codie and yelling like crazy. Kenzie was sitting in the stroller looking apathetic because she’s 3 and I was totally supposed to be done by now.
Then I turned and ran the last half a block down Washington to the finish. Susie was there screaming and I waved. Somehow she’d passed me without either of us noticing (I assume when I was in Crampville). She finished in 5:02.
Last .2 (but really .44 because tangents are hard): 11:32