2:59 was my goal. Anything faster would be icing on the cake. My coach (Dylan) and I went back and forth and he’d suggested the following goals: A – 2:55; B – 2:59; C – Finish the damn thing.
It seemed reasonable to me, but on the day before the race, as I ate a ‘Merica-sized greasy cheeseburger, knowing better, (I did remove the processed cheese slice), I started thinking about ….2:52…maybe 2:49. Maybe Dylan hadn’t noticed all my fitness, just some of it, so his paces where conservative. This meant I should start faster and just try to hang on.
On race morning, due to shuttles, emergency bathroom visits, and putting shorts on and then switching to tights and then switching back to shorts, we didn’t get much of a warm-up. I’m still not sure what kind of warm-up is really needed before a marathon. It’s long enough that you can definitely warm in to it, but fast enough that the start is still jarring. Anyways, we start!
I join a pack of women in the first 7-10km. It comes up that this is essentially my first marathon and one of them says, “Stick with us, girl, we’re going anywhere between 2:45-2:49). Oh. That explains why they’re using the elite aid stations instead of the ones for regular people like me. I tell them I may drop back because this is admittedly too fast for me, even with my plan to try to run too fast. One of them actually says “Really? But the hardest parts are over. There aren’t very many hills from here to the finish line.”
I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure no one and I mean no one, says the first 10km of a marathon is the hardest. I dropped back and slowly let them go and rational thought catches up. By half-way, I’m back on pace. Dylan said that marathons start to hurt around 22-24miles, but at 23km I distinctly remember the onset of the hurt and my pace starts to show it.
By km 28 I’m really slowing, the world paces me and I continued to slow, fight, and repeat until the slowest km yet at 36. By then I was feeling pretty miserable about things. I felt terrible and everyone around looked bad too. Is this what marathoning looks like? People shuffling and other people cheering from the sidelines, “you like great!”
I contemplated stopping. Math wasn’t coming easy to me anymore and by my ludicrous calculations I was going to run a 3:30 if I was lucky. A man who was passing me over and over because he kept stretching at benches said “Come on, we can still break 3 hours!”
I tried harder at math and realized he was right. I tried harder at running and slowly, I picked it up. I still looked and felt terrible and everyone else around me did too. Breaking 3 hours is a big feat and yet all these people who had a chance at it still looked like garbage. How fast do you have to go to look okay? (2:01:39)
Anyways I found a pace, that based on my calculations was going to get me to the finish line in 2:59. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just dial it in, I fought. As I inched my way towards the stadium, it occurred to me that I was on pace to run 42km in under 3 hours, not 42.2km. How could I have forgotten about that annoying extra .2 tacked on a million years ago for the queen or something?
I sprinted like a woman who had everything to gain and nothing to lose and god, it hurt. As I rounded the final corner and had to cover just .1 more, I watched the clock: 2:59:30….31…32…33 and I made it.
I sat down and had two simultaneous thoughts:
I did it!
God, you’re an idiot.
Dylan sent me a note right after he got my race file: This is really great, Laurel. But shit, you did this the HARD way, dude. 10sec per km slower in the beginning and I bet you don't fade much at all til after 35k. But you clearly dug really really deep for this one. You should be proud of that. Things were getting pretty ugly with that 36/37th km's. You clawed it back really well to get under 3. Were you doing the math in your head at all? or just running as fast as you could? That was close!!!
It’s like he’s run a marathon before!
It hurt a lot, in a pretty contained way and honestly, I loved it. I love that hurt. I love the rush and then the immediate white-hot pain of the finish line and then the quiet. I think running a lot of the race right (5 gels thankyouverymuch) and a lot of it wrong (all the pacing and poor mathing) made me hungry. The finish line is so final. You can’t go back, you can only go through the entire process over again and chase another one.
And so, I will.