Having never run an out-of-state race, I was anxious about a number of the details going into this event, including finding the Expo for packet pick-up, quality of sleep in a bed that wasn't my own, and looking for parking spaces race morning. In addition to this stress, my body was still in recovery mode from a number of injuries. With all these thoughts buzzing through my head, my focus was a tad scattered.
At 7AM on September 24th, I found myself standing before the start line of the Akron Marathon about to embark on a painful but rewarding adventure. I was a little pressed for time, since the parking garage I chose had me a little further away from the start line than I had planned and I also wanted to make a quick bathroom stop before entering my corral. I made it with a few minutes to spare, but at the expense of not really warming up like was my routine. I lined up next to the 7:49 minute pacer choosing to start conservatively with the game plan being to pick up time in the second half to meet an average pace of 7:45. At the sound of the horn we were off, surging along the blue line with 26.22 miles ahead.
As the first mile blew by, I could feel that the pace seemed a little on the speedier side, to which my watch was no help since it was having problems picking up signal between the cloudy skies and tall buildings. By mile two when I could get a more accurate pace reading, I found my suspicions to be true. While I slowed down slightly, something in me wanted to keep pushing it. I took on every hill with a vengeance doing my best to maintain the pace on the inclines. What I didn't realize was that I was burning up more energy than I was consuming. Once I crossed 13.1, I felt each step coming with a little more work. In addition, my left knee began to feel stiff causing my form to adjust for the worse.
It was at at mile 17 that everything fell apart and I hit the "wall." With each successive mile, I got progressively slower with walk breaks becoming more frequent. In those long miles, I dug back into what I remembered learning from podcasts and articles about running marathons. I convinced myself that if I walked through the water stations, I could then jog slowly to the next station. I actually found that around mile 22 I gained a slight second wind that pushed me through the next few miles.
The end of the race was a blur both due to the sheer size of the crowd in the stadium as well as being exhausted. In a daze, I accepted my medal and made my way to where the food and water was offered. While not usually someone who eats right after a race due to GI issues, I didn't care one single bit as I scarfed down a slice of pizza. It tasted so good (and I didn't get sick from it)! It wasn't until I got back to the car that the reality set in as to what I had accomplished - I just finished a marathon! While my time wasn't anywhere near my A goal (2:24) and was a little disappointed by this, I was still able to break four hours with a time of 3:46:59. For a first marathon, I'm thinking that's not too bad!
I'm currently taking two weeks off to rest and recover (something I've done pretty poorly in the past!) before I hit to roads again. In running the EQT Pittburgh 10 miler in November, I'm planning to do it just for fun. I'll then be setting my sights on the Pittsburgh Marathon in May where I'll tackle my second 26.2. Especially with a new course currently being developed for this race, I'll intrigued what it will entail!