|They had an abundance of great posters. Thanks Amy for the picture!|
Here's some run-downs of highlights and my thoughts throughout the event:
Miles 5-6: I ran with Marv from Colorado and Tom from Grand Island during this stretch. Marv is 75 years old and has run over 200 marathons and ultras. He's completed the Leadville 100 TWICE. He told stories about different races, but he was quick to talk about others and rarely talked about himself. I asked him what his favorite race was, and he said he couldn't pinpoint one but that he preferred ultras over marathons. He explained that in marathons, people are out to run a specific time; they run their own races. Conversely, in ultras, people are focused on merely finishing, and because they're so difficult, runners band together to push one another. I think Marv talked me into running an ultra. I caught him coming in at mile 11 when I was coming out at about 13, and he gave me a big hoop and cheer as he ran. Tom was running his first marathon. He was middle-aged, wasn't built like a runner, and wore cheap basketball shorts and his long-sleeve shirt from the event (it was a brutal 90% humidity at the start, and it was not cool by any stretch of the imagination). He smiled proudly as he talked about finishing this race he never thought he'd even attempt. When I saw Tom again, he was at mile 18 and I was at 24...he was still smiling.
Mile 15: I ran past three teenaged girls who were volunteering at one of the intersections. They cheered as I neared, and as I got closer one girl yelled, "Keep going! You're almost done!" between bites of powdered donuts. Almost done?!? I still had 11 miles to go! And why didn't she offer me a freaking donut? For some reason I hit the proverbial wall at miles 15-20. I was just starting to feel terrible when she yelled this, and I was not in high spirits. It took all I had in me to refrain from yelling at the girl to go back to basic math class and learn how to count.
Miles 18-23: This was a point of utter desperation for me. My back was aching and the pain had reached down into my glute and hamstring causing me to feel so tight. I was just entering the worst part of the course: an out and back for 7.5 miles on Highway 30--one of Nebraska's most boring highways. The clouds had begun to clear out and the sun beat down reminding me why most sane people avoid summer marathons in Nebraska. I tried switching from podcasts to music back to podcasts. I tried silence for a while. When I felt like I could go crazy, I called my running partner Kristin and left the most desperate voice mail. Fortunately she called back within ten minutes. She kept my mind occupied until somewhere between miles 22 and 23.
Mile 24: I had to do some walking earlier to try and loosen up my back, but this time I had to take a walk break because I had a side ache and had a hard time getting into a rhythm with breathing because the damn humidity felt like I was breathing into a mask of cotton balls. I also felt nauseated I think from not having enough food in my system.
Mile 25.75: I came to a fork in the road where the course wasn't marked. I assumed the volunteers were supposed to direct the runners which way to go. I got closer and could see one girl, about 16 years old, asleep in her bag chair. ASLEEP. At mile 25. I damn near pushed her out of her chair. The other girl looked to be about 12. I had to shout at her to ask her which way to go, and she just pointed in the direction. No cheers, no good jobs. Just a blank-faced point in the general direction of the finish line. "Unbelievable!" I shouted to nobody.
Mile 26.2: I looked at my Garmin and saw the finish line was still a tenth of a mile away and cursed the day I started running.
This marathon was much tougher than my last one. That's what happens when you get older, I guess. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. There's something about pushing my body to it's absolute limits that makes me feel so alive. I realize how crazy this sounds...I'd love to sign up for a 50k here in Omaha in early October, but I'm not going to. I'm going to cut back on the running for a few months to let my body rest and to give Nate a chance to do the kind of working out he wants to do. He's done a lot of solo parenting this year as I've ran various races, and he's never complained about me running. It's time I did the same for him. Plus...my legs will probably still be tight for the next 8 weeks anyway...