Chapter Three: In Which I Bypass The Wall (and Hit the Sidewalk, Instead)
Cautiously optimistic about the reprieve I seem to be experiencing from my "internal issues", I took a peek at my Garmin after passing the 19th mile marker. I'd stopped checking, many miles ago, when the numbers were too disheartening and I was totally wrapped up in damage control.
What I saw gave me a glimmer of new hope.
While the 3:40 goal was a distant memory, I really could still pull out a PR. It took an inordinately long time to do the math, but I finally calculated that it would actually be possible to run only slightly faster than my current pace, for the remaining miles, and finish faster than I had in my first marathon. I was still pretty grumpy about the whole experience, but decided to pull it together, turn that (literal and mental) corner and finish this thing strong(ish).
Only there was a moving SUV in my way. (ha! You totally thought this was the sidewalk part, didn't you?!)
I'm still not sure if the driver had accidentally gotten into the runners' lane and couldn't get out, if they thought they were pacing us or if he/she was simply a moron. (I guess that option would cover all the others, too) Regardless, it was ridiculous. The vehicle kept changing speeds and was taking up the entire lane. The only way around it would've been to run into oncoming traffic and I simply wasn't that
At one point, after almost running into the bumper when the car came to a sudden stop, I sidestepped and received a disgusted yell and nasty face from another runner.
Really, lady? You thought, out of courtesy, I ought to throw myself into a Sports Utility Vehicle so as not to break your spectacular stride?
Wow. I thought I'd be over that little moment, by now. Apparently not.
Eventually the Surprise Car Obstacle was gone but my already sad pace had suffered, further. The heat was rising, the humidity was at about 100% (for real) and I was finding myself unable to take a deep breath.
When I saw the 20th mile marker, I almost cried.
Here's the part I could never understand, until I'd been through a rough marathon. You will, potentially, lose control of your body and brain. I'd read other recaps and heard other stories about "I couldn't imagine how I was going to run that last 5k", etc., but never understood how someone could get to that point.
When I saw that I had a mere 10k left, of this Race O' Death, I nearly had a breakdown. The distance that would, sometimes, be a warmup for me, seemed utterly daunting.
How. the &*$^@ was I ever going to run for nearly an hour more?
Prior to this marathon, that thought just seems silly.
After the marathon, that thought just seems silly.
During the marathon...that thought made perfect, bone-chilling, mind-numbing sense.
It was then that I took my first walk break. Yes, you're reading that right. Other than the bathroom stops, I hadn't yet stopped running. At all. The smart person outside of my body was freaking screaming at me to keep running and squeeze out a PR. The mushy brain inside my skull, though, would just not allow it.
I couldn't remember a single mantra...couldn't really even remember why I was putting myself through this mess and had exactly zero happy thoughts, at that time.
even the thought of this little celebratory treat failed to improve my mood
Just after the 21st mile, or so, I saw a friend from the running group. He was walking. He and I had similar goals and training so the sight of him was simultaneously sobering and encouraging. I was extremely sad that he was in the same boat, but felt a bit better knowing I wasn't alone in my misery.
We talked a little. He asked if I had anything to eat. When I offered him the gel I had left he looked like he was going to barf. I quickly shoved it back in the pouch and tried to get him to run with me.
That lasted for about ten seconds. Somehow his deathmarch gave me strength, though, so I picked up the pace when he dropped back to continue his walk.
A PR was still within reach and I had my 14th wind! We turned off a side street and onto a pretty busy road. A duo in front of me came to a complete stop, so I hopped onto the sidewalk to go around.
When I fell, I didn't even really feel myself tripping or going down. I simply noticed I was suddenly skidding on the sidewalk, hitting both hands and both knees. I remember actually making an "OOF" sound as the little breath I had left was forcibly slammed out of me.
Without bothering to survey the damage, I shakily stood up and started running again. Just about the time I looked down and saw blood dripping down my legs, fingers and arms, I realized I still hadn't really caught my breath. That's when I learned Hard Fall + Extreme Fatigue = Projectile Vomit.
Blessedly, as I didn't have much left in my digestive system, it was very brief.
Show of hands : Who, at this point of the story, is dying to run a marathon with me ? For any of you with hands raised, let me give you the full picture all the horrified spectators got to see for the rest of the race :
I took one blood-soaked hand, smeared it across my sweat, snot and vomit-splattered face to "clean up". That attractive look, paired with the blood and dirt-caked knees, and clothes decorated with every other bodily fluid known to man brought on some pretty comical reactions. The cheery smiles and pumping fists slowly gave way to frozen hands and horrified gasps.
"GO...ohhhh.!" "Oh my. "
"You can DO...oooh. maybe not..."
"Only two more miles to....holy *%$#!"
My weirdly-wired RunnerBrain didn't know any better than to just keep shuffling towards that finish line. The knees that had taken the brunt of my klutziness, though, had other ideas. I almost fell, again, when they locked up, completely. I was unable to even walk. Scooting over to the side, I stopped to massage them until I could move, again. That happened about five times.
I finally just laughed. I'm sure that was the icing on the CrazyCake the onlookers were witnessing, but it felt good to just stop caring. After that, I really don't remember feeling anything else. Physically and mentally I was completely numb.
When I crossed the finish line, four hours and five minutes after I'd started running, I felt no emotion. I wasn't happy to be done.
I wasn't sad about my finishing time.
I wasn't even registering the exhaustion.
I half-heartedly grabbed my medal and hobbled over to meet my ever-patient husband, and spectating sister.
You didn't really think there wasn't more drama to come, did you?