I was sick.
Not, “I was going to be sick.” I was sick. It started when I woke up and it continued to the race start. I brushed it off as nerves and figured once I started running this would pass.
The race morning was not starting out ideal. We neglected to pack anything for ‘breakfast’ before the race, and scrambling around downtown Tulsa showed us that there were no shops or drugstores within reasonable walking distance, that were open on the weekend. In fact. This place was like a ghost town all weekend. The only people around were runners. We discovered late that the hotel restaurant had set up a table where everything was two-dollars (unless the guy liked you – then it was free). He did not like us. We got water and a banana.
I drank water and begrudgingly choked down some of a banana before handing both off to my husband. This race was going to happen whether my body got it’s shit together or not.
“So about four hours? I’ll meet you at the center of the universe?” My husband asked hugging me before I entered corral A. The corral for people who were going to do well…. I was not going to do well...
“Maybe more like 5…” I muttered. He wished me luck, shouting over the Native American drumming that was echoing around the buildings and crowd from up at the official start line.
“We just had our first frost this morning!” A woman commented, huddling against the cold breeze. She had long-sleeved gear, and a face mask, and a winter cap. Half the runners were dressed for the start: with winter gear. The other half, like me, were clearly dressed for a couple hours from now, when the temperature would rise from the 30s to the 50s. My husband suggested going with arm sleeves, and I must say that it was the right choice.
They started our corral off with glitter and confetti canons. The bits of paper and sparkles rained over us, caught on a breeze, and made for the most beautiful start I’ve ever run through. Soon after leaving the start line there was a cacophony of church bells ringing. They too echoed between the buildings as the runners made their way toward what I’ll call the “church district”. On our first turn there was a church choir singing at the top of their lungs for the runners.
It was awesome!
We made a quick zig-zag and were swept almost immediately out of the tall buildings and into a neighborhood. The houses were lovely, and the people clearly all gathered outside on their lawns and drives to watch the race unfold.
The suffer-fest held off.
I struggled with myself. That sickness that plagued me when I first woke up seemed to pass and I was having trouble keeping my pace back around 9:20 – the pace I wanted for this race. Instead, my body seemed to decide that it would run 8:40s or not at all.
Actually. I was feeling pretty good.
With the rolling hills as a constant obstacle, and me trying to keep myself under control, I managed to average 9 flat, but it was still faster than I wanted, knowing that the whole marathon was going to be like this.
I chatted with a couple of marathon maniacs as I went, for the first couple of miles. At one point, as I was describing my “marathon a month” challenge to one woman, a group of three ahead of me slowed and a woman said, “Hold on. Sorry. I have to see who this person is.” And she gave me a long look over her shoulder. I waved and smiled.
“Hi. I’m the idiot you’re looking for.” I said.
“Good luck to you.” She responded and then I passed her and her group.
Mile 9 marked the biggest block party of the race – on a street named Cincinnati! I had to stop for their photo-op…. though I was the only one entertained by the fact that I was “from Cincinnati” for real.
Around the block from the “Sin-cinnati” block party was a main road where a spin class was lined along the sidewalk to do their workout and cheer at the same time.
The entertainment on this course was mind-blowing! There was so much talent out there!
I knew that if the whole race kept up like this, I would be in heaven! This was perfect!
Things were going so smoothly, as we hit the small turn-around on the actual Route 66 to head back into downtown that I started to worry if I needed to eat half a banana before every race. I mean. Here I was coming up on mile 13, feeling strong and relaxed, on a challenging course. And after all those stomach issues before the race… Oh. And of course, with no training. Because I’m finding it harder and harder to train between these big races.
Guys. I hate bananas!
Not to worry, readers. The marathon knows exactly when to humble a person.
Around mile 14 it seemed to me that we were just doing the first half marathon loop all over again. It wasn’t true, we only followed the original loop for a few miles, but it was disheartening all the same. The pep band, musicians, and even locals who lined the route for the first loop were either gone completely, or thinned significantly – waiting and watching for specific runners, and not cheering for the others. Don’t get me wrong – there were a few people who cheered no matter what… but they were far less now.
Miles 15 and 16 I told myself it was too early to start hating the run.
With the half marathoners gone, the running crowd had thinned significantly – and although people were more than willing to share a short chat (“Beautiful day for a run”; “These hills…damn.”; “It’s getting warmer”, etc) no one was really looking for a running buddy.
What I needed more than ever was a running buddy.
I also needed the headwinds to back off. What started as gentle, but cold, breezes that morning at the start line were now strong winds that kept runners hunched as they ran up hills.
With the lack of entertaining things going on around me, and the new-found loneliness of a field of runners drastically cut to lower numbers, I started to realize that this race was starting to feel like one I did earlier this year. As my stomach started to rebel again and I had to resort to walking it off, I found myself considering how this race seemed really tuned toward the half marathon, but not so much to the full. The crowds were less, the entertainment along the course was almost non-existent, and the route was no longer eye-catching like the earlier neighborhoods. It was like running Louisville Marathon. Yeah, it was a marathon, but once you lost the half marathon, it became about as entertaining as being on a treadmill.
Granted, being on any race course by yourself will get that way. And I was alone.
It was enough to drive me to drink.
My legs started feeling like they were made of concrete, and it was getting hard to keep placing one before the other. I didn’t have it in me to force myself to eat anything either. You know what I needed?
Yes. Not more running.
I settled for: Beer.
Beer stops started popping up around mile 7 on this course – and they were consistent throughout the whole race. I snagged my first beer shot around mile 17. And then had four more before I got back into a running groove that didn’t involve long stints of walking.
At one point, I took a picture with a “party stop” because they were having a blast and I needed something to cheer me up. I think the bacon and beer did more…. In fact, I think the British guy a few yards up the road with the jelly beans did more for my attitude than anything at this point.
Bring the Pain.
“It’s all down hill after mile 20” A runner called to me as he tried to encourage me. I was limping. My IT band and hip were not liking this run at all anymore, and it was not helping me get running again. As I limped through miles 21 and 22, up the hills, I remarked to myself what an utter liar that man was.
“Maybe he meant metaphorically all down hill…. but still! Who needs a metaphor when they’re dying of marathon!?” I muttered to myself as I chugged up yet another, and another hill. I don’t think that guy realizes it, but what he did was give me something to focus my hate on. Him. And his damn metaphors.
Other runners were very kind, giving encouragement and agreeing that the course was tough, and a few I would pass and then would be passed by, only to continue that repetition until the end. I became desperate for someone to talk to and started texting my husband and my friend Minh (Or my “race husband”, as he calls himself). Both offered encouragement, and it helped, having them to communicate to.
The Center of the Universe Tour –
It wasn’t until mile 25 that things started getting interesting again and that the run felt easier to do again. We were looping back into downtown, and the Center of the Universe detour was coming up. It was another hill, but so worth it!
Basically, they invite you to visit the tourist trap of Tulsa, the Center of the Universe – A point where you stand and can hear yourself echo when you speak, but people outside of that point do not hear the echo. (I was told by Homeland Security that you have to “ring the gong” afterward, because aliens will come get you if you do not… I was slated to go to Roswell NM the following week for work – I wasn’t going to take any chances!)
I slinked up the hill at a pace that was almost 9 flat again, waved at the rapper on stage and spotted my husband immediately. As I passed through the circle that denoted the Center of the Universe, I stopped and backed up to ask the volunteers there, “is this it?”
My voice echoed….and I felt a huge grin spread across my face. The volunteers laughed and clapped as they confirmed it. It was super cool!
I ran to my husband to kiss him, and finished out the detour by running to the bottom, getting another beer shot, and then heading back up the hill to collect my challenge coin, snap a photo, and finish this marathon!
Nothing left but the finish.
It was probably about a mile’s worth of running after I got back onto the course. My legs hurting and felt so heavy that I took a moment to walk it out, but once I started running, it was a, “so done with this shit” run. The crowd at the finish line was silent. It was eerie. There was no raucous cheering like at the Flying Pig. No. Some people started cheering as I raised my arms and cheesed for a photo at the finish line. Oh. And Bart Yasso announced, and butchered, my name at the finish line.
It was over!
Marathon #11 all finished.
My original goal of 4:30 for the marathon was only slightly off – I ran this, with the detour, in 4:34. And I’m okay with that! Especially with the crash – both physical and mental – that I went through from mile 16-23. My two slowest miles were 21 and 22, at 15:15minutes each.
I don’t get much of a break now. Its time to set sights on the 12th race of the year – the final one for the marathon per month, and a challenging trail 50k.
Luckily, there will be a bunch of people from my running group there. So I’ll have some friends along the way. That’ll make a big difference.
Phew. Time to rest.