Misadventures with wine, weights, and running shoes.

The Gift of Running: MCM Race Recap

Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Sitting in the hotel room on the night before the race, I had a potpourri of emotions about my 7th marathon. 

I trained consistently for more than a year; through snow, ice, spring allergies, rain storms and summer heat.  I cross trained, kept my diet in check, and was close to being in the best shape of my life. Despite that, I sustained a muscle injury in my leg during a seemingly uneventful short run close to four weeks before the race. This resulted in a trip to PT and some considerable pull back in activity. Throw tapering into the mix and now I was questioning everything.  Fortunately for me, I had the overwhelming support of my friends and excitement for my training partner’s first marathon to help distract me.

The only thing left to do was to give my best effort on race day.

The evening before the race we had all our gear set out; ready to go. We fueled and hydrated to the best of our ability and after setting ALL THE ALARMS we settled down for some much needed rest.

Race day:

Pre-race rituals done and not like every big race, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I was excited and nervous; practically bouncing off the walls - Theresa was ready to sedate me. 
We had a ten min walk and a five min subway ride ahead of us, so we got ready and headed out at 6-6:15 am. Lessons learned: although we allotted 2 hours before race time, it was NOT NEARLY ENOUGH.  We got stuck in the Spot a Pot line from hell leaving us there for AN HOUR.  This resulted in a panicked jog/power walk to the security check point and bag drop off. 

A quick hug goodbye and we each went our separate ways to make our way to our corrals. I weaved in an out of runners and spectators along the edge of the road and hopped the fence around the 3:45 pacer with less than two min before go time. I was not happy and not where I wanted to be. My hope was to stay with Mark, the 3:45 pacer for most of the race.
As the race started, two streams of runners merged after the start and began the three mile climb straight up hill.

Being a person small in stature, it was challenging to see and stay with the pacer from the beginning. I was elbowed and blocked from following closely. Not wanting to expend energy fighting this mob trying to catch the pacer, I settled in with the crowd hoping to make up some time as it thinned out.

Yeah, that didn't happen for quite a while.

There was a mix of fighting the clock with not pushing too hard too quickly - I have been burned that way before. The cheering of the crowds and friends shouting out names did make for a great start. 

At the 10K mark, I was already 5 min off my time. I knew I could not make up that time to hit my initial goal.  I let it go and settled into maintaining my current pace to see what I could do. This part of the race was beautiful, winding roads and scenic picturesque streams and fall colors. I did my best to enjoy the experience and wondered how my partner in crime was doing.

Mid way point, Miles 11 to 15: 

My legs were already starting to feel heavy and I found it hard to maintain my pace.  Despite taking nutrition at proven intervals, it seemed like it wasn’t enough. Mile 15 was a very emotional mile as it had picture after picture of fallen heroes.  As a military wife, this held even more meaning to know how fortunate I was.  At the end of this mile, I found an old friend and fellow Army Wife cheering the runners along as a flag bearer.  I practically tackled her with a bear hug and thanked her for being there.  Seeing a familiar face lifted my spirits incredibly to keep going.

The Struggle:

The cramping in my legs began around mile 15, and I found that I had to adjust from running to short bouts of walking for 5-10 seconds to keep my legs from seizing up. Crowded and chaotic water stops didn’t’ help either. Relentless forward progress in the best way I could was my theme.  My next focus was now looking for the emotional support of my friend, Jill and Strider Family who I knew was ahead. Each mile closer meant I was ever closer to my friends.  When I found Jill, I give her a grateful hug and then headed back out into the crowd.  

"Three more miles till the striders," was what I was thinking from mile 19 through 22. It meant everything at that point and helped push me over that bridge. The sun beating down and that ridiculous wind made everything that much harder. 

When I saw them, I reached out with my arms wide and gave our coach Rachel the biggest hug I could possibly give.  I grabbed a coke, hugged my friend Cindy, waved at my strider family, and took off.  This was an out and back part of the run, and it gave me a perspective of where I was in the race. I was way behind the 3:45 pacer and the 4:00 pacer was breathing down my neck. 

My new goal: don’t let 4:00 catch me.

The finish:

I pushed, as much as my legs would allow, determined not to stop till the end. It was under a bridge where I got bumped or stepped on or both and the end result was my left leg going into a full-fledged Charlie horse. I’m sure I created a few new choice words as I hobbled along until my muscles let go a little. 

The urgency in my mind was real - beat an imaginary adversary: my 4 hour cut off. 

As I rounded the corner, I could see the final climb. I tried to step it out only to have my legs seize and rebel. I wish I knew his name, but the kindest runner gently held onto my left elbow and said, “okay let’s get going” as he helped me get my footing again. To my right, another runner, Nancy, told me she’d been following me for miles and that I kept her going. 

This was her first marathon. 

We, complete strangers, bonded by this experience, took each other’s hand and pulled one another up the hill.  I crested the finish line with seconds to spare. 

Fifty feet from the finish line, I tucked myself by the railing to wait for Theresa.  I had just seen the text that she was injured and my heart was broken. Shifting side to side, I tried to keep my legs from stiffening up as I waited for what seemed like eternity. When I caught glimpse of her cross that finish line I ran up and hugged her and got her moving ahead. 

We did it. 

From begging to end there were six months of training, hard work, and commitment. At that moment, everything was perfect.  No pain, just pride for us both, an outpouring of emotion that comes with such a great accomplishment.  Moments like this are why I will continue to run for as long as I can.  What a gift. 

Love, Cindy

4 comments on "The Gift of Running: MCM Race Recap"
  1. Way to fight though the crap and finish! So emotional...<3

    1. Thanks Sandy! Hoping next year to maybe do this one better!

  2. That was so emotional! Thanks for sharing and congrats to both of you for finishing
    Confessions of A Mother Runner