I’ve spent the past two weeks in a post-marathon haze. The first 24 hours were euphoric, then the exhaustion set in. This exhaustion was both physical and emotional. I’m slowly coming out of it and can now think clearly and function at a reasonably normal level again.
The Marathon was by far one of the most amazing and incredible experiences of my life. I finished in 5:08, running the entire way. The average marathon time for a woman in my age range (50-54) is 5:06. I finished in the bottom quarter of my age group for this Marathon. This group (50-54 year old women) represented only 2 % of the 11,000+ marathon runners that day. I ran for my own reasons but I hope I represented them well.
While I was running, I tried to keep my mind clear and focused on only one thing…the next stride. Because of this, I initially thought that I didn’t have a lot of memories of the race. I was wrong. Now that some time has passed, the memories are coming to me in multitudes. I organized the Top Ten and want to share them with you.
Menopausal Marathoner’s Top Ten Marathon Memories
10. Looking forward in the starting corral and seeing nothing but a sea of runners slowly approach the starting line and then take off. The sheer magnitude of runners is hard to describe. The start was massive and orderly at the same time. Everyone was friendly but for the most part subdued. The task ahead had its effect on the collective mood.
9. Deciding within a mile of the start that I had absolutely no interest or desire to look at or garner information from my new $179 GPS Runners Watch. I hid it under my sleeve for the entire race and also told coach that I didn’t want to know ANYTHING. This included miles, pace, and/or time. This is the old “ostrich with its head in the sand” way of coping with stress. Now, obviously I was aware of our position from time to time since there were clocks and mile markers at regular intervals. Still this allowed me to run most of the way unencumbered with thoughts of my progress or lack thereof.
8. Discarded hats and headbands along the route for the first 8 miles or so. This may sound like a strange thing to remember and even focus on, but it really struck me, possibly because I was running with my head down as usual. I assume that as the runners got warmer, they didn’t need their hats, headbands, etc. so they just tossed them. Now I can see tossing a cheap headband but there were some very high end brands lying on the road. I saw Northface and Nike gear to name a few. I had to fight the urge to pick some of it up even though I knew that any clothing or gear discarded at the race was later collected and sent to charities. That and the fact that the hundreds of runners surrounding me would have most likely tripped over me had I stopped, kept me going.
7. Random strangers calling out my name and cheering me on. It wasn’t just me they were cheering for, it was everyone that went by, but it did help. I now know the purpose of having your first name on your racing bib. It’s not so you can make friends during the race, it’s so the supporters can call you out by name. It was strange at first to hear my name called out like that, but I got used to it very quickly and even tried to give the random stranger a quick thumbs up and a thank you as I ran by. It was also funny how many times I heard ”Go Shannon!!”. For my next Marathon, I’m going to make sure that my bib is on front and center with no wrinkles.
6. Coach managing EVERYTHING! Let’s not kid ourselves, I was under a bit of stress and I wasn’t always as mature and kind as I would have liked to have been. Early on, I deferred to Coach for all things race related. He handed me his bottles of Gatorade so I wouldn’t have to reach around in my fuel pack for mine. He stopped on a regular basis and refilled these bottles at the aid stations so I could just run on and let him catch up with me. He reminded me to take my Gu every 5 miles. He understood that I needed him to run in front of me, not beside me, effectively pulling me along. He even managed to monitor and support the progress and my daughter and his sons as they made their way into the city, parked, and positioned themselves along the finish line. He did this through numerous texts and calls while he was still running, pacing me.
5. The Half Marathoners forking off to their finish line at 13.1 miles. This produced mixed feelings…envy and pride.
4. Runners of both sexes and all ages beginning to go down all around us. This intensified at around the 15-17th mile and continued to the finish line. A few were driven off with oxygen and IV’s. Most were just bent over by the side of the road in obvious pain, most likely cramping. I felt for them and had to wonder at some point if it would be my fate too.
3. Mistakenly believing that we were at Mile 23 when we were actually only at Mile 22. This was the low point of the race for me. We had been running close to the official pacer for the 5:00hr finish since about mile 18. She was running with a group, while holding a pole with balloons and 5:00 written on it. This young lady could not only run but she had a huge set of lungs on her. She talked loudly while she ran, telling stories to distract her followers while encouraging them at the same time. At one point, I thought I heard her say we were at the 23rd mile. I thought, “Yippee! Only 3 to go”! And then, “Wait a minute, that flag up there doesn’t say 23, it says 22! Nooooooooooooooo.” That’s when I hit the wall. The balloons passed me and slowly faded in the distance. I kept running, but I could feel how slow I had gotten. I just couldn’t go any faster, for anything.
2. Finding my daughter, her friend, and Coaches sons in the crowd a few hundred feet from the finish line. I had already been fighting back tears for over a mile. That was the point that I realized for sure that I was going to make it! We passed the 26 mile flag and started searching for our loved ones. I remembered, “Smelly has blond hair,” look for that. And sure enough, there she was, waving and taking pictures. I waved back, so happy to see her. Coach ran over to them for high fives. I couldn’t. Even 20 feet over to the side of the road seemed like too much right then.
1. Crossing the finish line with Coach, our hands clasped and our arms raised high! It felt as good as you can imagine it did. I was overwhelmed. Not just with the joy of finishing, but with the realization of the enormity of the gift that Coach had given me. This man had run 26.2 miles for me, not for him, for me. He was nothing but selfless, kind, and encouraging. This includes not only all the tough training runs, but for 5 long grueling hours during the race. I will never forget what Coach did for me.
Running this Marathon taught me to believe in life again.
Thanks for sharing my journey! What's next???