Columbus Marathon Race Report

So yesterday I did the Columbus marathon – there is all sorts of lore about marathon running, and it’s often perceived as a life-changing event. So in that vein, I want to remember every detail I can of the day.

Perhaps starting out the day before, I went to the Expo associated with the marathon with Lisa – she was also running the next day. We wandered around, and the more I did, the more excited I got. We sat in on part of the “Running the Boston Marathon” clinic given by the race director, but it turned out more to be about how he ran (read: organized) the event. We got bored and left partway through. The weather was slated to be cold the next day, so I was a bit concerned about my plan to wear a tank top. I ended up buying a long-sleeved shirt to wear, despite all the warnings you hear of wearing something new on race day. That evening I went out for a pasta dinner with Crystal. It was good, but my stomach was a bit upset – I hoped it wouldn’t continue to the next day (ugh.. this is difficult. I want to be detailed yet discreet. Ok, I started my period and had diarrhea. No one said you had to read this!!) I’d met John Bingham at the expo and bought his book ‘marathoning for mortals’ so I read a chapter of that before heading off to bed.

I literally jumped out of bed at 6. I had laid out my clothes the night before, so getting ready was pretty straight-forward. Continued my tradition of dancing around my room to Usher’s Yeah before I got ready. Made myself a PB & Honey sandwich, and had a bit of coffee. One slight glitch occurred when I dropped one of the safety pins to hold on my number and couldn’t find it anywhere. But my horoscope had cautioned me that it was a day to be flexible, so I simply grabbed a stapler and made do. Tara had offered to drive me so as to eliminate any concerns I had about parking, so she arrived around 7 to come get me. I felt a bit thirsty before I even started, but not too bad. We met up with the running group in the Nationwide lobby, and headed out to the starting gate. Meredith was there to run, but said she’d spoken to her doctor this week and he’d told her not to (re: her shinsplints). The two of us headed over to find the 3:40 pace group, while everyone else went to their mile/hour guides (her dad and Darryl went to the 8 min mile, which was mysteriously WAY behind us, despite the fact that 3:40 is an 8:24 min/mile). We chatted a bit with other runners and tried to keep warm. A few moments before we started, I recognized that I probably could have stood to use the bathroom. Too late!

The gun went off, and it took us close to two minutes to pass the start line. This isn’t a big deal b/c of the use of ChampionChips, which attach to your shoe and keep track of the time you pass certain point on the course. It did mess me up a little, however, because there are big digital clocks at every mile, but they were all obviously close to two minutes off, which affected me psychologically at the beginning.

I got about as far as the first mile before I decided that I might as well make an early portapotty stop, before lines started forming and also to give myself time to catch up with my group. I did so, and slowly started snaking my way back to the pace group. About a half mile later I still hadn’t met up with them, but a voice behind me yelled “I knew you’d start out quickly!” It was Meredith’s dad. I slowed down for them to catch me, thinking that I could afford to ‘slow’ down to meet up with 8 min/mile runners. Darryl was with him too, and they asked what I did with Meredith. I told them she was up ahead with the pace group, to which they declared “nope, she’s back at the car, she dropped out”. This was at about mile 3. Her shinsplints had bothered her, so she wasn’t risking getting further injured (she missed running Boston last year because she broke her foot). Mike (her dad) said “so I guess we’re doing Arizona in January.””Why?” I asked. “She’s already qualified.” Mike explained that is was psychological as well – there’s just something about dropping out of a marathon. I guess I can appreciate that. So the three of us ran together, which was neat as we are generally together on our weekend runs. They kept track of mile splits, and by mile 5 we’d comfortably passed my pace group. I admit I was a bit worried about my ability to keep up with them, as they (*ahem* I guess I mean ‘we’) clocked splits of 8:08 mile after mile. It wasn’t as fast as Mike had wanted to go, but he’d been ill the day before, and as he said, he was already qualified and going to Boston anyway. It was great to see Scott right around his apartment, my first spectator of the day . When I got around German village, I was wondering where exactly Mel would be. I heard a voice call “go Andrea” and I turned in that direction as another voice said it. The 2nd voice came from an older woman I didn’t recognize at all, which kept me intrigued for the next little bit. DID I know her? Was she calling someone else? Ah well…

We then had this LOOOONG stretch up High St, but it actually wasn’t too bad. We hit the half-marathon mark at 1:48:13, which impressed me as that was faster than the last two half-marathons I’ve run on their own. I just took it as a good sign as to how much I’ve improved, even since September. Another encouraging moment was over the overpass going into the Short North – at the half in the Spring, that spot about killed me when it was mile 9 of the half. I was fine on this run, when it was mile 15. That was also where Tanisha yelled out “you look hot in yellow!” and Mike and Darryl asked me if I knew my fan 🙂

Running with Mike and Darryl was really good for me – they showed me how to properly fold over the tip of a cup (Tara, I thought I knew how, but they showed me something else that totally eliminated my choking!), and were good about making sure to grab something at EVERY stop (generally alternating gatorade and water). I actually had to lay off on the gatorade for a bit,because I felt a bit nauseated from the sweetness of that at the GU gel I was taking every so often. Again, I followed the cue of my more experienced running buddies. They mentioned their plans to take GU at miles 7, 14 and 21. So around mile 7 we broke open our first packages. They also gave out GU at miles 12 and 18, and so I had gel 3 or 4 places – not full packs, but just little pick-me-ups. One thing I noticed rather early on (maybe mile 7 or 8)? was how empty my stomach felt. I had the energy, but I felt like a big ole lump of bread in there would feel good.

We saw Meredith at mile 14, she was at the sideline cheering us on. Mike slowed to talk to her, and after that he really seemed to struggle. I don’t know if it was related to seeing her or not, but as he seemed to slow, he acted like a father figure to me as well. “Stay with Darryl, he’ll lead ya through”. I’ve known Mike longer, as I actuallly used to run with him back when Tara and I were training for Toronto years ago. “I’d rather stay with you, Mike.” “But I don’t know if I can do this.” Mike had been sick with a migrane the day before, barely gotten off the couch, and eaten little. “I’m about spent.” So I jogged on up to where Darryl had moved a bit ahead of us and after about mile 17, I didn’t see Mike again. I DID see Tara, as she actually came right up to where I was grabbing a drink to wish me well and see if I needed something. I saw her again not too much longer, and got to smile as she took my picture 🙂

I was amazed by how the miles kept flying by. 16 seemed like a big deal, for some reason. Alot of people advocate seeing a marathon as three races: 2 10 milers with a 10k tacked on the end. Perhaps I had it backwards, because it was a big deal for me to think “only 10 more miles.” We kept running, and I admit, the hill around mile 17 wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t a killer. The best was the one lone spectator standing there saying ‘this is the hardest hill you’ll see all day – the next one is Boston”. That was the most emotional I got all day, as I teared up a bit, then kept on chugging. Upper Arlington was good, there was great crowd support, and I even saw an old co-worker (and fellow runner) from Frankln. She seemed absolutely ecstatic to see me, which made me feel great. I hit mile 20, and it was almost anti-climactic. That’s supposed to be the Wall, the difficult spot of the race, but it came and went as 19 other mile markers had. I still felt great, and was smiling widely at every photographer I could see. I’m gonna get some good pics out of this, dammit!

As we got right into the campus area, the runners had thinned out, and it seemed to be getting more windy and cold. I think it was at about mile 22 that I felt Darryl really pulling away (we hadn’t really been running together since about mile 20, with him slowing or stopping at water stops, catching up with me, passing me and then me catching up again as he stopped). I actually entertained the notion of calling out to him for some encouragement, but I didn’t. I was going to do this on my own. Once we were out of the unfamiliar territory and onto Olentangy and 5th and Neil, I was feeling better. And although I felt less strong, to see 23 miles and know I only had 5k ahead of me made it manageable. My confidence faltered a little when I heard someone watching say something about “3:40”, only to find the pace group had caught up with me. After running most of the marathon with mile timers saying I was on track for a 3:38 marathon, it was a surprise to have the 3:40 runners right there. I worried for a moment that I was slowing too much in this last bit. I stayed just ahead of them, but it was still a bit of a confidence hit. I’d joked earlier that all I had to do was stay ahead of the group and I would be fine, and here they were, literally at my heels.What’s ridiculous is that I knew by my pace band and watch that I was doing well. I’d mentioned the two minute discrepancy between the clock and my chip time, and I was still on pace to qualify by clock time – that is, with two minutes to spare.

All was decided when I turned onto Buttles. I should have known it would all be ok once I really hit my turf 😉 Right away I was greeted with loud cheers from both sides of the street, where Sabrina, Crystal, Kim and Emily were sitting on Crystal’s truck (it’s big and yellow.. hard to miss). Their cheers were echoed on the other side of the road “GO Andrea!!” “(which one is she anyway?”) Crystal had recruited her neighbours, and when I heard them ask, I raised my arms as though I were crossing some finish line, practicing for the moment that was about to come a mere 1.2 miles ahead. A few steps later and there was Brooke, asking if I still wanted a beer (I’d told her earlier about some folks who’ve accepted beers from spectators late in the game when their run was shot anyway). I said yes (joking), but she didn’t even have one ready. Yeesh.

At the corner of the park I saw Tanisha again, and she opened up a sign that said “Andrea could run to [canada flag]” Two nights before I’d told her about how I’d always wanted someone to hold a sign up for me at an airport or something.. this was the ‘or something’. The smile was plastered on my face as I made my way down Park, feeling good as the end drew ever nearer.

The last corner I heard Meredith and Bridget (another girl we train with, who ran the relay on Sunday) cheering for me “Go Andrea!! You’re gonna make it!” [Qualify for Boston]. I smiled at them, and thought “of course I am, with a few minutes to spare”. The finish line loomed ahead, and I watched the clock above.: 3:39:– .

Honestly? I sped up in the homestretch, but not as much as I could have. I knew I was going to make it, and in the last 5 miles, my goal of 3:40:59 had turned into “I want to qualify in clock time, so there is no question”. With the balloons and clock directly in front of me, I knew I was going to make it, and that was all I needed. I crossed the finish line, feeling good, not incredibly fall-down exhausted. Removed my chip myself, got my little mylar blanket, and made my way out of the athlete’s area. My left knee tightened up pretty quickly, but I was done.

I grabbed some food, and headed out to the meetup area, where Tara already had my phone out for me to call my folks. Tanisha, Crystal, Kim and Sabrina all came along shortly, and we chatted outside for awhile. Eventually we headed over to the Hyatt, where we saw Jillian and Wayne. We chatted and I relaxed (and probably didn’t do as much stretching as I should have) for a few hours.

Tara drove me home, and I talked to my folks a bit and had a warm bath (I don’t care what they say about ice baths, this felt good). I discovered that my shoes (which I’d been threatening throughout the run to throw away on the way home) had worn holes in my (nike) socks, and I had a big blood blister on the 4th toe of my left foot. Through some of the 2nd half of the race I’d felt as though my sock were bunching on that side, but now I just think it was the blister forming. A few weeks back I painted my toenails black because I didn’t want to see if they were getting bruised or anything, but I think that I may lose that one, and maybe the 2nd toenail on my right foot. We’ll see. There isn’t any pain really, so that’s good.

I laid down for a bit with ice packs around both knees, but didn’t really sleep. That night I actually went to a movie and just focussed on bending and extending my legs, to prevent them from cramping up. They were sore, but I wasn’t incapacitated.

Last night I only slept an hour or two at a time. I would wake up, painfully shift my legs, and go back to sleep. I was hobbling around work today, but it’s really only noticeable if I’ve been sitting for awhile. I’m pretty confident I’ll be better soon.

What a wonderful experience.. I’m already planning the next one! 🙂