The morning of October 16th arrived after an OK night of sleep. I was up an out on the boardwalk by 7:15 . It was a short ¾ mile walk to Bally’s to the start/finish area and it was clear that everyone who was up at this hour was running a race. The air was cool, perfect running weather.
I went into Bally’s Wild Wild West Casino to use the bathroom and stretch. It was kind a funny to see people sprawled out in front of the slot machines that were still actively being used by some inebriated guests. Seeing that I was not going to need to stay in my sweatshirt to stay warm I wandered over to bag check and then spent the rest of my time back in the casino so that I could use the bathroom right before the start and hopefully not worry about any problems later.
There were no corrals or start waves so at about five minutes to eight the boardwalk just got filled up with Half and Full Marathoners. I made my way to the middle of the pack and saw that I was near the 3:55 and 4:00 pacers. I did not plan to run in a pace group but I had hoped to be near the four hour mark so I stayed where I was. With no previous marathon under my belt I realized anything could happen so I was not going to over think where I start.
The Gun went off at about five after eight and straight off the boardwalk we went in the first quarter mile. We started up a highway ramp early. These would be the only inclines in the entire race so I felt great getting them out of the way. I always think it is cool to be running in the middle of the street that is closed off to traffic so it was even better to be running up and down highway ramps and thru a tunnel. The first part of the course brought us on to the mainland and around a few casinos. I really was feeling great and may pace felt natural thou I wondered if it would be too fast in the end. I only run with a stop watch so I don’t know what my splits were. I knew I was running sub nine minute miles each time I passed a mile marker. It felt good so I kept it up. I kept telling myself I’d slow down if I needed to. I also had to keep reminding myself that the people in the yellow bibs were not going the full distance with me.
|The Steel Pier in front of the Taj Mahal|
At about eight miles we returned to the Boardwalk. As soon as I stepped on the boardwalk the wind picked up and started to blow sand all over the place. Immediately I thought what if it is like this the entire time! WTF! Luckily it only lasted until we hit the first tall building and I was able to enjoy the sights and the gentle give of the boardwalk planks.
I saw my parents at mile ten. At nine thirty, just when I thought I’d get to mile ten…Still feeling good! I knew the turn for the half was coming up and soon the field of runners would really be spread out. Once I passed that turn cone I felt that the race had now really begun. We stayed on the boardwalk until about mile 12 where it ended. The next part of the race was run on the road to the end of the island and then some looping in nearby neighborhoods.
At the half marathon timing mat I started to notice the 3:55 pacer and her group approaching. By now I had held this pace so well that I was convinced I could break the four hour mark and was determined to do so. Suddenly I was running with this group and really I didn’t like it too much. I am used to my space. I alternated being in front and behind this group for the next few miles with each water stop. As I trailed behind it was interesting to see the group get smaller and the pace of that group seem to get faster.
By mile 18, I realized I was speeding up to keep up. I finally had to tell myself to slow down or I would never make it. We were then in what seemed like in the never-ending loop in the neighborhood of nearby Margate. Every time I thought we would turn around there was another loop to run. Honestly I thought we might never return to the boardwalk. A spectator somewhere in this neighborhood yelled out “you are still in at four hours. Keep it up”! While this was encouraging it was also hard to think about the last part. I was losing steam! How could I keep up the pace? Maybe I should have researched better fuel? Is this the “Wall” I had read so much about? What were my goals? How hard did this feel? Was I really in that much pain? Was this harder than when I was in labor or giving birth to the boys? Wait an epidural was involved part of the time there, maybe I should not think about that!
I felt so slow. I considered walking a bit. I did for about five seconds and then realized that was a bad idea. Walking was painful. Running somehow felt much better. The four hour pacer came running merrily along. She had two people with her. I kept up with her for about a mile and an half. The two people with her had fallen off. Soon it was just the pacer and her sign on a stick in the distance in front of me. (How annoying would it be to carry one of those things 26.2 miles? How many times did she accidentally almost hit someone with it)? Anyway… slow as I was the end was near. Every water stop I gulped down a Gatorade and dumped water on my head. It was mid-day and the sun had been in full force the whole way.
Back to the Boardwalk and there was 5k left!
At this point regular runners, bikers and Sunday strollers were enjoying the warm October sun. I was still looking at my watch but also just wanted to be done. This part of the Boardwalk was narrow and there were not very many spectators other than at water stops. I saw very few runners. I just kept moving forward.
Mile 25 there were my parents, Dad out in front of me taking my picture. Holy crap a mile more to go! Do I have anything left to sprint in the end? A couple people pass me, the crowd start to get thicker as we approach the finish. I dug in, found some speed, pushed all the way through. 4:05 and change. I’ll take it.! Accepted a medal and water from a volunteer and then tried to figure out how to relearn to walk without falling over! “Keep moving”! I said to myself. I kept walking and breathing until I stopped for some Rita’s Italian Ice which hit the spot. I found a place to sit and stretch and then send a text out to my husband and a few friends. --OMG I did it. I am alive after 26.2!So now I have plenty to think about. I won't take too much time second guessing anything. I did this all on my own. And yes, I will do it again!