A few months ago the idea of doing a marathon first nudged its way into my mind. It started to grow as I was going longer distances with Verna, a running friend, who was preparing to do a marathon.
She had done several such races over the years. . .as well as longer distances. She is my running idol who eagerly shares her knowledge and expertise about the sport.
And she's patient.
I struggled on more than one of the long runs we had done. My elderly body rebelled now and then. She didn't give up on me. We just kept at it. And as time went by and the distances grew and the encouragement from Verna was never failing, well...I finally started believing that "maybe" I was capable of going the 26.2 miles.
Then the reality check would hit. I was going to be 69 when I did a marathon. I'm an old woman...what was I thinking about? What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I thinking more about knitting or making pies? I'm a GRANDMA for goodness sake!!
Then I'd find myself out on the trail on a really hot day with her, and often times other running friends, and it just seemed to becoming a reality. I was going for longer distances and they weren't always so hard. . .don't get me wrong, they were still often times hard, but they weren't "as" hard.
I came to the decision that the Kansas City Marathon would be the one I'd run in October 2016. It was there, in 2010, that I did my first 5K and then again my first half marathon in 2013.
I knew it was not an easy course. . .
but I signed up for it anyway.
After months of slowly building up my distance ability I found myself at the expo with these running buddies the day before the race. They had both signed up for the half. We are pictured with Steve of BODIES RUNNING.
He has been a steadfast running support for us over the last year. He'd started a speed workout group where, once a week, he gives us a plan . .and then we meet at a local trail and attempt it! :) Steve is the first person that made me realize that if I wanted to run faster....I needed to practice running faster. He introduced us to tempo runs and fartleks and pyramids. All of these were foreign until Steve became a part of our running experiences.
L to R: Brenda, me, Steve, Karen
Karen was another big cheerleader for me over this marathon journey. She insisted that she was going to pick me up the morning we did our races and she would be there when I finished my distance.
I knew it was gonna take me twice as long to complete my run as it was going to take her to do hers and I really didn't want her to have to hang around for me all that extra time. However, she was not going to have anything to do with my argument. She won. She picked me up bright and early on the morning of the event. We arrived at the parking lot near the race start well before daylight..... giving us premium parking and ample time to find restrooms! haha
We also located the spot near Crown Center where lots of folks meet up before the race to get their group pictures.
We know several of the folks pictured here as we belong to a local running group called the RUNbelieveables. Many of them are amazingly fast. Several of them were pacing the half or the full marathons that day (you can see the pacer sticks they are holding). At that point I was still undecided as to exactly where in the corral I would start my run.....which pacing stick I would try to follow and keep up with as I made my way along the 26.2 miles of the marathon.
Brenda, Karen and I , plus a few others, run together once or twice a week. On this day, we probably wouldn't be side by side on the course, but we certainly would hold each other in our thoughts as the race went by for us. On this morning one of Brenda's daughters was also running the marathon. She's on the left in the photo below.
For this race we supported TEAM WORLD VISION, a great organization that helps provide clean water to Africia. We arrived at their tent around 6:30 a.m. for a little "inspiration" and pep rally......
and a group picture!!
The next photo shows us packed in with thousands of other runners waiting for the start of the race. . .scheduled for a little after 7:00 a.m..
I don't know how my other buddies felt during the time we spent waiting . . .I just recall feeling a little jittery. . .praying I was really prepared to go that distance of 26.2 miles. I was pretty sure I could made the distance physically, but it was the mental challenge that scared me. . . knowing I'd be alone most of the way after about the 8th mile. I'd be on the slow end of the runners and the fast folks would be long gone. I hadn't trained to do more than 5 miles alone. The picture of me plodding along, alone for many miles, was one that kept popping into my mind.
Also, I was worried about being able to finish before the 6 hour cut off. I didn't practice "speed", but rather keeping a slower, steady pace as I got my body used to going such a long distance. I had to be realistic that just finishing was more the goal I needed to chase.....but I REALLY wanted to finish before the 6 hr. cut off! :)
Besides my running buddies, my son was there. He was also doing the marathon!!
I just grin every time I look at this picture. I could have never dreamed that in 2010 whenI ran my first race ever, a 5K here at the KC Marathon event with this guy by my side, that in 2016 we'd both be doing the marathon!! He had done a few others, but this was my first. I think the look on my face kinda speaks volumes. :) This part was pretty danged neat!
Looking north on Grand, the old Western Auto sign, a KC landmark, was barely visible in the dark sky.
The weather that morning was predicted to be warm for mid October. I don't do well in heat, so I cut the sleeves out of a lightweight running shirt to make things a bit cooler! However, the weather did hold out for us!! It was pretty overcast most of the race and we had a good breeze.
As the moments ticked by, waiting for the "start", we could see four drones in the sky! If you look carefully there are 3 dots of light......they would be drones!
You can tell by the 2:40 pacer stick that I decided to line up there. Why? Because Brenda wanted to hang with that time group to finish her half. . .sound decision for me, too, right? haha
I just knew MY JOB was to go slow. . .no matter where I started.
In past races, I've taken a gob of pictures along the course. I didn't this time. I think that just shows how focused I was on actually completeing the course upright and not too exhausted. However, this picture does show us heading south on Oak....going up part of the challenging Hospital Hill !! It's definitely well known in the KC area!
At the 2 mile mark, we were going up another hill, headed to the World War I Memorial / aka Liberty Memorial.
Here's the Liberty Memorial....it doesn't lean in real life! haha
See those glorious clouds? Yay. No sun!
Around the 6 mile point we had reached The Plaza Shopping District. It's full of fountains.....with this one being one of the most popular!
My first goal was to "start out and keep a slow pace", but still make it to this point....the COURSE SPLIT. It was here that the half marathon people went left and the marathon folks went south. And if we (the marathoners) weren't on a certain time pace by the time we hit this split, then we would not be allowed to continue the marathon course because that meant we were too slow to make the 6 hour cut off time limit of completing the distance.
HOWEVER.... I was in good shape at that point. Yay!!! Happy dance, big smiles, this was fun.....I happily made a right turn and headed south.....
and that's when it got reallllll lonely!!
Most of the runners had signed up for the half. I think there were only 1500 that were doing the marathon. I was one of them......and I was not fast....and I promptly found myself pretty much on my own.
By this point, there were tons of runners ahead of me. . . .and many folks behind me. . . but not many to actually chit chat with as I ticked off the miles.
We'd already dealt with several challenging hills on this part of the course. I walked them, saving my "strength" to run 3 min. and walk a min. intervals on the flat stretches. Cheering support groups seemed slim on the second part of the course, but they still maintained great water stations and porta potties about every two miles. Each one was like a little oasis for me! :) Water, smiles and good wishes from the volunteers and the oportunity to use the potty if necessary.
Porta potties are huge on long runs....especially for me. I drink lots of water and, well, that means I need to make pit stops sometimes. On that day, I remember, around mile 10 or so that I thought I should use one of those facilities at the next water station, but when I got there, there was a line for it....so I figured I'd be OK to make it to the next one. Funny, though...the feelling went away and never came back. I actually made it the entire race without needing to use one!! That was probably right up there on my list of : big accomplishments for the the entire race for me personally!
Fatique was setting in. Around miles 17 or 18, I had to start using some mind distractions to keep me moving as best as I could. I had a prayer list that I'd already gone through . I had a gratitude list, too.
I was feeling pretty emotional along with the tireness that was creeping in and my cramping calves ( a new experience). That's when I started thinking about some of the moments that prepared me for this day. . .and all of the good running buddies, in all sorts of weather experiences and distances!!!
From freezing at the Battle of the Bean 5K in January, to......
weekly speed work sessions in the dark and the cold. . .
long runs on the weekend also in the cold and later in the blistering heat. . .
to 10 miles in the cold and rain. . .
speedwork in the heat of summer.
Countless runs with so many supportive, like-minded friends had brought me to this point!! Yes, I was very emotional and so very thankful that, at my age, I was completing my very first marathon!!
Somewhere prior to this photo being taken, I received a text from Verna. She was out of town, but had been "tracking" me on a race app and knew that I was slowing down a bit. Simply she said: "RELENTLESS. FORWARD. MOTION!! You've got this!"
I no longer felt "alone" on that course. . . and I puddled up for a bit.
Verna was the reason I did the marathon in the first place. She lit the fire, she encouraged me, she taught me. . .and I will be forever grateful.
As I said, I did have issues with my upper calves cramping. . .something that had never happened before. In turn my right knee started hurting on the outer side. I don't know if it was related to the cramping. All I know was by the time I reached the last couple of miles, my plan had been to totally run them and not do the 3 min. running and 1 min. walking intervals I'd used up until that point. However, my knee wasn't wanting me to do that, so I adjusted my plan. I could run 1 1/2 min. before it started twinging. When it did, I stopped and took a few rapid steps, then ran til it hurt and walked a little. The 1 1/2 min. time was what my knee wanted and that's what I did until I reached the final stretch of the marathon.
This is the last hill of the course. . .the "finish line" is in the distance. Yes, it was UP HILL!
I recall turning the corner and seeing the hill and thinking how tired I was feeling and how far away the finish looked to be.
It took every ounce of energy I had to make that final push!!
I was tired, I was happy, I was tearing up and THEN, as I was near the finish line, three of the cutest little grand kids in the entire world. . .
came out to help me cross the finish line!
I had no idea they would be there.
Words can't express how full my heart was in those moments!
Also waiting at the finish were my son (who had finished his marathon quite a bit ahead of me!! ). . .
and my good buddy Karen!!!
This day was a big one for each of us with our own individual goals met!!
My daughter in law was at the finish line taking photos, as was my husband.
I was a lucky woman!!
AND I had not only finished, but I did it under the 6 hr. cutoff with an offical time of 5 hrs. 55 minutes and 23 seconds. Not speedy, but a time I was very happy with.
My blogging buddy and Facebook friend, Nancy, made this fun sign for me!!
Fellow runner and friend, Jacqui, got Jon Bon Jovi in the action for me, too!
The next day one of my friends sent me a sweet text and asked if I was going to do another marathon. Uh..."not today", I replied!!
THE STONE RABBIT is so proud of my accomplishment. He knew I could do it all along, too.
In fact, he's so taken with the idea of longer distances that he's been using my GPS watch to train for a possible race in the future!!
I hope you weren't too bored with this race recap. Reliving that time through writing this post makes me think that perhaps another marathon "might" be in my future one day! As in most goals we set, it's really the journey that's probably the most important part. Celebrating the steps along the way. . .embracing new friendships. . .cherishing the old ones. . .and just being grateful for the oportunity to take on new and fulfilling challenges.
Please visit Beverly's blog HOW SWEET THE SOUND! There you will find a long list of others who are ready with their Pink Saturday shares!!
HAPPY PINK SATURDAY!