When I signed up for the the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, I believed that since it was my second marathon, it would be easier than my first. Though the race was an absolutely incredible experience — the crowds, the music, the signs, the weather, the sights were unbelievable — those 26.2 miles definitely tested me.
My well-tapered legs felt strong and ready to go as I started the race. My goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon (sub 3:35 or 8:12 per mile). The crowd support was awesome as we looped through downtown Minneapolis, and the weather was perfect. I stayed aware of my pace, and noticed my watch kept telling me 7:35/7:45 — well ahead of my 8:00 plan.
I kept trying to slow down but my legs didn’t want to, so I just tried to hold steady. At Mile 5.5, I saw Mike and the whole Martin cheering squad, which was SO awesome! They were all wearing bright blue and yellow t-shirts that said “Team MK”!
I carried on through the next several miles, many of which were flat or downhill and they passed by quickly. I saw the cheer squad again just after the halfway mark, and still felt strong. I was beginning to realize, though, that this would not be race where I’d “turn on the gas” in the final miles.
No, this would be a “Hang on as long a you can” kind of race. I knew I had gone out too fast.
THE MIDDLE MILES
The real marathon begins after the halfway mark, when the exciting distraction of the crowds and music begin to fade, and your fatigue sets in. That’s when your training and tactical racing decisions catch up to you — for the better or worse.
For me, it was for the worse. I started feeling quite tired by mile 17 — more than I should have. I knew I had big hills awaiting me, and that didn’t help me mentally. By mile 19, when we started up one of the biggest inclines of the course, it became very clear my tank was empty.
My legs felt very heavy and I knew my pace was dropping — fast. I wiped my forehead and felt salt on my dry skin, rather than sweat. I took this as a bad sign.
This was the “wall.” And I hit it. Hard.
Summit Avenue stared me down. Do you have the will to finish this race?
As I climbed (yes, it felt like I was scaling a small mountain) toward the state Capitol, runner after runner after runner started passing me. My legs did not want to move anymore, and my arms offered little help. I knew my goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon was slipping from my grip.
But I could not go make my body go faster.
Just keep going. Doesn’t matter how slow. Do not give up.
At mile 23, I passed my family again, all of them cheering their hearts out. I only managed a glance in their direction, but their cheers motivated me so much.
Hold steady. Hold steady.
When I finally reached downtown St. Paul, the giant FINISH sign came into view. I did my best to turn on the jets but I doubt I accelerated much at all. I looked at my watch and saw I had only a minute to cross the line and break 3:35. It wasn’t enough time.
I ran my heart out anyway, crossing in 3:36:01. Good enough for a 14-minute personal record. 1:02 short of a BQ.
Let me tell you, that finish felt awesome. Mike met me at the end of the chute and gave me the biggest, best hug ever. I was so relieved to have finished, so happy the hard part was over. There’s nothing better than knowing you just gave a marathon every last ounce of energy you had, and you’re still standing.
I watched football and laid on the couch that entire afternoon with Mike, telling him all about the race, reading lots of congratulations from friends and family, and enjoying the most comfortable exhaustion I’ll ever know.
What made the weekend so special, though, wasn’t the race or the finish. I felt so loved and supported by my family, near and far. I think I had the very best cheer squad on the entire course, reminding me what really matters.
Still, I have a score to settle with Summit Avenue…