For many reasons, it has been hard for me to write this post. I think I want it to perfectly encapsulate my memory of my first full marathon, which I know it will not. But the more I procrastinate writing it, the more I’m sure I will forget. It’s already been five weeks since the race. So screw it, I’m just going to get it off my chest before the memory is no longer “fresh”. If you don’t want to read an in-depth summary of my race day or have a problem with curse words, I suggest skipping this post :).
I woke up race morning at 6 am (two hours and fifteen minutes before the race gun) not feeling much of anything. Maybe the right way to describe it was like a distant anxiousness. I turned on the television to the news station, brewed a cup of coffee in the hotel room, and brushed my teeth. I then crawled back in bed with my cup of joe in tow and pulled the blankets over me as I slowly sipped my drink, making sure to take chugs from the water bottle on the end table. A lot of the news was about the cold temperature, I tried not to think about that too much. My sister woke up as I just finished my cup of coffee, so we decided to go take advantage of the free continental breakfast in our pajamas. She made a waffle, which was adorable, and I prepared oatmeal and took two bananas. I only had a few bites of oatmeal but ate both bananas. Practically everyone in the breakfast room already had on their race outfits and bibs. I eyed the room for the dark blue bibs, those were the other full marathon runners. I started to get nervous so we headed back to the room. I changed into my race outfit, grabbed the tote I stuffed the night before with a change of clothes (most importantly my Ugg boots), and we headed out the door.
The news was right, it was frigid. I had a pair of warm up sweats on over my shorts so I wouldn’t be completely frozen. We were only a five-minute walk from the start line, which rocked. We arrived at the scene 20 minutes before the start. I remember U2’s “A Beautiful Day” was playing on blast which made me smile because that was one of the songs on my race playlist.
To my huge surprise I did not feel the urgent need to go to the bathroom, but I figured I’d better use the honey bucket while there was no line. I apparently did a half-ass job of locking the door with my frozen hands because some dude almost succeeded in opening it for the whole world to see me, good thing I have fast reflexes! Haha. I didn’t even care.
I really thought I would feel more nervous than I did. I think my lack of nerves stemmed from a combination of me deciding to not think about the task ahead and also trying to stay warm jumping around and hopping in place. At three minutes to the start it was finally time to jump into the ranks. I hugged my sister and husband goodbye. I tried to keep calm by putting my headphones in and tuning out the world. I paused the track for the Star Spangled Banner and immediately pressed play. The shotgun was muffled by my music and a huge grin popped onto my face as we shuffled towards the official start line.
That ridiculous smile stayed strong for the first mile as we had a steady incline from the Space Needle towards the heart of the downtown shopping area. I remember I kept thinking how funny it was that my thighs/legs were literally numb from the cold so I couldn’t feel a thing and I was hoping that would last the next 25 miles.
Mile 2-3 was a series of rather steep uphills and downhills, but it really wasn’t bad at all. We then took the I-90 Highway ramp, heading for the Mercer Island bridge. It was pretty crazy running in a herd of humans on a huge highway. It was even crazier once we reached the first highway tunnel, that was so fun to run through! I think that was the first water station so I ate a gel and washed it down with a cup of freezing water, it was refreshing.
Upon exiting the tunnel I was met with a spectacular view of Lake Washington, as the next stretch was out and back to the Mercer Island side of the highway. It was very windy and very sunny and very beautiful. I ripped the scrunchie out of my hair and moved it to my wrist. I love running with my hair down if the wind is in my favor. I felt so free and alive and happy and strong and lucky on that highway floating bridge. It was definitely one of my favorite (if not my favorite) parts of the entire race. That was also the place where I got to see the elite runners racing in the front of the pack since it was out and back. So inspiring!!
As I approached the tunnel on the Mercer Island side, I think it was about mile 6, I started to feel pretty damn hungry. I thought about my measly banana breakfast and made a mental note that if I ever did this again I would have to up the calories at breakfast. I made a plan to take as many goos as I could trap when they had them at water/aid stations since I only packed 3 of my own (rookie). Luckily they had some in the tunnel so I took two. I sucked one down with the ice water chaser and stashed the other in my fanny pack. For the rest of the race I would regularly be playing the game of trying to count how many goos I had, guess if I would have the opportunity for more, and irrationally ration them. It was pretty silly. Spoiler alert: There were plenty of Gu’s. I had read in a previous race recap that the year before they ran out so I think they really stockpiled them this year to ensure that wouldn’t happen again.
Just after mile 8 I saw the only fan sign that I remember the message from. It read: “Life is short. Running makes it seem longer.” I loved, loved, loved that. Ironic, cheeky, and so true. For the next mile or so I thought about how I still had a long road ahead of me, but how I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. I wondered where Jon and Alicia were exploring in Seattle, I knew they planned on going to Pike’s Place.
Running through flat Seward park for the next 10ish miles took up a huge chunk of the race. I’m glad I chose not to carry a water bottle on me, there were plenty of stations. When I walked through the station at Mile 11 to enjoy my ice cold water and Gu, I noticed the sole of my right foot hurt- badly. “Oh Shit” I thought. I decided it hurt much worse to walk then run so I just picked up the pace and tried to not focus on my foot and a few throbbing toe nails. Ironically there was a sign holder with something to the affect of “who needs toenails” and I was thinking that maybe today would be the day I actually lost one (didn’t happen thankfully). Looking back at my race splits my foot was probably already in pain because I was running quite a bit faster than my usual long-run pace, it didn’t have to do with distance.
At the halfway point I was averaging just over a 10 minute mile, which I was more than happy with. Other than the foot pain and the occasional hunger pang I really felt great. There was an older man wearing a yellow ribbon on his back and a shirt that said “I’m a Survivor”. I wasn’t sure what the yellow ribbon stood for (I looked it up after the race-I think it symbolizes bone cancer). I don’t know what compelled me to do so but I had to run over to him and tap him on the shoulder. He only slightly startled as he craned his neck to me and I just gave him a big smile and two thumbs up. He returned the exact same gesture. I ran ahead and fought the choking sensation and tears welling up. That was another favorite moment.
Miles 15-18 felt the slowest. We were looping back, so there weren’t any surprises to keep me distracted. My foot hurt. It was, I’ll admit, a little on the boring side. But once I got to mile 19 I was so excited for the 20 mile mark. There was a woman clearly injured who decided to race anyways and her husband and children joined in to race her to the 20, it was so sweet I experienced the holding back tears choking sensation again.
My only thoughts at Mile 20 was “fuck ya.” and “Ow.”
My only thought during the gigantic hill that was all of mile 21 was “fuck you.” I lunge/walked up that asshole of a hill. It wasn’t even that ridiculous of a hill. What was ridiculous was that it was mile 21. In the back of my mind I was just thanking God that the whole course wasn’t like this.
I ran fast down the hill to try and make up some time. At the bottom of the hill we turned into the Seattle Arboretum which was so, so beautiful. I was past mile 22, every inch of me was fatigued, and I was crying happy tears of relief and disbelief that I only had 4 miles to go. I couldn’t believe how far I’d come. I had to walk for a bit because it was too hard trying to run while stifling my emotional out pour, I sounded like a chortling pig, LOL. I was ridiculous. I called Jon and let him know how much I loved him. He sounded very worried when he could detect I was crying but I reassured him they were tears of joy and just overwhelming emotion. He calmed me down and reassured me that they were at the finish line with stuffed animals presents waiting for me. This was excellent motivation haha.
Mile 22-25 was slow and painful. It was beautiful which was a nice distraction, there was lots of snow covered grounds and trees. When I finally saw the Space Needle I decided to pick up the pace. I was very ready to be done. Luckily Beyonce’s “Girls” came on the shuffled playlist which was the perfect song for a strong finish.
I was met at the finish line with an over-sized plush unicorn and a Boeing-themed teddy bear and lots of hugs. After kicking off the shoes and slipping on the Uggs I felt like a new woman. We walked (I limped) over to Mcmenamins for cajon tots, a veggie burger and the most rewarding beer of my life.
The end 🙂