Marathon weekend was a full one, Friday I headed to the Health and Fitness Expo to pick up my race packet with my friend and running buddy, 1.0. There were loads of great exhibitors, fun freebies and it was the perfect start to a great weekend. We decided that we would bring the kids back the next day for the pep rally and make a day of it.
Saturday we headed downtown and arrived just in time for the pep rally. The kids scooped up some free tambourines and pom poms and Diva was jumping up and down, cheering and shaking pom poms. Eddie asked us if we could maybe not be so loud; I think he was embarassed. 1.0 soon arrived with her husband, Wallace, and kids 2.0 and 3.0 plus the child of a friend and neighbor she was keeping an eye on for the day; we were quite a motley crew. With the extra kids though we scored lots of freebies and they were thrilled that Winn Dixie was giving away boxes of raisins, Smoothie King had free smoothies and Diva discovered her favorite cheese, Cabot, was giving away samples. After an hour or so the kids had had quite enough so we headed down to the Jacksonville Landing to let them run around. Finally, it was home to relax and get ready for the big race.
That evening I laid out all my clothes, shoes and got my water ready. Then I moved the coffee machine and rice cooker into UberGeek and I's bathroom so their beeps in the morning wouldn't wake up the kids. I measured out the oatmeal, the water and put in a little cinnamon and brown sugar then set the delay timer. Then I made the coffee and double checked that timer too. I barely drink any of my coffee before a run longer than 18 miles or so but the few sips I take are kind of a mental crutch. Once everything was packed, checked and double checked I drank a big glass of water and headed to bed. I know lots of people say they either don't sleep, or don't sleep well before a big race, but I always sleep like a baby. I figure I'm not a contender to place, so the worst thing that could happen to me is that they have to pick me up in one of those wagons and I make it to the end anyhow.
5 in the morning came quickly and I jumped out of bed to get dressed and pack up the oatmeal and coffee. I was ready in no time and got the text that Superfuzz was on the way to pick me up. Since she just had a baby a few weeks ago she decided to sit this marathon out. Thankfully she did volunteer to drive 1.0 and I to the race and drop us off, so off we went.
Once we got to the race location I really started to get excited. 1.0 wanted to know if we would find all the members of our group. I knew not to worry since we meet at the same spot each year, but I remember how worried I was the first year, 26 miles is a long way to run without the support of the dear friends you have trained with. No worries though, all the usual suspects started to arrive.
We made small talk at the start and marveled at how well organized everything was. Port o potties as far as the eye can see, this is a runners dream, let me tell you. There is nothing worse than needing to line up for a race and yet having to wait in an unending line because a race director has not ordered enough port o lets. There have been a few races I have had to use the woods or have almost been late too simply because there were not enough places to "go". Not at the Breast Cancer Marathon, there are even hand washing stations with real water! Free coffee for participants and spectators, fruit, snacks, everything you could ever want.
Then it was time for the national anthem and the official race song, Believe in the Beat which trust me, is still stuck in my head! We all started jumping up and down with excitement and then the gun went off; it was time to go. The crowd carried us the first few miles over the intracoastal bridge, once we got down to the Jacksonville Beach neighborhoods it was hard to hold back speed due to the overwhelming emotion of the spectators; it is indescribable. Then we headed out to run a stretch on the hard packed sand on the beach before moving toward Atlantic Beach and on to Selva Marina. Each neighborhood was lined with spectators.
The best part was having our own personal cheering section. UberGeek and Wallace stuffed all the collective kids into our minivan with UberGeek at the helm and went from place to place cheering us on. Just seeing them was amazing. Usually UberGeek is at home with the kids, or running the same races I am, so I've never had anyone at a race cheering for me; it was an amazing experience.
Around mile 15 I had a little trouble; it was pretty hot on marathon day. Not hot by sitting around, or tooling about town standards, for that it was perfect. The temperature was about 70 degrees, unfortunately, that is really hot for a marathon when you are in full sunlight and running on asphalt without stopping for hours on end. All of a sudden, I felt as if the blood had drained out of my face and I became nauseated. I asked my group to go on ahead of me since I was costing them time and I had my cell phone. I bent over under a tree and tossed a few cookies, then I sat down in the cool shade. I thought about calling UberGeek and telling him to come get me; I have never quit a race, ever. Then I thought of Janis, whose name was on my back; I was running the race in her honor, Janis was recently diagnosed with a relatively rare breast cancer. I thought about the many survivors we have in our training group and their enthusiasm for enjoying every mile of the race. I stood up. I decided that I might be hot, and I might not feel the greatest, this might not be a great race in terms of time on the clock. Still, it would be a great race, if not a particularly fast one for me. I was going to finish. From then on, it wasn't bad at all, I actually slowed down a bit and focused on enjoying the spectators, my run and the distance. I came upon my own personal cheering section one more time, and that gave me an extra dose of oomph. When I came up over the bridge on the last mile I saw one of my training group's leaders whose knee had been in pain, our other group leader had run back after finishing the race to meet up with her. I was so happy to see them after so many miles on my own; I started yelling their names. I managed a final tiny burst of speed to cross the finish line with my fists in the air, pumping, full of joy, happy to be alive, and finished.
My kiddos and UberGeek were there waiting for me, with 1.0 and her family. The lady handing out the marathon medals let Eddie Haskell put my medal over my head. You would have thought it was made of pure gold to see how happy that made him. Then I grabbed a couple waters to share with the kids and we hobbled towards the finish line celebration area.
Only 347 days until the next 26.2 Donna, The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer!