The Tobacco Road Marathon!

Posted on March 19, 2013


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I am a brand new inductee into an elite society: Marathon Runner.  I am not an elite member among members, merely a humble finishee, but I got the medal nonetheless.  And I am super duper proud of myself.  I trained well, and I put much thought into my nutrition, outfit, and hairdo (all equally important, of course) to ensure a perfect race.  I had so much support and encouragement from my friends, family, facebook buddies and my awesome coworkers, that it was embarrassing. If you check out my FB feed, you’d think I gave birth or something.  I did not create a human life, but I will be the first to tell you, that YES 26.2 miles is a very very long way to run!

It was that temperature that had you guessing whether or not you needed a jacket. Most people voted for not, there were tons of shorts and tank tops out there in the dark wee hours pre-race.  I committed to my choice of yes to jacket, yes to gloves, even repinning my number to the outside of my jacket.  I like to err on the side of avoiding cold at all costs.   I was very glad for this decision, as I never got overheated, and I even had a chill at the end of the race that would have taken me out if I had tank topped it.  I think I was the most dressed runner on the course, but I still have tropical blood, so these blustery Southern winters are rough on me, lol.

I had survived my twenty mile training run without hitting the wall at a slow 10:30 paced jog, and since that was my last long run, I was scheduled to do only mild paced jogs at much lower mileage during the taper. Of course, since in comparison all ten and unders were mere runs around the block, I wanted to see how fast I could go.  So my taper had more to do with pushing my speed limits and running hills than it did on resting my body and taking it easy.  (Strike one.)

My usual long run pace was about a 9:30, so my plan was to start slow at a 10 minute pace and then build after ten miles and build every five, averaging around 9:30 total and hoping to arrive in 4:15ish.  I started at just under a 9:00, and decided that this must be my “new” race pace and I should be fine. I tried slowing it to 9:30, but realized I was getting pretty close to breaking my half PR, so I picked it up at ten miles. I actually did miles 12 and 13 at an 8:30. But I did beat my half PR! (Strike Two.)

I did slow it a touch, back to 9-9:30 pace, and felt like I was really rocking this run. I was full of energy, I smiled, waved, and shouted at each runner I passed yelling “you can do it!”s and “great job!”s at all the half marathoners as they passed us on the loop.  I kept rocking this happy go lucky solid pace until mile 20, when I had decided I would slow a bit to conserve for the final five.  (This was actually a smart part of the plan.)

Here comes twenty, slowing my roll a little bit, good. Here comes…twen…ty…one. Boom! Wall time! I started really milking my walks through the water stations. Usually reserved for a quick swallow so you don’t splash and gag, I was taking my time sipping the whole cup, walking as I told myself, “I just need to really incorporate this water, and I might as well chew my mile snack while I’m walking, so I don’t choke.” (This was actually a pretty smart part of the plan, too.)

I wanted to pick it up when I had five to go, but it was slow moving.  I kept a chugging jog, as walking actually made my legs ache, but it was a chug! I was holding just under a 14:00 pace on mile 23.

Then, it happened! I came BACK from the wall!  It was not the same degree of wall I had experienced hitting during my training for my 18 miler, so the recovery was a surprise.  I started picking up my pace, I felt like I was back in the game and I still had a lead on the 4:15 pacer. I started grunt-singing “White Wedding” on my headphones. (I was alone in the pack, and everyone else was wearing headphones.) Of course, that was exactly when a guy with NO headphones decided to pass me, so he probably heard a least one whole verse and chorus. Singing Billy Idol with my white mohawk, I hope at least I gave him some comic relief which enabled him to get a leg up.

Then the most heartbreaking moment in my race happened.  Out of thin air, the 4:15 pacer  PASSED ME! I only had 3 miles to go, how could this be? I’d had an honest talk with myself pre-race about time expectations, and had aimed for 4:15, hoped for between a 4:00 to 4:30 window, and really wanted to be under four and a half, but I wasn’t racing for time, I was racing to finish alive, this was my first time!  Still when the balloon laden signpost with small entourage jogged past me, I let out a dramatic, “Noooo!” The pacer turned his head and smiled, saying “Don’t worry! You’re going to be fine! It’s ok!” Runners are frigging awesome.

I tried like double hockeysticks to catch the elusive pacer, but never saw him again.  I picked up my pace, determined to make the best of the 5k I had left.  I tried convincing myself that I was just really hungover, tired, hadn’t slept enough, and I was going out for a quick fresh run.  It wasn’t all that effective, but I still put everything I had into those last few miles.

A quick note for the organizers and publicists of the Tobacco Road Marathon.  The website boasts a flat course with a downhill finish.  It does not truthfully advertise that the last two miles are actually mountain climbing. Hills upon hills at every turn.  Maybe there was a downhill for a second near the finish, but it only served to drop you off at the base of the next hill.

Thanks to my highschool Cross Country Coach, Mr. McLean who drilled into our psyche forever the mantra, “Charge Those Hills!” I made it through the rollercoaster portion at a steady jog, no walking.  At that point of the race, every single other runner in my placement of the race was at a walk.  I was the ONLY one running! (I called this a huge personal victory.)

Quick sidenote: as I was passing these walkers, yes, it made me feel good, but I still considered each and every one of them an honorable and hard working awesome athlete, the same way every one finishing ahead of me treated me.  Running is all about the personal battle and EVERY finisher at every pace, is absolutely amazing.

So I trucked it up to the NEVERENDING winding path to the finishing line, as organizers had thinned out and pedestrians were walking right in front of me while I was running my 26TH MILE. (Please don’t EVER do that, even if we are sprinting at a 5mph pace 10 yards from you, it’s soul crushing and a complete psyche out.)

As I sprinted to the finish, (In my mind I was flying like an Olympian, the video my husband took tells a different and obviously completely inaccurate story) I passed my last competitor and made it JUST UNDER 4:30!!! (NO strike three! I did it!!!)  I have watched my finish video a hundred times, It is one of the funniest things I have ever seen. What a juxtaposition of mind vs. reality. I “sprint” at a brisk clumsy jog toward the finish (CLEARLY uphill) as my husband yells in the background “Go Mommy! Go Mommy! Go Mommy!”

Although I couldn’t stop to talk, and could only beeline-walk uninterrupted while I grunted monosyllabic orders for things like “bag pickup,” “water,” and “oranges,” the most amazing part of the whole race was watching my husband run uphill to meet me while pulling our two kids in the Radio Flyer behind him. I got a bunch of kisses and cuddles and after stretching in the grass for a brief couple of minutes, had to carry my three and a half year old daughter the mile back to the car. I mean, she was tired!

So that is the not-so-brief play by play of my first marathon.  The photos are of me at packet pickup showing off my race number, me drinking my pre-race smoothie while modeling my Marathon mohawk,  the moment I was officially a marathoner modeling the post race no-hawk that sweated out, me and my good luck charm, the Shamrock everyone from Athleta, Durham (where I work) signed to wish me luck because I work in a magical place full of awesome people, and lastly, my favorite, the MEDAL. Choo Choo!

I hope everyone out there finds a reason to run. Run for something! If someone were to ask me why I ran and what was I running for, I would say that I was running for the plants! Running to show that you can compete as a vegan, and that the plant based lifestyle is the healthiest option for avoiding the diseases of affluence most Americans are afflicted with, and running to make every normal, non-runner, slow runner, average Jane/Joe feel that they can do anything! Set yourself a goal today, this very day. It is amazing what you might find yourself doing!

Happy Running Out There!