It was sunny and beautiful when the race began. I felt strong if a little nervous. I'd only run one marathon prior and that was with my running buddy, Jerry. This time, I was on my own.
First impression? "Where is everyone?" I knew it would be a smaller event than the 30k runners at the Marine Corps Marathon, but it wasn't until I was there and running that it really hit me how few of us were running.
The course opened with a few miles through neighborhoods, and it was beautiful and shady. There were a few friendly folks out cheering us on, and I loved that.
My first picture was at Mile 4 and I was making great time, 37:00. That's just about 9:15 per mile.
I was really excited to run across the old Colorado St Bridge, and we got to do it twice, across and back. I know I looked like a goofy tourist, but I didn't care. I was looking right and left the whole time I was on the bridge, wanting to take in every detail of it.
At this point, I still felt pretty good. The day was warming up, but I had my single water bottle with me and I was hitting every stop. Just before Mile 8, the marathoners split from the half-marathoners. Over the next four miles, I experienced the loneliness of a smaller marathon. I could always see other runners, and this stretch was a two mile out and back, but still... it felt like I was running alone out there. I got a picture of myself here at Mile 9 at 1:28:10. Still running just below a 10:00 mile, so feeling pretty good.
After Mile 12, we met back up with the half-marathoners for a couple of miles. This time, though, they were the slower group, and there was quite a bit of "traffic dodging" to get around them. I'm all for walkers and slower runners, and most of them were fantastic, but it's a bit tough to pass a group walking four or five across. I was doing a little "out of the cones" magic to keep moving at my pace, but it was fine.
I hit Mile 14 in 2:24, so I was just over a ten minute mile pace at this point. But fourteen miles into the marathon, I was perfectly fine with the time. Then things got rough for me after that. The half marathoners split off and I had the worst mental mile of the entire event. Part of it was the heat, which was starting to be a factor. Part of it was the hill, which seemed to stretch on forever. And yes, part of it was the realization that I was only halfway through my run. I hadn't run farther than a half marathon since my full back in October. True story. I didn't run ANY longer runs in all my training. I just kept running faster and faster half marathons, instead. So running the fifteenth mile was mentally tough. But with some good music on my iPod, a little determination, and the coolest neighborhood kids handing out water, smiles and cheers, I got through it. And Mile 15 offered some much appreciated downhill distance.
The next four miles passed more or less uneventfully. I hit Mile 19 in 3:17:15, which is still a bit over 10:00 miles. That far into the run, I was fine with that time. But the worst was definitely still to come. I was now running in the full sun with very little shade, and there were a couple of hills still to climb. When I was running, my pace was okay, but I had to walk quite a bit to keep from overheating. And in this stretch, my pace took a serious dive. I ran when I could, but it was not a fast section of the course.
After Mile 22, the course ran mostly flat with a little downhill. I struggled with the heat, but my body felt good otherwise. And after two little glasses of orange juice courtesy of more wonderful Pasadena residents, I was on my way towards the finish.
I will be honest and say that there were a lot of tears on this run. I had dedicated each mile to a different fallen Marine, and thoughts of them weighed heavy on my heart. And just before Mile 23, when I ran past the Marine Reserve Unit and Blecksmith Hall, the tears flowed pretty strong. I had no idea it was there on the route, and seeing the Marine Corps signs and vehicles and buildings... well... it just all hit me at once. And I was proud and emotional and more than a little overwhelmed.
At Mile 26, I saw my husband standing there taking photos. I was so happy to see him, partly because I loved feeling his support and encouragement and partly because I knew if I saw him, I was almost at the finish line.
Around the corner, then another, and there it was. The finish line. And it was sweet. I held my head up high, made sure my form looked good for the hometown crowd, and I ran like I was just starting out on a 5k. And crossing that line was sweet, indeed.
I crossed the line at 4:40:55, and I am absolutely thrilled with that time. I ran the best race I could and I have no regrets.
Right now, I can proudly say that I am a two-time marathoner who will definitely run another one in the future.
You can't be surprised. It's what I do.