I signed up for my second marathon on January 1st, 2017 to get the early bird rate. I can’t believe that was just a little over 10 months ago, and I can’t believe how much my life has changed since then. So many things have happened to me – good and bad. A lot of what has happened left me hurt, confused, and frustrated… but clarity finally has come in the last few months and I cannot even begin to explain the relief that I feel. It truly is amazing and sometimes sad how different my life is from a year ago when I ran my first marathon, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Okay, enough of that – let’s talk about the race!
One of the changes that happened was running with someone vs. running solo. Just about 2 months before the race I found out that I would most likely be running this marathon alone, maybe I’d be able to run the first half with someone, but that still left me finishing a marathon – the boring part of the marathon – by myself. At first I was really scared, but then I reflected on all of the hard work and training I had done and I knew I would be able to do it. Then my friend Nikki talked to me about her training – she was running the international half marathon as her first ever half. I asked her what her training pace had been and told her that if she wanted to, I’d love to run the first half with her. She would keep me at a good pace to not burn out before tackling the second half on my own.
Leading up to the race watching the weather forecast was stressful… just like last year. It seemed to change drastically every day! Then the day before the race we all received an email telling us that the race wasn’t cancelled as of yet but that if there was lightning within 7 miles of the course that the race course would be evacuated and the race cancelled. At that time the highest possibility of lightning was looking to be around 11a-12p, when I’d be just a couple hours short of finishing. I was so stressed that I was going to lose the opportunity to finish my second marathon…
Race morning came and I felt like it was deja vu. Once again it was warm and humid. This year we also got windy! Like, REALLY windy. That morning there were already gusts of wind blowing as we lined up in the race corrals. When I hit the porta potty before the race I could feel it blowing around me! And I must have been totally nervous, because I totally forgot to pull up my underwear when I pulled up my shorts in the porta potty – what a funny feeling walking around until I realized my error! Luckily I was able to find a discreet spot to finagle my underwear back in place before I met up with my friend Nikki.
Nikki was nervous as heck when she finally found me. I knew exactly how she felt – and I was so glad that she was not going to be alone! My hubby took pictures and videos of us as we waited for the race to start. The corrals got sent off very quickly and by 7:22 we were off and running. We started off strong. Nikki had set her watch for 2/1 intervals, but when the first interval went off she said she wanted to keep running, so we did. We did great with the intervals until the bridge. Then the humidity and the incline of the on ramp definitely caught up to us. We focused on the beautiful scenery – the sun rise behind the cloudy skies over the Detroit and Windsor skylines. Running on the bridge is my favorite part of the whole race – even though last year I was terrified of it!
The heat and humidity stuck around with a vengeance through the miles in Canada. Just as I told Nikki, the support in Canada is awesome, and the signs people have over there never disappoint. We took pictures of the Detroit skyline and got a selfie. I even used the same porta-potty as I did last year – and just like last year it felt like it was going to tip over! This time the wind was the excuse, I dunno what was going on last year. Unfortunately as I was pulling my shorts AND underwear up, two of my Gu packets fell out on the porta potty floor – ewwww…
Just before we reached the tunnel, Ken let me know that he was waiting for us on the other side. That got me so excited! We headed into the tunnel and it was surprisingly cool and not quite as stuffy as it had been last year. I actually saw the flags and took a picture this year. We met a woman who was from Alabama and this was her Michigan race on her quest to conquer 50 half marathons in 50 states! She was super sweet and funny and she had purple hair. We left her as we finally reached the end of the underwater mile. As promised, Ken was up on the wall of the tunnel waiting for us, and I yelled at him so he could take a picture. He took a long video of us running from the tunnel and onto the lodge, which he thought was really cool! He said that it was a really emotional experience for him watching all of the supporters cheering on people that they didn’t even know, which made me think of the quote “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”
Around mile 9 I told Nikki that I might have to leave her because I was worried that I would get short coursed for not hitting the course checkpoints. Just then we ran into a couple of other marathoners, the first that I had seen since we started! I told them my concerns and they reassured me that it wouldn’t happen – they had run this race many more times than me, and their times were much slower than mine, and they had never been kicked off the course – at least not at the half. I told Nikki, “I guess you’re not getting rid of me then!” We got into Mexican Town which I remembered not so fondly from last year because of the sneaky hills. I had warned Nikki about it and she asked me, “Are these those hills you were talking about?” Yep – they aren’t steep or big but they definitely catch your attention! At this point in the race I was begging for it to rain so that some of the humidity would maybe go away. We were both sweating like crazy and Nikki was struggling with foot pain and stomach aches. She put in her music and at mile 12 decided she was going to go back to her run/walk intervals and bust out this last 1.1 miles! At the halfway point we took a picture together and we hugged before splitting up.
Once we split, I started running and ran for quite a while. The marathon split is a little intimidating for us back of the pack runners because it is desolate. You start to wonder if you’re going the right way. “Am I the last finisher?” It is tough. So I decided the best thing for me to do was to push it and run until I saw another marathoner ahead of me, and that’s just what I did, resulting in an 11:28 pace for my 14th mile. WHOA. The rest of the race I stayed pretty consistent with my intervals – 2 minutes running, 1 minute walking. There were a few times when I extended my walk breaks or started them early to hit a fluid station or take some fuel, but other than that, I stuck to it.
Indian Village was a lot better this year than last year, mostly because it wasn’t pouring rain. There was a lot of crowd support and some of the houses were super decked out for Halloween! I started passing U.S. only half marathoners and even some other marathoners at this point who offered me encouragement. I noticed a lot of international half finishers in Indian Village. One of the guys came up to me as I passed and told me “You’ve got this, finish strong!” And I was confident that I was going to.
The wind started to really pick up after Indian Village when we were out on Jefferson. It was tough – I had to put my head down for fear that my hat would blow off! I finally reached Belle Isle and could not believe that I was here. Was I really doing this again? As I approached mile 20, I saw the 6:30 pacer up ahead of me. I then realized if I caught up to her that I would definitely be getting a PR today (since she had started in the corral ahead of me). I did catch up to her… and then the rain came. It was welcome at that point, as long as no lightning accompanied it. It felt really good at first because of the heat and humidity. But those winds started to gust again and it was like I was getting pelted by rain drops. And leaves. And sticks. Okay, it wasn’t “like” that was happening – that was legit happening! The good thing was that since we were running around an island eventually the wind was at my back for a very short period of time. I ran into a couple of marathoners who said “Why did we do this again?” and I agreed, why was I doing a second one? And they said “Between the two of us we have done 8!” I was like “Oh man you guys are crazy!” Also on Belle Isle I saw a group of U.S-Only half marathoners wearing party hats, cheering on one of their friends who was running on her birthday. And there was a guy running the U.S.-Only half marathon with his dog – his dog was wearing his bib! It was probably the cutest thing I had seen all day!
When I reached the street off Belle Isle headed for the Riverwalk, I could not believe that I only had a 5k left to go. Memories from last year started flooding back, as this was when I really started to struggle. The wind was gusting like crazy and the river was the choppiest I have ever seen it. This year there would be no surprise, no friends jumping onto the path to run the final couple of miles with me, but I knew that my husband and family were waiting for me at the finish. Because of the winds the mile marker flags were taken down and so I lost track of my mileage. As I made my way back into the city, I remembered the hills and saw the photographers, just like last year. The final stretch takes you around a few corners, and I thought of how last year we were struggling to finish this dang thing. I passed the Dominos where we got pizza the night before and the Jimmy Johns where Staci saw her kids and husband before we finished last year. Just then my music changed… the song “Too Late” by 311 came on and I realized this would be the song that I finished my marathon to. The tank I was wearing said “At the end of the day the relentless always win” – a lyric from this song that was meant to not only inspire me to keep pushing until the end but also to honor my mom. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I made the final run toward the finish. I stuck to my intervals and it timed out perfectly that I got a little break before the final run to the finish line. Just before I reached the finish I saw my husband up in the bleachers and he yelled to me and caught me finishing up on video. I was going the wrong way (on purpose so Ken could get a good shot of me) and the race volunteer corrected me at the last minute, which you can see on his video – kinda funny!!
So as for stats on the race… Unfortunately the app did not capture my half marathon time, but from what I could figure out with my Garmin and my official time, I think my stats are as follows:
- First half in ~3:18:20, 15:08 per mile
- Second half in ~2:53:22, 13:13 per mile
- Final official time 6:11:42, 14:11 per mile – 23 minute, 15 second improvement from last year!
Overall… this race experience was incredible. I was able to help my friend through a tough first half marathon and was still able to obtain a PR myself. It was a much more relaxed feeling than other races. This race was all mental – I can’t tell you how many times I felt a pain or felt my emotions taking over and just told myself to be strong and finish strong. Many times my watch said it was time to run and I didn’t want to, but I told myself it would be over sooner if I did. Many times I wanted to stop running, and I said to myself “What’s another 30 seconds, you can do this!” I was my own best cheerleader and pushed myself to my limits. I am so proud of what I accomplished in such difficult conditions, and after this year I can tell you – that won’t be my last marathon. :)