“A marathon is the purest act of faith. It is a long journey made of single steps, with ups, downs and plateaus. Throughout the journey you move forward to finish, to help and to encourage each other along the way. Today you are rooted in your own body, mind and spirit health. On this Earth Day, as your feet connect to this incredible planet, in all it’s glory, you will find a deep spirituality within yourselves. You will be challenged. You will reflect on life as you move forward and you will find the strength to finish today. Today you run as individuals, yet you will finish as one, unified in a mission to complete the race. Congratulations on your training. Keep moving forward. Keep Toledo moving forward. We will run faster in Toledo.” – a snippet of the blessing by Sister Jennifer Discher from Mercy Health prior to the Glass City Marathon.
This blessing, shared before the start of the race, moved me to tears. The first sentence spoken – “a marathon is the purest act of faith” – couldn’t describe better how I feel about the marathon. The italicized portions of the quote stood out to me in some way thinking about yesterday’s 26.2. I have been trying all day to put into words what I want to say about this marathon, so I hope that reflecting on Sister Jennifer’s blessing will help me organize my thoughts.
Prior to this race, I was not nervous. I don’t know if it was due to my training, knowing that I had someone to run with, or not worrying about the weather that kept me calm, but I wasn’t nervous. I was excited. I had several goals in mind and *SPOILER ALERT* I reached all but one of them. Even my husband seemed to catch on to my excitement as he joked and laughed all morning before we left for Toledo.
Getting to the race went well, except for some nerves because of feeling rushed once we were there. The lines for the porta potties were insane! We must have waited for close to 15-20 minutes to use one and we just barely made it to the race start before 7:02am. Fortunately the race start was slightly delayed, so I had enough time to remember to put on sunscreen (although apparently I completely missed my chest) and to freak out about the fact that the RaceJoy app wasn’t working to track me. Overall though I still felt good about the run. My friends and I kept telling ourselves… it’s just another long run.
A couple of days prior to the race, I was talking to my friend Paula about it and that I was excited, not nervous. The advice she gave me was this – “In the first half of the marathon, don’t be stupid. In the second half of the marathon, don’t be a wimp.” Well guys, I didn’t listen to Paula’s advice. I was kinda stupid in the first half of the marathon. And I kept telling Christine this – “I feel really great right now and I’m probably going to regret saying that in about 10 more miles.” “We need to stop being stupid.”
Miles 1-5 were super consistent. Somewhere between 12:15-12:25 pace. Our long training runs were closer to a 13:00 pace. Okay, so we were going faster, but that was to be expected, right? We were feeling really good and both surprised at how easy this pace felt. We kept telling ourselves we didn’t need to go this fast, but it just felt good!
Mile 6: 22:08 – that’s where the first potty stop happened. We probably waited for about 10 minutes. I added on about 1/3 of a mile running back and forth to the water station across the street to get water for people while they waited in line.
Mile 7: 11:50 – WHY?! We didn’t have to make up our time THAT much. We told ourselves no big deal, with how we had been running if we just kept it consistent that potty stop would only add about 30 seconds per mile and we’d still be under our goal. But this part of the course was also quite beautiful and downhill. So apparently… we went balls to the wall.
Mile 8: 13:33 – another potty stop. This time we saw a porta potty at a construction site and went for it because there was no line. Figured might as well take advantage – plus I hadn’t gone at the first stop.
Mile 9: 12:43 – okay, that’s better. Closer to what we had planned our pace to be – just under 13 minute miles.
Mile 10: 12:00 – SERIOUSLY STOP BEING STUPID. You’re not even halfway there!
Miles 11-15 were more consistent around 12:30-12:45 pace. Definitely closer to what was reasonable, but also evidence that we were slowing down. But again, we kept it pretty consistent.
Mile 16: 13:53 – last potty stop, plus fueling, and all that jazz. This was actually a really pretty part of the course that went around a lake and where we first saw Eliza who would later save me and help me finish. I actually was trailing behind her and went to follow her, and Christine said, “Where are you going?” because she was headed off course. Later she told us she was making a potty stop at an indoor bathroom – ha! Smart girl.
Miles 17-21 were again consistent, 12:45-13:00. This is also where we started the longest straight shot ever down a road where the wind just so happened to be blowing right in our faces. Somewhere around mile 20 is when Eliza caught up to us and asked if we knew when they would sweep the course. By this time, I could no longer brain, so I think I said something like “6 hours.” And I could tell she didn’t understand what I meant, so I tried to explain: “6 hours after the last runner crossed the start. So I think around 1:15pm. We’re good, plenty of time!” She asked if she could join us and of course we said yes, and explained to her we were doing run/walk intervals. She said that’s exactly what she had trained with. It was her first marathon and her running partners had to bail due to injury really early on in the race. She told us that she had seen us running in the park around the lake and had been pushing to catch up with us ever since. Talk about pushing foward!
Just before mile 21 was when I really hit a wall. I wouldn’t call it “hitting the wall” when your body changes fuel sources and you feel like you just cannot move, but more of a mental wall. We had just finished a walk interval and it was time to run. Christine had already been ahead of me at this point, even walking, and I couldn’t get myself to run. She looked back at me and said, “Come on, sis! You got this!” Eliza said to us, “I’ll stay back with her if she needs to take it easy. I could use the encouragement, too.” I shouted to Christine to keep going and to leave me. She asked if I was sure and I said yes, I would be fine. I wanted her to get her PR and I knew that she would risk not getting it if she stuck with me. She had gotten a second wind, or something… she seemed to be getting even swifter on her feet!
Eliza and I tried to switch to 1/1 intervals (run 1 minute, walk 1 minute) but even then we were struggling. She asked if we could walk until we got to mile 23, which was about half a mile, and I agreed, we could do that. Miles 22-23 were almost a 16 minute pace because we walked most of them. We ended up talking and chatting a lot, getting to know each other, and kept encouraging each other. When Christine first split off from us, she said “You better stay with me the whole time!” And I told her she was stuck with me. But she kept telling me after that to go on without me, that it was okay. I kept reassuring her that I needed her just as much as she felt she needed me, and I wasn’t going anywhere. At one point I asked her how old she was and when I realized she was in my age group I said, “You have to cross the finish before me. It’s your first marathon. You deserve to be one place better in our age group.”
At the last aid station before mile 24 the volunteers had told us we were fine as long as we stayed ahead of the golf cart. We looked back and saw that they were not far behind us. We told each other we had to stick to our 1/1 interals and we would be fine. At mile 24 we had just passed a timing mat, seeing that we were 5 hours and 28 minutes into the race and we asked the volunteer how long we had before they would kick us off course. They reassured us that we would be okay, we had passed the cutoff point (the rest of the course was on campus and didn’t cross any closed roads) and reminded us that we just had 2.2 miles to go!
Around mile 25 we saw my husband who took pictures of us and offered us encouragement, telling us we were looking strong and to keep going. He took off towards the finish (he was able to take a straight path there, the course winded and turned to get the rest of the mileage in).
The last mile of the course winds through parking lots towards the finish in the football stadium. We passed a couple of runners and offered them encouragement. One of them was wearing a Detroit 26.2 shirt from 2017. I said to him, “Hey, at least the weather is better than Detroit, right?!” he laughed and said he was pushing through an injury, and I told him to just keep going and congratulated him on conquering this journey. We followed the twisting and turning course, seeing the stadium in the distance, and I wondered out loud, “Are we ever going to get there? I really hope we don’t have to run a long way once we get into the stadium! And it BETTER not be uphill!” Just then we crossed into the stadium and saw the big FINISH sign. I had a rush of energy as they called our names and took off toward the finish. I looked back at Eliza and motioned for her to finish ahead of me. She crossed 27 seconds ahead of me, finishing in exactly 5:59:00 and I finished at 5:59:27. Christine finished in 5:45:10.
Before this race, I had told myself it was possible that I could finish in 5 1/2 hours. And had we kept our pace up and not had to wait 10 minutes for a porta-potty, we might have been able to do that. Don’t get me wrong – I am not at all disappointed. Just aware that I have it in me to be able to pull it off some day! Ultimately my biggest goal was to get a PR, and hopefully finish in less than 6 hours (especially since 6 hours was the course time limit!) and I accomplished both of those things.
Overall, this was a great marathon. From the start of the experience at the expo, dinner with our friends, to the ease of getting to the race and parking, to the race itself… we could not have asked for more perfect weather (although I could have done without the wind towards the end), the course was flat, it was beautiful, and there was plenty of crowd support… it really was about the best you could ask for! Getting a PR, spending most of the race with my friend Christine and making a new friend in Eliza were just the icing on the cake! I would definitely recommend this marathon to anyone looking to get a PR, BQ or new marathoners. And I would definitely do this race again. Like Sister Jennifer said – you will run faster in Toledo!