I ran a marathon yesterday. 26.2 miles. It was amazing and horrible at the same time. It's sort of like having a baby, I guess, in that it's painful and messes up your body and afterwards you feel like you've done a major accomplishment and battled adversity and dug deep down and really proved yourself.
Anyway. It was not 26.2 miles of pure hell, because the first half felt ok, but the second half was pretty miserable. I couldn't have asked for better weather, so I should feel pretty lucky from that point of view. I started the day by waking up at 4am to get out of the house by 4:20 to catch the shuttles from Sacramento to Folsom, which left at 5am. The shuttles brought us to Folsom about 6am, and I hung out on the bus until 6:20 or so, waited in line for the bathroom for 25 minutes (!!!!) and barely had time to strip and drop off my bag of sweats before making it to the start line.
It was an amazing start, a beautiful sunrise, the national anthem (first time I've ever heard it at a road race), and a nice downhill run for the first half mile. I was actually stiff and felt like I had shin splints for the first two miles, so I was really starting to worry, but then I loosened up and the first half felt pretty good. As per my last few half marathons, I started feeling the strain around mile 10, and after mile 13, things started aching. By mile 16, I was slowing down, and by mile 20, I was feeling pretty beaten up.
The last 6 miles rival many of the hardest things I've done in my life, not least giving birth. My hips were aching, my muscles felt like they were about to give out, my feet were killing me from pounding the pavement. I was walking on and off, more than I had expected, and my pace slowed considerably. People were falling apart around me. One person was on her cell phone, crying. The buses that shuttled us to the start came by slowly once in a while, I assume to pick up anyone who was giving up, and I can't tell you how tempting it was to stop running and climb on one. What kept me going was the thought of my family and friends at the finish line, who had come out to cheer for me. I couldn't let them down.
I thought the last couple miles, running through downtown Sacramento, I would feel the adrenaline and pick up the pace, but it didn't really happen until the last half mile. Seeing my husband and kids, my sister and brother-in-law, and my friends waiting a few blocks before the finish line was the best feeling in the world, and gave me so much energy to push that last stretch! The official race photographers at the finish line helped, too =)
So! I did it! One of my major goals, done! And quite possibly I will never do it again, but I learned a lot about myself, and I'm proud of myself, and I'm so happy to be done with demanding training schedule and get those hours of my life back again. I'm already thinking of next steps in terms of staying in shape and active, but for now, I'm going to relax and enjoy the holidays.