Remember in Tommy Boy when the deer they thought was dead goes berserker in the backseat of their car and jumps out through the roof and Tommy goes, “That. Was. Awesome!”? That’s exactly how I would describe my experience running the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon on Saturday.
In a nutshell, I believed I fueled right. I carbo-loaded according to this article and I went through two packs of PowerBar chews and two Stinger Waffles, plus water and Gatorade at the aid stations. I carried my own water bottles, and I’m glad I did because I could drink whenever I felt like it. I have only one regret about what I didn’t consume; I’ll get to that later.
So I started (and finished) with the 4:10 pace team! There were two leaders, Jeff (guy) and Chris (girl). They were great, but Chris paced us faster than she should have for the first half of the race, because we caught up to the 4:05 group and stayed right behind them for at least half of the race. Many people dropped off and didn’t finish with us, and I think that’s why. I’m glad I was able to maintain, but I feel for those who didn’t, because it might have been different if we were paced correctly from the beginning. There were only two of us who finished with the pace group – me and a guy named Paul from Oklahoma City.
The start was great. We ran through downtown Kansas City during the sunrise. Then, after mile 2, we climbed the worst hill of the race, and it wasn’t that bad from my perspective! We looped past Liberty Memorial and went through several great districts of the city. The half-marathoners split from the marathoners around mile 8, and the drop in congestion was really nice. Around that point, the next 12 miles or so were in great residential districts. Some had really unbelievable houses, but sadly, very few people were out cheering us on.
The crowd support was the best at the beginning. There were some great signs: “Don’t Poop Your Pants!” (I yelled, “Too late!”) and, “Chuck Norris Never Ran a Marathon” were my favorites. Overall, I was really disappointed with how few people came out to spectate. Perhaps I was spoiled during the Twin Cities Marathon two years ago, as I guess that race is known for its great spectators, but when I really needed some music, some encouragement, or a funny sign, none was to be found. This made the last seven or eight miles really tough. We rounded a corner around mile 21 and Hallelujah! There were five spectators, all with signs, jamming out to Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory,” and it was a little push that I needed so badly! I was so grateful to those five people that I blew each of them a kiss and nearly burst into tears. Paul from Oklahoma City was memorable with the spectators. Every time we passed one, seriously, Paul would cheerfully say, “Thanks for coming ooout!” and the “ooout” had a sing-song inflection to it. Thank God I was determined to stay positive during this race; otherwise, I might have told Paul to STFU.
OK, so many of us know that the first 16-18ish miles aren’t that bad, and that it’s closer to 20 and beyond when you find out if you really fueled and trained right. I started to get really quiet around mile 16, which for me means that I need to focus a lot more on keeping the pace, and I often end up talking to myself in my head to keep me going. Around mile 18, I started to pray the rosary to help me dig deeper, using my fingers to keep track of the decades, and told myself my tiredness didn’t compare to the sacrifice or test of faith happening during that mystery, so the least I could do was suck it up and finish strong! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” is my go-to mantra, and I clung to it for the last several miles, and by golly, it worked!
When my watch read 3:10:00, I cheerfully called out that we’d be done in an hour, while in my head I was thinking it would be the longest hour of my life! Shortly after that, at mile 20, I called out to my now very small 4:10 group that all we had left was a 10K – a piece of cake – even though I was wondering how the heck it was going to end! I felt my right calf start to cramp. Each stop and quick stretch at a water station seemed to make it worse. At one water stop, I think mile 22, I told Chris my right calf was bad, and she told me to stay and stretch as much as I needed to and then to try my best, but I said, “NO! I’m coming with you now.” I knew the cramp was due to low sodium. I had nothing to help it, I knew stretching wouldn’t matter, and I knew I could press on painfully and still get to the end and meet my goal. So I kept going. I stayed a short distance behind Chris and Paul (who was still singing, “Thanks for coming oooout!” to every spectator). They were cheering me on, telling me I can do it. I yelled ahead to them that when I’m in labor some day, I’ll wish for the pain I was experiencing right now. Whenever I lose the ability to run, walk, or even stand, I will wish for this moment. I will run through this pain because there are people who do not have the ability to run. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This pain was actually a gift, and I was going to treasure it.
Mile 23 was the last aid station I stopped at. When we hit mile 24, I knew I just had to keep going. I had the fuel and the hydration to make it. Again, it was so disheartening to see so few people out there to support the runners, but it made me look within for the strength to keep pushing. I pushed. Apparently I was keeping about a 9:30-ish pace in order to finish in the time that I did, but it didn’t look or feel like it! I pushed and I pushed, and then I rounded the last corner and saw the finish tunnel, and I just kept pushing. I don’t think I was able to surge. I really think I had already been going at full capacity those last few miles, and I didn’t have anything left. All of it was on the table already.
At this point, Jeff and Chris the pacers were ahead of me. Paul was at least 30 sec. ahead of us, getting a last few “Thanks for coming ooooooout!”s, no doubt. I wanted to cry from happiness and being overwhelmed, but my body couldn’t make tears. So I started yelling “Whooooooo!” hugely and frequently. It made Chris and Jeff slow a little and cheer me on, along with the droves of people who were spectating (where were you all a few miles ago!). Chris reached for my hand, Jeff reached for the other, and we ran the three of us, Whoooo-ing all the way. Pretty close the finish Jeff asked if I wanted to cross solo, and I said yes, so like two proud parents, Chris and Jeff let me go and slowed so I could have my little moment crossing the finish.
I must be watching too much Jersey Shore, because as soon as the pacers let go of my hands, I fist-pumped all the way across the finish. I turned around to thank Chris and Jeff. No doubt, they were critical in my success, and it was so sweet of them to let me have my little moment at the very end. Then I saw my husband, who had just set a PR for the half. Again, I wanted to cry, but no tears.
16 weeks of dedication, working hard, and pushing culminated in four hours, eight minutes, and 59 seconds of the biggest physical challenge of my life to this point. I can’t wait to sign up for another one (don’t tell my legs)!