A couple of years ago, Karen and I cooled off in the lake after a broiling 10K. We were suitably exhausted and started chatting with another woman who had clearly been at the race as well. “Only 15 more miles to go,” she said cheerfully. We learned she was training for the marathon; the race was a mere warmup to the rest of her run. I found this to be quite remarkable, considering I was not sure I would be able to squeeze my swollen feet back into my shoes for the trip home.
As Clare and I made our way up and down Lake Shore Drive for our 13.1 mile run, I thought of that woman, and my ultimate goal of making it to and through the marathon four weeks away. This was not a particularly triumphant thought along the lines of: “Check me out; I am like that warrior runner I met years ago!” Rather: “Clare, you go on ahead–pant, pant–I don’t want–pant, pant–to totally mess up my foot. Don’t. care. about. time. Just–grimace–need to finish. Gonna downgrade this to a training run.”
After waiting in line for about 30 minutes to hit the toilets (not worth the wait for me, though I think Clare had some symbolic success), we had worked our way into the two hour pace group, which she described as “aspirational more than realistic.” We would have to average a 9:10 pace over 13.1 miles to meet that goal. We got a sense of how huge the race was because it took seven minutes for our group to get to the start. It was incredible to see Lake Shore Drive brimming with people. Should be like that every weekend!
The first few miles disappeared in conversation and ease. When we passed the 5K mark, I thought there was a mistake. Self flagellation and deprecation aside, I have significantly increased my endurance over the years. At about 5 miles, the sun and humidity rose. We were bouncing between 9:30 and 10:10 min/miles which felt good, but was too fast for me, especially since I was coming off a break. It was also likely too slow for a 2 hour finish, even though we were using the negative split approach.
My decision point occurred at mile 7: lay down the hammer, or conserve? That is when I urged Clare to hammer on without me. We stayed in step for a while but then I floated back and focused on another dilemma: what to do about my throbbing colon. (Back to the potty talk–sorry!) If I took a bathroom break, my time would really be off. If I did not, I would get more and more uncomfortable, which—in retrospect—is also a time killer. I missed one chance, and regretted it, but found a station at around 10 miles. Dashed in, dashed out. Maybe took a minute. Definitely improved the final miles of the race.
Perhaps because I was relatively relaxed and did not attempt a strong kick (running parlance for revving up and sustaining high speed at the end of the race), I noticed and savored the Golden Lady pulling us to the finish line.
Got my medal, sighed a bit about my time (2:15:16/10:19 pace–at least a wee bit better than earlier this summer), got my gear, and connected with Clare, who beat me by 7 minutes. Instead of stretching properly (which I paid for later), I spent 20 minutes untying the Fort Knoxed knot on my gear bag.
We were soaked. I wrung out my socks, bringing back the memory of our last race where I took off my running bra in the subway a la Jennifer Beal and made a waterfall onto the tracks. This time my bra was way too structured to be pried off subtly, so I went shirtless for the operation. Clare made the obligatory screen with her jacket, but since I was sitting and quick, and everyone around us was too dazed or engrossed in beer and pizza (the last things we wanted to put in our bodies), I don’t think I offended anyone.
We made our way to the shuttles buses headed downtown. Sweaty, tired people splayed out with the mood and smell of accomplishment. I nearly put my head on Clare’s shoulder to fall asleep, but I couldn’t reach it. We then had a long wait at the blue line, followed by a slow bike ride to her house, where her husband, Scott, greeted us with coffee, homemade waffles, and freshly whipped cream. And it wasn’t even noon yet. Postscript