Mile 15: I feel awesome!! Gosh, all of my training has really paid off!
Mile 17: Savannah State spectators are awesome! Just the pick me up I need!
Mile 20: Hmm. This has been a long mile. Sheesh.
Mile 21: What. The. F*&!. Why in the heck did I sign up for this. What was I thinking. Ugh my longest run should have been 22 miles instead of 20. Sh!t Sh!t Sh!t!!
These were my exact thoughts as I ran my second marathon, Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah. It wasn’t a pretty race, but I got it done.
I arrived in Savannah on Friday, early afternoon. The expo was a madhouse. There was only one road/bridge that led to the convention center and it seemed like all 23,000 of us were headed there at the same time. When I finally was able to park, I made a beeline for the inside to pick up my packet and parking permit. I also had to pick up a long sleeve shirt and light jacket. Apparently I missed the memo that there would be a cold front coming through that would also bring about very chilly conditions. The forecast I had anticipated was low in the 50s and highs in the 70s. Instead the high would never leave the 50s and it would stay windy all day.
My brother and I got up at 4:30. Well I was actually up much earlier because I couldn’t sleep, but patiently waited for the alarm to go off before I started moving around. I had already organized everything that I was going to wear so it was only a matter of getting up, getting ready and getting dressed. My brother on the other hand had not and proceeded to begin asking me about different outfit choices. We left the hotel and were at the expo around 5:30. The race wasn’t for another 2 hours and as opposed to standing outside in the cold we sat in the car for an hour before heading to board the ferry to the starting line. This was the first time I have been on a ferry so it was quite a treat for me. When we got to the starting village we found where our corrals were and then looked for the gear check which of course was the farthest one back. Then we waited up against a bus that was deflecting the wind until race time.
The corrals were packed!Here’s where I began to visually see the breakdown between marathoners and half marathoners. There were 16 or 17,000 half marathoners and 6,000 marathoners. I was happy that we ran together for the first 11 miles before we broke up. The race started and a few minutes later we were off through the streets of Savannah.
These first miles were mostly spent dodging articles of clothing that were being thrown off along with the flanks of walkers who started in corral 7 knowing they should have been in corral 22. This area is what some have been calling the “rougher” areas, but the crowd support throughout here was great. People were outside their homes bundled up and cheering for us runner. I only checked my watch once at mile 5 to make sure that I was on my 10 min/mile pace.
These miles were fast and amazing for two reasons. One, we got to run through downtown Savannah and gosh is the city beautiful. The homes, the streets, the huge trees. It was all very small town and southern. And secondly, the crowd support. I felt like a super star! The crowd support was so great, probably the best I have encountered. I had to make sure that I didn’t get too excited and quicken up my pace. For the half marathoners this was heading towards the end of their race, and a fast one at that. But for me, it was only the beginning.
Sometime after mile 11 the marathoners and the half marathoners split. Part of me wished I was running only the half. It’s the perfect distance. Not too much. Not too little. Just right. And with the crowd support they were getting I’m sure everyone was going to PR. Then there was the part of me that felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. The few. The proud. The marathoners. (Thanks Marines for that one). And as we split I saw how few of us there were. Here is where I told myself, the mental marathon begins.
A lot happened here but to sum it up I was feeling good. So good in fact that I began to doubt myself. And then the famous last words came at mile 15. I told myself how awesome I was feeling and how this would be a great race and I would surely meet my time goal.
The crowd support had thinned out significantly on these back miles. The greatest motivation came at mile 17 from Savannah State. I went through their area high-fiving people and feeling great. Single digits left! I was elated. I kept visualizing my normal 10 mile out and back run. 5 out and 5 back. Piece of cake. Also one of the main things I had been focusing on was making sure I was staying hydrated throughout the run. Alternating water and cytomax at every station. I also had my Gu gels and chomps that I was eating to also keep my mouth and my mind busy.
The longest mile.Only a 10k left I told myself. 6.2. Child’s play. My legs started to feel a little heavier and the wind that I had been battling for much of the race felt like it was picking up. More runners in front of me began to stop and walk or stretch. It began to concern me because although 6.2 isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things, it’s still a long ways from the finish.
I thought this mile would never come. Truthfully, pat of me wished that I had somehow passed the marker and that the next one I would see would be that for mile 22. In the distance I began to see a mile marker sign. Please let it say 22. Please let it say 22. Nope. Mile 21.
Miles 22-24 were probably the longest miles of my life. They were entirely on the freeway and the wind was now blowing directly at me. It felt like everyone around me was having a breakdown. This is the part of the race where we really needed those spectators from earlier on, but alas, it was just us. It didn’t help that earlier on in the race when I was approaching mile 12, that I saw the marker for mile 24 on the opposite side of the highway. So I knew that I had a ways to go on this stretch of pavement. To make matters worse, I swear this highway was banked. I spent much of this stretch either leaning to the left or leaning to the right. TNT Coaches were running by trying to cheer up this runners. ‘Just around this bend and down the hill” one said until we would be off the highway. When we rounded the bend and there was still highway ahead of us I cursed her out a bit under my breath.
At this point I had to stop and walk. Why? Because at one point I was running next to a lady and about 3 minutes into us “running” next to each other I looked over and realized she was walking. You have got to be kidding me. So I stopped and power walked. I looked ahead and saw the water station and decided to run to it and then walk through it.
Only 1.2 miles left. Only 1.2 lllloooooooonnnnnnggggg miles left. At this point I was looking down at my Garmin every minute. My pace had dropped significantly, my goal time was definitely out of reach and at this point all I wanted to do was be done. I went through the last water station and decided that the faster I run the faster it’s done. Well faster is all relative but the finish was finally in sight. I made the last turn and saw the finish line up ahead. I started passing people on the way to it. The spectators were cheering for me telling me I looked strong and that I was almost done. Truthfully I felt bad passing those people at the end. I don’t know why, but I’ve always found it in bad taste. If I were in their shoes, and I have been, that’s the last thing I want. But I just wanted to be finished. I crossed the finish line and glanced down at my watch. 4:45. 15 minutes slower than my goal time but 9 minutes faster than my first marathon time.
I felt accomplished, satisfied, and tired. Good news is I didn’t collapse into the medic tent like I did after my first marathon. Better news, I’ve still got the marathon bug, with my eyes set on marathon #3 next fall. Great news, is that I didn’t get down on myself afterwards. I’m not comparing my performance to other people’s and I have no regrets about the race I ran. Instead I feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride within myself. And that is an AMAZING feeling!