First, before I go into my rant about my awful race experience, the race itself is a great event. The spectators are great, the on-course support and music are great, the race started on time and smoothly, etc. This race is known as "America's Friendliest Marathon" and it certainly was one of the best I have run in terms of great spectator support and on-course entertainment.
I left Lewisburg shortly after 1 PM on Friday. I meant to leave closer to 12, but that didn't happen. Ugh, packing. Thanks to the GPS navigation feature on my phone, I didn't have any trouble finding the race expo. Picked up my number and swag bag, made a quick stop by the Blue Ridge Marathon booth to ask about the rumored changes to their half marathon course (they added more hills!) and then headed to the hotel. Again, thanks to my phone's navigation, I found the hotel easily. There was a great sunset when I got there.
Since I'm lazy, and didn't feel like driving in search of food, and the hotel bar happened to have a grand total of 1 pasta dish on the menu, I decided to just eat there. Chicken Alfredo. Wasn't the best I've ever had, but it wasn't terrible either. Of course I had my usual pre-race Guinness with it. I generally eat sitting at the bar when I travel alone because there's always the chance that the bartender will entertain me. No such luck with that at this hotel. The bartender barely even spent any time behind the bar. Eventually, someone else came and sat at the bar though, and after arguing over whose job it was to provide the entertainment, we ended up talking. Turns out we both like photography, so we ended up sharing photos as well. I had a fun time, and I'm glad I stayed after dinner instead of going up to sit alone in my hotel room.
The marathon start-time was 8:00, so I didn't have to wake up too ridiculously early. I think I got up at 5. I had my usual pre-race breakfast : PB&J and a banana. I headed out the door around 6:20 to head into Richmond to find parking. As I left the hotel, there was a light rain. It occurred to me that I should probably go back up and get my rain jacket, and maybe re-think my race outfit, but I decided against it. I got into the city and began the search for parking. The start and finish lines were about half a mile apart, and the goal was to get a spot closer to the finish line. However, I am completely unfamiliar with the area, and there was traffic everywhere, and roads closed everywhere, and I ended up just pulling into the first parking lot and empty spot I could find. Shortly after I parked, the skies opened up with a downpour. It was still early, so I just stayed in my car. For about an hour. Watching the rain and desperately hoping for it to quit.
Around 7:20, I figured it was time to get out of my car and search for the start line. The rain had stopped, thankfully. It started again 10 minutes later as I was on my way to the start line. I was wearing shorts and short sleeves, so I ended up pretty cold. I wasn't planning on warming up at all for this race, but I ended up jogging around just to stay warm. While standing on the starting line, I met someone wearing the same orange mizunos as me, and we talked a bit until race time. When the race started, I got boxed in behind the 3:15 pace group. I stuck with them for the first mile, but didn't like being surrounded, so eventually I slowed down to get behind them and then ran around the group. For most of the race, I ran whatever pace felt comfortable. I wasn't wearing a watch. I hit the 10k and half marathon splits in good time, and wasn't feeling too badly. My feet started hurting around mile 9, but I was knew that was going to happen pretty early on in the race, and it didn't slow me down. By mile 19, I was in a good deal of pain. My shorts were chafing my legs (I knew I was going to regret not wearing tights...), my hips were hurting, my feet were hurting, and one calf was feeling weird/kind of numb. The 3:15 pace group caught up to me shortly before the marker for mile 20. They said they were running a few minutes ahead of schedule. I stuck with them for a little bit, but then we came to a water station and a bunch of them pushed and shoved me while trying to grab water. I lost my stride and couldn't get it back. The pain was just about unbearable, and I wanted to walk pretty badly. But I knew if I walked it would be a long way to the finish line. I managed to keep a slow, painful jog going for the next few miles. I never really felt like I hit a wall, I just hurt too much to move my legs any faster or to make my stride any longer. Finally, when I reached mile marker 25, I found the strength to pick up the pace. I doubt that I was moving particularly fast for that last mile, but it was at least faster than a crawl, and I suspect it wasn't too far off the pace I had earlier in the race when I felt better.
I crossed the line in 3:21:39. About 5 minutes slower than marathon #1. Considering how much pain I was in, I was impressed that it wasn't any slower than that. I was given my finisher medal, a bottle of water, and a fleece blanket as I made my way through the chute. And then I had to try to figure out how to get back to my car. I had no idea where I was. I was in a lot of pain. I was cold. I was so exhausted and overwhelmed, it was really hard not to cry. I was in a field at the bottom of a hill. I assumed my car was somewhere in the uphill direction, so I started walking that way. I knew my car was on the corner of 9th and Clay. The race finished on 5th. So I found 9th street. And then I started walking in what I desperately hoped was the correct direction. Uphill, downhill, past street after street. Wanting so badly to just sit down, curl up in the blanket, and cry. Thank goodness for that fleece blanket! For some reason, I thought I didn't need to check a bag, and that I could get back to my car before I started violently shivering and needing my sweats. If I hadn't had that blanket to keep me semi-warm, it would have been 50 times more awful. Finally, after 30 minutes of very painful and cold walking, I found my car. I cranked up the heat and headed back to the hotel, drinking my recovery shake as I drove (mint chocolate chip ice cream, water, chocolate protein powder). Again, thank goodness for GPS, because I don't know how I would have made it out of Richmond without it. There were a few sporadic signs for 64, but then I would get to an intersection and wouldn't know which way to go. Luckily, my phone told me which way to turn, because there definitely were not any signs to tell me! I got back shortly before 12. I was getting late check-out at 2. So I had time for a nice hot shower, and a quick nap.
At 2:00, my friend Amanda picked me up and took me to Steak & Shake for a bacon cheeseburger (post-race lunch of champions). And then I had to hop in my car and drive the hour and a half to Chesapeake, VA to visit more college friends and go to a bridal shower for one of them.
finally back in the hotel, and still alive
Also, I discovered when I removed my shoes that the end of my second toe on one foot was dark purple. I think I am currently experiencing my first ever running-related toenail loss. It made walking really really painful for a day or two post-race, since it banged into the front of my shoe every time I took a step.
It is now 5 days post-marathon. I am walking without pain now, although I still get occasional twinges of pain in my calves. I have not run yet. I don't have time to run today either. I think I will have time tomorrow, and I will probably go for a jog. I'm running a 5k turkey trot with my brothers a week from today.
Even while in terrible pain in the middle of the race, I knew I wouldn't be able to say "I'm never running a marathon again." I'm sure I will run another one someday. However, I sincerely hope that next time I am able to train properly. I feel positive that if I had actually been in shape for the distance, I would have easily finished in 3:10 or less.