I woke up at 4:30 a.m. on race day. I changed, had a bagel (provided by the AIDS Marathon folks), stretched, and rolled. I also slapped 3 Ace Bandage heat packs on my IT-bands (2 on the right, 1 on the left). At 5:30 all the AIDS Marathoners met in the lobby of the hotel to walk to the Superdome. It was raining pretty hard, but fortunately Wilma had the foresight to bring an umbrella, so I stayed pretty dry. We milled around in the Superdome for a while waiting for the race to start, and I felt surprisingly calm.
A few minutes before 7, we headed outside to wait for the start. Along the way, we lost Robert a couple of times, but did end up all starting together. It took us about 5 minutes to get to the start line, and we were off! By this time, the rain had slowed to a light drizzle. After 3 minutes, it was already time for our first walk break. We lost Robert again. (You’ll see that this is a common theme.) I felt a little dopey walking 3 minutes into the race, but we remembered that the most important piece of advice our coaches gave us was to take it slow in the beginning. So we kept a pretty slow, steady pace, but around mile 2, Wilma and Ross decided to break from the group. So it was me, Val, and Tony for a while.
My right knee started hurting shortly after, and I told my group that they’d have to help me keep going. We did eventually find Robert again, surprisingly. Around mile 4, we ran into the first AIDS Marathon cheering section. I felt a little silly because we happened to be on our walk break when we saw them. But it was an amazing feeling having a whole crowd of strangers cheering our names (we had written our names on our singlets.) After a few moments I saw Nathaniel on the side, so I took off my jacket and gave it to him and continued on my merry way.
I was feeling pretty good (besides the knee pain), so I asked my group if they wanted to switch to a 4:1 run:walk. Val, wisely, said that we should wait until mile 8. I’d appreciate this in the last few miles of the race.
The next few miles consisted of a lot of turnarounds, so we did see Ross and Wilma again. We also saw our first camera man around mile 10. This was also around the second AIDS Marathon cheering section. I just remember grinning like an idiot while running through the cheering section, and we ended up doing a 10:30 mile.
Mile 13 was back at the Superdome. Since it was also the half marathon finish, there was a lot of noise and commotion, and Robert and I didn’t hear my watch beep for a walk break, and we ended up leaving Val and Tony behind. They had a timing chip pad at the halfway split, and I was somewhere around 2:40. As we passed the halfway mark, we started to see the fastest runners coming in for the finish. It was pretty impressive. Shortly thereafter, I ran into another runner who I had met at the expo. This was his 16th marathon. We had a brief chat before I continued on.
There was a pretty long stretch through the Garden District, and I started unintentionally pulling away from Robert. By 16, I was basically running alone. Policemen were allowing cross traffic through between packs of runners, and there was one woman who was stopped in her car who yelled out her window, “Pick it up!! I have places to be, too!!! Come on!!” I yelled back at her, “Are you serious!?!??” and continued on. People are silly.
At mile 17, I called Caitlin on my cell to wish her a happy birthday. I think the message went something like this: “Hi [huff puff] Caitlin. [huff puff] I’m [huff puff][huff puff]at mile 17[huff puff][huff puff][huff puff][huff puff][huff puff][huff puff][huff puff]Happy[huff puff][huff puff][huff puff]Birthday![huff puff][huff puff]” I’m surprised she could understand me.
Miles 18-21 were in Audubon Park, which was pretty nice. Since it was a loop, I saw a lot of other runners I knew. I saw Wilma had pulled away from Ross, but he was still a ways ahead of me. I also saw Greta and several other AIDS Marathoners.
When I finally exited the park, I knew that I was in the home stretch. At mile 20 I had switched to an 8:1 run:walk to attempt to make up some time. I had been drinking a lot of Gatorade on the course (something I’d never done before) and was feeling a little queasy, so I tried to stay focused and steady. I don’t actually remember much about the last stretch of the race, so I’ll just assume I ran or something. I do know that I tried to smile for the last AIDS Marathon cheering section, but could only come up with some sort of grimace. Just before mile 25, Nathaniel met up with me to run the last stretch with me. Shortly after, Coach Toby ran with me only for a minute or so, but their encouragement was just what I needed at that point. Around mile 25.5, I saw Ross walking ahead of me. I caught up to him and said, “Hey, let’s run it in!” He ran about 10 steps with us before he said that he needed to stop and walk. I guess it was good advice for us to go slow in the beginning.
I ran up to the Superdome and saw Buddy cheering me on the sideline. At the curve to the entrance, I started sprinting. I feel like I was going really fast, but I was probably barely poking along. But I crossed the finish line, weakly held my fist up in the air, and I was done.
I was done.
They put the medal around my neck, cut off my timing chip, and I gave Nathaniel a very sweaty hug. I saw Cheryl and Mike too, and gave them slightly less sweaty hugs.
I was in a bit of a daze, and couldn’t really believe that I was finished. I gathered my senses and called my mom to let her know that I hadn’t died.
My chip time was 5:09:35, which works out to 11:49 miles. I was hoping for a sub-5, but I was still really happy with my time, especially with my injury. There were a couple times were my right knee almost gave out, but it never lasted more than a couple steps. I am living proof that yes, you can run through ITBS. Not that I’d recommend it.
It’s hard to believe that it’s over now. 5 1/2 months of training led up to a single 5-hour event. But it was definitely one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. I pushed myself mentally and surely physically harder than I ever have in my life.
Thank you so much to everyone who supported me both financially and otherwise through this whole ordeal. I’ll let you know how the next one goes.
Current fundraising amount: $4918