Standing in the corral amid the thousands of runners was an unbelievable sensation. I think that's when it really hit me. I...a non-athlete...was about to run a marathon. I had my iPod and my Garmin in check...I shed my throw away sweat pants that I picked up for the occasion and continued to warm up my legs.
Before I knew it, we started moving forward. I never heard a gun go off...just the buzz and excitement of the crowd. It took exactly six minutes for Coach Sarah and I to cross the start line...we were anticipating at least a 15 minute wait. I didn't question it...I synched my Garmin and just like that, my first marathon steps were taken.
There was a good vibe in the air. My stomach had settled and I was in a zone. I kept laughing to myself and repeating that I was doing a marathon...mostly because I was in disbelief and needed to convince myself that it was actually happening...and happening right at that moment.
Mile 1, 2 and 3 flew by. Coach and I were pacing really well and off in the distance, I saw my dad
and my husband Mike. They were both excited to see me looking good and going at a strong pace (I called Mike after I had gotten sick so he knew to keep a close eye on me, I could tell he was nervous for me)...my dad was cheering and waving around a bright neon sign that read "You Go Girl!" It was hilarious. Apparently my mom had made him a handful of signs to bring with him since she couldn’t be there—she was in palm springs vacationing with a handful of her girlfriends.
I pulled over to the side for hugs and hellos, and moments later I was sent on my way...alone. I smiled as I walked and ran...soaking everything in. And soaking in a lot of sun. By mile 4, I was burning up. ...and it was only in the upper 50's according to a bank temperature board. Sheesh! This is gunna be a hot one. I was already feeling a little light headed...as were other folks who had trained in the freezing cold. Our bodies just weren't ready for anything above 45 degrees.
I wasn't supposed to see Mike and my dad again until Mile 9, so I was thrilled that they had surprised me at 6. Sarah walked with me for a little bit and I mentioned how I was burning up and light-headed...she advised that at the next water stop I start pouring water over my head. Why didn't I think of that first?
I guess that's why she's the coach.
So I was bopping around and noticed that I was on pace for a 6 hour marathon. Sweet! I was nearly a half mile ahead of course...which was fine by me because I felt strong and was used to pacing at that speed. Mile 9 came and went with yet ANOTHER visit from my family and Coach Sarah (my dad was driving her around the course so she could meet up with other people from our chapter).
Miles 9-12 came and went fast. So I'm toddling and all of a sudden it hits my like a ton of bricks. ...I have to pee....right now...really...really...REALLY badly
. And of course, there are no porta potties in sight. Bushes start calling my name...as do walls that I can hide behind. Thankfully I found a construction site on the side of the road that had a single porta potty....with no line! I announced to everyone around me I had found a line-less pit stop and pulled over...with around 6 people following me. Finally there's relief.
...and before I knew it, I saw mile 13 off in the distance and start to pick up the pace. I saw Tovah, my campaign coordinator, cheering for me just before the 13.1 marker...next to her I remember seeing a massive KU flag waving. I didn't think anything about it, I just cheered with excitement and thought it was someone from the Kansas support team there, too. It never even occurred to me that it was Mike. Whoops! I danced right by them without batting an eye, just cheering "Rock Chalk Jayhawk!"
On the other side of the 13.1 mile balloon arch was Elvis. I had
to stop and take a picture with the King. After all, it's not very often you see him out and about on a marathon course.
The next few miles were a little slow...we made our way through a residential area and there weren't too many people out supporting us marathoners. I was still on pace for a 6:10-6:15 'thon. I have to credit the woman in the royal blue shirt who was standing by herself in the middle of the median cheering on the top of her lungs for each and every individual person. Folks were running up for high fives...I ran up for a hug. Much to my surprise, she welcomed it. I was smelly, sweaty, nasty and wet (from all the water I had been pouring over my head), but she genuinely seemed to appreciate the gesture.
Somewhere along the 15th mile, Coach Sarah caught back up with me. She was bouncing around to all the different TNTers along the stretch seeing how their run was going. By this point, I was experiencing some new pain. Never once did I have knee or hip problems during training...but those aches sure made up for the absence while I was out on the course. She gave some advice and helped me get to Mile 18 where my dad and Mike drove her to the final stretch so she could run some of my teammates in.
Now I was told that a marathon truly begins at mile 18. I believe it. My feet were starting to get heavy and it was becoming increasingly apparent that I could've used more Body Glide. Thank god for medical tents with Vaseline.
Around 19 I met up with some guy from Phoenix...a former triathlete. He signed up for the full marathon yesterday after a friend bet him he couldn't do it. I was struck with disbelief...I had been training for 5 months for this and here he was just going out and doing it unprepared. Dah well...I could tell he was hurting...and he still had 7 miles left. I was okay, generally a little bit sore, but nothing I couldn't handle. I kept reminding him that it was just pain and to keep pressing forward (advice that I had a hard time swallowing later on). With the 20 mile marker ahead of us, and photographers ready to take snapshots, we agreed to run across it together. After the photographers, I kept going...and I lost him in the crowd.
Mile 21 was where I absolutely lost it. With every step my feet and shins were fire. It hurt to speed up. It hurt more to slow down. And each time my foot struck the ground I felt my foot become engulfed in flames. Was I really walking on fire!? Tears swelled my eyes, but throwing in the towel was never an option.
I rounded the bend of an intersection to find Mike and my dad, once again there cheering for me. Man did I need that right then! I was in so much pain I just wanted to sit down and sob. But I knew if I sat, I might not be able to stand back up. Mike agreed to walk with me. I slowed my pace down a bit. Quite a bit actually. This was around the time I blew my 6:10 marathon. My 13-14 minute miles became 18 minute miles, possibly worse. I had hit the wall...and it was hitting me right back. It took a good two and a half miles before I had the strength to push right through it.
So off I go, with my wonderful husband in tow listening to me whine and gripe with each step. I was really in bad shape. So he gets the brilliant idea to call my mom to help uplift my spirits. We
get her on the phone and I'm literally in tears. She says something about sitting by the pool in California, drinking wine and toasting to my efforts. I handed the phone back to Mike. Had I stayed on the line with her, I would've sputtered every four-letter word in the book...I wanted to crawl through the phone and inflict physical pain upon her...her "uplifting words" were exactly what I didn't...couldn't...refused to hear at that moment. I love my mum...but geez was her timing terrible. Doesn't she know I'm about to keel over and die on the side of the road?
After much needed whining and lots of tears later, we find my dad at mile 23, waiting to drive Mike to the finish line for my big finale. In the back of my mind I was questioning if there truly was a finish line. I felt like I had walked mile 23 over...and over...and over. It was a scene from Groundhog Day. And oof...it hurt.
This is around the time I desperately want Coach Sarah to turn up to help run me in. Talking to others just helps you forget about the pain. With Sarah no where around, a gal from the Kentucky TNT chapter and I start talking...no...mumbling back and forth to each other. I had no clue what she was saying...or what I was saying for that matter. But just the grunts of communication really seemed to help. I finally push through it all and know that some way or another, I will finish the race.
Remember around Mile 3 how I said my mom couldn't be there? And her cruel, cruel comment about drinking by the pool? Well...I was in for a BIG surprise.
I'm coming to the end of the last really long stretch of road and up ahead I see these bright, obnoxious orange wigs. I'm thinking to myself SCORE! The next cheer squad is up ahead, that'll help me get to mile 25!
Out of nowhere...I hear "Go Running Jayhawk! You can do it, Barb!" and so on...and in this brilliantly obnoxious orange wig (with blinking devil horns, no less) I see my mom's shirt coming running towards me. I am completely and utterly confused. And then it hits me. That's not just my mom's shirt. It is
...and her magnificent girlfriends...all decked out in fantastically hideous wigs...holding neon signs of encouragement...to keep me smiling...and keep me moving. And it worked. ...and s
o...once again, I absolutely lost it. The four of them woke up before dawn, to drive five hours to meet me at mile 25...for a whole few moments...only to turn around and drive back after I finished the race. Boy do I have rockstar family and friends, or what!?
So they're walking with me...and I'm in this delirious state just laughing at them. They had me fooled. I wasn't in good shape and the crazy foursome carried me to the end. We travel together for a good half mile and I see Coach Sarah up ahead in the distance. I dash up to hug her and then introduce her to my mom and her friends. We're all walking together, laughing and taking pictures.
...and with that, someone (I think it was Debbie) said...don't let us slow you down, Barbara...go finish this...and so I picked up the pace with Coach Sarah. I saw my mom and her friends speeding up so they could make it to the finish line to see me cross. I could only hope they wouldn't hurt themselves along the way.
With less than a mile left I let out a massive scream straight from my belly....it was for all those who doubted I could do it (there were a few!)...it was for the doctor who insisted I'd need an IV by mile 8...it was for the doctor 2 years ago who told me I could never handle any major endurance or cardio event when my lung collapsed...it was for every challenge that I had to overcome to get to that point...that single scream poured out every ounce of frustrating emotion I had bottled up inside me about the race and I left it right there on the course...exactly where it needed to be.
I crossed the 26 mile marker and was desperately searching for the finish line around the bend. I told my coach "to hell with this" and took off in a mad sprint...I ran past Margie, screaming for me at the top of her lungs...I ran past the cheering Carsons and the Moosbruggers (family friends) who had waited well over an hour to see me cross the finish line...out of the corner of my eye I saw my dad jumping up and down for me and even though I couldn't see him, I knew Mike was right there watching me too...
And with 40 yards left to go...I smiled and spread my arms out like the wings of an airplane, the way a child does on a windy day, and weaved my way side to side throughout the chute, savoring those final last marathon moments and floated my way across the finish line.
The announcer comes over the loudspeaker... here comes barb... flying her way in...
...he was right.