I woke up at 4.15am on race morning, even though my alarm was set for 5am. I stayed in bed, trying to relax and stay as rested and calm as possible. I eventually got up at 4.45am and start faffing about in the kitchen with tea and porridge and whatnot. Billie arrived at 5.30am and we headed out at 5.50am to park our car down on Barton Springs Road.
We walked over to the start line, nervously chattering away about anything and nothing. We were over at the start area a little after 6.30am, which still gave us plenty of time to ditch our extra clothing at the Rogue tent and get through the portaloo line. Then we lined up just behind the 5 hour pace group and waited for the start, which was supposed to be at 7am. 7am came and went and nothing happened, so we waited. And waited. We were cold and full of nervous energy and generally anxious to get moving, and all that waiting around was kind of annoying. I don’t know what time the race actually ended up getting started, but we wound up crossing the starting line at 7.22am.
And then we were off. The first mile went out slow. I spent most of that first mile just trying not to run into anyone and trying not to lose Billie or Aimee. We ran up Congress and soon hit into the first of many hills for the day. Mile two was much of the same – lots and lot of people all over the road. It was cool but also rather overwhelming to see that many bodies swarming up Congress! The 5 hour pace group took off way faster than their supposed 11.26minute mile pace, and we soon lost sight of them after the first mile. The first water stop was a zoo, but I was expecting that, and hadn’t planned on taking any fluids in from the aid station, so I steered clear and had a sip from my own supplies.
Somewhere towards the top of Congress it really hit me that I was running a marathon, and I consciously looked up and looked all around me to take it all in. When we turned right onto Krebs, the road got narrow and the crowd packed in tight around us on all sides. I was glad to make it through that narrow stretch and out onto South 1st street, and into a little downhill stretch for the next couple of miles.
We tried to settle into our pace as we ran back down South 1st and through miles 4, 5 and 6. This section was pretty enjoyable, because there were lots of spectators and bands and things to look at, but I was still feeling uneasy at the thought of all the miles ahead of us, and we were relatively quiet, not chatting or joking much.
Running across the South 1st bridge and onto Cesar Chavez was fun. There were loads of spectators and lots of people shouted for us – lots of “Go Thing 1! Go Thing 2!’ and a few “Go Things!”. “Go Things!” wound up being my favourite cheer of the day. It wasn’t one I had anticipated hearing, and we heard it many times throughout the 26.2 mile course. It never failed to make me smile!
Mile 7 went pretty fast as a result of all the cheering. Mile 8 was much of the same, but with a poorly organised water stop and a short sharp hill thrown in for fun. The water stop at Austin High was a complete shambles. I was ready for some fluids ahead of the Lake Austin Boulevard stretch, and wanted to make sure to take in some water in prep to have a gu before hitting the hills on Enfield and Exposition, and I bet that a lot of other people were thinking the same thing….what a mess! Anyway, we were able to get a cup of water from a single harassed looking lady who was doing her best to simultaneously set out cups and fill them as quickly as possible.
We saw my Mum and Rosie cheering for us around mile 8.5, and then Mark and Alexander were on the side of the road around mile 9. I wasn’t expecting to see them at that point, so I hadn’t been looking for them, and was concentrating on eating a gu when I heard Mark yelling. I shouted back a hasty greeting, and continued onwards.
And then we met the big hills. Heading up Enfield felt ok. My legs and lungs were still relatively fresh, and mentally I was feeling ok about the hills having successfully conquered them a couple of times during training runs. Aimee and Billie took off up the hill, and I stayed with them as best I could. In retrospect, I probably should have just let them go and run the hills at my own pace, but at that specific point in time, it seemed more important to try to keep up. I battled up Exposition, feeling a little out of breath, but very alive and really looking forward to crossing the bridge on 35th over Mopac and getting onto Jackson Avenue and into “my side” of town.
Mark and Alexander were waiting for us at the top of Exposition on 35th street. Mark handed me a spare gu and gave me my sunglasses. I said I didn’t want my glasses, and he told me to put them on, because it was getting sunny and I would need them. So I did what I was told, and I’m really glad Mark persisted.
Billie and I had lost Aimee by this time, as she surged on ahead up the hills and beyond our (my) reach, so we continued on together. Billie was running a couple of steps ahead of me by this stage, but seemed happy enough to slow it down slightly and run at a pace that was more comfortable for me. I was suffering a bit after attacking the hills, and needed to get my breath back.
Miles 13 and 14 were a bit of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I knew the worst of the hills were behind me and I was back in very familiar territory, on the other hand I realised I was tiring and I was barely half way through the race, with a lot of hot sunny miles ahead of me. We had almost caught up to the 5 hour pace group around mile 13, but I dropped back on my pace, and so we lost sight of them again. Ah well.
By mile 15, my breathing still hadn’t fully recovered from the hills, even though we had backed off the pace quite a bit. As we turned onto White Rock, I realised I was having difficulties in bringing in enough air. I have been fighting off a cold for a couple of days, and had a nasty chesty cough the morning of the race. But such is life – I wasn’t about to miss the marathon because of an annoying cold. I tried taking deeper breaths, but that just made me start wheezing. Fortunately, Katie, Lennie and Chad were waiting at the junction of White Rock and Great Northern. Katie could see I was having trouble breathing and she talked me down from spiraling towards hyperventilation. She told me to breathe in through my nose, and blow out through the mouth like I was blowing out candles on a birthday cake. She was calm and reassuring and soon I was back to feeling normal again. Or as normal as you can feel after running 15 and a bit miles when there are still almost 11 miles to go.
Katie, Lennie and Chad ran up the Great Northern stretch with Billie and me. It was so great to have company during that long, windy, straight stretch. Mark and Alexander were waiting to cheer us on near the Far West foot bridge, and it was great to see them too. Then we saw Mum and Rosie at the top of Great Northern, and they ran alongside us for a minute much to Rosie’s delight. And then we were alone again, at least for a little while. But that little bit of company and cheering and fun and laughter combined with the pep talk from Katie and Lennie made a huge difference to me mentally. As we rounded the corner onto Foster Lane, one of the spectators was shouting “Mile 17! Mile 17! That’s only 9 to go! You’ve made it to single digits!” and I really liked hearing that. I could run 9 more miles. I was back on track to do this thing.
Mile 17 was great. I went back to chatting with Billie, and took the time to look up and take in the race unfolding around me. There were lots of spectators at this stage, and it was fun to hear all the cheering. Somewhere around mile 18, Heather jumped in to run a few miles with us to keep us company. Just having someone new and energetic there to talk to us and cheer us on gave me a huge boost. Heather also gave us extra gu, which was gladly received. I ended up taking in 2 more gus than I had originally mapped out during the marathon – the extra calories were definitely needed by the tail end of the race. Heather stayed with us until mile 21, where my parents and Mark and Alexander and Rosie were all waiting to cheer us on again. We waved hello, I gave Mark and A-train a quick kiss, then Billie and I headed onwards once more.
Mile 21 was ok. Mile 22 was not so ok. The course was slightly uphill on Avenue H, and about halfway up Avenue H, Billie asked me if I wanted to walk for a bit. I said no, I’m fine, let’s keep going. And she said, “Ummm. Let’s walk.”. So I did. Apparently I was wheezing again, pretty badly this time. I didn’t think it was that bad, but Billie disagreed. Stupid cold. Stupid lungs. Pah! We walked to the top of the hill and started jogging again as the route finally took us downhill on Duvall.
Superstars Katie, Lennie and Chad showed up again around halfway down Duvall around mile 23. Billie and I were both very pleased to see them. Billie was feeling pretty good, so she took off with Chad, happy in the knowledge that me and my wheezing were safe under Katie’s supervision. Katie stayed with me and she was so calm and encouraging that I was able to get the wheezing back under control and keep running at a slow but steady pace. She ran beside me up the hill on Dean Keaton, and stayed with me along Guadalupe. When we turned left onto MLK, Katie said something about the finisher’s medals being really nice, and it suddenly hit me that the end was in sight and I was really going to finish!
As we turned right onto San Jacinto, Katie told me not to freak out. I looked up and saw the hill looming off in the distance, but I just didn’t care anymore. I knew I was going to make it, and I ran all the way up that last hill and over the top. As I started down the hill, I saw Mark and Alexander and my Dad over on the left hand side of the road yelling my name. I looked over and waved, but I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to finish!
I rounded the bend onto Congress and could see the finish line just in front of me. Another runner on my left looked at me and asked if I wanted to race her in. “Sure!” and I tried to put on a surge. Unfortunately there wasn’t much left in the tank for any sort of sprint finish, so I just ran it in as best I could, hoping the photographers would get a good shot of me crossing the finish line. I was all crazy teary emotional smiles and wheezy coughing as I waddled awkwardly down the chute to get my finishers t-shirt and medal.
I hugged Billie, who crossed the line about 4 mins in front of me, and Aimee, who crossed right behind me, and Lennie and Katie and Chad who were there at the finish line too. Then we stopped to talk to Mark and Alexander and my Dad while Katie and Lennie made arrangements to go get the car and pick us up to take us home.
My final time was 5 hours 07 min 17 sec. I had been trying to go under 5 hours, but I’m going to go ahead and call 5hr07min a big win anyway. I’m so proud of myself for going the distance, and I’m so proud of Billie for doing it with me, and happy that Aimee was out there with us too.
And I’m so thankful for all the support we received from our family and friends throughout the training and the race. You know who you are!
There is no way I could have done the marathon without the wholehearted support received from Mark, who happily took on full parenting responsibilities every Saturday morning since the beginning of October so I could do the long runs and who drove all over town to pick Billie and I up after our training runs and who came out to support us when we participated in races and who makes the most amazing post run pancakes known to mankind.
There is also no way I could have done the marathon without Billie – truly the best marathon training partner I could have asked for. She was dedicated and determined. She never wussed out of a workout and she kept me going when things got tough.
So thanks everyone. It’s been amazing. I had a blast. I’m glad I did it.
Who knows, maybe I’ll even be crazy enough to do it again…..
Next time, maybe I can beat that 5 hour goal!