It’s done, and I did it! It’s been a little more than a week since I completed running my first marathon. Portland, Oregon was the amazing backdrop for the event, and it truly was an experience to remember.
When I posted Marathon Training (The True Story), I was blown away by all of the supportive comments, and Twitter and Facebook wishes from all of you. Thank you. Your energy helped to carry me through those 26.2 miles.
Our trip to Portland kicked off with a fun trip to the Nike campus just outside of the city. Yes, I said “campus”.
It lives up to the term, with building after building, each named after a famous athlete, dotted amidst large green areas and a lake. Ryan Smith of the fantastic blog, Spinning Cook, works for Nike and generously offered us a trip to the employee store and a personal tour around the campus. Beyond impressive!
The weekend was about more than just the marathon. It was also a chance to get together with our families. Traveling from Victoria, B.C., southern California and Bend, Oregon, my parents and in-laws came together to cheer on my husband (S) and me, and to join in on the excitement of the weekend. Along with them and our two boys, we had an impressive cheering section!
Portland is an amazing city, one I could imagine myself living in. It has that laid-back, earthy Pacific Northwest feel, reminiscent of my hometown of Vancouver. And the food scene is something to behold. With more than 500 food trucks, there’s something to please every palate. Thai curries, Greek gyros, fish and chips, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches…the list goes on and on. I couldn’t be quite as adventurous I as would have liked because I didn’t want to eat anything that would upset my stomach for the marathon the next day. Another trip will definitely be on the agenda.
The day before the marathon, S and I hopped in the car and drove the race route. Are we ever glad we took that drive! I knew there was a hill from mile 2 to 3 ½ and another big one at mile 17. But I had no idea just how big those hills were. If I had come up to those hills without seeing them first, I would have freaked out! I tried to fathom how I was going to make it to the top without keeling over with exhaustion, crawling my way over every bump in the road. Was I really going to be able to make it? Had I trained well enough, or would my foot injury finally play its winning card?
After dinner at Ristorante Roma (great, fresh pasta and homemade sauces), we packed a bag for the boys (M & T) and walked them to my parents’ room, where they would be spending the night. A sleepover at Grandad and Nonna’s is always cause for great excitement – even more so in a hotel, with a breakfast buffet promised for the next morning.
S and I headed back to our hotel room, with plans to lay out our clothes, pin on our race numbers and tuck ourselves into bed early. And then…disaster struck!
Any race magazine or book will tell you, “Don’t eat or drink anything unfamiliar, or wear anything new on the day of a race.” I’ve read this many times, and follow it pretty religiously. I laid out my running top, my socks, my shoes…HOLD ON. Where were my shorts?! My husband and I tore through every pocket in our suitcases and every drawer in the hotel. My shorts were nowhere to be found. What the heck was I going to do?!
It was 7:45pm and the marathon expo had closed 45 minutes before. My husband ran over there anyways as I continued to search the room for a few more minutes. I flew into the expo after him, panic building with every step. My husband, MY HERO, had an answer! He found employees of a local running store and they promised that they were going to open at 5:30 the next morning, just a few blocks away from the hotel. What they couldn’t promise, however, was how much merchandise they had left following the expo. There was nothing I could do but wait until 5:30 the next morning. Both my husband and Cindy (coach, friend and fellow food blogger) did a good job of talking me down off the ledge.
The alarm went off at 4:45am, after a night fraught with dreams of missing shorts and underwear-only races (not pretty, not pretty at all). S ran off to grab his morning coffee while I set off for the running store, saying a silent prayer to the running gods. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say that I found a running skirt and left the store on cloud nine. Thank you to the staff of Foot Traffic, particularly Wendy. Lifesavers, all of you.
Decked out in my sassy new purple running skirt, I walked with S to the starting line, saying our good-byes as we headed to our separate corrals (fast dudes over here in corral A, terrified newbies over there in corral D). I waited patiently in the usual massive bathroom line that forms about a half-hour before the starting pistol sounds, shed my extra clothes and adjusted my watch.
5 (“This is really happening”)…4 (“I must be flippin’ crazy”)…3 (“I think I’m going to throw up”)…2 (“Calm down, Dara. You can do this”)…1 (“There’s no turning back now”)…BANG! We were off.
The first part of any race is always frenetic. Everyone takes off faster than they should, adrenaline pumping and legs high-stepping with the freshness of a good taper week. I kept reminding myself to settle down…slow and easy. As I started up the first hill, S was already heading back down on the other side of the road. Cruising.
The Portland Marathon course is flanked by entertainers every mile or so…bands, cheerleaders, mimes (seriously) and, my personal favorite, pirates. Their enthusiastic yo-ho-ho songs kept my mind off the pain around mile 10 and then again at mile 13 as we looped around.
Aside from the live music, the locals lined the course, holding up signs, serving beer (At mile 23? Uh, no thank you.) Some of my favorite signs:
“Go, random stranger. Go!”
“Because 26.3 would be crazy.”
And then there was the hill at mile 17. I knew it was coming. I was trying to conserve my energy. I was trying not to freak out. And I was thinking that S would be crossing the finish line right then, if all had gone well.
And then I was there, at the bottom, looking to the top. And I didn’t stop looking to the top. I decided that hill wasn’t going to get the best of me. I stared it down, I pumped my legs and my arms and I killed it. We turned right at the top and continued our climb to the apex of the bridge. A group of us running together let out a collective whoop as we reached the top.
Mile 22 through mile 24 were beyond difficult. I just wanted to stop. Please…just let me stop and be done. But there was no way I was going to stop. I kept thinking of my family at the finish line, of all of the encouraging words Cindy gave me and the fact that the whole thing would be over soon…very soon.
And then there was the Mile 25 sign. Only 1.2 miles to the finish. I turned on the engines and picked up the pace. Of course, that meant that I was doing my best not to throw up. My body was rebelling.
Then there it was…the second to last turn, the street where my family would be. And there were their voices and their smiling faces, and M & T with their hand-drawn signs, cheering me on, willing me to the finish.
And I did. I finished. I crossed that line, my muscles giving me everything they had had left, and my foot holding me through 26.2 miles, not giving in to the pain. 4:13:33 was the final time. And I stopped, accepting my medal from the friendly volunteer, acutely aware that my muscles were seizing and I was starving and all I wanted was to hug my husband.
And there he was. And we embraced as my eyes started welling up with tears, my muscles and mind aware of everything they had given me over the past 4 hours.
And my husband? He finished 19th overall, out of a field of 9000 runners, in a time of 2:46:29. The second Masters runner to cross the finish line. We were all so proud of him!
I wouldn’t have done this without his encouragement.
Will I do it again? Yep. The crazy bug has burrowed its way into my mind and it’s there to stay.