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This is long. Very long. And it probably contains way more information than you ever wanted to know about what went through my head as I made my way through my first marathon. You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own risk.

Pre-Race

Saturday night, The SAK and I met up for dinner with Ryk and Len, a couple of guys from the TM boards, which was a tasty and enjoyable experience. After we got home, I double-checked to make sure everything was ready to go for the next day. I watched some TV, and then went to bed. I slept shockingly well – I was expecting to be tossing and turning all night, but I only woke up a few times. I’m not sure if it was the fact that I got almost no sleep on Friday night, or if it was the giant glass of beer I had with dinner. Either way, I woke up moments before my alarm went off Sunday morning feeling rested and ready to go.

Breakfast was oatmeal with dried cranberries and a banana. I usually eat a Clif bar before a long run, and had brought one with me, but just couldn’t bring myself to eat it. Instead, I put it in the bag o’ goodies for my parents to bring down to the race with them. (Also in said bag: extra Gu, Gatorade, and pretzels.) After breakfast, it was time to get dressed. I had everything sitting out, so it was just a matter of selecting which layers to wear. I opted for all of them, figuring it was better to have it and not need it than to wish I’d put the stupid thing on. Sunblock, check. Shoes & socks, check. Gloves, check. Bodyglide… no check. Brief pause to remove the layers while I applied the glide. I thought I got everywhere I needed – I even hit under my shorts and sports bra, even though I’ve never had chafing problems in either of those spots – although I would find out later that I missed a few, ah, cruicial spots. Oops. Throw the layers back on, grab my hat and ear-warming headband, take my bag packed with a change of clothes, and head back downstairs. I’d given The SAK the option of getting up early and heading down with me, or sleeping in and heading down later with my parents. I let him know I was leaving, and he mumbled “good luck” as he rolled over and went back to sleep. Clearly, he was opting for plan B.

It was only 6, but I was ready to go, and my dad, who was driving me down to the race, was also ready to go. We weren’t sure what traffic would be like, or how hard it would be to find parking, so we headed out. It was early, but that was OK. I was bouncing off the walls at that point, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with myself if he said, “OK, we’ll be leaving in 20 minutes. Sit tight for a while.” Turns out, there was no traffic and no problems finding parking, so we were at the Tigers by 6:30. I said I wanted to go check my bag now, since we had some time to kill, and we started to walk around the stadium hunting for the gear check. Naturally, we wound up taking the long way around the park. At least it was a nice walk and helped to keep us warm. I checked my bag, and then it was back to the Tiger, where Tapirs should be showing up at any minute.

Len and Ryk got there first, and we spent a few minutes talking before my dad headed out. I think he may have been a little nervous about leaving me downtown… alone… in the dark… with these two shady characters he’d never met before, but he was nice enough to not say anything. He was also nice enough to take the extra layers I’d decided I didn’t need home with him. Jon, Alastair, Mike and Tom rolled up shortly afterwards, and then it was time to hit the start line. I sort of wanted to hit the port-o-lets before the race, but the line was huge and not moving very fast, so I figured I’d see how it went. If I still had to go after a few miles, I’d stop then. If I didn’t, then I wouldn’t worry about it. In retrospect, I should have gone when we first got there, and there was no line. Things to know for next time.

I lined up just behind the 4:45 pace group. I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay with them for the whole race, but I knew I didn’t want to go any faster than they were, especially at the beginning. I talked to a couple of half-marathon runners, and finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the race started. After another eternity, we could finally see people ahead of us moving. Then, we were off. I saw the cameras at the start line, and remembered to smile and wave after I started my watch. (If anyone has a copy of the special section the Free Press had on Monday, you can sort of see me in the big photo on the front page of it. Look for the orange TM hat partially behind/to the left of the 4:45 sign.) I was off and running!

Mile 1

The sun was coming up over the city, and it was shaping up to be a beautiful day. The cold, wet, crappy, rainy, miserable weather that I’d been so worried about all week was nowhere to be seen. In its place was a clear fall day that was cool, but not too cold, and would warm up only slightly. Perfect. I was feeling great – I was relaxed, running nice and easy, holding my pace to a crawl, and hanging out just behind the 4:45 pace group. I was looking around the city, and trying to make an effort to remember everything, while trying to just stay relaxed and slow. There was a guy running just ahead of me who was moving his hands in a way that cracked me up – I can’t describe it, but it amused me. I saw him a few different times in the first 10K of the race, and it made me laugh every time.

Mile 2

I’d purchased a Tyvek jacket at the expo Friday night, figuring it would be more comfortable than a garbage bag in case of rain. Even though it was a clear morning, I wore it anyway to the start to keep warm. However, by mile 2 I’d warmed up enough that I figured it was time to lose the jacket before I got so sweaty under it that I’d be suffering when I finally did take it off. I kept the gloves on for now, though, as my hands weren’t quite warmed up yet. As I was trucking along, I saw a girl attempting to remove her Tyvek pants… without stopping. She’d managed to get one leg free, but was having trouble getting leg number two out. All I wanted to do was giggle and tell her she was probably going to have to stop to do that. However, I opted to keep my mouth shut and keep going. I wonder if she ever got them off? There was a wee little incline as we had to run up an overpass to get over the train tracks. I overheard someone say, “hey, they said this was a flat course!” All I could think was, “man, they’re going to be in trouble on the bridge.”

Mile 3

Mexican Town! For someone who grew up in the Detroit area, I know surprisingly little about the city itself. When I was younger, we only ever ventured downtown to go to the Rennaissance Center (RenCen), the Science Center, the DIA, or a game at Tiger Stadium or Joe Louis. Occasionally, there’d be something at Cobo we’d go do, but that was about it. If the People Mover doesn’t run past it, chances are I have no idea it exists, so discovering this little neighborhood was a bit of a treat. The highlight was the mariachi band playing on someone’s porch, as well as the smell of something tasty cooking at the Mexican Town restaurant. Also suprising? The tortilla factory! I never knew Detroit had a tortilla factory! As we left Mexican Town and started making our way towards the bridge, the volunteers at the water station were shouting, “Last water stop in America!” and “Go get that bridge!” as we ran past.

Mile 4

We looped around and over the freeway and started the climb over the bridge. I kept the effort easy, determined not to power up the hill as I tend to do, and concentrated on admiring the view. I’ve been on the bridge tons of times before in a car, but never on foot, and never just after sunrise. I had plenty of time to take it all in, and I was determined to use it. It was awesome – on my left, the sun was coming up over downtown, and you could just see the RenCen in front of the big yellow-orange ball if you squinted. On my right, the Detroit River had a slight mist over it, and there was a fire boat moving along the river. I could see a sign for Boblo Island on the Detroit side, and it made me wish I knew where exactly the Island was so I could look for it. As amusement parks go, it was pretty small – Cedar Point is far larger and more exciting – but I spent quite a bit of time there when I was growing up and it still makes me a little sad that it’s closed. It’s where I had my first experience of being pooped on by a passing seagull when I was 7, and where I learned to love roller coasters at 12.

Quite a few people around me had resorted to walking, but I was determined to make it up and over. Finally, just as my quads were starting to wonder what in the heck was going on, I saw the 4th mile marker and passed over the crest of the bridge.

Mile 5

This entire mile was downhill, and boy was it rough. I felt it in my quads and in my knees and I couldn’t wait for it to end and for us to be on level ground again. However, while it lasted, I did take advantage of it and picked up some free speed, all the while reminding myself that I would have to slow down once I hit level ground again.

The coolest part of this mile? Running right through customs.

Mile 6

I was starting to think about that bathroom break I didn’t take before the race, and started scoping for port-o-lets. As we ran back down past the bridge, I saw tons of people ducking behind big piles of dirt to take care of things, but I didn’t have to go quite that badly yet. As we passed the aid station by the University of Windsor, I took my first gel with some water. Once we were past the campus, we were back along the riverfront and heading towards downtown Windsor.

Mile 7

I passed a few bathrooms in the riverfront park, but they all had ridiculous lines, and I wasn’t willing to spend that much time waiting just yet. Finally, I spotted a set of port-o-lets with not much of a line, so I started waiting. My quads were feeling a little tight over the trek over the bridge, so I took this opportunity to stretch them out. Finally, I was back on my way. At the next aid station, I heard someone yelling out, “Canadian Gatorade!” I took some, but I can’t say I noticed a difference between that and the regular American stuff. All part of the international marathon experience, I suppose.

Mile 8

Starting this mile, I was starting to see parts of downtown Windsor that I recognized, so I knew we were getting close to the tunnel. That, and the fact that on the other side of the river the RenCen, which is close to the American side of the tunnel, was getting closer and closer. The first thing I saw that I recognized was a Burger King – I wondered if it was the same BK that we’d stayed across the street from when some friends and I made a trip to Windsor just before Winter Break my junior year of college. My question was soon answered as I saw the Days Inn we stayed at that weekend come up on the right. So close to the tunnel! As we turned down the street to head towards the tunnel entrance, the “spirit station” at the corner was blaring music (I don’t remember what song it was, but I remember it was upbeat, and something I knew). I was bopping along, and there was a line of volunteers cheering for us – one of them had a The SAKbourine, which she held out for me to hit as I ran past. Then it was through the tolls and down into the tunnel.

Mile 9

While the mile over the bridge had a far better view, the mile through the tunnel was almost as cool. I was nervous about it being hot and stuffy, but it really wasn’t too bad. By the time I emerged on the other end, I was dripping sweat, but it never felt suffocatingly awful down in there, and the mile flew by. Again, I let myself pick up a bit of speed on the downhill (which was far gentler and kinder than the downhill off the bridge) and took it super-easy on the uphill. My split for this “underwater mile” was 10:58 – right on target. Again, running through customs? Very cool. Fastest. Border crossings. Ever.

Mile 10

After coming out of the tunnel, we passed by Hart Plaza, heading straight for the Cobo Center, which we ran around the back of. I was still feeling good, and still hitting splits right around 11:00. I decided to try and pull the pace back a little, at least until after the halfway point, since I wanted to keep feeling good through the end.

Miles 11 & 12

Heading back towards the new ballpark and Ford Field, this was one of those miles that made me say, “Detroit is just not a pretty city.” We were in a bleak, blank, boring area, and it was surprising how quickly we’d gone from Big Downtown Area to Rundown Urban Crap. It would have been depressing if we weren’t almost halfway done. I took gel number 2 of the day, and kept trucking along.

Mile 13

When my dad and I parked next to Hockeytown in the morning, I saw a 20K sign on the sidewalk across the street, and said, “hmm, the route comes through here.” Now here I was passing by it already. As we came around the corner, the half marathoners split off to head into Ford Field for their finish, and the full marathoners kept heading down the street. I was afraid that when I hit this point, I’d be tired and cranky and not at all feeling like running another 13.2 miles, but it wasn’t an issue. I watched them go, and I was excited to keep going. Shortly after the split, there were a few guys standing buy the course with half marathon bibs on. As I got closer to them, one of them threw their arms in the air and yelled, “First timers rule!” I threw my arms up and yelled back. If I’d had any doubts about whether or not I’d be able to finish the rest of the race, they were immediately gone.

Mile 14

The course got kind of twisty and turny here for a bit, and then I hit the half marathon split timing mat at 2:30:05 (official time). A few more turns, and kids from Rochester Adams (a local high school about 45 minutes north of downtown) were handing out bottles of water. I wasn’t going to take one, because I wasn’t all that thirsty and didn’t feel like carrying it, but I figured what the heck, I could always drop it if it got annoying, and took one. Of course, shortly after that I got the feeling that I needed a pit stop. ASAP. Just as I was cursing the fact that I was in the middle of downtown and, therefore, couldn’t exactly squat behind a tree, I came by a port-o-let on the I-75 overpass. There was a line, but I didn’t care. The last guy in line was kind enough to let me cut ahead of him, since I was running and he wasn’t (his wife was running her first marathon). He was also kind enough to let me hang on to his shoulder while I stretched out my quads, which were still feeling tight and cranky. We had a nice little chat, and then, finally, I was off and running again.

Mile 15

Still feeling fantastic! This was through yet another ugly part of town, but there was a Gu station! I grabbed a couple for later, and took one at the aid station just after the 15 mile marker. The aid station also had a woman with vaseline, which I was just starting to think would be a fantastic idea, so I grabbed some and relubed a few spots. My only problem this mile? I ran it way too fast, with a split of 10:38. I was past the halfway point, but it still felt way too early to be picking it up that much. I made a mental note to slow it down a bit.

Mile 16

Somewhere during this mile is where I went from feeling fantastic to feeling not-so-good. My hip flexors started to feel achy and tired, which happened on a couple of my Really Long Runs. I stopped, did some walking and stretching, and tried to keep trucking along. When I hit the mile marker, I thought, “6 more miles until I see my parents,” since that sounded way better than “10 miles to go.”

Mile 17

And here is where I started to really feel like crap. My legs hurt, and they weren’t getting any better. When I took the Tyvek jacket off earlier that morning, I’d tied it around my waist. I saw a garbage can along the side of the road and decided to toss the jacket, because, clearly, all 2 oz of it is what was weighing me down. Into the garbage it went. Around here I met Kristy, another first-timer, and we talked for a bit as we stopped to stretch by a light pole. We got separated just before the aid station when she stopped to walk and I kept running. I grabbed some water and kept going, but I was starting to feel really panicky. I focused on breathing and just getting to Belle Isle. As I hit the bridge, I had to stop and walk for a bit, and I burst into tears. Kristy caught up with me, and asked if I was OK. I told her I was fine, I wasn’t hurt, I was just tired and hurty. She gave me a hug, walked with me for a bit, and said that we could run together for a while. By the time we passed the mile 17 marker on the bridge, I was still feeling like crap, but at least I was smiling again.

Miles 18 – 20

Kristy and I alternated walking and running around Belle Isle. I’d never been over there before, and was surprised by how beautiful it was – especially since the last stretch of Jefferson Ave we’d been on left quite a bit to be desired from a “scenery” aspect. There were tons of aid and spirit stations, which kept us going. An older man passing by saw our green bibs, and told us that if we were going to walk, we should try to take a few exaggerated strides to better stretch out our legs. I tried it, and it felt fantastic. It even helped work out the ass cramps I was getting, which, wow, that was not a comfy situation. We walked through all the aid stations, tried to run as much as we could, and got each other around the island. At one point, she turned to me and said, “you’re really helping me” to which all I could say was, “no, you’re helping me.” She was disappointed I lived in Chicago, since she was looking for a running partner. It may have felt like it took us forever to get around the island, but at least we enjoyed it a bit more and didn’t have to suffer alone. We passed the 20 mile marker just after 4 hours – I’d been taking a gel every hour, but my stomach was starting to feel a little funky, and I was afraid another gel would turn things ugly in a few minutes, so I just kept going.

Mile 21

All the walking we did around the island helped re-energize my legs, and I was starting to feel a bit better, mentally. I was at a point where I had less than 2 miles until I saw my family, and that was all I cared about. Kristy stopped to walk for a bit, and I told her I had to keep going. I was trying to get some momentum back, the legs were back in the game, so I went on. I told her I’d see her at the finish, if not before then.

Once I was alone, though, I started to lose it again. I was, at this point, about a half-hour behind the 4:45 pace I told my parents I might be at. I did tell them that I wouldn’t be going faster (and I made them a copy of the pace band so they could transfer that into useful info), but I was feeling like I was further behind than I was, and a horrible horrible thought entered my mind: What if my parents thought they missed me, and already headed to the finish line? What if they weren’t going to be there? I had been hanging so much on the mental refresher of seeing my parents and boyfriend and what if that wasn’t going to happen? I just about burst into tears on the course again, and stopped to walk so I could breathe and compose myself. They would be there. They had to be there. That’s all there was to it, and so I kept running.

Mile 22

Less than a mile to my parents! They’d told me about where they’d be, so I was planning on seeing them somewhere between the 22 mile and 23 mile marker. I was running through Indian Village now, and so I spent some time admiring the (absolutely beautiful) houses. It actually reminded me of the neighborhoods that the Ridge Run went through back on Memorial Day. I passed by another Gu station, but didn’t take any. I still had two in my amphipod pouchy thing, and I wasn’t sure if the stomach ouchiness was of the “I need a bathroom STAT” variety or the “I’m going to throw up” variety. Either way, I wasn’t willing to chance it.

Then, as I neared the corner just before the 22 mile marker, I saw them. On the corner – my mom, my dad, and The SAK. I was mildly disappointed that my brother hadn’t gotten up on time to come down with them, but only for a second. My mom was there! I practically sprinted towards them, and then grabbed my mom in a hug and burst into tears. I probably scared the crap out of the poor woman and took 10 years off her life, but I didn’t care. I was tired and hurty and I wanted my mommy and she was there. She let me cry for a bit, and then asked if I was OK. I said I was fine, but my stomach hurt and I was tired. My dad told me I was probably low on potassium, and should have an energy bar and/or a gel. I told him I didn’t want anything. My mom opened up a gel and handed it to me, so I guess I had to eat it. I washed it down with the Gatorade I brought, and just as my dad was trying to convince me to take the energy bar with me, a sag van pulled up.

The driver asked if I wanted a ride, and I said no. He asked if I was OK, and I told him I was fine. He said there was a doctor in the van, and then the back door opened up and someone else asked me if I was OK. I said I was fine. Was I sure I didn’t want a ride? YES. For a moment, I was so scared they were going to make me go with them. That I was going to get 22 miles into it and then DNF because I just had to stop and have my little nervous breakdown. I didn’t bust my ass all summer to get this far and not finish, dammit! I had plenty of time before they were going to close the course, and there was only 4.2 miles left. I could crawl that if I had to. My mom later said that I was pretty emphatic about NOT getting in the van (although she was impressed by the fact that they pulled up to see if I was OK pretty quickly and offered me a ride), and, finally, I was able to convince them that I was A-OK and was going to finish on my own. I took another swig of Gatorade, gave my dad, mom, and The SAK a hug, and then took off. As I passed the mile marker, a volunteer on the course said, “way to get back in the race!”

Mile 23

Shortly after I left my parents, that “time for a pit stop NOW” feeling came back. I finally found a port-o-let at the end of the mile, and there was no wait! Bonus! Except… oh, wow, ew… someone that had been in there previously apparently had a massive digestive emergency and, well, the back of the seat suffered. They had put TP over it, but, wow, it was gross. It definitely wasn’t fresh, because it wasn’t horribly offensively stinky, but, wow, it was gross. However, I had to do something before I had my own digestive emergency, so I just stayed forward. Ewwww. In my defense, I may not have been thinking clearly at that point. (Still. Ewwww.)

Woefully, the bathroom stop didn’t help my stomach cramps as much as I had hoped. When I left my parents, I was feeling a bit better, but no more. Ow. Oh well. Just keep trucking.

I’d been thanking the police officers that were blocking/directing traffic along the course all morning. Some of them said thanks, some of them just nodded, but they were all varying degrees of friendly and/or polite. Except for the woman near the mile 23 marker. When I said thanks, she simply said to the group of us passing at the time, “Get a move on! I want to go home!”

That did not sit well with me. In my mind, I had some very choice words for her. However, since she was an officer of the law, I kept my mouth shut and fumed silently to myself. The last thing I needed was to get arrested for assaulting an officer, as I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have let me finish the marathon first. Thankfully, the guys just behind me were a little more coherent and a little less foul-tempered, and said, “YOU want to go home? WE want to go home!” It wasn’t quite the same as what I had planned, but it was something.

Miles 24 – 26

I tried to run. I really did, but my stomach just wasn’t having any of it, and I was so. Damn. Frustrated. Of all the stupid annoying things that happened in training, stomach cramps were not one of them, and so I didn’t know how to fix it. I was tired, my feet were starting to hurt, but I only had 2 miles left! I totally could have run that, but, noooo. The stomach. The owwie ouchie stomach. Finally, I just told myself, “Self, there ain’t nothing wrong with walking. You’ve been running all damn morning, you’re almost done, and you’re hurty. Give yourself a damn break.” I was too tired to argue with that, so I just walked.

About halfway through mile 24 (just before the 40K marker), Kristy caught up with me again, and asked how I was doing. I told her I was OK, still a little hurty and crampy. She looked fantastic – much better and far less tired than she did when I left her a few miles back. She asked me how close to 25 we were, and walked with me for a bit. She said she was going to start running again when she hit the 25 mile marker, and asked me if I wanted to run in with her. I thought about it, but I didn’t want to slow her down, so I told her to go ahead and I’d see her at the finish. I wished her good luck, and she took off.

Shortly after she left, I passed by an ambulance parked on the median. I tried to stand up a little straighter and look alive, because after my encounter with the sag van, I was still a little worried that they might decide I wasn’t able to continue and pull me off the course, and I was not going to let that happen. There would be medical personnel at the finish, and if I needed something, I could get it then. I was almost done. I was going to finish the damn thing, come hell or high water, even if it took me an hour to get through the last mile, and no one was going to get in my way. Luckily, I was being a little ridiculous, and I passed by the ambulance without incident.

Just before the mile 26 marker, the buildings on the side of the road started to look a little nicer, and there were more people out. (Since mile 23, it had been a long, desolate, ugly stretch down Lafayette Ave. My dad works with someone who’s run the marathon before, and it was described to him as “the part that really sucks.” So true for so many reasons.) When I heard someone yell, “only a half mile left!” I started running again. My stomach hurt, but if I ran, I’d only have to deal with it for another 5 or 6 minutes. I could do that. I could do anything for 5 or 6 minutes.

I came into Greektown, and the crowd along that last turn was amazing! I couldn’t believe there were that many people still out there, cheering us slow pokes on. My mom was standing on the side of the road, and she yelled “good job!” as I passed by. (Turns out she’d headed down there with the intention of walking that last quarter mile or so with me, except I was running!) I turned the last corner as everyone yelled, “you’re almost there!” and I could see Ford Field just a few blocks down. I was almost done. I was actually going to finish it.

The Last .2

Right after I turned the corner, my stomach yelled at me. Why was I running? It was hurty! I ignored it and kept going. I ran around to the entrance to Ford Field. My dad’s co-worker had told him to warn me to stay near the side, and that it was steep and dark. He wasn’t kidding. My first thought was, “damn, this IS dark,” and for a second I felt like I couldn’t see anything. Then my eyes adjusted, and I was fine. I was picking up all sorts of speed on the downhills, and I could see how easy it would be for someone to fall down the hill if their legs were about to give out on them. Mine held out, though. As I was running down the hills, I had the horrible thought that they’d make us do a lap around the field before reaching the finish. I was determined not to walk once I entered the field, and I wasn’t sure if I had a lap around it in me (of course, basic math would determine that since I’d already passed the 26 mile marker, they couldn’t fit in a 400 yard lap around the field without making the course longer than 26.2 miles… but I wasn’t thinking that clearly). Thankfully, once I hit the astroturf, it was a small, quick run to the finish. I picked it up, gave it everything I had, and sprinted through the finish.

I’d done it. I’d finished the marathon. I was a marathoner. I happily took the mylar blanket and had my chip removed. I remember JKo telling me to stay on the field as long as I wanted to, because once I left, I wouldn’t be able to get back down there. So I did. I walked around for a little bit, and saw Kristy and her husband stretching on the astroturf. I went and got my picture taken with my medal. I thought about sitting down to stretch, but I was feeling absolutely exhausted at that point, and was afraid if I sat down I’d never get back up. I saw my parents waving to me from the stands, probably wondering what on earth I was doing wandering around like I was lost. I started walking over to see if I could get up into the stands where they were, but it didn’t look like it. I looked up at the monitors at the runners and walkers still coming through the finish line. I looked at the field. I looked up at the roof. I took it all in, knowing that I might never have another chance to stand on the field like this. Finally, I decided I was ready to head up the stairs.

The stairs weren’t that bad, and I set out to find the gear pick up, but got distracted by the massage area. There was no line, so I figured I’d so that first. I would have been happy just to lie down on the table for 5 or 10 minutes and be off my feet, but the massage? That was wonderful. I felt bad for the poor girl, who by that point must have handled hundreds of sweaty nasty runners, but I just didn’t care all that deeply. I had her help me up, and wrapped myself back in my shiny blanket. On my way to gear check, I saw that all of the food/water/gatorade stations had been torn down (by this point, it was beyond the 6-hour cutoff), which bummed me out. However, I knew I still had most of a quart of Gatorade with my parents, and I wasn’t hungry yet. I picked up my bag, cleaned up a bit and changed, and then headed outside to find them.

I was greeted with applause, as they were all waiting just outside the exit. My mom took one look at me and exclaimed, “You look like a 3 Musketeers bar!” (I was still wrapped in my mylar blanket, because I was freezing, even after changing into dry, warmer clothes.) My dad said he parked the car two miles away, and before I could say, “well, then you’ll have to bring the car to me,” he confessed he was kidding. They were just down the street, past the lot I’d just run by. It wasn’t far at all, but it really did feel like it was a couple of miles away. As we were walking (or, in my case, shuffling) back to the car, The SAK asked me if I had any blisters. I told him I sort of felt one forming on my left arch, but looked and didn’t see anything (I’d changed into flip flops). He just heard “I felt one forming” and then said, “oh, yeah, I see it.” I didn’t see it until we were stopped at a traffic light. I looked down, and my left big toe looked… well, it just looked wrong. It took me a second to figure out what it was – on the outside of it, there was a blister the size of a jelly bean. Easy. It was HUGE. The blister that ate my toe. I just stared at it, completely shocked that I didn’t feel it at all during the race.

The Aftermath

Once we got home, my brother was there to congratulate me. I showed off my medal, finished off all the Gatorade I had in the house, and then sat down for a few minutes before dragging my sorry butt upstairs to the shower. Then I sat on the couch and slept through the end of the Lions/Browns game. I finished the race around 1:15, but didn’t get even a little hungry until after 5. I had half a bagel and we had dinner shortly after that, which I picked at. I was sort of hungry, but not really. I didn’t really get my appetite back until after 10 p.m., at which point I ate just about everything in the house (leftover pad thai and a whole bagel with cream cheese, then a couple slices of pizza a couple hours later). I was stiff, sore, and tired, but feeling better. The stomach cramps had gone away by the time we got home. I woke up Monday morning with a seriously hurty ankle, but that was the worst of it. Sure, my quads are sore and stairs have been a challenge, but it’s getting better. Even the ankle is feeling better today. (And, as annoying as the majorly hurty ankle is, it’s probably for the best. If it hadn’t been for the ankle, I probably would have tried to run a couple of miles today, and I’m pretty sure it’s too soon for that. REST, Dawn. REST.)

Will I do it again? You betcha. I know I have a better marathon in me – one without cramping or stomach problems – and I know I can figure out how to get myself there. I feel like I was close on this one, which, for the first time out, is amazing. By the time spring marathon season rolls around, I’ll be Ready for it.

The weirdest thing, though? Is that it doesn’t feel quite real. I know I ran those 26.2 miles. I know I was in pain, I know it was hard, and I know that I stuck it out and did it. I have the medal to prove it, and I remember what it’s weight felt like as it was put on my neck at the finish line. I have all these very tactile memories, yet, somehow, it almost feels like some sort of strange dream. Like it wasn’t really me that did it. As much as I know I was there, I’m still having a hard time believing it.

I am a marathoner. I know it’s true – it just hasn’t sunk in yet.

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