I have been counting down the days until the Big Sur Marathon ever since the very minute that I signed up for this race. I had a countdown app downloaded on my iPhone just to keep track and even had a written countdown on my dry erase board at work.
I officially began training at the end of January/beginning of February and was worried that I didn’t have enough time to prepare. Big Sur Marathon marked my first full marathon ever and I had only recently ran my first half marathon in October of 2012 at the Runner’s World Half Marathon.
A week ago, I ran my second half marathon at Rutgers University and set a personal record with a time of 1 hour and 45 minutes. As ecstatic as I was, I still had to remind myself that the race that really mattered has yet to come.
My training had many ups and downs as I was continuously getting sick due to the inconsistent weather, making poor food choices, and wearing improper winter apparel. Fortunately, my body pulled itself together in my final few weeks before the race.
Once I got on the plane to Monterey at 6AM on Friday morning, I was finally accepting the reality that I was about to run 26.2 miles. The longest distance that I ran for my long runs was a mere 15 miles, and that only happened once. Naturally, I was freaking out about the fact that I was shy of 11 miles. Regardless, I kept reminding myself that there wasn’t really much else I could do at this point and that I just had to go with how my body felt on race day.
Big Sur Marathon weekend was primarily a working weekend for me, so it was difficult to get into the mindset that I was actually racing. It ended up being a good thing because I occupied my mind with work instead of pre-race jitters. I didn’t have time to be nervous. On Saturday morning, we had an 8AM shakeout run with the Runner’s World Challengers. I didn’t participate because I was making sure that everything was prepared for when the Challengers returned. Once everyone got back, I had my own private shakeout run by myself which is what I’m used to anyways because I run by myself all the time. At this point, I was really getting in the mindset that race day was tomorrow.
Later on Saturday afternoon, we held a Strategy Session where the Runner’s World Editors gave race tips, advice, etc. This was the first time that I actually had to pay close attention since it actually applied to me. Our editors couldn’t have given better advice. From Jen, I adopted the phrase “Run relaxed” and from Amby, “Every mile is a gift”. I took these words with me to the start line.
On Saturday night, I couldn’t sleep (no surprise there) My eyes finally shut around 12AM and I woke up on Sunday morning at 3:15AM. All of the emotions that I was unable to feel prior to this day were finally catching up to me. As we boarded the bus, I felt the crumbling sensation in the pit of my stomach. It was hard to breathe. I looked out the window and tried to distinguish the oceanic views that were hidden in the darkness. The drive took approximately 45 minutes (How I wish it was that short of a time to run)
Lining up at the start, all of the Runner’s World girls came together and we anxiously waited until the race announcer gave us the ‘go ahead’. I kept looking at my watch every 30 seconds and once it was race time, the nervous feeling in my stomach disappeared and I was just happy.
As I started my first few miles, everyone was passing me. I couldn’t have gone any slower. I kept telling myself, “Stay slow”.
I made a friend in the beginning of the race and stayed with her for the first 7 or 8 miles. It was nice to have someone there for me to keep myself grounded. We were going at conversation pace and that’s exactly what I needed. At mile 9, we parted ways and I picked up my pace as I was finally getting into race mentality. I knew that Hurricane Point was coming up, but I didn’t want to psych myself out. I just absorbed the scenery and kept myself calm.
Once I passed Hurricane Point, I realized that I was already halfway done. I heard the piano player at the 13-mile mark and I couldn’t believe I was already there. My legs felt great, my body was relaxed, and my mentality was still positive. Up until mile 20, I felt like I was on top of the world. Nothing could stop me and I only had 6 miles left. It wasn’t until miles 22 through 26 that my legs finally started giving out. The rolling hills in the Highlands put my legs to shame and I had a persistent burning sensation in my quads for the remainder of the race. Once I saw the mile 26-marker, I had to channel every remaining bit of energy I had left to finish this race without walking. As I heard the distant sounds of people cheering and saw the finish line flags, I forced myself to open my stride. I just wanted to be done. I broke down in tears just seconds before I crossed the finish line and I couldn’t hold them back. My co-worker congratulated and comforted me, but I couldn’t speak. I just cried.
The race volunteers gave me my medal and in that very moment, my whole life changed. I took one look at it and realized what I had just accomplished. It was quite possibly the greatest moment of my entire life.
(EXTREMELY proud to say that I stayed true to withhold drinking alcohol for SIX WEEKS. Here I am enjoying my post-race beer. Quite possibly the most satisfying beer I’ve ever had)
I can honestly say that this was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. It was a humbling experience that provided me with a new respect for running. I am honored to say that I am a runner. I am honored to say that I am a marathoner. I feel invincible, confident, strong, empowered, brave.
I am eternally grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience a race filled with such beauty and such struggle. As cliche as it may sound, running truly is a metaphor for life. The mantra that kept me going during the marathon and will continue to keep me going is, “Never give up”
Life gets hard. Bad things happen. There is pain. In the words of Haruki Murakami (author of “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”) Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
In conclusion to this very LONG race report, I’d like to thank the people that made this marathon happen for me. They were my support, my team, my family. Thank you to my co-workers at Runner’s World. I couldn’t have done this without them.
Official Finish Time – 4:07:58