I won't keep you in suspense. I ran the marathon in Huntsville on Saturday in 4:31:23. I was absolutely pleased with my time as it was a new personal best by about 25 minutes! That's a lot to shave off since my last marathon back in April. (I ran it in Nashville in 4:56:17.)
Now that you know the most exciting part, allow me to share a few anecdotes from the weekend. On Friday, we loaded up in the car (we being my parents, Danielle, and me) and made the 2-hour drive. Once there, we met up with Bob and my pal Bennett (who was first Steph's pal, but we often share friends with one another) and headed to the Expo. They gave us really nice long-sleeved Nike tech shirts... boys got blue and girls got pink. I keep asking who it is that thinks that all girls like pink. We don't. But it looks nice on me anyways I suppose. We then all enjoyed a nice dinner at Olive Garden to carb ourselves up. I can't remember what was so funny the whole time, but I laughed a LOT.
I didn't really sleep well Friday night. I suppose this was in part due to being in a different bed and in part being nervous that the two alarms wouldn't go off. I woke up, walked out on the balcony, and quickly realized I wouldn't be wearing 3/4 of what I brought to wear. It was 60 degrees! I donned my sneakers, shorts and tee and headed out for the race.
Anyone who's ever witnessed any kind of running race knows that a start gun is typically fired. At this race, there was no gun. There was a WEAPON. I'm pretty sure it was a musket of some sort that shot out a huge puff of smoke. The weapon-holder somehow managed to find at least 3 different times to fire the gun before the race even started. (This is not typical.) I learned really fast after his first "Fire in the hole!" shot to cover my ears. Wow.
Despite being a bit warm, the weather was pretty perfect. It was incredibly cloudy, and there was a light mist of rain during most of the first half. (I silently thanked myself for wearing a black sports bra under my white shirt.) I felt great running along and enjoying the Christmas decorations in people's yards and chatting a bit with my fellow runners.
Around mile 5, I made some friends! Damon and Wes were running along at about the same pace as me so we started talking and it turns out they're from near where I live. Wes took off with someone else, but I ended up running and chatting with Damon until mile 12. Those miles really flew by. He told me all about his job, wife and kids and asked all about my job and if I had a boyfriend (and seemed shocked when I said no... and then went on to tell me to keep in mind that most men are pretty much idiots until they're about 30 and even then it often doesn't change... it was really kind of funny how vocal he was about it), and we shared some stories of past races. I sent him on his way before the half when I realized he wanted to run about 15 minutes faster than me, but I really enjoyed his company. I actually found him at the finish, and he came in about 12 minutes ahead of me.
After the half-marathon point, Bob jumped in to help me pace for the rest of the race. I was really thankful he did. We maintained a solid 9:30 pace for a while as we moved past the mile markers. Somewhere around mile 21 the sun started to peek out. I literally said out loud that it was not allowed to do that, and it went back behind a cloud! Even though it stayed cloudy, it started to get unbelievably muggy during the last few miles. I started to struggle a bit and had to take a few walks breaks to try to stretch out my calves that wanted to tighten up. Bob helped me keep an eye on the time and made me keep going even though there were one or two times when I was almost in tears because my legs hurt so badly. I needed to use the bathroom once and really enjoyed the minute of sitting instead of running, haha.
Somewhere around mile 24 I cursed myself and said I'd never do this again, but I knew I was lying and within a few days I'd be all for another one. I'm already pondering New York or Chicago. If I remember correctly, I think I said sometime during the Nashville run that it'd be my last. I guess maybe I lie to myself sometimes to get myself through tough moments, ha.
Even though I had to slow down a bit the last few miles, I still finished pretty close to my target time. I would have loved to break 4:30, but I got pretty close and there's always next time. I happily collected my medal and my finisher's hat (that is actually pretty nice and something I'll wear), and I look forward to getting my certificate and finish line photo in a few weeks.
After the race, I headed straight for the free massages. It was almost painful because my muscles were so tight, but I think it helped. Everyone found each other and it turns out Bennett set a new PR by 3 minutes so he was excited, too. We enjoyed some lunch at Chick-fil-A and then headed back to the hotel to rest.
We went to a dinner sponsored by the marathon that evening and enjoyed a terrific meal and some exceptional whiskey sours, so no complaints there. We ended the evening walking around the local mall and enjoying a Cinna-Bon. I love those things. I definitely crashed hard that evening, but I still didn't sleep well because my body ached so much it kept waking me up. The things we go through to reach our goals... :)
Sunday morning after breakfast we visited the Space and Rocket Center. I had been once when I was like 7, but I had little memory of the trip. It wasn't the coolest museum ever or anything, but I actually really enjoyed looking at everything and reading all the cool stuff about our country's experiences with space. I think sometimes it seems so normal that we have astronauts, but when you really think about it it's pretty unbelievable we send people up into space. We got to ride a few rides they have and see an IMAX movie, so all in all it was an enjoyable day.
I'm still tired. My body is still a bit sore. I won't be training for another full for a while, but there are a couple of half-marathons I'll run in the coming months around Nashville. It was definitely an incredibly fun weekend, and I've been ecstatic that I ran so much faster this time around. It was worth the 4 months of training and everything else from the journey I took to get to that finish line.
They say that runners sometimes have a "state of blue" after a race. I always find this to be true. I know I'll run another one. I know I'll be back at the gym in no time. But it always takes me a few days to get past the emotions of being excited about the race and being down that it's all over. Don't worry, it's nothing extreme. :) I'm not over here all depressed or anything, but the sheer exhaustion always brings a bit of up and down to the emotions I feel after running a marathon. All in all, I'm very satisfied and honestly a bit proud of what I accomplished for myself with this race. That's certainly nothing to be blue about.