The Bayshore Marathon was my 6th marathon so theoretically I shouldn’t have been that nervous, but the year and a half break from marathons after the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon left me a bit more nervous than usual. I kept reminding myself how I did EVERY training run and each long run went exceptionally well. I tapered smart and the weather report looked good. Logically, I had nothing to worry about. But if you’ve ever run a marathon you know logic goes out the window when you decide it’s a great idea and totally reasonable to pay upwards of $85 to run for hours.
Getting to the start:
My alarm went off at 5:05am (mentally 5am sounded way earlier) and I went into the bathroom to change so Brett could sleep another half hour and avoid my mini-freakouts. Everything was set out so I didn’t have to make any decisions or root through my suitcase and by the time I was changed with my bib pinned on my mom came downstairs. She found it amusing I was so nervous after doing so many races and this marathon thing not being my first rodeo, not in a mean way but in a “you’re so cute” way that I didn’t find as amusing. The sun had started to come up and we couldn’t pass up a sunrise pre-race photo op.
We left the condo a little before 6am and with the sun just coming up it felt pretty chilly at 44 degrees. I brought a throw away hoodie but I think my teeth were chattering more out of nerves than actually being cold. We assumed traffic would be a nightmare so allowed a ton of time for a 7:15 start, but we beat the traffic, found a spot in the nearby neighborhood streets and waited a half hour before heading to the start. The race started at Northwestern Michigan’s track where packet pick up was the night before. Mom and I made the short trek and as the sun started shining it felt better, also standing with 1,500 other runners helped. My nerves started to calm once I was among my own and Happy was blaring on the speakers.
I lined up between the 8 min/mile and 9 min/mile pace signs since there were no pacers for this race, figuring I’d fall somewhere around there. I kept my hoodie on until 5 minutes to the start, got my Garmin ready and took a few deep breaths when the crowd of runners started moving towards the start. Crossing the start pad we were a thick group but not tripping over each other and the first 2 miles stayed pretty heavy but I never felt crowded or unable to go my desired pace. The first mile wound us out of the campus through a short neighborhood street, spilling us onto East Shore Road where the view opened up to a stunning view of the bay! The fog was still hanging on the water and did so the firt 5 or 6 miles. If I wasn’t going for time I’d have taken a ton of photos but instead I cemented them into my memory.
My first 2 miles were 8:58 and 8:40 respectively and by the time I reached mile 4 I felt settled into an 8:40-8:45 pace. I had 3 goals; A) Finish under 4 hours, happy and healthy B) PR (Sub 3:53) C) Sub 3:50. To PR I would need to average 8:53s and to reach goal C I would need to maintain an 8:46. According to my long runs in training I could do that as my long run paces were consistently 9:30s. But you never know how you’ll feel. Luckily even at 10 miles my 8:40s were feeling great! I know better than to assume that means I can speed up. The first 15 miles should feel easy. You should feel you could go faster which I did but I also was aware of my muscles meaning I was pushing myself just enough.
The views throughout were spectacular and I am not saying that lightly! I was afraid I was going to trip because I kept looking to my right at the bay and behind me to see the view. I realize I lucked out with the weather but it’d be hard to make this an ugly race. At the 10K mark runners are lead to Bluff Road which mainly has houses on your left and only beach on your right. I took deep breaths and focused on getting to mile 10 since I break the race into chunks and that was section one.
I felt great at mile 10 and was on the lookout in case my spectators made the first shuttle. There were throngs of people where the shuttle dropped spectators and for a bit it felt as supported as the Chicago Marathon! Since it’s only residences on Bluff Road there aren’t a TON of spectators but there were groups scattered throughout hanging out on their porches and playing music for us, handing out water (and beer, ahem, mile 21!) and cheering with signs. I didn’t see my fam but it’s never at mile 10 that I need them plus there were 2 kids with “touch here for power” signs that I hit so I was good. By mile 11 we started seeing the leaders pass on our left, already approaching mile 15. I love courses that do that because everyone claps and shouts as they blow by, it’s especially fun when you see the first female! I was feeling fresh at the turn-around and had my arm sleeves down since around mile 8. You could feel the sun but there was also a great breeze and being on the water helped it not feel hot.
Since I didn’t see my fans at mile 10 I knew they were sure to be at the next spectator spot between mile 15 and 16. This is the point in the marathon where you’ve been running a while and still have a good distance to go so I was looking forward to seeing a familiar face. I saw our tried and true neon signs and raised both my arms up high waving for their attention. I was happy for the boost and cheers!
These are my dark passenger miles and I save all my reserves for them. Obviously you’re body is starting to really feel spent at 20 but mentally you can count down, but at 16 there’s still a lot of race to be run. I was amazed at how good I felt at 16 this time around. I could feel my muscles working and I didn’t want to speed up until 20 if that was even possible by then so I kept steady between 8:35-8:40. I would see signs in yards that I remembered from the first pass through and thought of how much closer I was since then. I high-fived all the kids with outstretched arms and enjoyed the view from the southward route. A few times I found myself thinking in terms of the race being in the bag, then a slight incline or seemingly long stretch between aid stations would knock me back to reality. I still had work to do.
A spectator cheered, “mile 20’s just ahead!” and I immediately said to myself (quite possible aloud), “there’s my white rabbit!” I get weird on long runs. Throughout mile 20 I was hanging on to another runner who surprised me by grabbing one of the aforementioned beer cups at mile 21. He turned and said it was a mental boost and that the carbs were energizing him. Whatever works! Coming up on mile 23 we were between aid stations but some awesome people (may have been a radio station or something?) had a huge tent set up with music blaring and I heard, “we have pretzels, MnM’s and oranges for you runners!” I got really happy when I heard the word “oranges” and scanned the supporters who had large bowls. Ahead on the right a man yelled that he had oranges so I pointed at him, yelled, “my man!” and he jogged with me until I got my fix. It tasted great and just around the next turn was the 23 mile marker. 5K to go!
My agility was starting to go and by mile 24 I was repeating aloud not to trip. My feet were slapping the ground (I usually run like a ninja) but I had no doubts on keeping my pace and actually held between 8:30-8:35s to the finish. As we got back on campus I knew we were super close and the curves in the road kind of helped it not look so long. I could see the crowds as we headed under the start line banner and turned onto the track. The surface felt great, nice and soft and even, and the bleachers were filled with cheering spectators. Since you rarely have the chance to run into a stadium with people cheering I took advantage of the situation and motioned my arms up in the air for them to cheer louder. Then I saw my fam and waved and pumped my fist in the air, I was about to beat my PR by 6 minutes and my C goal by 3! It felt AMAZING!
The post marathon feeling is something I can’t describe. It’s more than just accomplishing the marathon, it’s the end piece of having the courage to sign up, the dedication to train for months (and mostly alone) and the wherewithal to run a smart race. I was smiling a lot through this course, it’s impossible not to with the amazing sights, but nothing matched the smile on my face crossing the finish line! I stopped my Garmin – and race results confirm – at 3:47:13. I collected my medal and met my amazing support crew at the ice cream tent. Moomers has some luscious salted caramel! As satisfying my accomplishment is to myself it would not be nearly as enjoyable if I didn’t have my parents and my husband there to support me. From asking about training runs to calming me down that morning I loved having them to celebrate with!
One happy girl!