But before I get to that … let me go back a bit.
I wasn’t even going to run a marathon this fall. I was originally going to step back from long-distance running and do a 100-mile bike ride instead. But back in the spring, I learned about the Saucony 26 Strong program. Saucony and Competitor magazine were putting together 26 teams of two — one experienced marathon “vet” and one first-timer “cadet” — and following them as they trained and raced fall marathons. Well, that sounded cool. I filled out a form and didn’t think anything of it …
Until I was welcomed into the program.
Well then, I guess I was running a fall marathon! My cadet Cathy wanted to run Marine Corps, which was already closed out. She got in with a charity team, while I decided I’d run a different race (Atlantic City) and cheer her on at MCM.
But when my running club had some leftover spots from their marathon training program (they get a number of reserved slots for first-timers) … I jumped at the chance to join Cathy for her first marathon.
Cathy and I live in the same town, are both members of our running club, and have some common friends, but we had never met. We chatted a lot by email throughout the summer — I tried to offer as much guidance as I could to help her train. We both had busy summers, but finally caught up after a common race in August. We finally got to run together on one of our last long training runs.
And then Cathy started having IT band/knee troubles. And I got hurt running Atlantic City. But both of us were determined to get to the starting line. I was seeing a chiro for ART, she pretty much had a team of doctors and therapists working on her. We were hoping for the best!
Race morning, we met up and decided to start together with another friend. The race started out great. The crowds kept us from starting too fast, and we warmed up quickly. We had a fantastic first 10K.
But Cathy started feeling a twinge in her knee. And not long after, my ankle started to hurt. We ran through it until a medical station around the eight-mile mark, where we tried to get Cathy some Biofreeze. No luck, we settled for some Tylenol and headed on our way. We told our friend to go ahead since she was feeling fine. I was going stick with Cathy and see her through her race.
From here, we started adding walk breaks. It helped her a little bit … for a while. But the pain got worse, and the walk breaks got longer. At least it was a beautiful day out, but I wish it wasn’t so painful for both of us.
Slowly but surely, the miles did tick by, even if they took longer than we anticipated. Poor Cathy was so upset that her first marathon was not the magical experience she wanted it to be. I know exactly how she felt — I was there just two weeks earlier when my goal race fell apart.
I was running Marine Corps for fun. Time wasn’t a factor for me — even though I did expect we’d come in quite a bit sooner than we actually did. But now that I look back, it really was a great experience. Last year, I had a rough time during Marine Corps and hadn’t planned to run it this year. I’m so glad I did. I actually had a great time this year … despite the pain.
I never really hit a wall. I was enjoying the race atmosphere and amazing crowds that come out in DC and Virginia. I saw so many of my friends out on the course. I was helping my cadet achieve her goal, even if it wasn’t the day she planned.
When we finally got to the huge hill that separated us from the finish line, Cathy powered through the pain. We ran the whole hill, the longest spurt we had without walking in many miles.