Actually it was close to 22 miles and actually, it didn't suck half as much as I expected it to. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination, but I finished my longest training run in one piece and alive. How do you spell SUCCESS?
I woke up on Saturday morning at 6:15am and started to get ready for the MGH team training run along the marathon course. Our bus was leaving from Newton at 8:30am and given the fact that I'm directionally challenged, I wanted to give myself ample time to get there and stretch nervously before depature. After the five minutes it took for me to put my running clothes on, I ate a small and plain breakfast (a banana and some dry cereal is all my sensitive stomach could handle) and watched the morning news. Then I grabbed the T around 7:30am and was on my way!
When we stopped at Newton Center, I immediately bumped into three other team members - another Allison (beautiful name!), Tim and Ben. Ben is a medical student from Harvard who is super smart and has run a zillion marathons. His PR is 2:55. In other words, he will be showered, well fed and napping by the time I cross the finish line on April 16th. Depending on how I feel race day, I may ask him to carry me on his back the whole time.
Tim is a BU grad student who ran his first marathon in Cape Cod last fall. He seems to be in great shape and is hoping to finish in less than 3:50, which I'm sure he can! He sat next to me on the bus and our conversation helped to distract me - at least for a little while. Once we had been on the highway for over 20 minutes, I started worrying outloud that we had missed an exit!
Allison is a first-timer too and works at MGH (we have a lot in common, huh?). She was equally as freaked out as I was and it was nice to feel like I wasn't entirely alone. I actually think a lot of people were in the same boat because I met a couple of other anxious runners when we were finally dropped off in Hopkinton around 9:00am.
When the bus pulled away, it became very real that the only way I was getting home was by foot. Even though you try to mentally prepare yourself for that, the thought of it is very daunting and you can't help but get that nervous pit in your stomach. The team as a whole dilly-dallyed for a little while with bathroom stops and group photos before taking off, which only gave my nervousness time to fester. My legs were jittery and itching for the starting line!
When we took off I made a mental note to reign it in and take it easy. I tucked in behind a couple of people who had assumed a nice, slow jog where I was really comfortable and forced myself not to pass them until the first MGH water stop at mile 5. From there I picked it up a little bit, but I didn't realize quite how much until around mile 8 in Framingham (at least I think that's where I was). When I did a quick time check I was a 7:52mm and I told myself to scale it back because the road ahead was still very, very long.
What surprised me most throughout the first several miles is the elevation. Everyone hypes up Heartbreak Hill so much that it leads you to believe the rest of the course is flat as a board. FALSE. The entire route incorporates rolling hills and actually starts on a very steep decline, which I wasn't necessarily prepared for, but handled relatively well. I think it's the cause of the numb sensation that hit my legs early around mile 14, but I didn't stop because of it. In fact, I ran the entire way, which I may have been most proud of when I finished!
Other lessons learned are that after mile 15 or 16, my legs are going to start feeling like someone is hitting them with an ice pick over and over again, but I need to keep running. Walking is exponentially more painful, which I figured out when I got back to Newton and tried to walk up a flight of stairs to the bagels that were waiting for me in Dr. Weinstein's house. One foot in front of the other is what I need to remember -- along with the fact that I'm doing this for a great cause and not to PR or to prove anything to anyone.
I know this run was important for my training, but it had the biggest impact on my confidence. Last week I couldn't shut up about how nervous I was and today, I'm still nervous, but not in the same way. Now I know that come Patriots Day, I'll have this experience to pull from and can tell myself that I've done it all before (or at least the first 22 miles of it!).
I could make some false promise to you and say that you'll hear from me before the race, but I think at this point we know that isn't true. Regardless, I promise to follow-up afterwards to let all three of you know how it goes -- although chances are you'll probably be there cheering me on! (I hope!). I'm sure I'll say it again, but in the meantime I just want to give another BIG THANK YOU to everyone reading this who has offered me encouragement and support since I decided to do this back in December. Without the people around me, I never would have been able to make it this far and each one of you will play a part in my motivation on Marathon Monday. Love you all!