The final entry in a series of posts from Bad Angel guest bloggers Laura and Brent, who live in Denver.
I write with a big smile and a happy heart. I never fully understood the “runner’s high” until I finished the Detroit Marathon on Oct. 21, 2012.
I’d love to share with you my take on the race and some course highlights, in case you ever want to sign up for this one (which I recommend).
First off, making it to marathon week was a big deal for me. It wasn’t a typical week as Brent and I traveled to Chicago for a work conference. If this ever happens to you, take it easy on the walking! My legs were actually sore from all the hoofing around I did during the week, so I cut back my last two training runs of the season and did a couple of two-milers. I felt good running the Lakefront Trail in Chicago, and I also was ready to just get to the race already!
We made it to Detroit the Thursday before the race and spent some good family time in Michigan. The night before the marathon, we tried to get some decent rest, but I’ve never been so anxious in my life! In the morning, my “long-distance training” friend and former college roommate, Andrea, who lives in Raleigh, N.C., met me in my room. Together we buttoned up for the cold darkness outside and made our way to the starting line (after tatting up with some Detroit Tigers logos — it really is too bad they got swept in the World Series because the city was buzzing that weekend).
I believe the weather was in the 40’s and got up to about 55 that day for a high — all and all, good weather, but for me, a little chilly. As most marathons do, Detroit started in waves, so we actually didn’t cross the starting line until about 20 minutes after the first wave. Andrea and I agreed we were going to run our own races, but genuinely wanted to stick together if we could. I also decided that morning that my true goal was to run the race feeling great and to finish. (That said, I really wanted to get under 4:30, deep, deep down.)
One helluva sunrise.
The first three miles were a little sketchy — we joked about stray dog bites and zombie attacks. It didn’t matter though, those first three were a blur. Just after mile three, we made it to the Ambassador Bridge entrance where the sun was just rising as we approached Canada. Incredible. Miles 4-7 wound around neighborhoods in Windsor and were some of the most fun memories of the race — lots of spectators drinking coffee and making me jealous I didn’t have a coffee. We then approached the tunnel that goes underneath the Detroit River to get us back to the U.S. around miles 8-9. The underwater mile was great at the Canada/U.S. border — and we all felt the need to cheer when we crossed back into the good ol’ U.S. of A.
Around mile 10, we circled around downtown Detroit through some beautiful, autumnal neighborhoods, and at that point, my ankles started hurting pretty badly. I noticed my outer right knee started hurting, too: A pain that’s all too familiar to me, caused by a tight IT band. I had more positive energy flowing through my body than I ever had and was determined that “pain doesn’t matter” – a mantra I read about in “The Non-Runners Marathon Trainer.” I stopped for a moment to take a few ibuprofen and realized Andrea was now a bit ahead of me. I put it in gear over the next three miles to catch up to her so we could cross the 13-mile marker together, where family and friends would be cheering! Stopping due to pain was not in my plans, so I didn’t.
After the big buzz from seeing my mom, Brent’s mom and Brent, the second half of the marathon was underway. Miles 14-17 were long and straight, but I had a renewed energy – and I couldn’t help but getting a bigger smile because I knew I was that much closer to completing my first full marathon. We headed into the Indian Village neighborhood where folks were DJ’ing in their yards, passing out beer to runners and generally just being great sports about cheering us on.
This continued from about miles 17-19, and once we were leaving the neighborhood, I realized we were almost nearing the final stretch! (The final stretch in my mind was the last 6.2 miles since the most I had done in training was 20.)
At this point, I felt an even bigger positive burst – and kept telling Andrea that we were that much closer to the finish line. We talked of drinking whiskey at the finish and that all we had was left was a short weekday run! Miles 20-23 crossed the MacArthur Bridge and circled around the beautiful Belle Isle. At some point here, Andrea and I snagged a photo together and then separated. I knew she would be very close behind, and no matter what, I’d see her at the finish.
I continued on and met some new runners along the way from miles 23-25. At this point, the course followed the river walk and was full of spectators and signs. Toward the beginning of mile 25, there was a small hill (at the time it felt like a mountain), and I began to fast-walk it. A woman there cheered and reminded me that I was about to begin the last mile of the race! Another runner and I simultaneously began running again, and I didn’t stop the rest of the way.
Welcome to the 26.2 club!
I could not believe I was at mile 25. The last 1.2 was completely like a dream. I ran past my family prior to the finish – high-fives and hugs. I was surprised to have the energy I did as I came up on the finish. I felt like I was sprinting in – the announcer called my name and city, and then it was over. I crossed the line and was handed a medal. I was one-third breathless, one-third crying and one-third uncontrollably smiling. A sense of accomplishment poured over me. I realized this was what a runner’s high was, and I felt like I could do anything.
I wasn’t exactly sure what my time was since we had started in such a late wave. But I didn’t care. I was so proud that I did it. As it turns out, I ran a 4:31:44. So close to being under 4:30, but no cigar. I am in no way discouraged by this, I just have to do another! And it will keep me going.
Overall lessons/thoughts on the race:
- I had FUN at each and every mile.
- I am more than grateful to have shared the miles I did with Andrea. I think this is why I had fun at each mile. Thank you, Andrea, for your encouragement and for “long-distance” training with me. I am proud of you, and us!
- Doing a marathon in a city where your family can come means the world. I was so happy to see them along the way. I am so appreciative of all of them – and Andrea’s family, too!
- It really is mental. All of it.
- You can do so much more than you think you can.
- Drink the beer at mile 17 but avoid the beer at mile 24. This is for real.
- Training for and running a marathon changed me as a person. It’s more than an athletic event; it’s finding and being part of a community, learning what you are really made of and gaining the confidence at the finish to know you can do anything you want.
- Bad Angels give the BEST advice. I am so thankful to be part of this group.
- Lastly, I am proud of Brent for doing the half marathon with little training. I am also a lucky lady to have such a supportive husband.
All smiles after 26.2 miles.
Here’s to the next one!