Let's start from the beginning. Why did I choose the Indianapolis Marathon? There are a few reasons. With eleven marathons under my belt (in hopes of completing 50), I have nearly exhausted all of my "driveable" options. Thus, most races are going to require flying. Even though all of Chasen's work travel makes frequent flyer miles semi-abundant, it's unrealistic for us all to go to each race; that would use up all of the miles and boost the cost of each trip at least two-fold, if not more. Thus, I go it alone. With that in mind, and a lack of vacation days, I needed to pick a destination that Chasen wouldn't mind missing (and that's about as nicely as I can put it). Indy fit the time frame, wasn't an enormous race, was seemingly flat, and had a pretty decent medal. You know me -- it's all about the medal!
Just as I did for the Wisconsin Marathon back in May, I trained using my own ad hoc version of a CrossFit Endurance plan. I gave it all I had, and I felt prepared. The only difference was my "problem ankle" began to rear its ugly head a few weeks prior. I simply added more of a taper to give it a rest.
I arrived in Indy with no problems. Soon thereafter I headed to the expo. I was thrilled to receive a long sleeve, hunter green tech shirt! I've never had a shirt of this color before.
The Indy foliage is proudly displayed. I had high hopes of gorgeous scenery.
I uncharacteristically signed up for the pre-race pasta party. It was cheap, and I thought it'd be fun to eat and chat with some other runners. Well, that didn't happen. It was restaurant style, so I was seated alone. The food was so-so. I would have been better off just going to a restaurant of my choosing, like I normally do. Lesson learned.
I got plenty of sleep that night, as pre-race sleep goes. I had a good, clean breakfast of sliced turkey, sweet potato, and banana. The next thing I knew I had found a parking spot less than a block from my starting corral. Sounds great, right? It should except... it was raining.
Here I am just before the race started. Bundled up and ready to get after it!
It rained for MILES. Theoretically, a light rain doesn't sound too bad. However, a light rain is capable of quickly soaking you to the bone, especially your feet. Not zesty! My ears stayed dry and warm, thanks to my ear muffs. My head/hair was OK, as well as upper body, for the most part. But still... the rain stinks. When you can feel the water squishing in your shoes, it's just not a good thing.
Like most races, the first mile or two was very congested. I had to run a bit faster than I really wanted to, but it was alright. From a speed and body standpoint, the first eight miles were good. I was feeling fine and doing well. The course weaved in and out of Fort Harrison State Park. It was run on city streets, paved park roads, paved trails, and even through grass and mud at times. It ran the gamut! The promised, prized "fall foliage" was not that impressive, in my opinion. For one thing, I was soaking wet, so my views are a bit tarnished. For another thing, if you've ever visited Northwest Arkansas (or even New England) in the fall, nothing else will ever compare. It was relatively flat; I only remember experiencing one hill.
Water stops were abundant. Most were staffed by young men in military attire. They were very polite! I was disappointed by the lack of food present; I'm used to seeing banana halves, potato chips, candy, etc. from time to time along a good course. Obviously I come prepared with Gu, but I enjoy those little extras. There were zero. Also missing was spectators. Once we left the starting area, I honestly don't remember seeing even one spectator. We all know how much some cheering can help out during a race.
After mile 8, sadly, my body begin to shut down. Everything was hurting me: both hips, my lower back, both feet, both knees... the list goes on. It was painful. Normally, as of late, I'm happy to cross the halfway mat. Not only is it a "glass half full" milestone, but the crowd of runners really thins out, as the halfers are heading toward their finish line. This time, however, it was more like "Dang, I'm only halfway done and I feel like death." Wall: 1, Susan: 0. Not good!
There's really no choice to be made at this point. Quitting is NOT an option, even though my body desperately wants to. I just can't. I didn't go all the way to Indiana to come home empty-handed.
[Note: If there was a legitimate medical reason to quit, I believe I would... if a course official insisted, even after I'd argued to the death with them.]
As I said before, I have a lot wrapped up in these marathons and this 50-state goal. The travel and the expense it incurs is motivation enough to keep going. Plus, I just don't quit. I can't. I'd rather finish horizontally than throw in the towel and walk away upright. You can't go down without a fight!
So I forged ahead, mostly walking. Yes, for the whole second half. It. Was. Awful. I was really hating life. I called Chasen frequently for motivation and support. He informed me, I want you all to know, that I was tougher than him and he knew I could and would do it! Woot!
At around mile 20 the sweeper van drove by and told me that if I didn't somehow speed up, he'd have to pick me up due to the traffic. I boldly said "NO! You will NOT. I will keep going." Again, I didn't go all the way to Indiana to end up on the sweeper van. He said something about making up the mile at the end, but I refused to listen to that drivel.
Shortly thereafter, coming in the opposite direction during an out-and-back portion of the course, I saw three more ladies. One had white hair and I couldn't help but say to her "Ma'am, if you don't mind me asking, how old are you, because you're my hero!" She was 73, named Judy, and power walking her way through the rain and everything else. Wow. And she wasn't far behind me! I thought one of the other girls with her, Mona, might have special needs. As if I wasn't having a bad enough day as it was, I was about to be overtaken by someone 35 years my senior and someone who seemed to not walk like most people. That's humbling. On the other hand, I was so hobbled that I probably wasn't walking all that normally, either. Sorry, Mona!
The next thing I knew, the sweeper drove by me with Judy and the other two inside. I was still trying to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. I was fighting back the tears, and I have never cried while running (or, in this case, walking). Never. It was awful. I felt in danger of not meeting the official 7-hour cutoff time, and I had no more energy to put forth. Never in my wildest dreams did I fear a 7-hour time limit.
He let them out just a short distance in front of me. It had happened. Even though the van had assisted, I was passed by a 73-year-old woman. I thought surely I could catch up and pass her, especially with forcing myself to run a tiny bit. But Judy just kept on and soon she was out of sight. That's when an angel, Mary, caught up to me and said "You're doing great!" She was just out for a leisurely run, i.e. not part of the race. Mary insisted on walking with me until I was officially back in the state park area, closer to the finish line. We didn't talk much, but she kept me moving forward. I still felt like death, but at least I wasn't alone. At mile 24 we hugged and she turned back.
I made it to mile 25, which was manned by a gentleman who looked like Uncle Jesse from the Dukes of Hazzard. He was smoking a pipe and said, cheerily, "One more mile to go! You can't quit now." Bless his heart.
Then, it happened. The sweeper van pulled up beside me. Mona was already in there. The driver held out his hand and said "You HAVE to get on." I needed his hand, because I honestly couldn't step up in there under my own steam. The tears began to flow. I said "What's going to happen now?" He assured me that I could finish; I'd just have to make up some distance first. The tears continued. I felt so defeated. Although, honestly, it was nice to sit down, even though it was only for about a quarter of a mile, I swear.
He dropped us off with the finish line in sight. Mona and I were given two different paths to run. Somehow hers was much shorter, which didn't make ANY sense since she had been on the van twice. Even though my path was longer, I was soooooo over it that I dug deep and started to actually run. I managed to pass her. And I made it to the finish line. Praise the Lord! They were putting everything away, but four volunteers or so were there cheering like crazy for me. It was awesome and I appreciated it greatly. Realistically, they were probably just happy to be nearly done with their wet job. But I appreciated their effort none the less.
I got my medal and was handed some food. I was about to walk away, but then I saw Mona nearly to the finish line. So I joined right in and gave it all I had cheering her in. After all, she was going through as rough a day as me, if not rougher. I congratulated her and then went to find the sweeper man. I thanked him and hugged him. He even took my photo for me.
This is what kept me in the game.
See, I did it! The medal has a leaf and a shoe with wings.
Even though I parked close, it felt like an eternity to walk back to my rental car. I sat there for a long time. I called Chasen, took off most of my gear, and ate. Once I finally got going, I saw poor ole Mona walking slowly down the main road. I made a u-turn, opened the window, and said "Get in, Mona! Let me drive you to your car." She did, and it was a good thing because she was parked FAR away. We commiserated, and that was truly nice. She didn't have special needs, by the way. Like me, she was having a terrible day. Again, sorry for making such a judgement.
I saw this on Twitter today and thought it was mighty appropriate for Mona and I.
As it turned out, I finished #614 out of 615 marathoners. Mona, of course, was #615. I've had to try to explain "what happened" to lots of non-runners. The simple answer is... you can't win 'em all. We just have bad days sometimes. Sometimes the stars align and I'm on cloud nine, regardless of finishing time, because I feel great. Other times I feel less wonderful, yet finish faster. This time, however, neither time nor physical well-being was on my side. I won't let it get me down because I know better days are ahead. After all, life is a roller coaster.