Do you ever go into a race just not feeling it? Do you ever wonder, “What did I get myself into? Why did I sign up for this?”
That was exactly how I felt for my tenth marathon. After number eight (my NYC marathon), I decided A1A Marathon would be my last marathon in a long time and as much as I wanted to finish my final marathon with a bang and a new PR, I just wasn’t feeling it.
The week leading up to A1A Marathon, I slept and ate poorly and after a very stressful morning and long drive to Ft Lauderdale, we arrived with plenty of time to pick up my race bib and other goodies at the expo. The A1A Health Expo is small, but offers lots of fun items, especially food samples!
I even bumped into my Suncoast Striders friends, Leah and Shane!
In spite of all the food samples, I still needed to eat a real meal. So after the expo, we checked into our hotel and grabbed some grub at a hole in the wall brick oven pizza place named Giorgio’s. It was delicious!
Unfortunately, the night before the marathon I couldn’t unwind and rest properly. I woke exhausted and just not into running 26.2 miles. Despite feeling less than enthusiastic about the long road ahead of me, I arranged for an UBER ride and arrived at the start around 5:15 where I bumped into my friends Leah, Shane and Jarret.
Cooler temps rolled in overnight and we faced a morning low of 46 degrees. A perfect start temp for a race, but cold while we waited for the race to get underway. The weather would only cool down even more just before sunrise; therefore, I decided to discard my layers once we started running.
After the official start led by solo saxophone playing the National Anthem, Leah, Shane and Jarrett took off and I just scuttled along behind them. My heart just wasn’t into this race and around mile one my plantar fasciitis feet weren’t too happy either. It was certainly going to be a very long marathon. I just took deep breaths and tried to make the most of the next 5-6 hours through Fort Lauderdale.
I stared at all the glowing lights in the dark sky and I remembered enjoying running through the streets of downtown last year. This year, the lights and sights were just as pretty. As we made our way out of downtown and crossed the drawbridge, the sun began to rise. Although the sunrise welcomed the runners to the beautiful beaches along A1A Boulevard, the temps gave a chilly greeting. These cool temps wouldn’t last much longer once the sun fully rose.
Shortly after mile four, we entered Hugh Birch Taylor State Park. Again, I remembered really enjoying this section of the race, even though it’s also where Chrissy and I parted ways last year. I soaked up the gorgeous views and the paved trail run through the park.
This time through the park, I bumped into my friend, Dave, and of course a runner selfie was necessary. After rehydrating from water provided by some handsome firefighters, we were back on the boulevard.
About mile seven, a young woman approached me asking me how I knew Dave and if I was a Marathon Maniac.
“Yes, I am a marathon maniac but not an active member anymore. And Dave, well Dave is the male version of me. We like to take selfies while running and we love to take photos with other runners along the way.”
Having run over 30 marathons last year, Kristen wasn’t feeling this one either. For the next 19 miles we talked about life, love and everything in between, especially our love-hate relationship with running. Our paths crossed for a reason and I was so grateful for the company and a new running friend.
Soon after mile 12, I spotted Jarret looking strong and then soon, I passed Leah and Shane wearing big smiles. All three were on their way for a 4:30 marathon while I was looking to finish under 6 hours. God, please don’t let me be last!
Just after the turn at mile 15, we ran through a residential neighbor with the most beautiful seaside homes. Kristen commented that one resembled the castle from Beauty and the Beast which prompted me to do my Beast impersonation. “I WARNED YOU NEVER TO COME HERE! DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU COULD HAVE DONE?!” Followed by my solo performance of Tale as Old as Time.
By mile 17, we were back on A1A Boulevard and still nine more miles to go. Lacking the mental stamina for a marathon, Kristen and I resorted to a lot more walking then running. The cool temps were long gone now and the heat was beginning to get to me. (If only I was a slightly faster runner, I could out run the heat.) Once we ambled past mile 20, we decided to follow a Galloway 3:1 to finish this beast of a race with a full blazing sun beating down on us.
By mile 23, the condos cleared away and the beach was back in our view. The finish was so close! Then, I spotted a runner doubled over in pain. His legs were cramping and I offered him an energy gel to fill him with some potassium to stop the cramping. We were all going to finish this if it killed us!
Beach goers and spectators began cheering for us on both sides of the boulevard while kids ran alongside of us for the Kids Fun Run (the last mile of the course). So much energy surrounded us; it made me beam from ear to ear.
And then at mile 25, I spotted a woman who looked JUST LIKE my Aunt Linda, who passed a few weeks ago. She smiled, clapped and cheered “You’re doing great! Keep it up! You got this!”
I stopped dead in my tracks and bust out crying. Right there, I couldn’t move. My new marathon running partner turned to me and said, “She wants you to finish this. So c’mon! Let’s do this!”
As I type this out and relive these moments, I can’t help but well up with emotion and cry all over again. I wanted to celebrate my tenth marathon with a bang, but I dreaded it from the beginning. I felt unprepared for the endurance of the long distance. I was emotionally and physically checked out, but the emotional journey of this race reminded why I do what I do.
While I didn’t finish strong or fast or last for that matter, I finished with a renewed spirit that lifted my heart. I crossed the finish line with Kristen by my side and my family cheering for me.
I finished my tenth marathon just under 6 hours with a slight sunburn, a smile and a few tears of joy.
And the medal ain’t too shabby, either. (The two swordfish in the center spin. See my Instagram demonstration here.)
Gun time 5:59:30
Chip Time 5:55:25
Ave Pace 13:34
10K split 1:10:20
Half Marathon Split 2:43:08
Net Time 4:09:38
Overall Place 748
Age Group 48/53
Although my finish time suggests I ended physically on a low note for my tenth marathon (No PR, but not my worst either), I feel I finished on an emotional high. In this journey, I realized that marathons reveal to us who we are. It’s a test that exposes our inner strength and becomes a testament to our character.
And this character needs a break from running marathons!