Tagged: health

Notes to Myself After a 20 Mile Trail Run in August

Sunday’s 20 mile trail run wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t even remotely cute. I seemed to do everything wrong.

If I had had a shell at mile 18, I would have crawled in and stayed there.

As I walked the last two miles back to the car, feeling miserable and sorry for myself, and slightly unhinged from the 97 degree heat, I started making notes in my head. Here are some of the things I wish I had told myself before the run:

  1. Don’t run 20 miles when you have a stomach virus. You’ll feel miserable, won’t have enough energy, and your overall confidence in running long will plummet.
  2. Less than six hours of sleep two nights in a row doesn’t cut it. You need more rest than that, even if the Olympics are on.
  3. Don’t go into a 20 mile trail run with a sore quad, even if it means taking an extra day off during the week. It will only feel worse during the run, especially on the hills.
  4. Don’t wear a hydration vest with a racer back tank top. Really stupid idea. Mid-back chafing hurts, and you’ll wind up slinging the backpack across one shoulder the rest of the run.
  5. Don’t forget to apply copious amounts of Body Glide. Stepping into the shower after the run will let you know all the places you forgot about.
  6. Slow and steady gets the job done. Find your own pace and stick with it, even if you get left behind. Don’t worry about keeping up with anyone else. Listen to your body and trust what it’s telling you.
  7. Nutrition is more important than you think. If you don’t eat well, it will especially show up in your long runs.
  8. When you’re not on your A game, pay even closer attention to the trail. If you don’t, you’ll trip and fall. If you feel tired or fuzzy-headed, take a walk break.
  9. Don’t beat yourself up when you have to walk the last two miles. At least you finished. It still counts, especially on the trails.
  10. Have cold beer at the finish. Just knowing it’s waiting at the end will keep you going, even if you aren’t much of a beer drinker. Gatorade is almost as good, too.

In hindsight, I did what most runners do. We put our heads down, hope for the best, and get the job done. There’s no shame in that. There will be better days.

*Photo by: By Mary Hollinger, NODC biologist, NOAA (http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/line2365.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

50K Training, Week 9

Vacation’s over, time to get back on track with the training!

MON: Travel day – After spending the night in Ogalalla, spent the day driving through Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

TUE: Run – 6 mi/treadmill, strength workout – Because of getting in late last night, and the extreme heat outside, did the unthinkable and ran on the treadmill at the gym. Anyone who knows me knows how much I detest the treadmill, but surprise surprise, it wasn’t all that bad. I think I was just happy to be running again after my time off in Wyoming. I felt so good I even ran an extra 2 miles. Did some upper body weights afterwards, and a bit of squats and lunges, being careful not to be overzealous.

WED: Run – 6 mi/hills, yoga (forward bends)- 20:00 – Ran the hilly path with Hari at the lake, which was overtaken by mosquitoes and gnats. My face felt like the windshield of a car. I was really looking forward to a yoga session afterwards since I did no yoga at all on the trip (except for some silly yoga poses on a hike with my daughter).

THU: Run – 2 mi/treadmill, strength workout – Left quad was feeling very sore, so I decided to do a very slow, easy run on the treadmill at the gym. Came home and did an upper body weight workout. I’m hoping my quad will be up for the 20 miler on Sunday.

FRI: Yoga (back bends) – 20:00 – Running rest day – Quad feels a little better, but still sore. Yoga felt great.

SAT: Run – 8 mi – Met the group for our first day of “official” marathon training, despite the fact that I’ve already been training for 9 weeks. Kept the pace nice and easy because of both the sore quad and tomorrow’s 20 mile trail run. Felt nauseous after the first three miles, probably because of acclimating to the heat after the trip to Wyoming, which meant I had to forgo my usual breakfast beer. Yes, folks, that’s how we recover here in Texas.

SUN: Trail Run -20 mi – Grapevine – There was nothing pretty about today’s run. There wasn’t even anything cute about it. 20 milers are always tough, but running 20 miles on a trail can be brutal. It was our hottest run yet, with a starting temp of 84 degrees at 6am and 64% humidity, and it was 97 degrees by the time we finished. The previous day’s nausea had turned into a full-blown stomach virus by late Saturday night, and I felt puny the entire run. At times, my stomach felt like it was full of needles. Not a pleasant way to put in 20 miles.

In hindsight, I probably should have shelved the idea of running 20 miles feeling as bad as I did. I had to walk the entire 2.2 mile last leg of the run. I simply had nothing left. I told Susan and Hari to run ahead without me, feeling bad all day for slowing them down, and they came back and met me on the trail with an ice cold Gatorade. I’m lucky to have such great running friends.

Tetons from the tent

This is where I wish I had been rather than on a hot Texas trail on Sunday.

STATS for WEEK 9: Run – 42 miles, Yoga – 40:00, 2 Core/Strength workouts

50K Training, Week 8

This week was a total bust as far as my training went. I honestly thought I would be able to run trails in Wyoming and enjoy the cooler temps, but I had no idea how much work preparing for a wedding could be. Also, the altitude really got to me, the sun is up much earlier than I was willing to climb out of my sleeping bag for, and once the sun is up it’s brutal.Also, camping on the side of a mountain means either running straight up or straight down the gravel road, and there were no other trails close by.

Excuses, excuses, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it. We had a wedding to get ready for!

MON: Run – 1 mi, Walk – 5 mi – Yep, that’s right, one measly mile. What started out as a 4 mile run along the Flat Creek trail in Jackson Hole quickly devolved into chaos. Every road trip usually has one big melt down, and today was the day. Michael and I had a fight over filling up the water jugs for camping, it was in the low 90’s, the sun was intense, I ran with Psycho Dog Nevada, and we ran much earlier in the afternoon than I had wanted. I did walk to the top of the mountain and back down when we got back to the the campsite later that afternoon, mainly to blow off steam over the water jug fight. It was a good workout, and I met a young runner camping higher up who had just run his first marathon in Oklahoma City.

TUE: Hike – 8 mi – I know I should be running, but how can you not help hiking when you’re in the Tetons? We drove over Teton Pass to the Idaho side of the Tetons, and it was a strenuous hike. My heart was pounding from the altitude. My daughter and I did take a few moments to do some silly yoga poses in scenic settings. Do they count towards my stats since they were done at altitude?

Teton Yoga Poses

Getting our yoga on in the Tetons.

Teton Downward Facing Dog

This rock was made for yoga.

WED: Busy with wedding preparations, camping, and eating dinner in nice restaurants.

THU: More wedding prep, camping, and eating.

FRI: Wedding rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, and a million small things to be done.

SAT: MY DAUGHTER’S WEDDING! Towards the evening, I did have to walk about half a mile up and down the mountain looking for Psycho Dog Nevada, who ran to the very top of the mountain out of fear of the rifles and being shot by (mostly) young men at the wedding (and I thought Texans were crazy). Does walking up and down a steep mountain road in a long dress and flip flops count towards any type of workout???

Teton Wedding

Even brides are bad ass in Wyoming.

Teton Bride and Mom

A beautiful bride and her running mama

SUN: Packed up the camping gear, said our tearful goodbyes to family and friends, and began the long road trip back to Dallas. Wyoming, I will get those trail runs in one day!

STATS for WEEK 8: Run – 1 mile, Walk: 5 miles, Hike: 8 miles

50K Training, Week 7

I wasn’t able to post this while I was  in Wyoming for my daughter’s wedding. After two tough weeks of high mileage, I feel the following two weeks of lower mileage (and a little wedding break) were well earned.

MON: Yoga (back bends) – 20:00 – Running rest day – No soreness from the 18 miler, just fatigue and a little tenderness in the shins. Lower back was somewhat sore when I got up, so I decided to concentrate on that area for yoga. Yesterday’s run really took a lot out of me. I might feel even more worn out than after a 20 miler in preparation for a marathon. It seemed to sap me of all mental and physical energy, and I’ve been grumpy all day.

TUE: Run – 4 mi, core/strength workout – Ran 4 miles at 5:15am with Mike F. Unbelievable that I am actually willing to get up that early this summer to run. It was almost 90% humidity and 79 degrees–which is actually fairly cool for this time of year. I felt good on the run, but still had some residual soreness in my shins, which I will need to ice this afternoon. Hopefully the next two easier weeks will help with the shin splints. I really felt the 18 miler in today’s lunges and squats.

WED: Run – 6 mi, yoga (forward bends)- 20:00 – Another humid early morning run. Met a group of friends at Liz’s house and ran on the hilly path to the dog park. I felt very strong on the hills, and a kept a good pace, especially in the high humidity.Breakfast with everyone afterwards to celebrate Heather’s birthday made it all worth it. The yoga was much needed today and felt very relaxing. Getting up so early to run five days a week is starting to get old. I’m really looking forward to cooler temps in Jackson Hole–and maybe some sleeping in.

THU: Run – 10 mi/hills – Up at 4:30am for a hot, humid, sweaty 10 mile run. We were all feeling the effects of yesterday’s speedy hill run, and I had forgotten how tough a loop around the lake can sometimes be. I did not enjoy when the sun coming out. My shins were feeling it the first mile, and especially later in the day. Iced them, wore compression sleeves, and felt good that tomorrow is a rest day and we leave for Jackson Hole! Looks like it’s going to be above 100 degrees all next week, so it’s a good time to leave. Too tired and busy packing to do strength training or yoga.

FRI: Running rest day – On the road to Jackson Hole.

SAT: Run – 4 mi – After camping in northern New Mexico, hit the road and ran 4 miles in Taos. Two things struck me: the altitude and the western sun. I ran with my dog, Nevada, who freaked out at the unfamiliar surroundings, so it was not a relaxing run. Also got propositioned by a young homeless man in the park asking if I was single. He suggested we “go for a little jog sometime.” I informed him I was not single and probably old enough to be his mom, which caused his buddies to hoot with laughter. Not sure how to take that.

Taos Trail

My only trail running option when camping: straight up. The “Be bear alert” signs, coupled with the altitude, made running in Taos an easy choice.

SUN: Hike – 2 mi – Walked almost to the top of Snow King in Jackson Hole with my daughter, Michael, and the dogs. That is one steep mountain! Even though I wasn’t running, my heart was pounding hard enough to let me know it was a good workout.

Snow KIng

Almost to the top of Snow King in Jackson Hole, with my lovely daughter and dogs

STATS for WEEK 7: Run – 24 miles, Yoga – 40:00, 1 Core/Strength workout

Maybe I’m Only Sleepwalking

Summer is now in full force, which means getting up in the predawn hours, throwing on my running clothes, and heading out before it gets too hot. Some mornings I feel as if I’m more sleepwalking than running.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a morning person. I’ve always enjoyed staying up late, writing or reading in the quiet hours when everyone else is asleep. There’s something very peaceful to me about nighttime.

Mornings are busy. Mornings mean getting ready for work, the monotony of another schedule to follow, another shower, more time spent putting on make up and blow drying my hair. Mornings are noisy, with cars driving too fast down my street and too many voices on the radio.

Mornings are only peaceful when I’m camping, and if I’m quiet and still enough I can see a deer, or elk, or bison, depending on where I am.

This summer, though, I’ve embraced getting up at 4:30 or 5:00am and meeting someone for a run. Part of it is my stubborn commitment to the training plan. Part of it is not wanting to run alone in the evenings. Mostly, I’m enjoying the way an early morning run makes me feel, even in the city.

The mornings can be beautiful at the lake, even if they’re warm and humid. While the rest of the city rushes and swirls around me, I run along the edge of a lake and forget everything but moving.

White Rock Lake

The Sunday trail runs get me out of bed even earlier. Setting the alarm clock on Saturday night, when I’ve stayed up way too late for tomorrow’s run, I inwardly groan when I set the alarm to go off at 3:50am. No one should ever have to hear an alarm at 3:50am.

But nothing is sweeter than hitting the snooze button at 3:50am either–except maybe hitting it a second time.

Early morning trail runs come with their own set of problems. Snakes, armadillos, spider webs, tripping over roots in the dim light, and fuzzy thinking. My friend Susan and I have yet to make our way from East Dallas to the trails in Grapevine without getting lost. It doesn’t matter who’s driving or who’s navigating. We have no problem getting back home.

I blame it on a lack of sleep.

Some people love getting up early for a run just so they can nap later in the day. I wish I was one of those people. I try and try, but napping is rare for me. If I sleep, I might miss something.

This week is the first time in seven weeks of training where I’ve felt less than enthusiastic about getting up so early. An 18 miler can do that to a person.

Staying up late, not napping, and getting up early = not getting enough sleep. Even on my rest days, when I can sleep late, my internal alarm clock goes off no later than 5:00am. My internal snooze button seems to be broken.

Next week I’ll be in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, camping and then watching my daughter marry the man she met there. Even though it will probably be cool enough to run later in the day, I know I’ll still get up early to run.

And I’ll know I’m not sleepwalking because I could never dream anything as beautiful as those mountains and the cool Wyoming morning air.

Tetons

Reasons for Running

Deep thoughts appear in the predawn hours when you’re pushing up a long hill. My friend, Hari, and I had a conversation on our hill run about how our reasons for running have changed through the years. I said I wanted to keep running into old age to stay healthy.

Through the years, some of my reasons for running have changed. Some have remained the same, and others are no longer as important as they once were.

Sunglasses

Somewhat loosely in order, here is a possible progression of our reasons for running:

  • Running because we were amazed that we could. This is how it started for me. I couldn’t believe I could run, breathe, and sometimes talk at the same time. I remembered how I was always running when I was a kid, and wondered why I stopped.
  • Running because we loved it. This is what kept us coming back. After we stuck it out and finally reached the point where we didn’t feel like we were going to die during every run, we realized how much we loved it. It felt like freedom.
  • Running to get faster. Running became easier. We had a few PR’s and placed a few times in our age groups in races. We realized we could train more and get faster. We appreciated the feeling of running fast and passing others in a race.
  • Running because we couldn’t not run. We were hooked. Our runs came first over everything else on our schedules. We made running friends who became like family. We started spending more money on running clothes and shoes than our regular wardrobe. Vacation plans were made around race schedules.

Trail Shoes

  • Running to run longer and train for marathons. We listened to the stories and watched the more experienced runners. We decided we needed to run a marathon. This was serious business now. Training became our second jobs.
  • Running to prove something to ourselves. Without realizing it, running became something much deeper than merely logging the miles. Finishing our first marathons showed us we could do anything we set our hearts and minds to doing. We realized we were so much better and stronger than we ever thought possible. We learned to believe in ourselves.
  • Running to prove something to others. Not everyone believed in us. A lot of people thought we were crazy. The ghosts from the past laughed in our ear. We ran to prove them wrong and to still the voices once and for all.
  • Running so we could eat what we wanted. Bread, pasta, desserts, and beer. We could eat it all and not gain weight. Eventually we realized it would all catch up with us, and it did. It took awhile, but we became more conscious of eating healthier.

Water Bottles

Currently, these are the most prominent reasons I continue to run:

  • Running because we know it’s what our bodies were made to do. On a very deep level, we know our bodies were made to run. Especially when we run trails, we tap into something ancient and primal. This is living.
  • Running to stay healthy as we get older. Running by itself is no longer enough. We add yoga and strength training to our routines to stay flexible and strong enough for the trails. Recovery takes longer. But we look around at others our age and realize they look and move as if they are much older.
  • Running because it teaches us things about ourselves. Bad runs are the best teachers. Nothing has taught me more about myself, my limits, or my possibilities than running, especially when I have to dig deep, or when I fail to reach a goal.
  • Running because it’s what we do. Not running feels like we’re not being true to ourselves. There’s nothing on TV that could ever take the place of a good run. Unimportant things and concerns are brushed aside. Running is more important. It sustains us.
  • Running because it’s who we are. We have other roles, other friends, other lives, but first and foremost, we are runners. It’s how we define ourselves.

Why do you run?

Looking for My Joy

Somehow after running the Boston Marathon last year, my blog–and my running life–seemed to run out of steam. It wasn’t so much that I lost interest in things, it was more like letting the air out of the balloon, very, very slowly. Last summer was much hotter than normal, and I ran a lot less because of it. I got slower, and I lost my running spark. Many of my friends were training for the NYC Marathon and I felt cut adrift–and a little sad that I wasn’t going with them. I bailed on running my planned marathon in November and focused instead on training for the Death Valley Marathon this past February (which will be an upcoming blog in the very near future). I struggled to keep up with my training partner on our midweek sort-of-long runs and couldn’t figure out what had happened to my joy of running.  Unlike the Lucinda Williams song that laments  “you took my joy, I want it back,” I couldn’t just “go to West Memphis and look for my joy.”  Mostly I wondered, what is going on with me?

I suppose everyone goes through cycles of good running and bad running, but this was larger than that.  I wasn’t depressed, everything just seemed off.  It all seemed to go back to Boston.  I was extremely disappointed in getting sick days before the marathon, but in the end it wasn’t a big deal.  Qualifying for Boston was a bigger deal to me; running the race was the icing on the cupcake.  I remember feeling the same way when I graduated from college.  I had busted my butt for four years, taking it all so seriously and checking my GPA over and over, only to find myself in cap and gown wondering, that’s it? I wished I had allowed myself to have more fun in college.  In hindsight, I think I did the same thing to myself with running.  I had pushed myself mile after mile, always trying to get faster and stronger, but I had forgotten to have fun.

So here I am, still looking for my joy.  Though I still seem to be struggling with my running, I have made some changes.  It’s Spring Break and I haven’t run once the entire week.  Some of that is because of my allergies, but most of it is because I just haven’t felt like it. And you know what, I’m not beating myself up for feeling that way.  The pre-Boston me would’ve been mortified to take off from running for a week, but the post-Boston me is okay with being an occasional schlub.  I have also decided not to run another marathon for awhile.  Six is good for now.  As a matter of fact, I’m not planning on racing at all.  Most, if not all, of my runs will be for fun and at a comfortable pace.  My Garmin died about three weeks ago and I have enjoyed running without thinking about my pace every few minutes. I have also bought a pair of Merrell Pace Gloves, which are similar to Vibrams without the five fingers, and enjoy running in almost nothing on my feet.  I’ve even run a mile or so barefoot, and loved feeling like a kid again.

Will it all work?  Will I be able to return to the days when I couldn’t wait to get home so I could tie up my shoes and hit the pavement?   Will I find my joy again?  Only time will tell, but chances are good I will, as long as I don’t forget to have fun.

Lessons Learned from Boston

Every marathon teaches me something, and this one was no different. Usually the lessons come to me a few days after the race, but this time the lessons came fast and furious the last five miles. Since I spent most of the race in my head–and not on the course where I should have been–I was a receptive student.

Lesson #1: Run with friends. I want to travel with friends, run with friends, and celebrate with friends. Running alone is hard. Even though friends are made during the race, they are fleeting, and it’s not the same as running with someone you’ve trained with. I seem to need having someone else there who knows all my strengths and weaknesses, someone who will keep me honest and won’t let me give in when I start to fade. I also think I run better when I feel responsible for someone else’s success, when I know they are counting on me to help them reach the finish line. Even if you only start together, just knowing my friends are out there really helps a lot. (This may not seem like a big lesson, but for someone who tends to keep people at arm’s length, this is big. I’ve only really learned the true value of friendship since I started running.)

Lesson #2: Enjoy the race. This is a lesson I forget and have to relearn every single marathon, so I’m still working on it. I take these things much too seriously. I should have accepted the fact that I was sick and let the crowd help me along the course. Instead, I mostly tuned them out, intent only on finishing the race. Maybe this was a self-preservation tactic, but it wasn’t very much fun.

Lesson #3: Be kind to yourself. Even though I felt under the weather during the race and knew I wasn’t going to have my best day, I beat myself up for 26.2 long, grueling miles. That made the race even more miserable, of course, and certainly had a negative effect on my performance.

Lesson #4: Accept the fact that there will always be good races and not so good races. Every single run is different. We all diligently keep our running logs, analyze our data, and most of us never really know why we run better on some days than others. You can do everything right and still have a bad race. Accept it, learn from it, and move on.

Despite everything, I had a great time in Boston. It was tough, but I learned a lot about myself out there on the course. I made it to the finish line, and that’s all that really matters. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in my time, but when it’s all said and done, who really cares?

Besides, there’s always next year, and revenge is so sweet . . .

BOSTON – After the Marathon

Sprinting to the finish line had taken everything out of me, and I suddenly felt completely and totally exhausted. I was still walking, but I can’t say the same for all of the runners who crossed with me. Many crossed the finish line only to collapse on the ground. Some simply stopped and bent over, overcome with pain and emotion. I kept walking, but I had tears in my eyes.

I didn’t know if Michael and Dominique had made it to the finish line or not, so I followed the rest of the runners as we were tended to by the volunteers. I have never been congratulated and fussed over so much by any other set of volunteers after a race. We were immediately offered water—as many bottles as we wanted—and then given space blankets. Next, another person put a little piece of tape at the neck of the blankets to keep them closed, and then a volunteer passed out little black lunch bags that had chips, an orange, and a granola bar inside. We kept walking, and I wondered if I would ever receive a medal. Finally, we made our way to a table where the medals were given out. I noticed that every single volunteer made a huge deal out of placing the medal carefully over each runner’s head and congratulating them. I loved all the personal attention, and thought of all the races I’ve run where someone wordlessly hands you a medal at the finish and doesn’t even put it around your neck.

Next, I needed to find the bus with my bag so I could find Michael and Dominique. Like everything else about this marathon, finding my bag was easy and very organized. I walked to the end of the bus line and realized I had made it all the way back to Arlington St., one mile from the finish line and one block from the hotel. It was too much. I sat down in the middle of the street, wondering if I would be able to get back up. I have never felt such complete and utter exhaustion. I took off my Nike Free’s and socks ( I love you Free’s and Injinjii socks!!!!) and assessed the damage: one small blister on my left big toe.

I called Michael and left a message: “Please come and get me. I can’t make it back to the hotel by myself.” I left the same message for Dom. Come to find out, I really had beat them to the finish line. I threw on my Teva flip flops just as Michael and my daughter walked up, and we made the slow walk back to the hotel. I was very, very tired.

There was a long line of runners and family members in the elevator line at the hotel, but it didn’t matter. As long as I didn’t have to run, I was happy. I saw Will in the lobby and was shocked to hear that he had finished less than two minutes ahead of me. We both qualified at St. George with almost the same time, and we both finished Boston with almost the same results—and I hadn’t seen him once the entire day.

Up in the room, I lay down on the floor for the longest time and didn’t move. Dominique drew a hot bath for me and I spent thirty minutes soaking and thinking about the race. We discussed dinner, even though I had no appetite, and Michael and Dominique decided to go out for a beer so I could take a nap. I have never felt so tired in my life as I did after Boston.

I rested but couldn’t sleep.  Steve called to tell me he and his family were downstairs in McCormick’s and Schmick’s, but I was too tired to even go down and meet them.  I was amazed to hear that he had also struggled and finished two minutes ahead of me.  Just like Will, how could we have missed each other the entire day?

Michael made a reservation at McCormick and Schmick’s for dinner, thinking we could finally get clam chowder, but I ordered lobster bisque and a Caesar salad instead.  I had no appetite—which usually happens to me after a marathon—and my head was so congested I couldn’t taste a thing anyway.  I ordered a celebratory beer but couldn’t enjoy it because of how I felt.  After all the fuss the night before, none of us ordered clam chowder.

Back in the room, I was too tired to do anything but watch TV from bed.  Michael and Dominique were both tired as well, and I don’t remember falling asleep.  The next day I cried when I said goodbye to my daughter, then Michael and I caught our flight back to Dallas.  I wore my Boston jacket for the first time, proud to be a new member of the club.  I felt worse than I did the day before, and the descent into Dallas felt like sharp needles were being stuck into the sinus cavity above my left eye.  It was all I could do not to cry.

Two days later I went to the doctor.  Prognosis:  sinus infection and bronchitis.  Armed with penicillin, two different asthma inhalers, Nasonex, and a prescription for cortisone, I spent the next two days home from school, resting, writing, and reflecting on this incredible adventure.

BOSTON – The Marathon: Heartbreak Hill to the Finish Line

Cresting Heartbreak Hill was the best feeling in the world.  I surged down the hill towards Boston College and stopped for water.  The ground was so slippery with littered cups that I almost fell down.  Knowing I had made it over Heartbreak gave me a burst of energy and I took off, passing runner after runner, amazed that I was still able to pull off an 8:45 pace so late in the race.  It didn’t last, and it wasn’t long before I was back to playing mind games with myself.  Mostly, though, it was one big pity party, and I was the guest of honor.

Running through Brookline into the center of Boston was like coming out of a fog.  I was aware of every footfall, every yell from the crowd, and for the first time I realized how much my legs and feet hurt.  I looked around and could tell I wasn’t alone in my pain.  One older gentleman was leaning sideways as he ran, and I almost asked if he was okay but figured as long as he was still moving forward he would make it in.  One young girl who had written “This is my first marathon!” on the back of her t-shirt was visibly struggling, and the girl running with her tried her best to convince her that she could do this, she was almost done, just a little bit further.

Even though I only had five miles left to run, it felt like a million.  I continually set small goals for myself: just make it to that sign, now make it to the red light, now pass that woman in the orange t-shirt, and so on.  I saw someone being carried away on a stretcher, and could tell it was a female runner in a white cap.  I was glad it wasn’t me.  I passed a woman running on a prosthetic leg, and felt inspired to keep going.  If she could do it, so could I.

The course slowly made its way downhill, but it was not flat.  There were numerous small inclines that made me grumble.  Some of the downhill portions were actually quite steep, but I was so miserable I couldn’t even enjoy the downhill running.  It didn’t seem to make the running any easier.  Where’s Waldo, a girl in costume who had stayed near me most of the race, finally pulled away, as did Minnie Mouse.

The course eventually made a wide turn that took us past Fenway Park and alongside the Green Line, and I was in familiar territory.  This was where we had gone the other night in our search for the elusive clam chowder.  The crowds were so loud and thick, it was almost overwhelming.  People hung out of building windows, and the edges of the course were lined with thousands and thousands of outstretched hands.  I slapped some, ignored others, and trudged on.  I told myself, over and over, that I was never going to run another marathon.

Finally I could see it:  The Citgo sign, mile 25.  If I could just make it to the sign it meant I only had one more mile to run, and then this agony would be over.  That sign was how the Rocky Mountains must have looked to the pioneers heading west, deceptively close, but farther away than it seemed.  I became aware of some chafing on my inner thighs, and it really hurt.  Why the heck was I chafing there?

I wished I had written my name on my shirt or bib.  The entire run I had heard other people’s names being called out for encouragement, but I was glad of my anonymity.  I was feeling so poorly, I didn’t want to be noticed or seen.  I think, on some level, I didn’t even feel worthy of running the Boston Marathon because I knew I wasn’t having my best day.  Now, running the last few miles to the finish line, I would’ve liked hearing my name yelled out.

Mile 25!  I pulled it together one more time only to see yet another hill, an underpass.  It wasn’t too tough, and I liked the break from the crowds.  More running, then I could see the course making a sharp right that I didn’t expect.  I looked to see what street we were turning on—maybe it was Boylston!—but was confused to see it was Hereford.  Hereford?  Did something happen?  Did they have to change the course?  Where was Boylston?  I checked my Garmin to make sure I hadn’t misread the mileage.  Just keep going.  Of course, like a sick joke, Hereford was another very slight uphill.  There was a left turn just ahead, though, and this time there was no doubt about it:  Boylston Street and the finish line, just ahead.

That final half mile run to the Boston Marathon finish line is something I will remember on my deathbed.  I felt like a champion, and knew how stupid I had been to feel unworthy of being there.  I had fought and conquered, and I was going to cross that finish line leaving nothing on the course.  As the crowds cheered me on, I gave it all I had, passing runner after runner, and sprinted to the finish at an 8:28 pace.  Something I will never forget is hearing “Angela Turnage, Dallas, TX” as I crossed the finish.

Even though I missed a PR by a long shot, and instead finished at “only” 4:32:25, I was happy.  I had run the Boston Marathon—sick!—and finished strong.