Spoiler alert: sub 4 did not go how I had hoped. Just like in Vancouver, I started to unravel at mile 18 and totally fell apart at mile 20. I’m proud of my first 20 miles, and I’m OK with how I ran/walked the last six miles. But I’m disappointed with my attitude in the last 6.2 miles. I was like a small child out there, angry and pouting that her parents won’t take her to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. I was not my best self, and for that I am disappointed.
After a restless night of sleep, my alarm woke me up bright and early at 4:30am. Dad and I ate, got ready, and headed to the shuttle a little after 5:30 am. We arrived at the race at 6am, which gave us plenty of time for gear check and to use the porta potties twice before the race started at 7am.
We started the race right outside Hayward Field, which I really enjoyed. I did not enjoy, however, that we started too far back in the pack so my first mile clocked in slower than I wanted as we weaved our way through runners.
Mile 1: 9:37
I was a total head case during the first six miles, and I was really scared of what the day would bring. My breathing felt a little off, and the miles weren’t as effortless as I had hoped they would be.
Mile 2: 9:06
Mile 3: 9:05
Mile 4: 9:10
Mile 5: 8:57
Mile 6: 8:58
At the 10k point, I had an epiphany. I thought back to the Runner’s World article about Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan. Right before the start of the 2012 women’s marathon at the Olympic Games, Shalane pumped Kara up by saying: “Let’s f*ck this shit up.” Vulgar? Yes, if you’re not a fan of F bombs. Helpful? Absolutely.
I drew strength from knowing that even crazy fast elite athletes get scared, and I told myself: run smart, Megan, not scared. In order for sub 4 to happen, I knew I had to pace myself and run a smart race. And from miles 6-18, that’s exactly what I did.
Mile 7: 8:52
Mile 8: 9:03
Mile 9: 9:23
Mile 10: 9:00
Mile 11: 8:58
Since we had started pretty far back, I didn’t see the 4 hour pacer until about mile 12. His blue and yellow balloons bobbing in the distance were a beacon of hope, a symbol of what I wanted so desperately to accomplish. For a few miles, I actually believed it was going to happen.
We hit the halfway point right under 2 hours. I knew that I would have to negative split — something I’ve never done before — to get sub 4, but I still believed I was running a smart race and might be able to pull it off.
Mile 12: 8:57
Mile 13: 9:26
Mile 14 was a bit of a deja vu from the 2012 Vancouver Marathon, as Dad had to stop and walk. With Dad’s blessing, I forged ahead and slowly started closing the gap between the 4-hour pacer and myself.
Mile 14: 8:50
Mile 15: 9:01
By mile 16, I had closed the gap and was 10 feet behind the big group following the 4-hour pacer. It felt good to be with this group, but I was getting tired, and I was worried how I would feel in a few more miles.
I hung with the 4-hour pacer until mile 19/20, when I hit the wall. As I slowed down and his blue and yellow balloons faded into the distance, I mentally collapsed and gave in to the pain. My neck was so tight, my shoulders ached, and my right quad really freaking hurt.
Mile 16: 8:48
Mile 17: 9:00
Mile 18: 9:07
Mile 19: 9:14
Mile 20: 9:41
For the first time ever in a marathon, I just got really angry. While on one of my many walk breaks, I took some GU Chomps out of my pocket. I ate one, and I hastily threw the other one on the sidewalk — not unlike how a small child spits out her steamed broccoli at dinner. The GU Chomp tasted like crap, and I was so frustrated that once again I was falling apart at mile 20. Running another 6.2 miles seemed unbearable, especially when I wasn’t going to reach my goal.
For a few minutes I contemplated going for a PR, but I didn’t have the fight left in me. Anything other than sub 4 would be a disappointment, and I wasn’t willing to suffer additional pain for a 30-second PR. So for the next two miles, I shuffled/walked and was a total angry mess.
Mile 21: 9:30
Mile 22: 11:05
A little before mile 23, wonderful strangers not associated with the marathon had set up a beer and water station. I’ve seen beer on marathon courses before but had never drank any. I almost ran past them, but as I approached the table, I figured what the hell, might as well at least try to have some fun with this.
The stranger graciously gave me a glass of beer, and I thanked him. It was probably Bud Light, but it was one of the tastiest beers I’ve had. Shortly after drinking my beer, I took another walk break and found myself walking next to another runner. I asked him how he was doing, and he told me that it was his first marathon and he had hit the wall at mile 21, so he was taking lots of walk breaks. Despite hitting the wall and slowing his pace, he said he was going to reach his goal of finishing under 4:20. I then looked at my watch and proclaimed: “That’s awesome! In fact, you should even finish under 4:10.”
We chatted a little longer and then I wished him well and continued on. He ended up finishing right behind me, so he finished sub 4:10 — that was probably the highlight of my entire race (that and the beer).
Mile 23: 10:34
Mile 24: 10:15
Mile 25: 10:50
Shortly before entering Hayward Field for the final stretch, Eye of the Tiger came onto my iPod Shuffle. I smiled and thought how perfect that was, but it did little to motivate me. If Eye of the Tiger and finishing on Hayward Track don’t pump you up, nothing will.
Mile 26: 10:36
Finishing on Hayward Field was nothing how I had pictured in my head. As I moseyed onto the track, instead of feeling excited, proud or happy, I was annoyed that I still had to run half way around the track. Seriously, what the eff is wrong with me? I made my way across the finish line and for the first time ever in a marathon, I felt nothing as I crossed that glorious finish line. I was happy to be done running, but I felt little else. I feel like an asshole for writing that. Finishing a marathon – no matter what your time is or if you reach your goals — is an accomplishment and is worth being proud of.
I’m disappointed in myself for having this asshole, ungrateful attitude. I spent 18 weeks training for this day, and even though it didn’t go how I wanted, I should have been proud of myself for finishing with my second fastest time.
Last .27: 9:17
After finishing, I hung out in the finishers area for a little while before making my way out where John was waiting for me.
I told John about my race as we waited for Dad to finish. I assumed he wasn’t far behind me, so I got pretty worried as time passed and Dad was nowhere to be found. I eventually looked up his bib number on a computer they had on site and realized he hadn’t finished yet. We walked over to the track so we could see him finish, and I was worried he had re-injured his hamstring.
Shortly after we got to the track, I saw Dad enter Hayward Field. We cheered and yelled, and it reminded me of my younger years when I spent many Sundays cheering for Dad at his marathons. But for the first time spectating one of Dad’s marathons, I intimately knew the pain and fatigue he felt as he took the final steps in his 26.2-mile journey.
I have a lot of thoughts about Sunday’s marathon, which I’ll save for a later post. I will say that the most disappointing part of Sunday was the brutal realization that I’m not where I want to be with my running. So rather than just jump into another marathon training cycle, I’m taking the next eight months to focus on speed and improve my half marathon time.
Eugene is an awesome course and primed for PRs, and I’ve already decided that my next marathon will be the 2014 Eugene Marathon. I need some sweet redemption in Tracktown USA and a more epic finish on Hayward Field.