Last Saturday, I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. It was my fourth marathon, but first in about 18 months. And probably – no, definitely – the one for which I’ve trained the hardest. With a previous marathon best of 4:09, I was focused and ready to kill the 4 hour barrier at the very least. As I shared with Salty and just a few others, my real goal was 3:55.
Despite my silly Taper Crazies post, I was super chill all week. Nothing could phase me. (See my training log for more on this.) I considered it a good omen that Anxiety Girl was nowhere to be seen and instead Zen Girl had taken her place.
A Saturday race meant that I took Friday off work. I wasn’t in any huge rush, so I slept in, painted my nails, and packed that morning. I arrived in Indy around 4 p.m. and met up with a friend who was doing the half. The expo was right across the street from our hotel – score! I got my packet, signed up for the 3:55 pace team and checked out a couple of race booths, and was done. We had a group of four for a nice Italian dinner and some catching up and pre-race chatter. After filling my belly with some basic penne with marinara, I laid all of my stuff out for the next morning, checked the weather one final time and scheduled a wake up call and set my alarm. I wasn’t taking any chances!
I awoke with a headache, thanks to some lovely hotel neighbors and their late-night shenanigans. This was my only freak out, but with lots of water, some breakfast and a healthy dose of perspective, I felt much better about things and started getting ready. It was going to be in the 30s (and possibly with precipitation!), so I cut my pace tattoo into four pieces and put them on the front and back of each hand, thus not having to sacrifice the warmth of my arm warmers to check the times. Oh, and I added my own little motivational Sassy touch, too.
Our hotel was literally 1/2 block from the start, so I met up with my friends in the lobby just 50 minutes ahead of time. I jogged a little warmup, used the real bathrooms one last time, and we parted ways after some pre-race photos.
This is when I realized I’d stayed in that cozy hotel lobby for far too long. The start was chaotic, to put it nicely. You had to shove your way over from the sidewalk, through a gate, and hope that you were near your desired pace. When I first made my way into the corral, I was near the 4:20 marathoners… oops. I followed a girl edging her way through the crowd and we worked our way up, as a team, up to 4:10. Once we realized that we’d hit a wall and the crowd wouldn’t budge any more, we exchanged names and goals. She was Jill, seeking a low-1:50s half, and we agreed to go out strong together and try to find our respective pace groups.
To illustrate how far back I was, I tell you this: it took us four minutes to cross the starting line. Jill and I stayed together, picking people off and just trying to get ahead of some of the crowd. If one of us got ahead, the other would say, “I’m behind you”. It really was teamwork at its finest. Finally, sometime around mile 4 or 5, Jill motioned to a man with 3:55 sign on his back. I yelled, “My people!” and wished her luck as she sped away.
My new BFF, Mr. 3:55, told me that he was actually 30 seconds to a minute ahead of the pace group. We ran together for the next 10 or so miles, picking up quite the group along the way. My iPod had died again after multiple problems the week before, so I was grateful for his constant stream of chatter that didn’t require much in return. Our group expanded and shrank along the way, and I finally parted ways with them around 16 or 17. I just kept my head up and kept hammering away at my nice little pace.
The course was pretty and people were so friendly! I just kept trying to stay on pace, but still drinking in as much as I could. The 3:55 sign on my back definitely helped. Many people mistakenly thought I was a pace team leader, giving me company for a little while from time to time. I felt confident that I could do it, and despite the bumps I encountered, I maintained my “brush it off” attitude that I’d had all week. This came in handy when something I had definitely not prepared for happened – it started hailing around mile 18. I had long since ditched my dollar store gloves, so the only thing to do was keep my head down and get through it! The temps were hovering in an in-between zone, and the hail switched to rain after a few miles. Ugh. I just kept going.
I had consistently had a 1-2 minute buffer on my pace tattoo times up until about 21. Then I was dead on. Then, I started getting a bit further behind in miles 23-25. I’d been running with a pack of about 5 women, and I just had to let them go. Instead of freaking out, I just tried to dig deep and go as fast as I could. I reminded myself of how hard I’d worked, how far I’d come, and let’s be real, how many people were tracking me. At that point, I just had to give it all I had. Unfortunately, my legs couldn’t go any faster; Mile 25 was my slowest of the race.
At the 25 mile marker, I heard someone call my name and my friend Betsey came darting onto the course, telling me that I looked great. We hadn’t been able to find each other pre-race due to crossed wires, and I was so glad she found me! Betsey ran the next mile with me and was so upbeat, which helped give me a little burst of speed! She left me at mile 26, instructing me to bring it home and she’d see me once I crossed the line. I did, finishing in 3:56:54… And I am grinning ear to ear in my race photos!
I know that going out with Jill at the start wasn’t the smartest, but I figured finding my pace group was the best shot I had. My first three miles were my fastest of the day. Did that make or break my A goal? I have no idea. I definitely had some holes in my race execution, but a 13 minute PR…. I’ll take it!
This race was much more than just my first sub-4:00 marathon. It was the first I’ve executed so well – fast start not withstanding – both physically and mentally. I did not stop once to use the bathroom, I only walked twice briefly while taking water, and I did not cry. Sad that I am listing that as an accomplishment, but during all three of my previous marathons, I had at least one breakdown in confidence! I never doubted that I could get it done; I just did it. Even once I realized that 3:55 was out of reach, I still knew that 4 hours was completely doable, and all I had to do was not eff it up.
So I didn’t get my A goal…. so what? Now that I’ve had a mental breakthrough of sorts in the marathon, I’m ready to do it all again.