This pretty much describes how I felt about the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon on June 21st. Yes, it's been awhile sine then, but I needed time to gain perspective. Believe me, I did not have anything positive to say about my first marathon experience right afterward. I was just happy for it to be over.
We got there a couple days early to adjust to the time change. Anchorage isn't the most beautiful place especially in comparison to the rest of Alaska. Not...even...close. The day before the marathon, we all went for a short 20 minute run, I could definitely feel all the nervous energy/excitement in our group. We all wanted it to be over. The unknown is always scary.
My first glimpse of Alaska.
Surprisingly, I was able to sleep quickly and we made sure to keep the curtains drawn as Alaska gets 19 hours of daylight during the summer months. 19 hours!! It can mess with your head a little.
I couldn't believe it was finally happening. I'd been training for 6 months and the day had finally arrived. I felt a little sick. What if I couldn't finish? I would not only be letting myself down, but so many others. That freaked me out more than anything.
Ready to start.
A bus took all of us from the hotel to the start line. Having witnessed both the New York City Marathon and the Boston Marathons, my expectations for the number of runners and spectators are more than a little skewed. Those that had traveled to the marathon probably increased the population of Anchorage by 25%. I wish I was exaggerating.
We started and I quickly found my groove. After the second mile, it started to rain and it kept up for the first 8 miles. The course was supposed to be a combination of paved paths and trails. My expectation of a trail is packed dirt, maybe some rocks. This course had 7 miles of rocks which made it difficult to stabilize and for me to maintain pace. It was awful and put a tremendous amount of pressure on my lower legs. Running the bridle path in Central Park did not prepare me for this assault on my body.
7 miles of hell
Not only was I hurting physically, it was wreaking me mentally and emotionally. They say that most people hit the wall at mile 20 and I was hoping that I would not be affected. I hit the wall at mile 19. I felt like that the race officials had moved the mile markers farther away. I kept moving, but each mile just seemed to get longer and longer. Would I ever get to the finish line?
The marathon ended on a track at the local high school. Finally after climbing the last hill, I came into the school parking lot and saw my coach. I can't begin to say what I felt when I saw him. I was a jumble of emotions and was unbelievably happy to see him. He grabbed my hand and told me that the rest of the way was my victory lap. I hit the track, light and pain free as I saw all my new friends and the big finish banner.
Would I do it again? Maybe in a few years, but right now I just want to savor the experience I had. Six months of early mornings, late nights, speed work, long runs were worth it for that moment when I crossed the finish line.