P.S. My husband is the best. If it were not for him I would not have pr’ed and probably would not have come in 3rd place. He met me around mile 25. I told him I was defeated and he said start running. Sometimes all you need is a swift kick in the pants to get going again. I told him I did not care about my time. He said yes you do – start running. I said I just wanted to get third. He said you will loose 3rd if you do not start running and start running fast. I came in 3rd because of him – I pr’ed because of him. I love him.
I ran Freedom’s Run Marathon yesterday. Like an onion I had my layers.
Goal 1. PR – earlier this year I had set the goal for myself to PR at every race distance. Even if it was only a second – a PR still counted as a PR. I completed this goal yesterday PR’ing at the mile, 5K, 8K, 10K, 1/2 marathon and marathon distance in 2009. I unofficially ran 3:35:02 – my previous pr was 3:36:41
Goal 2. Place – this was a late addition to my goals for this race. Once I realized that it was a small race I knew that if I performed at my best I could place. Up until mile 22 I was the 2nd female. Up until we hit the hills in Antietam I thought I was in first – this was because the 1st place girl was 6 minutes ahead of me and I forgot that I had been passed by her in the first mile. I ended up 3rd female overall for my highest place finish in a race ever.
Goal 3. Go under 3:30. I didn’t care if it was 3:29:59. I wanted to see a 2 in front of my number and knew that I had put in the work to achieve this time and knew that it was a completely reachable goal.
So you may ask how a girl who PR’ed at the race, PR’ed at every race distance this year, and who placed 3rd overall can feel defeated today? I’m having a hard time understanding it myself. On Friday I was talking to my good friend Ashley, with whom I have run several marathons, and I was telling her about Ragnar Relay. I said that if I never get any faster than I am today I will die happy. I tried to remind myself of this as I was enduring the hills of the battlefields on Saturday. The day before the race the race director said that getting up to the battlefields would be a bear – I miss read this at first and freaked that we would have to watch out for bears?!?! Was West Virginia really that rural? – he said to remind ourselves that the real suffering happened on those battlefields. What he did not mention was that after running over 10 miles on a dirt trail littered with rocks, tree roots and slippery leaves, we would then go running on grass and head up possibly the largest hill I had even seen in my life – well until we hit said battlefields and I saw those hills. The elevation map was VERY misleading. I wrongly assumed that there would be two miles of horrible hills – hills that rose larger than Heartbreak Hill in Boston and larger than any hill I had climbed in my life. I was wrong. We were in the battlefields for what seemed like hours. I knew I was in trouble when I asked a volunteer when the hills would end and the whole group started to giggle. They said uhhh they don’t really end. Up until the hills I was easily averaging 7:30 pace. I even felt like I was holding back. 7:30 pace on trail and grass is not easy and so I felt confident that I had not gone out too fast – I thought to myself that if I had been on the roads and had been on a better course I could definitely be averaging closer to 7:15. I wasn’t scared as in past marathons. I believed in my fitness and all the hard work I have been putting in.
Maybe I feel defeated today because I couldn’t see those soldiers in the battlefields. I looked at those hills, those open fields where I was baking in the sun and could only feel my own suffering. I couldn’t see the thousands of men who laid down their lives in pursuit of freedom, my freedom. I was angry there were no trees to shade me, I was angry I had picked this course even though everyone had warned me that West Virginia was VERY hilly. I was angry for being angry. And at mile 23 it caught up to me. I don’t give up and I gave up. At that point 3:30 was still a very reasonable goal. And I said to heck with it. I didn’t even care about finishing. If there had been a bus beside me I may have gotten on it. We were running on the side of the road with cars whizzing by. They had not closed ANY streets for us. Imagine trying to run your heart out with cars at your back – you are worried that they might hit you because you don’t want to run on the cement sidewalk and are instead basically running in the road. A road that is not closed and is very busy and you are on the wrong side so you can not see the cars coming. I’m mad even as I write this.
Early in the race you run through Harpers Ferry National Park. GORGEOUS. Simply amazing. I crossed over a very windy bridge and looked out over the water. I literally said out loud – How Majestic Is Your Name. Seriously I was looking out on one of the most beautiful scenes in God’s creation. This elated feeling abruptly came to an end when a volunteer said be careful on the stairs – they are slippery. Stairs?????? You ran down a metal, see through, twisty staircase that was wet from the fog and dew. I guess I can’t even really say ran because it was more of a walk holding on to the railing so as not to fall to the ground below. At this point I really had to talk myself off a ledge – because it was at that exact point where I first started thinking I made a big mistake signing up for this race.
Please don’t get me wrong – Freedom’s Run is a beautiful race, most of the course is very scenic. If I wanted to walk with my friend and take 5 or 6 hours to go the 26.2 miles then I would say I recommend it. Yesterday my title for this blog was going to be – Freedom’s Run Marathon – DO NOT DO THIS RACE. I feel today that might be a little harsh. I think it should not be classified as a road race, since 1/2 of it is on trail. I don’t think it should be a race for anyone who wants to be competitive – there is not competing – more trying to survive. After the race I went up to the race director to ask a question and introduce myself – super nice guy – and he asked if maybe I thought the course was better as an ultra? YES YES and YES. This is the perfect course for an ultra – extend it another 5 miles and you will have people flocking to this event to prove their manhood or womanhood ;). But please I am begging you. If you care about your time do not run this race – you will be disappointed.
The girl who I said was in first and was six minutes ahead of me – She ended up in 2nd and got beat by Mandana Mortazavi of Leesburg. I had the honor of running and chatting with Mandana for a long time on the C&O Canal. I looked up her other marathon time from this year and it was a 3:23 – she ran 3:39:41 at Boston last year – I ran 3:39:25 this year. She ran 3:28:27 on this course. She told me that if I could hold my pace in the hills that I totally could go well under 3:30. She had driven the course the night before and told me that they were VERY bad, worse than Boston, VERY bad. I was scared.
After the race I went over to congratulate her and Anna Scheinzbach who came in 2nd. Anna said that she was averaging under 7 minute pace till the hills, at which point she started walking(at mile 14). Anna’s best marathon(according to Marathon Guide.com) for 2009 was a 3:08:49 – she ran 3:29:58 on this course. I believe she too felt defeated. I told her she kicked butt – she was awesome. She said – I want to forget this race ever happened – I want to go home, re-group, recover and hopefully find another fall marathon. This some how made me feel better inside that I wasn’t the only one who gave up and heck I did not give up till 23 miles.
For giggles I looked up the time of the man who won over all – he won with a time of 2:43:07. His best marathon time this year was at the National Marathon with a time of 2:27:03. I tell you this not to prove to you that the course was hard. I tell you this to help me realize that despite my obsessive thoughts for the past two days – I did give it my all. I did push hard. NO ONE had an awesome race – it’s just not possible on a course of that type. I should be elated that I pr’ed because it seems that I was in a small minority.
I want to cry as I’m typing this. I’m sad – I’m mad – I want to be happy – I want that post marathon elated feeling. I want to be happy that I finished higher than I ever have at a race. 3rd place in any race regardless of how fast or slow you go, how many participants is always an accomplishment in my book. On that day you were the 3rd fastest – you can’t compare yourself to others who did not race – you can only compare yourself to the others who showed up and ran the same course you did on the same day you did. Or better yet – don’t compare yourself to others at all – there will always be someone faster, better, prettier, richer, skinnier, happier, etc. Compare yourself with yourself (I’m great at giving advice – not always so great at taking my own).
I realized something else during this race. Marathons are not the be all end all of life. Don’t get me wrong – I love them – I love them with a passion – I love them to a fault. But there are so many other important things in life – you can’t get yourself worth wrapped up in a time on a clock. When I got home I opened up my Runner’s World Magazine and saw the story of Gilbert Tuhabonye who literally ran away from his attackers while he was on fire. Running saved his life. (It certainly saved mine though in a vastly different way.) His story made me feel awful inside. Who am I to be upset about an incredible time? I just ran 45 minutes faster than my first marathon. I used to run 11 minute miles. At what point will I become happy with the number on the clock. It makes me sick thinking of how self absorbed I am being by being sad.
On Friday I was happy. But then of course I thought that I had already gone under 3:30 – I thought it would be easy and that Saturday afternoon would be a celebration for me. I got up every single Saturday this summer at 4:50 in the morning – I ran for miles, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. I did all but one of my track workouts alone in the heat, dead tired from being a mom. I wanted that stupid time on the clock to reflect all that. In the end I suppose it’s just a time on the clock and I have for years said it’s not about the destination but the journey.
Before the race I got pumped up by listening to Rascal Flatts – I even sang it to myself during the race…..
Cause when push comes to shove
You taste what you’re made of
You might bend, till you break
Cause its all you can take
On your knees you look up
Decide you’ve had enough
You get mad you get strong
Wipe your hands shake it off
Then you Stand, Then you stand
Life’s like a novel
With the end ripped out
The edge of a canyon
With only one way down
Take what you’re given before its gone
Start holding on, keep holding on
Everytime you get up
And get back in the race
One more small piece of you
Starts to fall into place
…..and so I will say this. I’m going to pick myself up. Today is the LAST day I am going to be sad about this race. I’m going to cry but then I’m going to recover, I’m going to train, I’m going to taper and I’m going to give it my all at Marine Corps and whether or not I go under 3:30 – I will know that a time on a clock is just a time – I kick butt in my book no matter what 🙂 (positive affirmations work wonder right?!?!)
****To the race director of Freedom’s marathon….not giving someone a medal after running 26.2 miles is plain mean. Even a medal from the dollar store would have been better than nothing. Please also change the cups from plastic to paper – how can you pinch it to drink out of while running if it is plastic? These are the important little details that make a bad race good or a good race great. Oh and please please change the elevation chart to accurately reflect the course.