I DID IT!!! I ran a marathon!! And finished in 4:58:48 just under my goal time of five hours!!
My legs, feet and knees are killing me right now, but I am SO PUMPED that I ran a marathon! Huge thanks to Becca, Cari, Nick, Phil, Jon, Edgar and Betsy for coming out to cheer for me at various points along the route. Even bigger thanks to Rich for getting me through miles 22-26 fast enough to squeak in with a sub-5:00 time.
Some stats (since I love stats) that you can also look at yourself by going here and putting in my name or bib number (#2415): I was 5.5 minutes behind the “official” gun time, meaning it took me 5.5 minutes to get to the starting line. I was 4295th overall, 1299th among females, and 220th in my 25-29 age group. I averaged 11:23 per mile, though I know I was averaging more like 11:15 through at least the halfway mark, so I definitely slowed down at the end.
The weather was just about perfect — low 40s at the start and probably 60 by the end. It was clear and sunny, and I actually got a bit of sunburn, but if it’d been overcast I probably would have been cold.
I had planned to tag along with the 5:00 pace group, but that plan fell by the wayside as soon as the race began. I started out faster than 5:00 pace (11:27 miles), and figured that they’d catch me along the way and I’d join up with them then. I felt great for the first 12 miles as we ran through a couple old neighborhoods and into the Rice Village/Museum District area. I was wearing a sign on my chest that said “GO SARAH” and as a result, I had tons of people cheering me on. It was great. I couldn’t help but smile every time I heard a stranger call out my name.
I saw Phil and Jon around 9.5 miles and Phil amused both me and the runners around me with his antics. Becca and Cari were waiting with the dogs just before the 11-mile marker and I thought Apache was about to jump out of her skin trying to follow me. I walked for just a minute or so to talk to them, then started up again. My legs started to get a little sore right around the half-marathon mark, where I saw Edgar and Betsy. I didn’t even know they were coming, so that was an awesome surprise!
As I crossed the timing mat at 13.1 and checked my watch to see about 2:25, I wondered who had won the race. Turns out it was David Cheruiyot from Kenya in 2:14:52. He was done before I was even halfway! WOW.
Miles 13-19 got tougher, but I was still feeling ok and walking only through the water stations that were spaced about every 1.5 miles. This part of the race went past the Galleria and down a lovely tree-lined street with big fancy houses to look at. Around mile 15, I started counting down to mile 22, when I knew Rich would be jumping in to run with me.
Somewhere between mile 19 and 20 was the coolest part of the race — President Bush (the first one) was standing along the side of the road shaking hands! As I approached, some guy said “hey, President Bush is up there” and I thought “yeah right.” But suddenly I saw police car lights and looked up, and it really was Bush Sr! (I think he lives in that area of town, or maybe has an office there.) I darted over to the side of the road, shook his hand, thanked him for being there, and he read my sign and said “Go Sarah!” President Bush cheered for me at the marathon! How cool is that!
That gave me a burst of energy that lasted until I got into Memorial Park. Just past mile 20 I saw Edgar and Betsy again, but I was really starting to tire at that point. Miles 21-24 were probably the worst of the race for me. I took a couple quick walking stints through the park and around 21.5 miles I finally reached Rich. Becca, Cari and Nick were also there (Apache again dragged Becca down the road trying to follow me) cheering and gave me a much-needed boost. Rich hopped in and started jogging with me. He was really excited and kept saying how cool it was that all the people were calling my name, and how awesome it was that I was running a marathon. I’m really glad he was there to run with me.
We got through miles 22-25 mostly running, with maybe 4 or 5 brief walk breaks. (I saw Phil and Jon again around mile 23, with Phil screaming “you’re a champion, a champion!!”) These miles went down Allen Parkway which goes up and down through a few underpasses, and the uphills, though slight, were where I had to walk. At this point, I was fairly certain that I could finish under under 5:00, but only if I kept running as much as possible. My last walk break was at mile 25 with about 14 minutes left to go to the 5-hour mark. I told Rich not to let me walk anymore unless I said it was absolutely necessary, and in my head I repeated over and over “don’t walk, don’t walk, don’t walk, don’t walk…”
I was right on the edge of my body involuntarily stopping and forcing me to walk. Fortunately, around 25.5 we turned the final corner and I could see the finish line up in the distance. There was just no way I was going to let myself walk when I could see the end. Rich peeled off just after the 26-mile marker and I put my head down and just drove to the finish. I could hear people calling my name and cheering for me, but I couldn’t do anything but stare at the big “FINISH” sign. As I crossed it, I had a huge smile on my face. One of the volunteers saw me, smiled herself, and said “congratulations!” All I could say was “I DID IT!!!”
I did it.
Oh, and I sent my reason for running to the Houston Chronicle and they posted it online.