|The start gate seems to be just for appearance.|
My SENSIBLE pacing strategy was to run whatever felt comfortable, even if that meant walking. However, my feverish, dehydrated, ILL pacing strategy was to run as though I hadn't just spent hours purging my system of toxins. I know, what was I thinking??? Anyway, that's how I started out. And the first four miles felt fine. My breathing was controlled, my legs felt fresh, and I thought, 'I really might be able to do this!' My splits for the first four miles were 10:08, 9:45, 10:12, and 10:04, and I was pleased with this. I had a bit of water at mile 3 and a couple of sips of Powerade at Mile 4 to test out my tummy - no immediate issues were apparent.
Towards the end of mile 4, we came around a bend and there was the first of what turned out to be many hills on this 'almost flat' course. (FFS, could race organisers PLEASE stop advertising their courses as almost flat when they blatantly ARE NOT??? I don't mind hills; I just like to know what to expect.) I slowed my pace but kept running and made it three-quarters of the way up before my body very clearly said, 'Enough.' This wasn't exactly Hitting the Wall but, all of a sudden, as though a switch had been turned off, I had absolutely no more energy left. Zero. So I walked. And as soon as I slowed down, I felt sick. As in, really sick. As in, 'looking around to find some bushes to empty my guts into if necessary' sick. The urge passed with some deep breathing and focusing on the scenery rather than on my roiling innards, and I was able to run again, although the time spent running decreased and the time spent walking increased for the rest of the race.
I had a bit more water at mile 6 with no ill effects and decided to chance my luck with an energy gel as well. At approximately mile 6.5, and for the next mile or so, the route went through an industrial estate. The narrow corridors acted like a wind tunnel (for yes, there was definitely a stiff breeze blowing, as I had feared might be the case) and the lack of any spectators aside from some bemused-looking mechanics made this a difficult section. I got through it with what felt like lots of walking but which, looking at my splits for miles 5 through 8 (10:29, 11:44, 11:24, and 11:23), probably was less than I thought at the time.
|I puked. Damn. I could have stopped.|
And that was kind of the end of the race for me. Although I felt much better for having emptied my system, I simply did not have anything left in my legs and no way of reliably getting any hydration or nutrition into myself. I was hot, thirsty, dizzy, queasy, and crampy. I briefly thought about quitting but, when I saw one of the marathon runners limping along in front of me - obviously in pain, unable to run - and saw him hobble on past one of the support ambulances without even slowing down...well, if he wasn't quitting, I wasn't either.
|About 1 mile from the end.|
I might have puked into the bushes in front of hundreds of strangers but I still have some pride. I WAS going to run the last half-mile. And I did. My head was spinning and my guts were rumbling, but I averaged an 8:41 pace for the last quarter-mile. In your face, gastroenteritis!
And then it was over. Bassman found me, got me back to the flat, bought me some icy cold Coke (which I promptly threw up but it was worth it), and I slept for 15 hours. We're back home now and I'm still recovering but at least I'm keeping liquids down again...and I'm pleased to report that my legs don't hurt at all.
My stats? I finished in 2:32:18. I was 652nd out of 1246 women, and 43rd out of 108 women in my age group. Definitely not last, and very solidly middle of the pack.
I will never be a fast runner. I will never be a Good for Age runner. Even at my best, I'm still middle of the pack, so I try not to judge whether or not I've had a successful race by my time or by where I fall in the rankings. To me, if I finish a race feeling that I have given it my all and that I have run to the absolute best of my ability on that day, then that's enough.
And for this race, on this particular day, I couldn't have done any more.
|Everyone gets the same medal. Very egalitarian.|