Run a marathon. It seemed like a good idea 3 months ago. How hard could it be? Do the training, get the miles in, and then run the race. I wanted to do it just to see if I could (and for the magnet!) and it was one of Jen’s goals before she turned 40. We sat down together with a training schedule at the annual summer H.A.R.D. picnic and mapped out our 12 week training schedule. In order to get the majority of the training in before the last marathon of the season in the area, we had to jump right into week 7 of a 16 week schedule. No big deal. We’d been running all summer and had a good base. We committed by registering for the Philly Marathon just before the price jumped from $102 to $132. Surprisingly Nicole registered at the very last minute. After her first experience with a marathon – getting a stress fracture during the race – I didn’t think she’d ever do one again. Woohoo. Then there were three.
So the training began. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Up at 4:30am. Drive into Annville and meet at Shawn’s at 5:00 am. The rest of the running group adjusted to our schedule. Whatever we were supposed to run, they ran. As the midweek long runs on Tuesday got longer, we moved the starting time back to 4:45, and then to 4:30. Members of the group still showed up to run. Then the weekend long runs started building the mileage. A few of the group members were still hanging in there with us. We worked on Bonnie. “Come on Bonnie, you’re getting in all the mileage, you might as well get something to show for it. Run your first marathon with us.” She caved and then there were four. Nydia was such a steam engine of our long runs, I felt sure we’d be able to crack her. But nope. She remained sane as did Michelle and Janelle.
And the training continued. Friday night/Saturday morning long runs, mostly in the dark. Wearing reflective vests, red blinking lights, and head lamps. Adding a few tenths of a mile to every run because of all the weaving back and forth to the opposite side of the road to get away from the traffic. There was the brutal 14 miler…possibly the most difficult time I’ve ever had during a run. Then the 16 mile run on a Friday night when it should have been starting to get cool out but was still 80 degrees when we finished at 9pm. And we’ll never forget the hilly 19 miler where we were almost charged by a bull, startled by a groundhog only a couple feet away, got freaked out by 2 cats fighting in a cornfield, looked at the beautiful sky full of bright stars well outside the town limits, listened to rustlings of other living creatures as we passed by the woods (quickly), and then invited ourselves over to the hot tub of one of the HARD Runner members. (Thanks for the towels, sweat shirts, and hot tub Steve and Brenda!!!) There was the 22 miler on a Saturday morning where we finished feeling great and knowing we’d be able to complete the marathon.
During all these runs, there was the AWESOME support crew showing up when we needed them most with Gatorade, water, gloves, energy beans, Vaseline, and anything else we could possibly need – Shawn, Nydia, Nydia’s husband, Bonnie and Dennis, and Kathy J.! At one point Kathy J. (there’s no other Kathys that we need to differentiate between, we just call her Kathy J.) literally gave me the socks off of her feet when my socks wore through, causing blisters on a long run. And during one support stop, we got some poor guy out of bed with our whooping and hollering because he thought there was a car accident out in front of his house. Sorry about that mister!
We ran through ups and downs: hurting feet, bladder infections, pee stops in corn fields (and in the middle of the road – it was dark!), setting new mileage records together, second winds, chafing, blisters, blips, cramps, and a COLD, WINDY, 10-miler (BRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!). I discovered that all modesty, inhibitions, and self-consciousness go out the door sometime between mile 16 and 19. I’m not sure you ever fully recover them.
And then came race weekend. I rode down to Philly with Shawn on the Saturday before the race. We arrived before 8am to get the keys from her son for his apartment before he left for the weekend for a wedding. We were all (all 7 of us, that is – the 4 of us newbie marathoners, Shawn, our matriarch, and Al and Ann, lovebirds and experienced marathoners) staying there for the race the next morning. When the running expo opened, we headed down to the convention center to check things out and pick up the race packets. We got back early afternoon and napped while waiting for the others to show up. They arrived, unloaded and we all piled into Jen’s van to take a spin around the race route. 1.5 miles and 1.5 hours of Jen’s expert maneuvering through a gridlocked city later, we gave up on that quest and parked and headed into the expo. Then it was back to the apartment and Shawn’s awesome spaghetti with meatballs supper.
Lights out at 9. Then the problems began. Jen was battling a head cold and was having trouble sleeping. I was sleeping on a borrowed air mattress that leaked. Either I got up every half hour and reinflated it, slept on the floor, or figured something else out. Bonnie had a smaller matress that I put on top that did the trick. Off to counting sheep. Until the chainsaws arrived. I woke up at midnight to both Shawn and Bonnie sawing logs. Oh. My. Word. I turned over, double checked that my ear plugs were still in, pulled the pillow over my head and laid there until 1:30 when I couldn’t take it anymore. I jarred Bonnie’s mattress a little hoping she’d wake up enough to turn over. No such luck. I gathered up my sleeping bag and pillow and headed upstairs to a little 5X7 storage room off the hallway. I headed back downstairs to grab my mattress pad and found out Jen was still awake. She says, “I thought I could sleep through anything, “ and follows me up the steps. We were dying of laughter at the situation as quietly as possible. I burrowed into my new digs by the light of my cell phone while Jen set off the jet engine of a bathroom fan by flipping on the light. She came out blinded and we stood in the hallway laughing our heads off some more. I checked my email and finally fell back to sleep around 2.
5:30 came quickly. I headed back downstairs and we harassed Shawn and Bonnie about their snoring. In the middle of it my phone rang. What?? Who would be calling me at 5:30 on a Sunday morning. It was none other than Kelly from work to wish me luck. We chatted for a little and then I got ready for the big day. We headed over to the starting line in fashion. Running clothes with plastic bags with a hole cut out of the bottom for our head. They played the Rocky song for each wave of runners and then count down. 3-2-1-bang. We were the 7th and final wave to be set free.
Anyone that’s done any amount of running knows that on occasion you have a really good day and running is just effortless. And once in a while, you have a really bad day and running is just drudgery. Most days though, things are middle of the road. By mile 3, I knew that today was going to be a drudgery day. Ugh. Sometimes, nature just doesn’t cooperate and things happen when you don’t expect them. That was today. All I could do was the best I could. So I knew the time would come when I probably wouldn’t be able to keep up with our little group. I hung in there until the halfway point, perking up briefly when we passed other members of our group who came down to cheer us on and help run us in. Then I started falling back, running mostly on my own until mile 21 when who do I see ahead but Jen coming back to me. She started running with me. I asked her what the hell she thought she was doing. She had become the steam engine of the four of us over the past three months and was still running strong. She had no business coming back to drag me along. I tried my best to make her see reason. She gave me some drivel about not caring about the finishing time, but just wanting us to finish together. Shortly afterward Kathy J. jumped in with us. These two were awesome. I almost cried, I was so happy to have them with me even though I felt guilty for holding Jen back. Finally the end was in sight. Everyone from our group that came down to watch and help us was there at the finish line (Shawn, Erin, Marc, Kathy, Kris, Nydia, Dennis, Wendy, Sandy). Jen and I crossed the line and hugged and I burst into tears. We did it.
We followed through the corralled area and got our finisher medals and space blankets and then went through the food tent. Then we met up with our group in the designated area. I was doing my best to hold back the tears. Growing up I’d rarely ever had anyone come to watch my events – college saxophone recitals, concerts, marching band tournaments, basketball games, etc. So it really meant a lot to me that this group of friends were taking time out of their busy schedules and away from their families to drive all the way down to Philly to cheer us on and run us in and share in this achievement. I was touched.
We got pictures and then walked back to the apartment for showers. We loaded up and headed down the street to an Irish pub for good food and awesome company. It was the best ending to the weekend to sit and laugh over stories from the past few days (Are you going to wear THAT to run in?) and hear new stories from Bonnie. Just when you think you know someone…
Thanks for the great memories, H.A.R.D.!!! Don’t know how I’ll ever be able to thank you for all you do.
Now on to the next adventure. A triathlon maybe? Shhh. Don’t tell Wendy yet though. I’m not 100% sure of that yet.