I won’t bury the lede — I finished in 1:49:19, which was my “it would be cool if” goal, otherwise known as my “pie in the sky” goal. I knew I could theoretically do it. But I also knew I’d need to have a pretty awesome day to run 8:20-minute miles for 13.1 miles.
So … I did! Perfect weather — cold at the start, chilly but no wind throughout. It was a gorgeous course, with awesome views of the Washington Monument and neighborhoods like Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle. For a few solid miles of the race, runners were treated to views of the Capitol looming ahead of them. This made even the rolling hills that plagued me the whole race seem bearable, as did some awesome cheering sections. My favorites were the dudes at Howard University, who were blasting Dr. Dre and shouting words of encouragement to everyone who passed.
I set out with the 8:23-minute-mile pace group provided by the Naval Academy’s Marathon Team, hoping to hang on as long as I could. I was dismayed to note how tired I felt — until we passed the two-mile mark in about 16 minutes. “We’d better pull back a little,” one pacer said to another. You think?
They took the next mile slower, but I still lost the pacer’s orange balloon somewhere after the first big hill. I was too focused on not dying to check my watch, so I assumed I’d gotten really, really slow. I didn’t realize until I saw the pace breakdown — 8:20-minute miles — that I realized they must have been really, really fast.
Luckily, I had my own Naval Academy pace team as backup. Steve was waiting at mile 7, and surprised me by finishing the race with me from there. He ever-so-gently pushed me to run a few miles at 8-minute -mile pace. I responded somewhat gracefully to the pressure, with only one angry exclamation of “DUDE!” when he got five paces ahead of me.
I’m so grateful to him for being my cheerleader and running buddy, and so grateful to all my other buddies — running and otherwise — for texting, calling and e-mailing to wish me luck. When I started this blog, I was kinda horrified by the whole idea of it. I’ve always shied away from publicly sharing goals of any sort; it seemed vain and absurd to think that anyone would care that much about a middle-of-the-packer shooting for, by many standards, mediocre goals.
But I was missing out on all the awesome support my friends and family were ready and waiting to offer. That support, in various ways, carried me through the race.
At the beginning of the race, I thought about my friend Jen’s sister, who runs a 17:45 5K, telling me to just relax and enjoy it. At the first hill, I thought about Courtney, who recorded a video of herself chirping “Keep going! Don’t stop! Keep going!” in a Nemo-esque voice. On a downhill, when I needed motivation to push myself, I thought about my friend Nicole telling me to “run the f—” out of the race, as it’s something I can control even when the rest of life is out of my hands. And I thought about my friend Sarah, who says she calls the last mile her “guts and glory” mile, where she runs her guts out to pass everyone she can.
I didn’t pass anyone, but I ran so hard, my hamstrings hurt. Like, as if I was doing hamstring curls at the gym. Like, bad enough that had I not been literally gasping for air, I would have screamed, “Ouch!” Or maybe something stronger.
Luckily, I had Sarah’s favorite pump-up song, P!nk’s “So What,” to fuel me through it. Speaking of music, I would have choked without my friend Chris’ iPod filling in for mine, which is allegedly on its way back to me from the iPod hospital via FedEx.
Anyway: Thanks. To everyone. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some carbs to replenish …