As I started my 4 mile trek east on Marginal I was just a tad behind the 3:40 pace group. It was a lot smaller than I had thought it would be! I had not wanted to be stuck behind a huge group in the first half, but now with Marginal and a east-northeasterly wind (I can never win with this marathon!) I was hoping for a swarm of people to hide behind. I felt the wind immediately, which was quite refreshing from the baking I had done in the first half of the race. I don't know why I handle temps above 50 degrees so poorly, but I just do. I was once told muscle is a furnance and fat is an insulator. Well, I am insulated!
I decided to try and close the gap completely on the 3:40 pace group and hang with them through Marginal, but the wind was making it harder to catch them and my effort felt too hard. I resolved to just run the best I could until Marginal ended alone in the open wind. The forecast had sai winds at about 7 mph, but I dropped a few F-bombs, because of course it sure felt worse than that. I assume I ran high 8:20's to low 8:30's because the 3:40 group did get away from me a bit. I just kept telling myself to stay in control of your race until 2:45, then run with whatever you got. My legs still felt amazingly great. I felt no fatigue or tightness as we finished Marginal and headed for the 17th mile. I took my second and only other gel of the race about this time. The inflammation in my feet was hurting me a bit, but completely manageable. East Boulevard was to my relief fairly shaded and I took to running in the shade over running the tangents. I made the short steep climb around mile 18 and lost the pacer a little more, but that was okay. I wasn't dead set on 3:40, just finishing the best I could. I remember checking the mile clocks around this time to make sure I wasn't slowing as I ran through each mile. It seemed I was still clipping off an even pace. The turn down Martin Luther King brought some excitement because I knew mile marker 20 was just up ahead. I think I crossed somewhere around 2:48:00. I was definietely dissappointed with the time because of the three 20-milers I had run in March, none, not one was over 2:45:00. I ran down to St. Clair and made the sharp left turn to make the last short, but steep climb on the course. I was really hot and not wanting to stress too much to climb it I took it nice and easy, almost at a walk. I look back and think maybe I was too lazy about some of my miles, but at the time it felt like the any harder effort would have been out of my comfort zone.
Now, if I thought I was hot in the first half of the race, this part became down right miserable for me. I was so hot I started dumping as much water on myself as I could at every aid station. My shorts were soaked my bra was soaked, but I was still hot. As I trotted through the ghetto, my feet felt on fire. I would have been miserable except my legs were still moving me without any pain. My hamstring had run 21 miles for me and was still going strong, no twinges of pain, no tightness, nada. I so wanted to pick up the pace, but I was so hot and miserable I figured that would last for a half mile and then I would be running back at the current pace or slower, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other (left/right/left/right: ouch-ouch-ouch-ouch).
I think right after I passed the 23 mile marker I reached the lowest point in my race, but E-speed was just ahead screaming and hollering tyring to lift up every marathoner in sight. I know I smiled on the inside, but not sure what my face was doing. She was kind enough to run with me and chat me up with lots of positive energy. I didn't believe a word she said though. When she would tell me how I was looking good or running strong, the voice in my head kept responding "you suck, you got nothing, you look like shit!" E-speed had her garmin on so I didn't even worry about my pace, she just kept dragging me along throught the last few miles like a mom drags a kid out of their favorite toy store kicking and screaming (except I was just screaming on the inside that I didn't want to go!!!) I was tired. My respiratory muscles wanted a break. I was sitting on the edge of blowing up. I kept running thinking "This is like running with AH. She is so fast and probably killing herself trying to run this slow like he does! I suck." I tried to relax my body and keep my breathing effort even. I didn't want E-speed to know how much it hurt to run that pace. I was ashamed I wasn't able to run faster.
As we came down the last mile she really put my ass to the coals pretty much insisting I needed to run faster. She all but got behind me and pushed me toward the finish line. I tried my best and heard her say we were sub-8's. I was hurting pretty bad. I wanted to let up, but my friend had come back to help me and my pride got the better of me. I couldn't give up. I got mad and swore out loud as E-speed and I made a deal. We turned onto Euclid and the finish might as well have been 26 more miles away. I couldn't even see it. She again reminded me I needed to go faster and I was going to have to "work" for the finish. I picked up the pace the best I could and ran for the invisible finish. Finally, just as E-speed pulled off she gave me one last warning to pick it up and GO!! I looked at my watch and it said 3:38:xx. I was still about .2 of a mile from the finish. Oh, God!!! I hadn't meant to cut it that close. I ran for the mats as fast as I could, faster than I had run all race. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to shit my pants. I could finally feel hints of cramps starting throughout my legs, but I kept pushing. I wasn't going to make it. I was not gonna PR and I was going to miss getting a Boston Qualifying time by less than one minute. I was panicking. Everything in me wanted to slow, but the word "F*U*C*K!!!!!" flashed through my mind. I would not let this end by me slowing down. I kept running as hard as I could. I heard my dad yell, but couldn't allow myself the fraction of a second distraction. I have run three marathons and hobbled into the finish at everyone, but not this day. My fourth marathon I finished strong and with my fastest mile of the entire race being my last. I sprinted down the line with everything I had and hit the mat in 3:40:01.
I started the day with the 4 hour pacer just hoping to finish "running." I finished "sprinting" and much sooner than I had thought.
***I just want to wrap this up by saying thanks to my aunt for talking me into this, my mom (my lucky charm) who has been at every marathon who has made this a team effort with all her support and inspiration, my dad for showing me there are some advantages to being stubborn and to E-speed for pushing me to raise the bar. ****