Well, by now, unless you happen to be the North Pond Hermit (It’s fascinating. Read about him), you’re aware that every social gathering that might result in more than 10 people in proximity to each other has been cancelled or suspended. As much as the Asheville Marathon did what it could to put up a front that they were going to try and host the event, the obviously heeded the advice of the CDC and cancelled the event.
Now, this was supposed to be a “special” race for me. It was my 20th marathon – as best as I could count between medals, swag, and reviewing social media (I started running before I was allowed to have Facebook… Remember that? When you needed a student email to sign up for FB?). The Asheville Marathon also landed on my birthday and it seemed like a perfectly good excuse to get invite some friends down, run together, and show off my amazing new home and surrounding area. Blah, blah, blah – yea, we all know how I felt about that in my blogpost “Taper Crazies + COVID…” (Read about it here: https://runningyogimom.blog/2020/03/14/taper-crazies-covid-crazies-virtual-ultra/)
Spoiler alert – I realized 8 miles in I wasn’t going to make it 36 miles. But I committed to finishing the marathon I was registered for. And what choice did I have? I had been training for this since early December and it seemed foolish to throw in the towel. So I planned a route, a loop at our local Fletcher Park, where there was enough room to be “socially distant” (ugh, I have such disdain for this word and we’re only 11 days in), and also easy for any friends to join and loop at their own pace if they were so inclined. I also knew it would make “aid stations” simple as they had plenty of restroom facilities, hands-free handwashing stations, and I had my access to my car every 4.5 miles or so if I needed any additional supplies that weren’t already in my pack.
The morning of my run, my brain woke up a little before 3am. This has been happening a lot lately – waking and just laying there, not able to fall back asleep… In fact, the morning of the race I realized I had actually slept through the night three times over the previous ten days. By 4:30am I had resigned to just making coffee and spending the extra time stretching and reading. I had received a really nice text message from one of my team members from work that just about brought tears to my eyes. People – understand this: it costs you nothing to support other people, and it takes barely any of your time. Why wouldn’t we do it more?
Clara woke up just in time to send me off and give me a birthday hug. I had eaten peanut butter toast and had a Clif bar to munch on during the 20-minute drive to the park. I headed out with my hydration pack, nutrition, an extra hoodie for post-run, and a pre-charged battery for my phone in case it needed a little boost mid-run. I wasn’t sure if anyone would join me, so I had downloaded a new audiobook to listen to during my event: Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnald.
The sunrise Sunday morning was stellar. I mean completely insane. I actually had to pull over to savor it because I have rarely seen colors like that! What a treat, and a clear “Happy Birthday” from Mother Nature.
I arrived to the park just before 7:30am. Perks of not having an actual event to attend: you just roll up and start running. There aren’t any shenanigans, it’s just that simple. It almost felt too odd, really. I started my audiobook, and headed out for my miles. There were a few people there already, but not enough to feel like I wasn’t respecting a 6-foot bubble if I treated everyone like they’re a fucking rattlesnake.
I got a message from my realtor and first friends in WNC, Marlene, that she would be joining me mid-morning. Around 8:30am she messaged that she was on her way. The same team member who had sent me the amazing text message also sent a message that she was coming to the park! Amazing, I would take any social interaction and distraction I could get. By this point I realized it wasn’t going to be an easy run. My training cycle had been incredible, but the circumstances over the prior ten days had prevented me from eating and sleeping well, and with deprivation in both fronts, I was in line for the struggle bus.
My BRF and one of my best friends in life, the first friend I truly made in Maryland, was also committed to running the full marathon by looping her neighborhood. Another bonus when you plan your race route: you can build in where your “aid stations” are. She had started just a few minutes after me 500+ miles away. As I mentioned before, I was about 8 miles in when I realized I wasn’t going to make 36. My miles were turning slowly but I kept the first 13 so consistent:
(1) 11:04 – (2) 11:10 – (3) 11:35 – (4) 11:17 – (5) 11:13 – (6) 11:16 – (7) 12:23 (Bathroom) – (8) 11:36 – (9) 11:15 – (10) 10:48 (got excited because Sam and Marlene joined me!) – (11) 11:13 – (12) 11:16 – (13) 11:19
I have no idea why it started to fall apart so badly after this. Maybe it was the gravel pathway taking it’s toll on my body. It’s just a different kind of surface to hit. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, or the lack of nutrition, or the emotional exhaustion. Probably all of the above, but it really started to hit me hard and my body was just beginning to break down. My commitment to run this without stopping my watch, as though recording my “event” as “chip time” would shows the decline:
(14) 12:29 – (15) 13:17 – (16) 11:52 – (17) – 11:48 – (18) 16:36 (said goodbye to Sam and took a long stretch break)
Marlene continued with me, plugging along. This was her longest run since the Houston Marathon in January. She’s a speedy woman, super inspiring, and I honestly just wanted to give her the longest, tightest hug for her support. Fuck you, social distancing.
(19) 11:48 – (20) 13:37 – (21) 14:43 – (22) 14:10 – My hubby shows up pushing Clara in the stroller and Landon’s on the bike to help me finish! Marlene checks out at this point, pushing me to just finish the last loop. With the best side kicks I could ask for by my side, I headed out for the last 4+ miles.
(23) 16:33 – (24) 12:46 – (25) 14:19 – (26) – 12:25 – Total: 26.2 miles, 5:26:13 (“chip time”), 12:27/mi
I collapsed at the “finish line.” There was just so much pain in my legs and in my brain. Different pain – definitely a different kind of energy from pushing off on gravel. I ended up with blisters which NEVER happens. The weather would have been a perfect day to run a marathon. 50-something and overcast with a cool breeze. I facetimed with Melissa after she finished her run. We probably would have paced each other perfectly together if we had the chance.
Anyway, the race is over. How anti-climactic. I ran 26.2 miles on my 36th birthday and then ate almost an entire pizza by myself, had two Sierra Nevada beers (#jobsecurity, right?), shared a super rich piece of peanut butter pie with my family, took the longest, hottest shower I could handle, indulged in two short naps, and spent the entire day with my family, facetiming and skyping anyone possible throughout the day.
I did what most runners do after a hard run: swore off marathons. I’m definitely “over” the distance. I have nothing to prove there. I’m satisfied with my Chicago Marathon PR (Read that recap here: https://runningyogimom.blog/2019/10/24/3808/). Re-thinking my running goals for 2020, maybe I’ll focus on speed for fall races. I am too nervous to register for anything right now because of COVID19, but I have my eye on the Philly Half. It lines up well because it’s close to Chad’s family, reasonable driving distance for my Maryland and Pennsylvania friends if anyone wants to join, and it’s the weekend before Thanksgiving!
I do have a lingering leg issue right now that I need to focus on rehabbing. I’ve had it checked out by a few doctors and there’s an overarching theme to what they all have said: weakness, more strength training needed. I did really well the last 3-4 weeks incorporating 2-4 strength training sessions per week, focusing primarily on my glutes and core. I guess I just keep that up and I should probably do more yoga. Everyone needs more yoga right now.
Overall, I doubt I’ll participate in this race if it were to be put on again. I have a few really credible connections in the Asheville running community and there’s not a lot of great things being said about them outside of how they handled this. I have also been really annoyed with their blog updates regarding the race and swag for the virtual. Perhaps they’re just stating the facts, but the way they word things makes it sound like they’re begging for sympathy instead of coming from an empathetic place. There’s a big difference between the two. One focuses on understanding and the other feels like pity. Citing the race director’s own illness, claiming how much money they lost on the event, ‘we know you’re having issues but look at how much harder it is for meeeeee‘… I don’t know, perhaps everything they’re saying is true, but the way they’re communicating is so condescending. I hold much more respect for other organizations and it would behoove many of us to reflect on how we’re reacting and communicating during these times.
I was inspired by a podcast recently and wanted to share some final thoughts. I rode the struggle bus most of the way during this run, to be honest. It’s been at least 3 years since I’ve had such a shitty “race.” I couldn’t help but think about how much I just missed a simple hug. There are other “normal” things I’m missing, but darn it – just a hug… I would have hugged everyone I came across during my run if I could! It’s amazing how much we might take normalcy for granted and oh, what I would give to just go back to “normal” again!
I have often fallen into traps of chasing the big highs (skydiving, thrill-seeking, etc), and big achievements or big moments in life and I have found myself almost seeking those moments at times. It’s a good – and frankly rude as of late – reminder of how easy it can be to undervalue and under-appreciate “normal.” Let’s be sure to savor those simple things right now…