Until Sunday, I felt like the marathon and I really weren't good friends. Early morning wake ups, solo double digit miles, consumption of more Gus and salt pills than I can count, and the inevitable marathon chunk up had me doubting the distance. Let's face it: half marathons are soo much easier to commit to, and you can still eat lots of cheeseburgers during training.
I ran Space Coast last year and was quite disappointed in the result. I trained hard for a sub-four hour marathon and came up quite short (4:08:41). I thought about that race all year. This go-round was all about redemption.
The wake up call Sunday morning was a woefully early 4:00 a.m. My friend Kathryn, her boyfriend Craig, and I made the hour long trek to Cocoa Village and arrived just after the half marathon took off. There was a small amount of confusion as to the exact location of the port-potties, which led to me peeing in a bush. (I am from Alabama, after all.)
With minutes left to spare, I found Michelle, Paula, and Tyler lined up behind the 4:15 pacers. The gun went off, and before I knew it, we were running.
My plan was to run around a 9:10 - 9:30 the first two miles, and then drop down to 8:45 and hold it as long as possible. I know how I run: my first couple miles are slow; my middle miles are fast; and I typically fade towards the end.
By mile ten, I had a feeling this would be my day. By then, I was easily running 8:30s, even with the blazing sun (spoiler alert: it was in the mid-70s, and I ended up with a sunburn).
I made a friend during miles 5-14, and we spent a lot of the time casually chatting. I hit the half point at just under 1:54. The pace was quite comfortable, even with the heat. (For fueling, I took a Gu every four miles and a salt pill every three. I probably didn't need that much Gu, but whatever - it worked.)
Last year, I bonked hard at mile 19 and again at 20. This year was so different. "Life's A Happy Song" from the Muppets moving came on at mile 17, and I was actually smiling and singing along. I hit mile 20 around 2:54 and still felt great. It was very bizarre to feel so good this late in a marathon.
I did slow down at little during 23-25, and my miles went up to even 9:00s. By 25, I knew that I needed to run a sub-9:00 mile to ensure a 3:49 finish. I literally prayed for God to help me through the mile (I know - cheesy), but it worked. I ran an 8:45.
The unfortunate part about finishing Space Coast is that there is a really, really long finisher's chute and you are finishing with half marathoners who started thirty minutes prior to you. Thus, the half marathoners around me were finishing around 4:20. Whatever - - - do what you need to do, but I was dodging gaggles of walkers in the chute - not cool since I was freaking sprinting to get under 3:50. Further, the chute isn't closed off to pedestrians. It was an awkward .2 miles.
But I did it: 3:49:39 - 19 minute PR. I had hit my A goal.
After the race, I was shocked that I could walk pretty well. Last year I was practically paralyzed. I got my finisher's towel, sat down on the grass, and drank the most delicious Coke Fatty of my life. And I smiled, because it was very sweet redemption after such a crappy race last year.
I've got Disney coming up in about a month, and I'm already scheming for taking a couple minutes off my time. Or not. We shall see how it goes.