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Nike Women’s Marathon Race Report

Let’s get the details out of the way.  Right now.

5:58:16, a 13:40 pace

121/212, 57%

I’ve started to write this report a dozen times.  I’m not sure that I can capture exactly what this race has been for me. 

PRE-RACE:  It all starts Friday, when my Mom and sister come up to be my cheer squad, and to take my sons to San Francisco for the race.  We are up late…my sister helping me pack and re-pack.  Getting everything laid out, then put back in. 

Saturday morning comes bright and early.  I wake with a stomach ache.  *that kind*…I get up at 4am, go back to sleep, get up…all marathoners must know this drill.  Sleep, wake, look at clock.

At 6am, I am finally packed, have my bowl of oatmeal and am driving to San Francisco, about 80 minutes away.  It’s dark.  I had planned on taking the BART, but switched at the last minute, and am so happy that I did.  Can’t even imagine dragging luggage today.

I check into my hotel, and decide to walk over to the Expotique.   img_1850

I decide that Nike is a machine, it’s all a racket, am very cynical.  I get some oxygen…I look like I’m sick here, but whatever. img_1844

I even stand in line for an hour to get a free manicure.  I look up.  The poster that would inspire me the rest of the weekend.  Two girls.  Happy finishers.

And…the Mother Ship.  NikeTown.

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I’m sitting doing the manicure, and get a tweet from @anotorias, aka Jennifer, who is…in the building.  We have chatted on Twitter, but we go to Macy’s to get a coffee, and spend a lot of time talking about nothing at all…racing, running, folks.

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My children ride spin bikes to make a smoothie. (what?)

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Just as soon as I’ve decided that it’s all a big racket, I see a crowd in front of NikeTown.  I think they are all in line to go in the store.  People are taking pictures.  We stroll over there, and see that it’s a wall.  A wall of names of people who raised money for TNT.  Suddenly, I realize I’m on that wall.

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And, I almost cry.

This is where it gets really boring…everyone does this…lay out their gear, the food, the stuff that goes in the fuel belt…and oddly, I’m not nervous.  We go to the TNT Inspiration Dinner, which is a whole other post.  I will cry.  I will.  We go to meet the team, and CharlieBob gives us our last instructions.  He’s dead serious.  One of the girls is slightly tipsy, and he seems irritated, because he has said…no alcohol!  We are told to be in the lobby at 6am sharp.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

RACE DAY:  I wake up at 2am.  At 3:30, I’m still awake.  I put on my relaxation music.  It just wakes me up more.  I figure, what the heck.  Might as well get up.  Next thing I know I wake in a sweat, and it’s 4:45am.  I take a shower.  3 Alarms go off…and, it’s on.

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I meet CharlieBob downstairs.

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This is, literally, minutes before I am lost in the crowd.  I don’t know where anyone is.  I don’t know where I’m supposed to go.  I have my 12-14:09 orange bracelet, so I know I have to find orange.  I can’t find my Mom, my sister, my kids.  SpeedySasquatch, who at the 11th hour came in to coach me on my final moments last week, suggested I line up at the back of the corral.  Great advice, but I can’t find the corral.  Don’t even know what it looks like.  Is it wood? Iron?

I turn and see my kids.  The loudspeaker says something about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society…and that Myeloma…and that’s all I hear.  My mother looks at me, and says, “Did you hear that?”  We weren’t sure if Myeloma was a blood cancer, supported by the LLS.  My grandfather died of this in 1970.  The only grandfather I will ever know, and I loved him so much.  My sister got out her sharpie, and along with the other names on my arm, wrote, “Grandpa Eddy”.  I will cry again, but instead, I will play this in remembrance of him.  It’s a long story.  Another post.  (I’m the Silver Girl, in case you’re wondering)

I look to the left.  There’s the corral.  I have to hop in.  I’m in the very front.  I tell ya.  It was the thrill of the day for me.  The 5:30 pacer was right behind me.  I didn’t even really know what a pacer did…exactly.  I held signs, I snapped pictures.  I watched as everyone started.  Finally, 20 minutes later…we went.

RUNNING:  It’s hard to describe that first mile.  Overwhelmed.  Crowded.  Joyous.  The pacer?  I think to myself when she takes her first walk break…”No way.  I am not walking in MILE ONE!”

At Mile Two, I joined her, and was with her until Mile Twelve. {*note:  At mile 6, I knew I would finish.  Jennifer ran up and with me around mile 9 or 10. (HOW COOL!)  Then, the Half Marathoners split off to the side.*}

Let’s just say, my good senses overtook my pride, and I decided that if anyone could get me through this, the pacer could…and she took me to mile 12, until I had a very bad stomach ache…again.  I had to use the porta-potty.  So she stopped.  Then, while I’m deciding what to do she yells, “5:30 pacer is leaving the bathrooms!”  This just made me get OUT OF THERE.

And, I never saw her again.  Just that little red sign going farther and farther away from me.

At Mile 13.1, we turn around in Golden Gate Park.  I see other runners coming back, and I think…okay.  This is hard now.  The hills.  I was prepared for the hills.  I was not prepared to be alone, after running with *Deb*.  She had a whole other group now, and I was lost.

I turn the corner, and out of the blue I hear, “Hey, Linda…can I run with you?”  Her name is Michelle.  She is from Houston.  She is all supportive.  SURE!  I needed a partner right about then, and she was struggling…so I said, let’s do what the pacer does:  Run 5 minutes, Walk 1.  We did this the rest of the race…or a version of it. 

We had rules:  She said, I don’t run up hills.  I said, I walk if I want to.  Jockeying for position I guess.  I had to go to the bathroom.  In the woods.  She says, “Go ahead, I’ll cover ya.”  With this, she saved my life.  Seriously.  I would yell, “HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM”, which became our signal of distress.

At Mile 16, the Half Marathoners come in and Michelle says, whatever you do, don’t look right.  There is my sister and my sons, and my youngest yelling…”It’s right here, you can stop RIGHT HERE!”  To the right is the finish.  We are at Mile 16, and have to go to the left.

I see my Mother, and want to cry…but I have no pain.

Here’s where it gets sketchy.  We go out 3 miles.  We go up to Lake Merced (who puts a lake by an ocean?).  From mile 19-22, I am at the *Bite Me* miles.  I know I will keep running, but I am having a hard time.  My legs feel like lead.  My stomach hurts, I’m cramping…I stop at Mile 22 and get Tylenol from the First Aid…which is exactly what I needed.

The best part of the day:  Coming down from the lake, and running the last three miles.  At this point, I had no music.  I listened to the sound of feet, and the ocean.  Beautiful.  Zen.

Several times, people from TNT come out and run with me.  Michelle waits, but then I tell her she needs to go.  I need her to go.  She has done a great service to me, and I want her to finish strong.  I don’t even care how I do…but I look at my watch, and if I keep running, I can make 26.2 miles in under 6 hours.

I hear my sister yelling.  My kids are running up with me on the sides.  Taking pictures.  I see my Mother.  Again.  I know she is proud of me.

I am so close.  I start to sprint.  I call up Granny in heaven, who doesn’t even need to give me that push again…but she does…and I thank her (again, another post).  I am vaguely aware that Michelle has turned around to look at me and cheer me in.

I sprint.  I remember the times in Jr. High when I ran with my dad.  The times on the track team when I’m last, and my family is in the stands waiting for me.  I remember my Dad yelling to sprint on our street.  And, I am sprinting. 

I look up at the clock.  I make it under 6 hours.  I get a blue box from a man in a tuxedo, which seriously was fabulous, but I couldn’t see a thing.  I take the box, and I cannot move.  People are hugging.  I don’t even know what to do.

Michelle comes up to me.  I hug her and say “Thanks Michelle!”  She says, “that’s not my name…I have a really hard name, so it’s easier to say Michelle.”  This makes me laugh, and then I cry like a baby.  A total stranger.  Who ran with me over half of the race.  Who pulled me when I wanted to stop. 

Her name is Najat. 

I cry.  I’ve done it…but not alone. 

More to come later…when I can process what this means to me…but I think I’ve found my race.  It’s the Marathon.  It is.

 

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38 thoughts on “Nike Women’s Marathon Race Report

  1. OMG I am sitting here with tears in my eyes and I don’t know why I’m crying except at the fact that you shared such an amazing experience and I am SO PROUD of you for digging in and so excited that you had people who reached out to touch you and make your moments and memories of this day so extraordinary.

    Congratulations / Great Job!

    With much respect and a friendship that spreads the miles. Linda I am glad to have you in my life.

  2. That made me cry! Thanks for sharing it. I am so proud of you. Now I have to go find a tissue….

    Congrats on such an amazing accomplishment!

  3. linda,
    great job!! hope you will read this short note. all the while reading your reflection i am reminded those winter days when you had the kids run their mile. i remember watching in awe how you inspired them, all of them, no matter what kind of shape, size, they all ran. in the end the “mile” became a symbol of all that we tried to do at veritas!! finally how appropriate it is that i read your account during my reading of story of Jacob’s 21 years struggle against his uncle Leban. like you he never gave up and in the end he finished his race, today a nation is name after him!! so it is with you, a testimony of faith and dedication. God bless.
    George “24″

  4. Thanks for sharing that. That is Awesome.. That has been on my bucket list to do, and now its pushed to the top!!!
    Take Care,

  5. Okay. Stop it! Stop it! You’re making me get all emotional on you…

    I am *soooooo* glad that you had a good experience! And I *wish* I could be so noble as to run for someone else.

    An I’ve gotta tell you – this running thing is doing you good. I remember an early photo of you and CB. You say you’ve lost 10 pounds? You lie! (It’s gotta be 20 to 30!!!)

    I hope we get a chance to connect at some point up or down the coast. I’ve decided that L.A. is my next Marathon, and will *probably* do San Francisco is July (no sure full or half).

    Now it’s time to recover. Take it easy the next few weeks. Keep it happening! One foot in front of the other…..

  6. Great report and congratulations to you for completing what very few people ever consider. Be proud and remember this feeling.

    All the best,

    Ron

  7. I am so proud of you. you did such an amazing job. your race report is so touching, and you were amazing out there. so glad you found people to support you…but you supported them as well. racers always help each other out.

    you are a marathoner, well done my friend.

  8. Darn you…I’m sitting here just drinking coffee on a lovely morning and you go and make me CRY! :-) Congratulations, Linda, on an amazing accomplishment! Thank you for raising money for TNT and for sharing your experiences in this blog. You are an inspiration to us all.

    I’m calling you MsMarathoner now!

  9. Linda!
    What an terrific expereince. The race is a manifestation of your inner strength. Own it & Value it!
    Peace,
    Brenda

  10. OMG I am crying I am such a little girl. So happy for you and your accomplishment. I *LOVED* that we got to spend some time together and chat on Saturday!!!

    Yay! mile 9+10 (knew I’d find you!) it was the roughest part of the half for me – your S! cap saved my life.

    Congratulations again, you’re effin awesome!

  11. So glad to have found your blog!!!! congrats!!!! I just signed on for my 3rd season with TNT (2nd as a mentor) and am hoping to run this race next year. You did such an awesome job and capture the emotion of it all incredibly!!!

  12. HUGE CONGRATS!!!! You did an amazing job and I am totally inspired by your race report! Great job Linda!

    ps….Lake Merced can totally bite it!

  13. Linda, I actually cried when I read your report. What an awesome race you had and with such support. You are blessed to have people with you to cheer you on! AND a complete stranger helping you. What a God sent angel she was.

    Congratulations again on your marathon! It was great.

  14. wow that is all i can say, i am so out of shape that i don’t think i could run around my back yard let alone 26 miles. congradulations on a job well done….. you definatly have my support even though we have never met!!!

  15. Just clicked over from Spike’s shout out and my goodness girl… I am welled up with tears over here. I am so proud of you and this post is so emotional and joyous and I’m just in awe. Congrats. Bask in the after glow. You deserve it a million times over. You are a marathon finisher!!!!

  16. Lin,

    I’m so proud of you! What an amazing, inspirational weekend. I’m so glad I could be a part of it. You’re a strong woman to finish such a tough race! I love you!

    La

  17. I knew you could do it Linda but must admit you had me worried a few weeks ago when things weren’t going so well for you and your training. Awesome job and great race report. Now have you started thinking about the next one yet?

  18. CONGRATULATIONS!! What an inspiration you are to us all. Hopefully someday I will experience a 5k. FEAR to even type that! Anyhow, GO DO MORE GOOD STUFF, MORE GOOD STUFF!!

  19. I was in tears reading this – you captured all the elements of life in this one marathon posting. You are brave, real, courageous, open, afraid, loving, tough and soft all in one day. Your spirit is changed. It is so much more alive. Thank you for completing this goal. My spirit is strangely touched by this, too. Proud of you, Girl! Thank you for sharing it all with us…but that’s who you are now – one big generous soul!

  20. When sharing this with Dad I said that at the age of 73, this was truely one of my most inspirational 2 days of my life. To watch you come running in after close to 6 hours, with a smile on your face, and when you saw your boys, well I will never forget it! Then to see them take off running along the fence beside you, well I know Laura and I were lucky to see EVERYTHING with you for those 2 days. You knew you would make it, and we knew too. God is good, and he was right beside you all the way darling. I love you and am so happy tonight for our first born!! Love, Mom

    Well, I’m sorry I wasn’t there for the excitement! You should be proud of finishing but prouder still of your support of the cause. It was also great that the boys could participate in your success. Love, Dad

  21. Congrats!! Nothing like your first marathon. You brought tears of joy to my eyes and memories of my first marathon and how the feeling once I reached Lake Merced and just wanted it to be over.. You did it and know you know you can do it again.

  22. Just over one year ago, I ran the NWM 2008, which was my very first ever marathon. Reading your race report brought a huge smile to my face as I recalled so many memories from last year’s event…

    ….the overwhelming emotion of finding my name on the Niketown wall, the pasta party (I’m from NYC TNT chapter!), the hills, the beautiful view along Ocean Bay Drive, the pure hell that is Lake Merced, the tears when I crossed the finish line and received my Tiffany’s box…

    …thank you so much for sharing this and CONGRATULATIONS.

    -sarah (@worldrunner)

    http://sestafford.wordpress.com/2008/10/19/many-the-miles/

  23. I don’t know what mile it was but somewhere in the residential area I look in a window of a home on the street and it says “go ms V”. After reading all of your tweets, I knew this was for you! Great job! Sounds like you are hooked like me. GO TEAM!

  24. Great report. I love the random people who help at long distance events. Couldn’t have made it through my first 1/2 without my own Najat. I love the endurance sports community.

    Sorry I missed you in SF.

  25. Congrats on the marathon!! i got goosebumps reading it! It is amazing who we meet on our journeys! She was your angel during the race!

  26. Well done, well done, well done!!! Congratulations!!! I’m so proud of you. Well written race report to boot. You are one amazing lady.

    Glory in your achievement. You more than deserve it.

  27. A HUGE congratulations to you! I am so proud of you and your accomplishments! I got choked up several times reading this…and found it very inspirational! So glad your family was there to cheer you on…as I’m sure they are quite proud too! So, when is your next marathon??!!

  28. Hi Linda! I clicked over from Spike’s post . . . and holy moly, am I glad I did! This was one of the best race reports I’ve ever read. How amazing that you met such a wonderful woman to accompany you through those tough miles. I’ve always said they hurt a lot less if you can share the pain with someone else. Congrats, congrats, congrats! You are a marathoner!! How cool is that?! :)

  29. isn’t it crazy to see your name on that wall..I don’t know why it’s so emotional, but it totally is.

    you are a real trooper and what an amazing thing to have found an angel when you needed it! I love it

  30. what a wonderful post!!! It made me think and remember my first marathon and the emotions I felt!!! I’m so glad you had such amazing support! You did an AWESOME job!!!

  31. Absolutley outstanding. You trained hard, you raced hard and you left it all on the course.

    I am really impressed with your ethic and privileged to be your friend!

    Congrats again!

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