Once I get to the last 5k in any race, I know I’ll make it in. I always say, “You can suffer through 5 kilometers of anything.”
I was hot and tired and sore. But not 24 miles into a marathon sore. I knew I’d make it in. But I was ready to be done and I knew we had ‘the last nasty hill’ between me and the finish.
In the last mile of the half and full courses, there is a very steep, long hill. It’s mean actually. It’s the steepest hill I remember on any of my races. That includes San Francisco! I always knew I would walk it. Especially injured. I kept thinking about the full marathoners and how tired they would be when they hit that hill. It made feel better about the job ahead of me.
I hit the hill and wow! It was a serious butt burner! The half and full courses merged right at the base of the hill. So both groups intermingled on the way up. Many of the full marathoners continued to run up the hill. More power to them! They looked whipped! I call the last 10k of a marathon the “Zombie Zone”. Most of us look like the walking dead at that point.
I tried to keep a good pace on the hill knowing this was the last big push I had to do. Unless of course the girl in blue has been gaining on me. I hadn’t seen her behind me. But you just don’t know. You have to stay alert.
I was delighted when, near the top, I saw a kind neighbor had tied the end of their garden hose to the top of a ladder with the nozzle pointed down like a street side shower. There was no one manning it, no energetic kids running around. But it was nice of them to do for the runners just the same.
I stepped right under the spray and stood there until I was once again soaked. It felt great!!! An on-course coach was nearby and asked how I was doing. I seemed to be one of the few who were partaking of the water. And I bet she hadn’t seen someone actually stand under it for several seconds like I was.
“Doing good coach! I’m lovin’ this shower! A few more seconds here and I think I’ll make it in!”
I always try sound especially chipper when talking to the on-course coaches. I have this idea that they worry more about us heavy athletes and I want to be sure they don’t try to pull me off the course. I think my fear is totally unfounded and kind of silly. But it got in my head during my first marathon season and it stuck.
I know a lot of people are surprised that I do marathons. I’m short, fat and old. But I’m sure the coaches have seen people of all shapes and sizes finish all sorts of distances. Further more, I’m sure they’ve seen heavy well-trained athletes fare better on long course than some skinny athletes. I know the hang up about being pulled is only in my head. And that’s the thing with marathoning, you win or lose (finish or not) mostly because of your mental rather than physical make up.
Ok, back to the race. That hill kept going! I moved over to the side because I was really slowing down! I kept looking behind me for the girl in blue. I figured if she hasn’t caught up to me yet, this hill would be as hard on her as it was on me. So I felt confident I was going to beat her in for sure now.
The spectators were wonderful at this point in the race. They knew we were on reserves and clawing our way to the high school where we would come onto the track and run to the finish. So they were cheering their hearts out!
I kept looking for the track. But I saw the high school campus first. I prayed, “Please let the track be close. Please don’t let it be on the other side of the campus!” I was SO ready to be done!
I saw the track at least a quarter mile away. But I noticed you didn’t have to run a whole lap on the track to get to the finish. Which meant I had less than half a mile to make it in! Yeah!!! I could do that!
But I walked most of it. I was pretty much out of juice. (If the girl in blue showed up, I’d be done for!) I have a ‘thing’ where I HAVE to run across the finish. It’s just a tradition for me. So I made a deal with myself. I’d walk until I hit the track. But once on the track, I’d run, no matter how slow I had to go.
I hit the track and stepped it up. I love the sound of the crowd! It’s so great to be coming in off a long course and have all these strangers cheering you on! You know you have worked hard and aren’t quite done yet. Then you hear the roar of the crowd and hear them yelling, “GO! GO” “You can do this!” “Good job!!” “You’re there!”
I just can’t tell you how buoyed my spirit gets sharing that experience with perfect strangers who care enough about what you are doing to encourage you like that! It boosts my faith in humanity and we all need that from time to time. The cheers of the crowd always carries me into the finish like I am being delivered on downy wings! That’s a tough feat after running so many miles!! :)
I looked for Kris as I headed to the finish. I crossed the finishing mats and turned to look behind me. I expected to see the girl in blue. I was sure she couldn’t be too far behind. But I didn’t see her anywhere. I had beat her to the finish with time to spare! I may have had more time in front of her than I realized and I could have taken it a little easier. But endurance running isn’t about taking it easy. I’ll forever be grateful to the girl in blue for pushing me and keeping me striding!
Below is video proof of my finish. Start looking for me after you see the half naked man running by! :)