Making it to the starting line of Newport Marathon was an accomplishment. My left foot had been hurting two months before the marathon, and I missed a couple of long runs in order to preserve my left arch, heel, and big toe for the race. It really bites going into a race with humbling goals, but I suppose there is a lesson to be learned regardless of how lofty goals may or may not be. The first goal was based on hopes and prayers. “Please God, let my foot hold up with just enough strength to cover the marathon distance.” The second goal, with the hopes of accomplishing the first one, was to redeem my performance six years ago on this same course.
Newport Marathon was picked because of its ideal course (advertised as flat, but I gauge flat from the perspective of a Floridian, and from that perspective, it isn’t, but I digress) and mild coastal temperatures. Let’s just say I was in for a BIG surprise come race day.
The day before the race, my husband and I did a shakeout 3.5 mile run on the beach. I was relieved when I walked out and it wasn’t windy or cold; signs of possible ideal race day temperatures. I mentioned to my husband I had never ran on the beach before, and he happily reminded me that we had indeed ran on the beach, together, 16 years ago! When I suggested to him I couldn’t remember that experience, he refreshed my memory. It was in the Marine Corps, Camp Del Mar, during Corporal’s Course, the class where we met and fell in love 16 years ago! That run was absolutely miserable! The sand was sandy and we ran for what seemed to be a never ending hour and a half. The whole goal of that run was to break each and everyone of us. Though I survived the run, I detested the experience. It felt so wonderful to have had a much more pleasant beach running experience with my husband 16 years later.
Race day came early – race started at 7 am – and my husband, sister-in-law, and I made it to the starting line with roughly twenty minutes to spare. All three of us were on a honey bucket mission in order to clean out our bowels from the carb-loading feast we enjoyed the night before (Thanks Maureen for feeding us). We snapped a couple of pictures, chuckled, and nervously awaited for the race to begin.
The gun went off, and aside from one of Chris’s childhood friends calling out my name around mile 3, I don’t recall much of the race. I was pretty self-absorbed and lost in my thoughts.
I prayed, focused on my form, was conscious of the landing of my left foot, visualized crossing the finish line, and thought about how badly I struggled running my first marathon, this same marathon, six years ago. I was older, and even though my foot was not okay, I was physically stronger.
Even though my arm warmers had come down after the second mile, it wasn’t until mile 15 when I realized I was hotter than I could have ever anticipated. Sweating profusely is completely uncharacteristic of me, but this was exactly what was happening to my body. Twenty miles of the course is on hot slanted asphalt, and even though the temperature was supposedly 68 degrees, I felt like 98 degrees.
Around mile 22, my husband told me to go ahead without him. I wasn’t going much faster than he was, but I continued pushing in desperation of being done and getting off the course. And it seemed like I wasn’t the only one suffering. There were so many people walking, pouring water over their heads at water stations, and searching for shade when the course offered it.
There were a couple of times when I stopped to look back to check on my husband, but I couldn’t see him or my sister-in-law. My foot was hurting, but my entire body was hurting even more. I kept sweating, and no matter how much water I drank, I couldn’t seem to get enough. The chews were awful, my feet were burning, and I was disheartened when I saw the .5 mile discrepancy between my GPS and the signs. Around mile 24, there were more people walking than running, and I remembered how much this course made me cry, humiliated me, and forced me to walk/jog the last 10 miles six years ago.
This time around, regardless of how hot I was, how much my foot was hurting, or how slow I was going, I refused to walk! I kept pushing, yearning to see the next mile marker. 25. And that was the longest mile. Between 25 and 26. My body and mind were becoming impatient. They were done. A bend would come and I would think, “It’s gotta be here. Please let my GPS be off.” And then, I saw it! I felt like I had been spotted by a rescue crew in a remote island somewhere on the Pacific Ocean.