So now that I’m being honest, I can admit that I was terrified in the days leading up the New Jersey Marathon. After my failure at the National Marathon (which I haven’t even finished writing a race report for, since I was so embarrassed to finish 2 minutes late), I was terrified about pacing again. What if I just sucked as a pacer now? Maybe I should quit running marathons and move onto something else… though I couldn’t imagine what that would be.
Since I knew that the cold I had before National Marathon had a lot to do with my poor performance there, I tried my best to be in terrific shape before New Jersey; unfortunately, there were a few factors making that difficult. While two nights before the marathon is usually the critical night for me to get a good night’s rest, I had a friend’s 35th birthday party (couldn’t miss that!) and another friend’s going away party as she prepared to move to Switzerland the next day (couldn’t miss that either!). As a result, I didn’t get to bed until 2:30am. Though I tried my best to sleep in on Saturday, 9am was the latest my body’s internal clock would let me do, giving me only 6.5 hours of sleep. (In good news, getting up at 9am meant that I got to join DC blogger Mary Michael for a fun post-race brunch after she PRed in the Revlon 5K here in NYC).
My mom visited for the rest of the day, and we did a good job carb loading on some tasty things, but didn’t get to bed until 10pm. While I had originally thought that was good, I didn’t really think about what time I needed to get up until it was too late. The race organizers had arranged for a special train for runners that would go from Penn Station to Long Branch, arriving in time for the race… but leaving NYC at 5:07am. That meant that I needed to leave my apartment by 4:35am at the latest! I got everything laid out the night before, but still had to get up at 4:15am, for only 6 hours of sleep. I tried to make up the deficit by sleeping on the train, but once I was up, I was up; instead, I entertained myself by reading Matthew Long’s incredible autobiography, Run Long (his story is way more impressive than mine, and I’d highly encourage you to check out his book).
When I got to the race and met up with friend and pace team coordinator Lauri to get my pacing stuff, she mentioned that she thought she was “over” marathons, and that she was thinking of quitting. It took me aback to hear her voice what I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, and it made me wonder if it was a sign that I should quit. Pacing has been getting me too stressed out, and even when I get my runners in on time and get to feel proud, I didn’t know if it was worth all the pre-race stress I go through. I tried to put it out of my mind though – today I had already committed, and had a group of 40 runners waiting for me. I just hoped I wouldn’t trip and fall like last year (to this day I still have a scar on my knee!).
But I didn’t, and I had one of the pacing races of my life. As the 4:30 pace team leader, I had a pretty steady core group who stuck with me, and then in the last six miles, I picked up person after person. When I saw someone walking, I encouraged them to join our group and tried to motivate them as best as I could to keep going. In the last mile or two, I got my entire group to go ahead of me, and I continued to pick up additional walkers and encourage (okay, maybe force) them to push through the pain and run for that last mile. I crossed the finish line alone at 4:29:51, with every single person in my pace group way ahead of me… and found several of them still at the finish line, hugging me, shaking my hand, and thanking me for getting them to the end. I was so proud of myself for how I did that I was grinning ear to ear… but when my phone beeped at me just an hour later with an email, I still couldn’t believe my eyes.
Subject: You saved my life…
When I met you in Asbury Park, I was battling a serious, serious wall.
You were such a motivation that I finished with a 4:27! Thank you
again, and I feel terrible that I left you without saying thank you.
I would feel honored to run with you again.
I am so proud of all of you incredible runners who were in my pace group today. As I kept telling you in those last few difficult miles, if it were easy, everyone would do it. I don’t see much glory in finishing a race (yes, even a marathon!) if it’s easy. What impresses me are those who are tired/hurt/struggling, but manage to dig deep and find inner strength they never knew they had. To run is not a big deal; to run when you’ve already run 25 difficult miles and your body is screaming at you and trying to make you walk… that is a true champion.