At 6:00AM, as 25,000 people began to find their spot in the starting pack, Chelsea and I got in line for the Start line port-o-potties. We heard the cheers as the race gun went off and the marathon started at 6:15. Finally, after 30 minutes of standing in line (and 75% of the port-o-potties running out of toilet paper) we found our corral (and Harvey!). As we put on our 26.2 tattoos (on our calves which looked very hardcore), we moved closer and closer to the beginning of the course. Chelsea hopped forward as she held the washcloth to her leg, trying to get the tattoo to stick. "How about we run a marathon today?" Harvey jokingly asks us. Ten minutes of anticipation later, corral 23 was at the start. We cheered as we crossed the start pads and began a nice and easy run.
At mile 1, I could feel the humidity. So much different than running in Arizona, but bearable. We snaked around and through Balboa Park. Gorgeous run through here. We ran past the organ pavilion, where someone was playing a Phantom of the Opera tune, and down into the downtown area on Mile 4. I loved this mile because it was all downhill.
I was feeling pretty strong until we reached mile 6 where I started to feel heavy and sluggish. The humidity was starting to get me as we ran past Petco Park and the downtown hotels and I had to take my first walk break through a water station. I told myself, if I can just make it to mile 7, running, my family would be there to get a good picture. Here I am at that mile 7 marker:
Miles 7 and 8 were just miserable. I felt like crying. I pondered dropping out. I knew my finish time would be something over 6 hours. So, I gave myself permission to just walk for as long as I felt like it. By the time I entered mile 9, which was on the 163 freeway, I began to feel like running for longer stretches. I could see a lot of runners stopping on the side and stretching. At mile 11, everything went downhill... in a good way! The freeway plunged into a solid downhill for at least a mile and I did an entire mile of running at an amazing pace!
I made it into Fashion Island where there was a large pack of spectators cheering everyone on. Their energy along with passing the half marathon mark propelled me forward. At mile 14, I was greeted by my cheering family and a huge tunnel of spectators.
As I passed my family, I immediately heard, "Yay, JoAnn!" I looked over and saw my friend Jodie, who completely surprised me and had this amazing sign! (I made sure to thank her with a very sweaty hug!)
The enthusiasm of the crowd pushed me through another mile, all running. Finally at mile 18, we reached the bay, which had such a beautiful breeze. I mentally give up when I'm hot, so this was such a welcome thing. As I passed mile 18, the event that turned around my entire race happened. I ran past a medical table and heard, "Vaseline! Salt! Tylenol!" Wait, what's that? Tylenol! No way! I practically sprinted over to him. "Where? Where's Tylenol?" He gestured over to a table a few feet away from the course.
"Hi. Tylenol?" I sputtered out. I don't think I need to speak in complete sentences at mile 18.
"Where is your pain?" the medical volunteer asked me.
Honestly, everywhere. "My legs," I replied.
She wrote down my race number, made a circle with red sharpie on my bib, and handed over a little dixie cup that contained my lovely Tylenol.
I started running again. I made it to mile 20 before the 4 hour mark, which made me happy. I made it running past my family at mile 21.5.
Now to just make it around a stupid island and I would be finished. I passed Harvey at mile 22. He was having a really hard time. "Just no energy," he told me. I ran through the fiesta island boy scout water station. A 10-year old boy scout handed me a cup of Cytomax.
"Thank you," I say as I take it out of his hand.
"I love you," he responds.
Ummm, excuse me?
I run faster.
"Stronger" starts playing on my iPod. Here's Kanye taking my through it again, I think. A wierd knee pain appears at mile 23 and I worry, briefly, because it goes away again at mile 24.
As I round the corner of the island, I can see the Finish line at the other end of the bay. At mile 25, I see someone up ahead. Aqua tank top. Coordinated pink sports bra. Black running shorts. It's Chelsea!
"Chelsea!" I scream.
I run to catch her. We shoo away some running Elvis's (Elvii?). Long story, but basically Chelsea crossed the finish line six months ago next to a running Elvis. Her whole family saw the running Elvis and they missed her.
At this point, we try to think about anything other than running. Where are we eating tonight? What else are we going to do in San Diego? If I hadn't found Chelsea, I would have walked a lot more of that last mile. We took a one-minute walking break before we took it into the Finish line. A tunnel of spectators, 0.3 miles long cheered us on. Seeing the finish line of a marathon and stepping over it is such an amazingly gratifying thing. My time: 5 hours and 16 minutes. An eight minute improvement over Arizona six months ago!
And of course, I had the cutest little cheerleader anyone could hope for: