(Note: If you'd just like to get to the gist of it, scroll to the heading The Finish, and read from there.)
I spent the days leading up to the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon literally counting the hours until the race start. I was tenaciously awaiting the moment I could slay the course that had slain me in 2013. On Monumental Eve, Mom, Wendy, Wes, and I enjoyed the race atmosphere at the expo and at dinner. However, somewhere around 11 hours to go, while Mom and I were playing games of Crazy 8's in our room at the Westin, I quit counting the hours.
The feelings in my gut made a shift from tenacious to tentative.
I was worried about the distance. I was worried about my tummy. I was worried about my heels. I was worried about the weather, particularly the wind and it's accompanying 18°F chill. I didn't want anyone to know about my sudden anxieties, so I kept them to myself, except for occasionally saying things like, "Twenty-six miles is a long way," or, "Boy, it's going to be cold tomorrow."
I slept about 45 minutes that night.
|Before the start
All of the sudden, we were outside walking toward the start. All of the sudden, Sam, Wes, and I were in the corral. All of the sudden, we heard the gun. All of the sudden, we were moving forward. I started my Road ID GPS app on my phone so Dad could follow me at home.
And then we crossed the start line.
The first two miles were all space management because half and full runners were crowded together on Indy's downtown streets. Wes, who was charged by Wendy with task of preventing me from starting too fast, kept telling me to slow down. Our first two miles clicked off at 9:54 apiece. We lost information on the third mile because we ran under a long overpass, but it felt the same effort-wise. If you had told me then that those three miles would've been the slowest of my race, I'd have never believed you.
Sam told us to go ahead in mile three due to some hip pain she was experiencing. Wes and I continued navigating Indy's downtown. My friend and former student, Zach, who was running the half, happened upon us at mile 4. Later, we hit the 10K mats at 1:00:01, at which point my phone began pinging with texts from Wendy that I did not consult, but I knew what they said, anyway.
I knew the trap of "going out too hard." I knew that too much now meant misery later. However, I also genuinely felt that I was being conservative, so I pressed onward.
When the full marathon course splits from the half course, the "protection" of the downtown architecture is eliminated. Suddenly, we were vulnerable to the 15mph winds and 30mph gusts that were coming directly from the north. Wes let me draft, but I had difficulty managing the unpredictable gusts.
On the ninth mile, something strange happened. My left leg went numb. I couldn't feel it moving nor hitting the ground. My muscles didn't know when to fire without sensation information, and I started to stumble a bit. It was the only time in the race Wes seemed concerned. I tried not to panic. After about a half mile, I regained sensation, and let out a big, "Whew!" That mile was my fourth slowest at 9:51.
The subsequent miles into the cold wind were very discouraging. Also unsure if the leg numbness would come back, I started to feel very downcast. We crossed mile marker 10, and a spectator tried to give me his coat. Last year I felt great at mile 10, I thought, and I passed out during mile 23. Does that mean I'll die sooner this year?
Wes detected my distress. "Nothing is lost," he said. Let's just run the next three miles around 9:40, and see how we feel at the half."
9:40, 9:40, 9:37. I hit the half mats in 2:06:51. A few meters later, we turned out of that Godforsaken wind, and everything changed.
What I remember most about these miles is how good I felt. How strong. Wes presented a constant string of encouragement. "You're killing this... your form looks strong... Wendy will be here soon." (Wendy had planned to run the last six miles with us.) I looked at my watch at 15.5 mi. and told Wes, "Ha, I thought we were at 14.5," evidence of miles slipping away quicker than I could register them.
"I am upset!" she yelled, but she was smiling. So was I. "How do you feel? What is happening?" I told her I felt wonderful, and Wes informed her of the details. She understood why we had be going "so fast." We hit the 30K timing mats in 3:00:06.
Wendy told me the bits of news I had missed while running—race winners, details about friends in other races, what she and my family had been doing. When we hit mile marker 20, Wendy took a video to send to my family that was markedly different from last year's 20-mile video.
The race took a poignant turn in these miles, because I was covering all the places where I self-destructed last year. Here's where Wendy wiped my drool... here's where I started walking... here's where I passed out. Those places were hard to see, but they empowered me.
NOT THIS YEAR.
When we turned onto Meridian, I started to feel the wear and tear on my body, but I still felt strong. Every time I felt tired, I smiled. It reminded me that I chose to complete this race, that it was my most ambitious goal to date, and that I was thrilled to be here. I thought about Mom's and Ed's faces, waiting at the finish line, yearning for a better experience for me than last year's. I thought about my Dad at home, fretfully watching what Wendy called "my little dot" on his GPS screen, urging it to keep moving. And I kept moving.
We turned off Meridian at 25.5 mi., and the spectators multiplied. I heard screams of support everywhere. I started to get extremely emotional because the climax of all my hard work and fun was about to be realized. My legs flew down New York Street, then onto West Street. One more turn. We passed mile marker 26 (9:24, faster after all). Wendy was right in my ear, talking about my family. "Your Dad," she said,"he's watching your little dot. He's on his feet. He's pacing. You're doing this, Jo. You're doing this."
I turned onto Robert D. Orr Plaza, and was met with the most welcoming sites. Tons of people. The clock. The line!
|Steps from the finish
Mom, I'm going to do it! I'm doing it!
Dad, I know you're watching my little dot!
Ed, I know you're right on the line with your camera! Oh, what would I do without you?
I heard Wes tell Wendy she would have to cross the line, that there was no way out because of the barricades. (She wasn't chipped, anyway.) I heard Wendy say to me, "Enjoy it. Remember it. You've earned it!"
I crossed the line in 4:12:53.
I did it.
|With Ed and Mom (hidden) afterward
Here are the results and stats 'n' such. My splits were solid throughout the race. Here are the official timing splits:
10K - 1:00:01, 9:40.81 overall pace
Half - 2:06:51, 9:40.99 overall pace
30K - 3:00:06, 9:40.97 overall pace
Finish - 4:12:53, 9:39.12 overall pace
I am proud of that consistency, and of the negative splits (2:06:51/2:06:02). Also, I passed 749 people in the second half of the race—over 20% of the field.
Thank you, family and friends, for your encouragement and your belief in me. This freshly minted 4:12 marathoner would not have near this fun or success without you.
|Near the finish
|With Wendy after the finish... Wes gave her his finish jacket.