Last week marked five years since my trip to Alaska for my first marathon. It was through Team In Training and I so clearly remember that sign-up meeting in January where people talked about how they went from complete non-athletes to marathon finishers in the course of one season. I was a little naive in how literally I took those testimonials and thought that I would actually run the marathon. Well, a whole five weeks into the training or so I got shin splints. I was an idiot and tried to run through it for a while, on cement sidewalks, until I could barely walk around through the day without wincing because my shins were killing me. I switched to the walking program, had to take a couple weeks off for the shin splints to heal a little and then proceeded with the training. It was a great experience, although I never want to walk another marathon, it's too long. Some day I will run/walk one, or maybe even run the whole thing, we'll see. Anyway, here's the original race report I wrote five years ago. It's amazing to think of how much in my life has changed since then. I was pregnant a month after the race and now we're plus almost three kids. Wow.
The Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon, Saturday June 21, 2002.
The race: Saturday morning I was up about 5:30am. With the time change that was 9:30am back here, but our bodies adapted pretty quickly, so it sort of felt like 5:30am. I was glad to have gotten any sleep because I kept hearing from people that no one ever sleeps the night before their first marathon, but I got about 6 hours of sleep and I was way too excited to be sleepy. The buses picked us up from the hotel at 6:30am, and we were off to the starting line at a local high school. We got there just about 7am, and the race start was 8am so we hung out in the parking lot. My grandmother had sent me an article about a man from Bayonne, NJ that was going to be there. His name is Ken and he was running in memory of his wife. Well, we get to this parking lot and with the thousands of people walking around, who ends up standing about 15 feet away? Ken!! So I told him who I was, and that I had read about him, we had our picture taken and that was kind of funny. Then I got in the Rent-A-Can line. You've never seen so many people lined up to use toilets! As I was told to do, I got through the line, used the bathroom and then got back at the end of the line. When I reached the front of the line about 20 minutes later, I did have to go again. Nerves and water I guess. The gun went off exactly at 8am. There were over 2000 of us at the start, and being in the walker pack we were a ways back. (Of the 2000+ that started, 1550 of us were with TNT, so there was a big purple blob of movement) I started with Joanne and Linda- 2 women that were from the Detroit area Michigan Chapter. Sally also started out with us but moved ahead quickly. We were pretty packed in for the first mile or so, and then the walkers started to spread out a bit. The first 4 miles were along the highway. That was kind of fun because there were people waving at us and honking their horns as they passed all of us. My first mile was relatively slow because we had such a packed start, about 18 minutes. After that I settled into a pretty comfortable 15 minute mile pace. I was with Joanne and Linda for about 2 miles, and then I went off on my own. There were plenty of people to meet and say hi to, but I stayed by myself for most of the next 7 miles. We had some GORGEOUS scenery and the weather was perfect- mid 60's and sunny with a slight breeze to make it very comfortable. Miles 5-9 were on a couple different roads and trails. We passed a golf course with the most beautiful views of the mountains, and some nice little creeks and streams off to the sides of the course. We had an aid station every 2 miles with water, orange slices, sports drink and sometimes pretzels (salt intake is important). The aid station at mile 6 was a M.A.S.H. station- the people there were dressed in fatigues and there was a whole military theme to it. Once we reached mile 9 it was the Tank Trail- 7 miles of backwoods trails that had some pretty decent size hills on it. I met up with Amy from the Arizona team on the trail and we stuck together for about 6 miles or so. It was nice to have some company and it made those hills a little easier. We hit the peak height of the race at mile 14, after a pretty long hill. There was a nice view of Anchorage from there. The ground was pretty uneven and rocky, lots of people really hated the tank trail. I thought it was pretty nice. Mile 16 brought us back on the road, and there was the "muscle beach" water stop. There were some guys that were dressed in miniskirts and dresses, they actually looked very attractive. I did need to stop at the Rent-A-Can line at mile 18, the line was short, though, so it was less than a 5 minute stop. Then I hit the road again. Miles 18 and 19 were uneventful, and only mildly painful. I knew I had blisters at that point, but I was just trying to hit the 20 mile mark. Then I finally got there! Mile 20 was very exciting because I realized that I was going to finish a marathon. However, at about mile 20 my legs also realized that we had not gone that far before and decided to tell me that this was really a pretty dumb idea I had. The excitement lasted until about mile 22 when I realized that there were still 4.2 miles left- over an hour of walking. I think my blisters had babies somewhere around 22 and my knee joined in with complaints of its own. Miles 22-25 were in some local parks- part on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, and some were just public parks. So there were more people along the route at this point which did help a little. Fortunately, at about mile 22, along came Brian and Janette from the Las Vegas chapter. We had passed each other back and forth since about 18, and now they caught up and took me with them. If they weren't there, I don't know when I would have made it to the finish, but it was easier with some company. We did get to see a moose and her baby somewhere around mile 22 1/2 which was exciting. And then there was a woman at mile 23- she had a sign that said "thank you from a leukemia survivor". She thanked EVERY TNT person as we went by, and that really was such a lift to keep us going. Let me give you a little hint here, in case you ever have the occasion to be a spectator at a marathon. DO NOT tell people that they are "almost there". You may think you're helping, but your idea of almost there, and the concept of almost there for someone that has already run or walked 20-something miles are completely different. Also, don't say "it's all down hill from here", or the next mile marker is "just around the corner". These are not helpful phrases, they just make us swear about you when we reach the next corner and there's no mile marker there, or we see another hill coming. The hill at mile 25 that we had all heard about wasn't as hard as I had expected. Brian and Janette got a bit ahead of me then, and I saw my coach just before we reached 26. She took the water pack I had been carrying so I could run in the finish. My pack weighed about 12 pounds, so it was really nice to take it off. And when I saw that finish line I felt like I could run forever! (thank goodness it was only about 100 yards, though) I crossed the finish at 6:58:01. My personal time was actually 6:56:31, since they electronically subtract the time that it took us to get to the starting line at the beginning of the race. Crossing that finish line was the most amazing experience I have ever had in my life. In the last 200 yards I thought about Clayton, Michael, Pop-Pop, Nanny, George, and all the other people that had inspired me to do this. I'm sure they were all there in spirit to help me finish, and I couldn't have done it without them, either. Linda and Sarai (pronounced Saree), were both at the finish already and they cheered for me as I came in, which was nice. I thought I might cry for a moment when I reached the end, but I didn't. I think I was too tired. I got my medal and t-shirt and then we stayed to see Joanne finish. After that we walked to the bus stop to get back to the hotel, and I think the 1/2 mile walk took almost half an hour. The pain set in and stayed for the rest of the day, but it was a little better after I popped a few blisters. All in all, the most amazing, wonderful experience of my life. You should give it a try!