Sunday, May 21, 2006

Race Day: From a VERY different perspective!

O. M. G.

I had SoOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOO much fun today.

I ran the slowest half marathon of my life and had a BLAST doing it!

(BTW--I was supposed to run the slowest half marathon of my life, so that = good)

First of all, you MIGHT not want to go to a concert where you ROCK OUT to Pearl Jam until 11:30 (they had the most unbelievable set...Porch, Yellow Ledbetter, Immortality, Daughter, Given to Fly, Alive, etc. etc. plus a bunch of new stuff---AMAZING) and then park at the most ASANINE parking garage on the top level where there was ONE PERSON working the gate at the bottom and THREE (yes, three) standing there doing nothing while the other 2 gates are IDLE and then it takes 45 MINUTES TO GET OUT OF THE STUPID GARAGE and it's 1AM when you get HOME--yeah, you MIGHT not want to do that the night before you pace a half marathon.

We passed the Galleria on the way home, and Matt said, "Hey, why are they setting up tents there?" My reply was, "Oh, that's for the MARATHON I'M GOING TO DO IN 6 HOURS."

I might has well have just slept in those tents.


Anyhoo, passed out tired at home (kinda like the picture in below's post) and woke after what seemed like about 37 seconds to my blaring alarm.

WHY, oh WHY, TriSaraTops, do you DO THIS TO YOURSELF????

I don't know. It sounded like a good idea at the time.

Yeah, and that ALWAYS gets you into trouble.

Oh, shut up and get out of bed.


I looked outside and it was cloudy, but no rain. Good. I threw my visor in my car just in case.

About 5 minutes into the ride downtown, it started POURING. Like, cats and dogs and monsoon pouring.

Oh brother.

Got to the Galleria and met up with all my Soler pacers--saw the signs we'd be carrying, us all in our sweet little pacer jerseys, and suddently got very nervous. These people were COUNTING on me to pace them nice and evenly through 13.1 miles. They were COUNTING on me to run a nice 10:53 mile. For many, it was their first marathon, or they were going for a PR, and if I blew it, I didn't just ruin MY race.

I ruined theirs.

That's a big responsibility.

Here I am holding the 3:00 Pace Group sign....ha ha ha! In my dreams! :)

*rain fell harder and harder on the glass ceiling of the Galleria as I have shorts and a thin shirt on, no gloves or jacket*

I thought about my run on Thursday, when I tried to run as SLOW as I could and thought for SURE my mile time was over 10:53.

It was 10:12.

Okay, okay, focus. You can do this. Nice and easy...

We headed to the start. I held my 4:45 banner high. Found Curly Su, going for her first marathon! Found Canada Jenn, coming off injury, trying to finish the half. Found a bunch of random people that were COUNTING ON ME to run them a solid and even half.

Oh boy.


Here we go.

The first two miles, my stupid watch of COURSE was acting up and I wasn't able to see my lap time. AAAGGHHH!! There would surely be mutiny! They will kill me!

But they didn't. They just trusted me as I calmly said how we'd be conservative in the first few miles--"We're about a minute behind, but we have 23 miles to make up that minute so that's 2-3 seconds a mile! We're good!" I said sweetly with a smile. (That was 60% true, and 40% me trying to cover my ass for not having a clue what our splits were)

Then, I got the watch to work and we got on track. And lo and behold, we were running OK. Mile 3 was 10:32 (a little fast, I told them) and mile 4 was 9:41.


"That was mostly downhill, guys--we're fine, no biggie, but I'm gonna slow it down a bit" (*whew, they bought that....good*)

And then it was really weird.

I just ran the most even splits I've ever run. And 5 of my miles were between 10:50-10:53 on the DOT. It was like I was outside of myself. I talked to my pacers and they were such cool people. All but one had never run a marathon before. One was a high school band director from Winston-Salem, NC. He was so cool! Another teacher, too--she talked about her son and we all talked about school. I tried to keep them relaxed but focused...reminded them to drink, to watch out for the potholes in the street, to make sure you take a gu now, that "You're doing great!"

Who is this person?

This person just ran this race, 4 years ago, with no hills, no speedwork, no run longer than 17 miles, and with 30 extra pounds on her frame. With no training buddies, no training group, no guidance but a book she bought at Borders.

Now she's wearing a "PACE TEAM LEADER" jersey and people are COUNTING on her to get them through.

It's all still a little surreal.

The miles FLEW by. We ran through the area I used to live in near some beautiful homes, through Ohio City (I pointed out a great Irish pub, the Harp, and a great place to eat afterwards, Johnny Mango's). I was joking around, I was relaxed, and I was in charge.

And before I knew it, I hit the halfway point--right on time! I passed my group onto Aimee and got a little sad as they ran away. I wanted to keep going!

I got attached!

I knew what was coming for them--the mental struggle of the last 10K. The pain. I remember all that. But when I did the Cleveland Marathon there was no pace group for me. I was alone. No one to run with, just my brain. It was such an amazing experience, but I was jealous that I didn't get to have it again. You only have your first marathon once, you know? And mine was amazing, but it was so utterly alone.

So I stretched a bit, hung with Jen, Mike, Lou, and Sue, and then headed back to the finish line.

I stayed there for 3 more hours. By myself for quite a bit of that time.

Just me. Alone. On the side of the road.

I just couldn't leave. I cheered and cheered until I didn't have a voice left.

I was so tired after 4 hours of sleep and 13.1 miles, but I loved seeing the faces of the people as they crossed the finish line. Some were crying. Some were carrying their kids on their shoulders. Each and every one had a story.

Her story? Amy Winters, 33. Yesterday she set a new world record for amputees and ran the Cleveland Marathon in 3:26:16. Before her accident, she ran 3:16:00 in Boston in 1993. Absolutely AMAZING.

I remember my story.

And I think about where I am now.

I'm in awe of the past four years. I am so lucky to have this mind and body and soul, and to be able to take part in events like these. So many people in the world, in the country, in my town don't think they can or don't know why they ever would want to do this stuff.

I can't imagine ever NOT having this in my life.

I was so glad to be able to share that with my pace group--who all finished with big smiles on their faces. Some on time, some not...but who cares? They did it. They did their first marathon.

And I was--I am--honored to be a part of that memory forever.


E-Speed said...

I cannot believe I didn't take a photo fo you this morning!

GREAT JOB PACE LEADER! You looked great and you kept them right on pace, awesome!

Michele said...

WOW!! What a great recap. Having the right motivation makes all the difference, and I am sure you made a difference this morning. Great Job!!!

mouse said...

haha! it's ok. I'm absolutely, totally, and completely in awe of your athletic ability. what's an NBA finals round compared to an Iron(wo)man in training?

nothin', if you ask me. :)

Brooke said...

First of all...Pearl Jam = AWESOME!!

Second of all...what an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing it with us. I'm wondering if that's something I should try someday??

qcmier said...

Awesome job out there!!!

tryathlete said...

Great job with the pacing. Who's to say that the runners you paced won't be pacing others next year?

PS It takes great mental strength to run the first marathon alone and you're a tough cookie for having done that!

Papa Louie said...

I would have loved to have you as my first marathon pace leader. Sounds like you were a great inspiration to the group. Glad you spotted me out in the race. I was glad to hear you call out, papalouie.

Unknown said...

Another great post Sara. Always inspiring, and funny at the same time!

Chris said...

That must have been an AWESOME concert! I remember seeing Pearl Jam in Buffalo, NY back in '96. Probably the best concert that I've been to evar!

And nice job of pacing. I'm sure your support and encouragement were very much appreciated! :)

Kurt said...

Way to go pace bunny Sara! Great job helping others!

greyhound said...

Technically a young teacher from Ohio and middle-aged lawyer from Texas should have almost nothing in common; however, your recounting of the first marathon to now while watching all the runners meet their goals is freakishly identical to my own journey. The uniting power of endurance sport???

Really wonderful post.

Scott said...

thanks. Great post. I hope someday to be able to tell a similar story.

SRR said...

What a great post! That was inspiring! And the first time is always a keeper!

BuckeyeRunner said...

Great story! It is not hard to imagine you being a great pace leader - your positive attitude and motivation is contagious even just through reading your blogs. Having you in person cheering and supporting must be great! Thanks for sticking around to the bitter end yesterday! It was great to see you at the end!

Eric said...

You and Aimee did an awesome job pacing that group. Aimee told me about some of the people she ran with.

She was nervous about the pacing but you both should be very proud.

TriBoomer a.k.a. Brian said...


Congratulations on doing a great job of pacing. What a cool post.

Stay tuned...

Joe said...

Great story! I'm getting misty over here!

Rae said...

Awesome job keeping them on pace!!! Way to go!!

Neese said...

excellent! way to go, and thanks for sharing it in your blog, i'm moved by your experience also!

Rich said...

What great about the running community is that it's full of inspirational stories. Thanks for sharing two with us ... yours and Amy's. Hats off to both of you!

Brian said...

Finishing a marathon is a big deal! I remember seeing my girlfriend (The Running Diva) at the 26-mile mark and losing it totally. I cried like a baby at her accomplishment!

Papa Tweet said...

What a wonderful post. Thanks for the goosebumps. I agree whole heartedly, I can't imagine my life without fitness. I feel so fortunate that I have found it. That was a neat story that you told. Thanks