Sunday, February 25, 2007

3 months and 4 hours and 14 minutes

That's how long it took to run the marathon, start to finish. Three months of going to bed early on Fridays and waking up early on Saturdays to run between 7 and 20 miles and extra early on Wednesdays to run 5-10 miles before school. Three months of drinking water, checking my toes for new blisters, breaking in new shoes, scrubbing (or tossing) blood-stained socks, sampling a wide variety of sports drinks and gels, packing various body parts in ice...today was the day that I did all of that for. Today was marathon day!

PRE-RACE
It all started about 3 months ago... [[[fast forward to present time]]]

It all started about 28 hours ago. I hemmed the sleeves of the race-day shirt that the leaders of our running group bought us. I baked some carb-y muffins and packed a trash bag with clothes that I would want to wear after the race--but that I wouldn't cry if they were gone (stolen) by the time I got there. I bought some Oreos for my race-day breakfast, threw a water bottle and a Gatorade in the bag for post-race too. Gathered my race number, pins, charged the GPS watch and had everything ready so all I would have to do would be to meet my group at the USO at 6:45 this morning. Oh, I also wrote some inspirational words on the bottom of my shoe.
I got a good night's sleep once I asked my neighbors to turn down their music.

I woke up in a panic, because I had dreamt that I looked at my watch and it said 7:15. It was actually 5. I woke up and got dressed and ready to go. At about 6:37, I grabbed my keys and walked out of the house. I fumbled with the keys in my hand and, much to my absolute and total dismay, they did not feel familiar. They were not my keys! Sometimes it takes a sec for our door to fully close, so I thought there might be a chance that I could just open the door and grab the correct keys. Yeah... that would have been nice.

I tried to unlock David's van with the key, thinking that if I could just get myself to the USO and worry later about getting into my house it would be okay. But, the key did not open David's van. Oh, did I mention that it was raining??? Of course it would be raining...
I stood there, holding my wallet, ineffective keys and a garbage bag full of stuff wondering just how long it would take me to sprint the 2-point-something miles to the USO. Then I saw a light and some moving shadows in my neighbor's kitchen. You know, the ones who I had to ask to be quiet? I think they had just gotten home from the bars or something. But I had no idea what else to do... I knocked on the door and waited for someone to answer. Right when some guy (not my neighbor) answered I took a deep breath and said, "I'm the neighbor and I'm running the marathon today and I just locked myself out of my house and out of my car and I need a ride to the USO to meet my running friends in 7 minutes."

So the search for a sober driver began. Some guy said he was alright to drive and that he wouldn't mind taking me. I still find myself questioning his sobriety--he came out carrying a Chalupa (the only time I eat fast food is when I've been drinking) and he told me not to worry...everyone's afraid of his driving all the time. After quickly praying to anyone who would listen that I would not be arrested for being in a car with this stranger on marathon day, I realized that the polite thing would be to introduce myself, so I wouldn't be in a car with a stranger anymore. So my driver's name is Gage (Guage?) he's been here 4 months, doesn't like it, and is leaving on Wednesday for Iraq. I told him this place might seem a whole lot better when he returns. So now we're not strangers anymore. He got me safely and legally to the USO-and at 6:46 no less, where my friends were shocked and amused by my story.
Jill drove the two of us to this gravelly parking lot with fishing boats in it. On the way there, she commented about this new guy, George, who had never run with us before but showed up and got a ride with one of the other runners. She thought it was totally bizarre that he would just ride with strangers, so I asked her if she thought I was totally bizarre, since not long ago I had said "Thank you SO much and nice to meet you" to my driver. She said it's not bizarre in an emergency situation. It was still raining and started to get chilly as we waited for the shuttle bus to Okinawa Comprehensive Park where the race would begin (and end). We set up our things on a tarp we put out yesterday and proceeded to prepare ourselves with motrin, water, bathroom breaks, etc. We also had our pictures taken a zillion times by an American reporter/photographer. We hung out there for about an hour and then lined up at the start. We enjoyed seeing all the costumes in the crowd- a guy with a tiger mask, a guy in a French maid costume, various wacky hats and an American guy with a mullet wig, sweatband and a cigarette tucked into the sweatband. He was definitely a fan favorite. I looked at the bottom of my shoes and of course between the rain and the walking, my inspirational messages had been erased. That's okay, I still remember what they said.

RACE
The first mile was crowded. I had the lowest start number (based upon my previous time) of anyone in the group. But we all started together further back. It was tough to get out of the crowd. We just bobbed and weaved our way through the little openings until we made it to a less crowded space. I probably left Jill & Rhonda about the 3rd mile, deciding instead to give running with Rhonda's husband Mike a shot. He was trying to run under 4 hours, which probably would have given me a new personal record. I wasn't absolutely committed to the idea, but I figured if anything, running with him for a while would give me some "insurance" miles for later when I did slow down.
I sent Mike off without me at about the 9th or 10th mile. We had just come up a big hill and I realized that I needed to step back and run my own race instead of feeling pressured by his. Also, I had started to feel the back of my heel being rubbed raw and decided to take a quick stop to untie my shoe and pull the back of my already bloody sock up.
Right after the half, I started to feel disheartened for a little while. I kept thinking of my house key being locked in my house and almost bursting into tears. (After you run 13 miles and you know you have to run 13 more, you really start to think about how much you appreciate your bed/couch/pajamas). I also took a motrin at a water stop since my left knee was starting to hurt. Luckily, I ran into the guy with the mullet. The fans loved him, so hearing them cheer for him motivated me a little too. Besides, I knew I HAD to beat him... I just can't imagine this young Marine with a mullet wig going to bed early on Fridays to get in all of his long runs.
Around mile 15, I hoped/expected to see one of my students out cheering. But either I didn't see her (it was really crowded there) or her mom decided to stay home (she get sick a lot and it was rainy) or maybe I ran by there earlier than I said I would.
I saw this giant hill and said, "are you kidding me?" at about mile 17. About half-way up the hill, I realized that I was on a hill that I had already run in training twice before and that I needn't be discouraged. That was a good feeling.
Coming into gate 2 at 18 miles was great! There were tons of people out and I saw one of my students, Michelle, and her family. I waved and called out her name since she hadn't seen me. Right inside the gate my student Katelyn and her mom and brother were out there. They gave me some oranges and let me give them a candy wrapper to throw away. Katelyn hadn't really known it was me until I stopped right in front of her either! Once I turned the corner, I saw another student, Raya, and her mom. Raya, once her mom pointed me out, gave me a high-five. I guess I look different when I'm covered in sweat, tea, water, sports gel and orange pulp than I normally do in class. Passing the BX, I saw my teacher-friend Kathy and her son, so that was great too. Running on Kadena was awesome! There were tons of Americans there cheering, so I knew what they were saying. The back of my shirt said "Go Rebecca Go" and many of them shouted it!
Leaving Kadena just about mile 20, I entered untraveled terrain. We had run the first 20 as a training run. Big hills, thinning crowds, and just the fact that I had already run 20 miles made it really hard to press on. I started taking a 20 second walk-break every mile, in addition to walking through water stops. But I didn't do too badly in the last 6, even though I felt spent. Under advice from a friend, I dedicated each of the last 6 miles to someone important or inspirational to me. I had decided on my people last night, but I must admit that I did consider dedicating a mile to my new friend Gage, without whom I may not have made it to the marathon. But I didn't. It was very hard to choose just 6, and for various reasons, I chose: 21: Aunt Margie-9:53
22: Grandma-8:35
23: Porter, the son of one of the ScrapVillagers, he's pretty sick and undergoes lots of hospitalization etc. so I thought if he could do all that as just a little boy, surely I can run a few more miles.-10:27 (big hill!)
24: Josh-I picked 24 for Josh because that's how old he was when he passed away-9:41
25: David-I guessed that he would probably have been cheering somewhere around that point-9:06
26: Coach Hey-6:58. No I'm not that fast... there was a little malfunctioning going on with my watch and due to losing satellite reception several times throughout the race, the mileage my watch recorded was off and although the race was actually 26.44 miles, my watch reads 25.75 miles
At about the 25th mile, I passed Mullet Man for the last time. His cigarette was gone from his sweatband. I would've asked him whether he had smoked it or lost it, but I really wanted to conserve every last ounce of energy.
Due to my watch malfunction, I almost thought I had a chance of having a new PR (my previous best is 3:57). According to my watch, I finished in 4:03, but as I said that would be only 25.75. According to the clock, I finished in 4:18, and according to my chip, I finished in 4:15. I'm going to say I finished in 4:14, because I had to stop for at least 45 seconds when my watch completely lost satellite reception and I had to stand still for up to 1 minute while it relocated a satellite. It would have driven me crazy to not have it functioning.
And wouldn't you know it, that photographer was right there taking my picture as I walked off the track!
I'm happy to have finished with my 2nd best time out of 4. Had the race been in Chicago, I probably would have PR'd. (Relatively no hills) Anyway, I did set a personal best for this particular course. Maybe I'll do better next year...

POST-RACE

George was the only one at our tarp when I arrived with my medal and certificate. He was totally bummed about his "awful" time of 3:45. He was hoping for 2:55. Oh let's all take a moment to feel sorry for George (eye roll).
Mike came back all changed a few minutes later, he had finished 10 minutes before me.
Jill and Rhonda arrived very shortly after I did, they finished just 6 minutes behind me. Makes me wonder if I should have taken it easy with them at the beginning and then broke away toward the end. Or if the best thing is to save up those insurance miles because would I go slower in those last few regardless of whether I had run 9:00 miles or 10:00 miles?
I took off my shoes and put on new socks and sandals. My heel, sock and back of my shoe were covered in blood. My second toe had seriously turned blue. (Now it's back to normal coloring everywhere but under the nail and is tender to the touch...I really hope my toenail doesn't get ugly. Or fall off. Sick.)
We went to change in the bathroom, which took me a while because I could not get my shorts off. I was soaked to the bone because I kept dumping cups of water and squeezing sponges all over myself.
Jill and I went to redeem our coupons for free food, ramen and onigiri (a delicious ball of sticky rice wrapped in seaweed. Yum!) Then we waited a while until the next members of our group arrived, after 5 hours. More pictures, snacks (Jill's husband Scott even bought me a corn on the cob!)and even an appearance on Japanese TV! And more rain too...we decided not to hang out any longer, packed up and walked back to the bus area.
We rode on the bus back to the parking lot...only it didn't take us to the parking lot where we had parked. We were the only ones left on the bus so we told the guy "fishing boats?" and he laughed, but took us to where we needed to go.
It was almost 5 when we got home. Jill brought me to her house so we could call housing and then she took me to pick up my key. It was very easy. I let myself in the house, got cleaned up and went to return the key and set up my sub stuff for tomorrow. I also went upstairs to give a copy of our key to our other neighbors, just in case! What a day! Now I'm ready to crash... I will sleep like a log tonight!

Sorry that was SO incredibly long... just think, as long as it took you to read it, it took me much much longer to actually run it!
Tomorrow I'll upload a pic of my finisher stuff. I don't have any pics of the group yet, hopefully those will get e-mailed to me sometime soon!

4 comments:

Stephanie said...

Wow Becca, that is quite a story! I really admire your strength! It was really cool how you dedicated some of your miles to people too! Go Becca!

OneScrappyChick said...

You are inspiring... I am proud of you!

David said...

A very interesting story. Only 9:06 for me. I would have ran faster than that for you.

Love You
David

Anonymous said...

Your inspiring story the day of the marathon made me proud of you and of course brought tears to my eyes. More tears after reading David's comment. Do you listen to
country music??? I do---more tears.
How did you get such a sappy aunt???
love you-you know which aunt.

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